Happy 90th Birthday to Stearman NC8811

90 Years Ago Today

On April 11, 1929, the Stearman factory in Wichita, Kansas completed manufacturing work on another of their aircraft, a model C3B, serial number 221, registered NC8811. A week before, the aircraft had been sold to Rogers Aircraft, Inc. at Rogers Airport, 3901 Angeles Mesa Dr., Los Angeles, California. (near Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Ave. today)

Rogers Airport, Los Angeles, 1922

Well designed with unmistakable thoroughbred lines, the Stearman C3B is considered one of the all-time greats in early aviation and was the basis for every subsequent “Stearman” airplane built. The C3B was rugged and dependable, well suited for the early mail routes and airline feeder service on which it was used.

Introduced in 1927 at designer Lloyd Stearman’s factory in Venice, Calif., early models were equipped with Curtiss OX-5 and Hisso engines of lesser horsepower. Production was moved to Wichita, Kan. In late 1927 and certification came in mid-1928, after which the C3B was powered by a 9-cylinder Wright “Whirlwind” J5 engine producing 220 h.p.

NC8811 in 1953 in service with Atwood Dusters in northern California.

It quickly earned a reputation for performance and utility and many were used for advanced pilot training and aerobatics training. After larger aircraft took over mail and airline routes, C3B’s served in the emerging crop dusting industry and continued in this demanding practice well into the 1960s. NC8811 was used as a crop duster from about 1935 to 1954.

Al Kelch in NC8811 shortly after restoration in 1997.

To satisfy popular demand at the time, Stearman produced a sport model of the C3B, painted in “Stearman Red” for the “play-boy” pilot and barnstormers who wanted a high-performance airplane for personal use.

Al Kelch acquired NC8811 in 1979 as a “basket case” along with the remains of two other C3B’s that were in poor condition. Fully restored by Kent McMakin at Brodhead Airport, it was returned to service in 1997 in the original sport configuration. The aircraft does not have a starter and must be hand-propped.

Stearman C3B from Kelch Museum at Brodhead, Wis. Photo by Jim Koepnick.

Kelch Aviation Museum Hires Part-Time Archivist

Ami Eckard-Lee, Archivist

The Kelch Aviation Museum’s Library & Archive continues to grow through generous donations of valuable collections from around the country. A cornerstone of our mission is to provide education and awareness to the public and the aviation community about the Golden Age of Aviation. Media – whether it be photographs, original building plans, vintage magazines, or in-depth biographies – is instrumental to education and historic record. Kelch Aviation Museum is lucky enough to care for upwards of 10,000 titles, all received through donations; in an effort to properly organize, preserve, and catalog these often-fragile items, the museum hired Ami Eckard-Lee as a part-time archivist on January 1, 2019.

Ami, a history student who grew up a few miles from the Brodhead Airport, discovered her love of archiving through the study of film & photographic history. “It’s amazing to work on this collection,” Ami said. “The sheer scope of the materials – magazines from as early as 1897, rare original photographs, books signed by game-changing aviation authors – amazes me. It’s an adventure to work with these treasures, and an honor to help ensure their preservation and public accessibility for generations to come.”

Ami’s salary is paid through restricted donations to the Archive, and additional funding is needed. Consider helping with a gift, marked for the Archive.

We look forward to sharing our collections with aviation enthusiasts from all over the world, and we’re grateful for any donations of new archival materials.

Velie Monocoupe

This Velie powered Monocoupe 70 hangs in the California Science Center in Los Angeles, and is nearly identical to N800HB, owned by the Kelch Aviation Museum. Our Model 70 is the only “project” airplane in the collection and we hope to return it to flight in the coming years.

Aviation Royalty!

During a presentation on the Golden Age of Aviation in Oconomowoc today, we met Norm Poberezny, Paul’s younger brother. We talked about learning to fly and the early days of #EAA!

1932 Michigan Air Tour

The sister ship to our Curtiss-Wright 12-W (one serial number below) is shown here in 1932 with its original owner, Ruth Kitchel from Coldwater, Michigan.

Ruth and her friend Alice Hirschman flew in the 1932 Michigan Air Tour. This picture was printed in the Detroit Times. Ruth & Alice flew the 12-W on the 1,500 mile week long trek along with 40 other planes. Thousands of people came to the 16 airports along the way to see the planes, “stunts” and to buy rides, $1.50 charged. 

Notice how elegantly the ladies are dressed. Alice is helping Ruth put on her fanny parachute.

We Made It!

We made it! Just. Barely.

At the very last minute yesterday, on New Year’s Eve, we accomplished our goal of raising all $123,333 of the William S. Knight Foundation challenge grant for 2018. That means the museum will receive a check for an additional $123,333 this week.

Thank you to the 97 different donors who contributed in 2018. We’re getting close to being able to start building the new museum.

Antique Biplanes Photo Book

Just published, a new photo book featuring the biplanes of the Kelch Aviation Museum. Antique Biplanes is a photo essay from Diedrich Dasenbrock with tons of detail photos of the museum’s biplanes.

This book is only available through the Kelch Aviation Museum, and only with a donation of $1,000 or more. Click on our DONATE link to get yours now. 

Thanks to Diedrich Dasenbrock for the great photos and for publishing the book on our behalf.

Challenge Grant Deadline

Today is the deadline for the 2018 portion of the William S. Knight Foundation challenge grant, and as of this writing, we’re just about $25,000 short of our goal of $123,333. Donate now and receive some great donor premiums.

  • $1,000 – Antique Biplanes photo book
  • $1,500 – Biplane ride for two in a vintage 1930 Waco Taperwing
  • $2,500 – Photo shoot for a day with our vintage cars and airplanes. Period costume and photographer provided.

Click the DONATE link above to get started.

Museum Receives Fairchild 22 on Long Term Loan

Exciting news! The Kelch Aviation Museum just signed a long-term loan for this 1932 Fairchild 22 C7B, owned of John Thomason of Sonoma, California.

This rare aircraft still has its equally rare Menasco engine and flies regularly. It will be housed in the new Kelch Aviation Museum building when it is completed, hopefully late in 2019.

$135,000 Grant From the Brodhead Area Foundation

We are very excited to announce the Brodhead Area Foundation has awarded $135,000 to the Kelch Aviation Museum! The grant will be $45,000 each year for the next three years.

This donation is a significant step forward in our capital campaign to construct a new museum facility at Brodhead Airport. With the recently announced challenge grant from the William S. Knight Foundation, the $135,000 is effectively doubled and brings us within reach of our goal to begin construction in 2019.

Stay tuned for more details on how you can help put us over the top on our 2018 fundraising target.