I acquired Staggerwing model B17L, serial number 12, NC12592 in the summer of 2001. I had seen it at the Merced airshow on a trailer for sale. When I told my wife Suann about it that evening, she said, "well did you by it". The positivity in her tone of voice prompted me to reply, "not yet".
It had been a "project" for the previous three owners, Larry Schulz of Pacifica CA, William P. Six and Joseph H. Morgan of Riverside CA and Sam Johnson of Berkeley Springs WV. The last time it had been flown was by David L. Seiler of Vancouver, WA some times in the 60s.
When I took on this project I was finishing up a Piper PA-12 that had been in my family since 1950. I did not start working on the Staggerwing until 2014.
The previous owner of this project intended to return it to the original engine model. That is a Jacobs L-4 which has manually greased value rockers, two battery ignition system, Yes, thats correct, no mags! I don't care to deal with this complication. I will keep the L-4MB which the aircraft is currently licensed with. This engine was installed in 1950. It flew with an experimental license for a year or so before this engine change was approved. The L-4 which the previous owner intended to use came with the project. This L-4 came with log books. The log book indicates that it had been on two different WACOs,
Other original items which I plan to avoid are: the Johnson bar brake system, cotton fabric, original fuel and electric system. I plan to keep the 24 volt system which was added on the 1950 rebuild. The engine, engine accessories and cowl installed in 1950 were from a Cessna T-50. I hope to modify or rebuild the cowl so it looks more like the original. The current exhaust system also off a Cessna T-50 has one outlet instead of two as the original. I have a NOS C17B exhaust system which I hope can be converted to a B17L system.
I plan to use a wood prop as it originally had. I have two good Hartzell model 707s.
My Staggerwing was the first one to have an electric starter. Previous serial numbers, and a few after sn 12 had a Haywood air started. Of the B17Ls that I have look at, serial number 32 and 45 have a foot switch to engage the started as used on automobiles of that vintage. The drawing that I have of the electic system indicates a special modification for serial number 12, a starter solenoid. But I have no clue where the started button was located. I may just put a foot switch in my aircraft.
In these early B models, the electric gear retract system was optional. The standard gear retract was hand crank only. Of the early B models that I have look at it is clear that serial number 21 and 32 never had a gear retract motor. In the factory files for my aircraft there is a letter from Beech to E. E. Aldrin dated July 30, 1934 which states in regards to the gear retract motor, "... we have run on to a snag on this in that the motors that are available are not powerful enough.... unless we go to a very expensive Bendix motor which would increase the cost of the airplane about two hundred dollars" The letter go on to say they "... worked out an equalizing spring that carries about one half the weight of the undercarriage so the retracting by hand is very easy". I assume the "equalizing spring" is referring to the rubber landing gear bungee that all Staggerwing have. The letter also states that ball bearing have been added to the landing gear controls.