In the years immediately following WW II, an old airplane like a pre-war biplane was often something that a person flew as a cheap "time builder" or because he couldn't afford anything better. As a result, many old planes in private hands received only minimum care were left to rot when they became un-airworthy and too expensive to re-license. By 1952, the Stearman count had dwindled down to 3,930 aircraft from a high of 8,585 aircraft produced between 1933 to 1945 because of deterioration and the high attrition rate of the crop duster business.
However, the 1950's saw a new hobby emerge - Antique Airplanes - and the Stearman found its third postwar career. Interest soon became so great that two national organizations were formed to support and coordinate the activity. These organizations are the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) that holds its annual fly-in in Oshkosh, WI each year in July/August, and the AAA (Antique Airplane Association) that holds its annual fly-in in Blakesburg, IA over Labor Day Weekend each year. Other organizations have been formed in order to preserve and support these wonderful aircraft including the National Biplane Association (NBA) in Tulsa, OK and the Stearman Restorer’s Association out of Chino, CA.
Official figures for the late-1990's show that approximately 1,989 Stearmans are still on the U.S. civil register, and there are many others active in other countries.
With the numbers already in collector's hands, and the others still to be acquired from the duster fleet, we can be assured that beautifully-restored and carefully maintained Stearmans will be seen in the skies for quite a few more years to come. However, as each year passes by, so too do the number of people who still know how to operate, fly and maintain these aircraft.
In the era of heavy metal and awesome jet power, these stalwart biplanes are now proving that they are forever timeless.
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