The Boeing Stearman PT-17 pictured here is one of the primary trainers actually flown in training by the WASP at Avenger Field in 1943 and 1944, and it is returning to Avenger Field for the Annual WASP Homecoming at the National WASP WWII Museum on Saturday, May 28, 2011.
PT-17 No. 12 was meticulously restored to its World War II condition and appearance by the father and son team of Andy and Mike Porter of East Liverpool, Ohio. Researching the military history of the plane through the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum as well as the Air Force Historical Research Agency, the Porters learned of the planeâ€™s service at Avenger Field at the time the WASP were in training here. They then realized the historical significance of their rare Stearman. Indeed, WASP Stearman No. 12 is the only known surviving trainer flown by the WASP at Avenger Field.
WASP records show that in November and December of 1943, there were 67 PT-17s assigned to Avenger Field. Further research through the WASP Archives at Texas Womenâ€™s University in Denton revealed photographs of the No. 12 Stearman with WASP trainees on the ramp at Avenger Field.
The restoration and rebuilding of No. 12â€™s airframe took place over a period of just less than one year in 2006, but that came only after a ten-year period spent collecting parts and overhauling the engine. Most all the work was done personally by Mike Porter, an FAA certified airframe and powerplant mechanic with inspection authority. No doubt the restored condition of No. 12, winner of the â€śBest Stearmanâ€ť award at EAAâ€™s AirVenture Oshkosh 2010, is far superior to its condition when bouncing around the dusty auxiliary practice fields outside of Sweetwater.
Honoring the spirit of the adventurous young women who volunteered for the WASP program, the Porters travel the country on their own time, exhibiting WASP No. 12 as a tribute to those brave women.
The National WASP WWII Museum board of directors and staff invite the public to the Museum on Saturday, May 28, 2011, to see the original WASP Stearman No. 12 together with at least 20 WASP, many of whom likely flew No. 12 in training. Daylong Museum activities will include free airplane rides sponsored by Abilene EAA Chapter 471 for kids ages 8 through 17.