OSHKOSH, WISCONSIN – AirVenture, the Experimental Aircraft Association’s annual aviation extravaganza, is known for bringing out the best of the best in everything aviation.
This year is no different. With an expected 10,000 aircraft in and around Wittman Regional Airport, airplanes are quite literally parked everywhere.
With so many vintage and historic aircraft parked and on display, it takes a very special flying machine to earn a spot in the “front row.”
Sitting on display, in front of the Vintage Aircraft Area, welcoming what will likely be hundreds of thousands of visitors over the week-long event, is a 1935 Ryan ST, built in San Diego, California by the legendary Claude Ryan, the same man who, just seven years earlier had built the Spirit of St. Louis, the aircraft that Charles Lindbergh piloted, from New York to Paris in 1927, to become the first man to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean.
The Ryan ST on display in Oshkosh is owned by New Carlisle resident Ted Teach, owner of Spectra-Physics. Teach, along with Piqua resident Bob Jacoby, and Sidney resident Doug Smith, have spent the past ten years, lovely restoring the aircraft, from a beat-up hull, to a flyable museum-worthy piece.
There are no parts available for such a vintage aircraft, so the project began with seemingly insurmountable problems.
Jacoby said that the only way to solve the problem was to manufacture the parts themselves. That, too, posed problems. Since there were no parts available, neither were there molds to make the parts. So, the group was faced with having to reverse manufacture parts by, first, making the molds for each and every part.
Almost every part of the Ryan is hand-made. The group kept a photo journal of the process, which Jacoby proudly shows to visitors at Oshkosh.
The decade-long project was completed in June of this year with the ST making it’s maiden flight on June 25, less than one month before their planned journey to the Mecca of air shows.
Teach stood proudly with Jacoby and Smith, surveying thousands of hours of hard labor, now a shining showpiece, on display for EAA visitors to behold. “There is nothing I’ve ever seen like it,” said Teach, whose dream of owning such a perfect, shining aircraft was born when he first saw a Hughes Racer, many years ago.
Teach has 66 years and more than 6000 hours flying experience and, as he describes it, a “love for airplanes.”
Jacoby came on board with the project several years ago. He was a perfect man for the job, having served with the 20th Air Force in the Pacific during World War II. And, as Jacoby puts it, he did such a good job during World War II, that the Air Force invited him back for the Korean War. The Ryan ST project has been a five-day-a-week labor of love for Jacoby.
This particular ST airframe is one of only five ever built and it is the only one remaining. It has a 125 h.p. Manasco engine, which is 30 h.p. more than the original 1935 power plant. The aircraft was built in 1935 and first licensed in 1936. One of the other five airplanes of this type was flown by Tex Rankin to win the 1936 United State Air Championships.
After a decade of effort, Teach and his crew, or more accurately, Teach and his friends, hope to bring home a Lindy Award from AirVenture 2016.
Named after aviation hero Charles Lindbergh, the Lindy Awards acknowledge the tireless effort necessary to create an aircraft that’s truly best of show.
How could an aircraft, built by Ryan and lovingly restored by the likes of Teach, Jacoby, and Smith, do any less?