July 15, 2013 - Volunteers at EAA's Weeks Hangar on the Wittman Regional Airport began attaching the wings to a 1917 Standard J-1 biplane last Thursday, giving shape to a project that began in October 2011.
The "meat and potatoes" of the aircraft have been in the EAA family since the early 1970s, but due to the passing of time, much restoration still needs to be done. At that time EAA member Charlie Klessig found the fuselage of the old pilot trainer in an EAA warehouse and asked EAA founder Paul Poberezny if he could take it and rebuild it. Paul said yes, as the aircraft had no wings, no engine, and was more or less a giant paperweight.
The Standard J was originally equipped with a Hall-Scott A-7a engine, which turned out to be the main reason the aircraft was only built for two years. The motor was unreliable and caused more vibration than any instructor or student could handle. Klessig, following the trend of the times, swapped it out in favor of a Hispano-Suiza Model A engine (widely known as a "Hisso") as had been done with other J-1s, yielding very positive results.
Following several years of building, both at his home in South Dakota and winter home in Arizona, Klessig was able to get the aircraft to fly and brought it back to the EAA fly-in and convention in the late 1970s. Upon his passing, Klessig's estate generously donated it back to the museum, though in much better shape than the pile of pieces that Paul told him he could have years earlier.
After 25 years on display at Pioneer Airport, wood was damaged, and one of the wings had completely eroded. So, in October 2011, EAA Director of Aircraft Maintenance John Hopkins and a team of Weeks volunteers began restoring the antique. A borescope test on the Hisso showed that it needed very little work, and the team also started repairing the wood and fixing the damage caused by time.
With the wings completed, and one in place as of July 12, Hopkins hopes to have the Standard completely restored by AirVenture - and airborne a few months later.
The Weeks Hangar team used the paint scheme of the J-1 featured in the 1975 feature film, The Great Waldo Pepper. You can see it for yourself in Oshkosh this year at a location to be determined.
Brief History of the Standard J
The Standard J is a two-seat tandem biplane used as a trainer from 1916-1918. Four different companies produced Standard J's, and in its two years of production, 1,601 aircraft were built.
Because of the problematic Hall-Scott engine, all Standard J's were grounded in 1918 until upgrading to a $2,000 OX-5 engine - the same powerplant used in Curtiss JN-4s. Many Standard J's wound up being scrapped due to that high cost - some never even leaving their delivery crates.
Today, only about a dozen Standard J's remain intact (two of which were restored by Klessig).