PIQUA — A decade-long project was the focus at the Piqua Rotary Club meeting this week, revealing a dedication to preserving a piece of aviation history as well as a camaraderie among like-minded enthusiasts.
The Piqua Rotary Club hosted two aviation enthusiasts at their meeting at Edison State Community College, Ted Teach of New Carlisle and Doug Smith of Sidney, who — along with the help of the late Bob Jacoby of Piqua — restored the last remaining 1935 Ryan ST aircraft.
Jacoby, who passed away in December, was missed at the meeting, with Cheryl Stiefel-Francis of the Piqua Rotary Club saying, “He was so looking forward to having them here.”
Cheryl Stiefel-Francis introduced Teach and Smith, noting that Teach has 26 U.S. patents. Teach was an aeronautical engineer by trade with jobs at North American Aviation, Grimes Manufacturing, Blackhorse Tile Co., and most recently, Laser-Plane Corporation — now Trimble Navigation — prior to his retirement in 1992.
Teach was awarded the 2016 Antique Grand Champion award at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture Oshkosh Air Show in Oshkosh, Wis., for the restoration of his 1935 Ryan ST aircraft. EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is an annual gathering of aviation enthusiasts with over 10,000 aircraft and 2,000 show planes.
That was not the only time Teach has brought home an EAA award for one of his airplanes. His 1953 Mooney Mite, a 1930 WACO INF, and his Pitts N8M have also received awards at Oshkosh.
Smith also took time to give background on Teach prior to discussing the Ryan ST restoration project, noting how Teach got his pilot’s license when he was 17 years old and never curbed his enthusiasm for aircraft even after his retirement.
“He retired to have more free time, and he never lost his love of airplanes,” Smith said.
Smith was there when Teach bought the Ryan ST, and he gave some background on how this aircraft was one of a kind, saying, “The Ryan Aircraft Company, when they built their first ST’s, only built five of the ST’s. After the first five, they changed the engine, they changed the design up a little bit of the fuselage, and went into full production of what became the STA and later the STM. They built a few hundred of those. Of the first five ST’s that were built, this is the only one left. The other four have been destroyed.”
Teach bought the 1935 Ryan ST in Santa Paula, Calif., where he almost flew the airplane home to Ohio, but decided against it at the advice of two aircraft engine specialists who happened to be there at the time of the sale.
“Those two gentlemen were a father and son team by the name Al and Brad Ball, owners of Antique Aero Engines at the Santa Paula, Calif. Airport, and they just so happened to be the experts on the engine that’s in this airplane,” Smith said.
That advice turned out to be good, as Teach and Smith later found out that the engine would have seized in flight.
“The airplane had previously been restored in 1992 … but never flown,” Smith said.
Teach and Smith started on their own restoration of the airplane in 2006, and Smith discussed the long process of manufacturing parts — in addition to molds to make the parts — for the one-of-a-kind airplane.
Jacoby came on to help shortly after his wife Jane passed away in December 2012. Jacoby and Smith went to the same church, where Jacoby would ask Smith how the restoration was going until Smith asked for his help.
“We worked hard together,” Smith said, becoming a little emotional talking about Jacoby. “He was a great addition to the team,” he said. “Bob would do just about anything I asked him to do … We just had a great time.”
At the 2015 EAA AirVenture Oshkosh Air Show, the team decided that they would get their Ryan ST restored by the next one. The 52 weeks until that point, though, left one big part of the project for them, which was creating fairings for the rudder of the airplane.
“Turns out this was the most difficult part of the project,” Smith said.
This was another part that they had to manufacture themselves, including create different sets of molds in order to make the part.
“All that hard work was worth it,” Smith said.
Teach flew the airplane for the first time after the 10-year restoration project on June 25, 2016. A month later, they were awarded the 2016 Antique Grand Champion award for that project and the final restoration of the 1935 Ryan ST.
“It was a very humbling and honoring experience,” Smith said. “That’s our story.”
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 451-3336