An Interview with EAA Member Roy Camp has been a vital part of our Chapter, he has held the Secretary/Treasurer for many years in the past. He is our current Vice-President. Thank you Roy for taking the time to write this.
I obtained my private certificate in 1981 and have about 1100 hours. My hours include 400 hundred is in a Super Decathlon, 230 in the Stearman, and 150 in a Great Lakes. I have owned only the Super Decathlon and Stearman. The Stearman is the most enjoyable but it is a fair weather plane. Below 50 degrees F. it is very cold to fly. Most of my other hours are in the Cessna line, a few in Pipers, 16 hours dual in a Pitts S-A, and 6 hours dual in gliders.
The Stearman had been restored about 100 hours before I got it including the airframe. The engine was not. I took a veteran Stearman pilot and mechanic for a pre-buy inspection. He went over the plane and logs. The day we went to Texas to see the Stearman, the wind was 30 to 40 knots and gusty. Because of that, we did not fly it. We both assumed, from the logs and the fact that the airframe was well done, that the engine would be also. We were wrong. Lonnie Gillespie flew with me soon after it arrived at Woodring and quickly noticed a significant vibration at 1700 RPM. The crankshaft was not assembled correctly and I had a significant overhaul of the engine. It flys well now. The lesson learned: DO NOT ASSUME ANYTHING IS GOOD. ALWAYS FLY BEFORE YOU BUY.
At 75% power, the 300 horse Stearman burns 12.2 GPH and gets 110 MPH. If I fly with 220 horse Stearmans, I pull about 50% power and burn less fuel than the 220 engine. I have a three hour range with a 45 minute reserve. Two and a half hours is plenty for a cross country leg, so the range is fine. If I am flying well, I need 800 ft to take off and land. I am more comfortable with 1000 feet of runway.
My longest cross country is to Galesburg, IL for the national Stearman Fly-In. That trip consists of 3 two hour legs. I go with the Tulsa Stearman owners. Usually we have 5 or 6 in the group. Peter Gill often is in the group. He is an experienced Stearman pilot, from whom one can learn good lessons.
The 300 horse round engine is a reliable power plant. It is old technology and there are starting, flying and maintenance factors than the opposed engines do not have. With the vertical position of the cylinders, the oil drains from the upper cylinders, bearings, and lifters. For that reason, pulling the prop through 18 blades before starting is important. This lets you detect an hydraulic lock. This occurs when the engine sump fills after shutdown. If one of the valves is open the cylinder will fill with oil. Pulling through also provides some degree of pre-oiling. Even with that pre-oiling, at start up, metallic noise from the lifters is heard for a couple of seconds until oil pressure is maintained.
The Stearman has a reputation as a plane that likes to ground loop. It, however, is a flyable plane that will not ground loop if you keep the plane pointing the same direction it is moving at touchdown. The Stearman is a piece of history that will take you back to a time of slow, open cockpit and fun flying.