Featuring Press Release photos from the Len Wieczorek collection
The name Stearman was in the forefront of the go-go aviation years following Charles Lindbergh’s milestone transatlantic flight in 1927. The Stearman Aircraft Company played a key role in America’s transition out of aviation’s golden age and into the modern industrial powerhouse that helped turn the tide in WW2 and set the stage for the jet age.
Founded by Lloyd Stearman in 1927, the company, after a fitful start, centered its designs on the rapidly expanding commercial market for mail, business and light transport aircraft. In 1929 Stearman introduced the first of the successful Speed Mail biplanes featuring advanced instrumentation and shielded wiring to provide rugged, reliable and more comfortable service over the challenging early air mail routes.
That same year, Stearman was acquired by the newly formed United Aircraft and Transport Corporation (UAT) – a large vertically-integrated aircraft engine and airframe conglomerate formed by the merger of Boeing Aircraft and Pratt and Whitney. UAT’s goal was to serve all aviation markets at scale – civil, commercial and military. With the similarly large July, 1929 merger of the Curtiss and Wright aircraft companies, America’s aviation industry was transformed into big business, setting up a decade of technological and manufacturing development that would change the course of World War 2.
Stearman flourished as a division of United Aircraft and Transport Corp, introducing the classic Junior Speed Mail and Business Speedster models. The Stearman Model 80 introduced in 1933, is representative of the pinnacle of American commercial radial-engined biplanes in the golden age of aviation.
A Stearman Aircraft Company product sales brochure from this period is presented at the bottom of this post along with additional press release photos of Stearman airplanes from this period.
With foresight and the best of timing, Stearman recognized a need for an advanced two seat training biplane. A new Stearman Advanced Trainer was shown at the Detroit Aircraft Show in 1930 and was developed as the Model 6 series. Designed primarily as a military trainer, four aircraft were procured by the US Army Air Corps. Thus began the long record of rugged military training aircraft that Stearman is best remembered for.
In 1934, everything changed. A high profile Air Mail scandal caused the US government to invoke Anti Trust law and UAT was broken up into three separate companies; United Aircraft Company (later United Technologies), the Boeing Airplane Company (now The Boeing Company), and United Airlines. Stearman was folded into Boeing and the phenomenally successful Model 73-75 military biplane trainers became known simply as the Stearman, Boeing Stearman, or Kaydet. The Kaydet became the ubiquitous primary trainer aircraft for the United States military during World War II with more than 10,000 built.
No further aircraft were built under the Stearman name and in 2005 Boeing sold off the civil aircraft operations, but retained the military operations. Thus ends the story of Stearman, another of the classic names of Aviation’s Golden Age.
Stearman Aircraft Company Press Release Photos, Len Wieczorek collection
1929-30 Aircraft Sales Brochure, Stearman Aircraft Company
(click to view)
Additional Stearman Press Release Photos
(click to view)
Stearman Aircraft played a key role in America’s transition out of aviation’s golden age and into a modern aviation powerhouse
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