The Dorr Custom Stearman

//The Dorr Custom Stearman

The Dorr Custom Stearman

N22D is a custom modified Stearman. (Boeing PT 17) and was built by Johnny Dorr at Maryland airport in 1947 and 1948. The following is a brief writing by Johnny Dorr as to why he rede-signed and modified the airplane.

His first airshow aerobatic exhibition with the airplane was in the National Airshow at Chattanooga, TN in 1949. Throughout the years other aerobatic exhibitions were airport dedications and general aviation events in the states of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and Missi-ssippi to include many yearly military open house exhibitions at the Meridian Naval Air Station, Meridian, MS and the Millington Naval Air Station, Millington TN.

Johnny Dorr, pilot,  was born in Hvattsville, Maryland. October 29,  1914.  He started flying in 1932 taking his training at College Park, Congressional and Queens Chapel airports. He received his private pilots license 9-27-38 and commercial 9-25-39 He gained his flying experience in aerobatics in what was in those days referred to as Barnstorming. (weekend airshows).

From October 4, 1941 to June, 1945, he was Flight Instructor (aerobatics) and Squadron Commander with the Eastern Air Training Command, Caristom Field, Arcadia, FL.

While flying a Stearman 4 hours a day for 3 ½ years, I got to wondering how the bird would fly if I would whittle off a piece here and there with some other changes. A number of changes were being tossed around in my mind.

This was taking place at the time I was in the front seat of Stearmans, hour after hour, instructing for the Army. When not flying, I would slip off to the Overhaul Section where I spent as much time as possible and which was a great learning experience.

I found that with a minimum amount of changes to the wings, they could be made to have much less wing area. By reducing the wing area, the speed would be increased, and the airplane would fly and perform better. Since I had seen Stearmans come into our training field with half a wing on one side due to a collision in the air with another Stearman, I felt sure my dream bird would fly with less wing.

At this point. I had decided a change in the center section, such as. removing the bow from the rear spar and extending ribs to

the trailing edge of the upper wings would eliminate a lot of unnecessary drag in this area and hopefully increase the wing area. 

In looking over the fuselage. I saw that by raising the top fairing (turtle back) a canopy could be installed. This would clean up this part of the airplane. increase its speed and provide flying comfort. I also felt that the tail surface group could be faired into the fuselage which would give a smooth flow of air over this section.

With all my changes in mind, along with a wild bright color scheme. wheel pants. engine and other trimmings, my fantasy airplane was now becoming a possible reality.

The ending of the war brought a sudden change in my life; one day I had a flying job. the next day I was wondering what, where and when my next job would be. At this time. I had to set my airplane dream aside. Finding a job and making money became a necessary factor. 

During the next few years while running a flight school, an aircraft repair shop, and working on all kinds of aircraft, flight testing airplanes, flying in air shows, and crop dusting, I still kept my mystery dream airplane in mind. Wherever and any time I could afford to do so, I would find and put a part of a Stearman aside for future use— I hoped. 

After four years. I finally had accumulated a complete Stearman in parts and the work started. For anyone not knowing this type of work, it would be hard to imagine or understand the feeling I had when I took a carpenter saw to cut the spars and ribs in a set of new surplus Stearman wings. I would measure to arrive at the cut location, mark it, pick up the saw, start to cut, lay down the saw and start the measuring procedure again. This measure, mark, cut procedure was used on all 4 wing panels and with a lot of measuring, luck and relief, the cut at each measured mark came out right. 

 At last, the wings were finished and then I began wondering if I had cut a little too much off the wings or made a mistake along the way in my measuring and sawing. The wings looked very short and little. However, my spirit picked up when the center section was placed between the upper wing panels and increased the wing area. I now felt sure my dream airplane would fly. 

Even though the major change hurdles were finished, I still had a lot of work left to do. With some good shop help. and a lot of my long night working hours, finishing the airplane moved along smoothly. 

Building the airplane created a good bit of curiosity by spectators and civil aeronautics administration personnel drop-ins. There was a lot of meaningless conversation, advice and doubts about the airplane and when it was ready for assembly, I moved it to an off limits enclosed hanger until completion. When ready for flight test, I sneaked in a couple of hours of my own flight testing before contacting my CAA friend for a flight waiver. I knew that for the flight test, he wanted the airplane towed to a close by airport that had a 10,000 foot runway.

Since I had already conned him out of the waiver, the morning of the flight test, I fired up my dream bird and flew over to the airport where the CAA office was located and taxied up to the front of their office. Before I could shut the engine down, I had the entire CAA office personnel as onlookers. Of course, my CAA friend said to me. “Now you know why I gave you that waiver the other day.” My response was, “Now that you know it will fly. you can give me a license for it.” 

Before long, I had an airworthiness certificate and certificate of registration N22D. for “The pride of the great blue yonder” as called by my CAA friend. He was also my first passenger and loved every minute of the flight including some piloting.

By |2016-11-13T09:34:05+00:00November 6th, 2000|Flying-Wire|Comments Off on The Dorr Custom Stearman

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