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YEARGHH!! F17D Staggerwing Beech
If I could find Walter Beech’s grave, I’d dig him up and burn his bones! 13 1/2 years effort on a 100 point project for an airplane that has no printed manual, no parts manual, and few blueprints. Beech had to have gone to the hardware store across the street when he needed a part for these hand built beauties. For one example, the fuel quantity system is completely from a 1934 Chevrolet.

The D17S Model Staggerwing is the only model that has manuals, only because the Army and Navy insisted that they be printed for their wartime airplanes. As for the other models, A through G, (excluding D)....well you’re on your own. And if you think one Staggerwing is like another, you’re wrong. They are mostly dissimilar airplanes.

There is indeed a parts interchange manual for all models. I have made so many corrections to the errors in this manual, that I contemplate publishing a corrected manual. But with less than 100 remaining Staggerwings, most of which are the D model, I would be wasting my time publishing a corrected manual.

For those of you who have read that the Staggerwing is the most complicated single engine airplane ever built, you have read correctly. A P-51 is a simpler airplane. I could have built more than 20 complete Stearmans for the effort this plane has required.

The bad part is that little of it fits together smoothly. What should take an hour or two to complete, takes days, sometimes weeks to finish correctly. Parts off one Staggerwing do not necessarily fit correctly on another Staggerwing. Wing rigging, retracting landing gear with its fitted fairings, bending plywood, flap rigging, correctly routing control cables, install land lights...are just some of the issues that a normal airplane with manufacturer’s pictures, manuals, and plans would take a minimum of time to successfully complete.

My particular Staggerwing is a famous airplane. ALL Staggerwings ever built have my plane to thank for there not being an AD ever issued against the plane. When Staggerwings first started flying, some mysteriously crashed and were destroyed. The Department of Commerce and CAA could not explain the reasons for these total destruction crashes. My plane solved the mystery. Wing flutter was disintegrating the wings and destroying these planes (and occupants) before they hit the ground. On that fateful day, the pilot flying my plane got it safely on the ground, with the upper wings just a contained bag of splinters and broken wood structure inside the fabric.

Walter Beech determined the cause for the flutter and recalled all planes for retrofit and repair. This alleviated the need for an AD restriction to be issued against the airplane. Thus today, the Staggerwing remains one of the few planes ever constructed that has no AD note issued against it. With a Jacobs engine installation, there is also no AD note against the Jacobs engine installation.

What is my advice and Bottom Line??? Never and I mean NEVER buy a disassembled Staggerwing in baskets. If it isn’t assembled and flying; flee from it! Buy one that is already flying and only rebuild it if you must.

PS. My plane has not flown since 1962. Rollout and first taxi date is April 21, 2012, during the annual Flying Little River Flyin (FL10).

Steve McDonald
Staggerwing F17D
NC2633 s/n #330