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Longtime Member Donates T-34, Stinson Reliant to EAA
August 30, 2018 - Longtime EAA member Don Gruett, EAA Lifetime 17510, has generously donated two vintage airplanes, a 1936 Stinson SR-8E Reliant and 1953 Beechcraft T-34A Mentor, to EAA’s aircraft collection. Gruett, who lives in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, said EAA was the right fit to honor and maintain his airplanes, as he is no longer able to fly them.
“My association with EAA and Paul [Poberezny], that’s one of the biggest reasons [why I donated],” Gruett said. “I love the T-34, and I thought it would be nice to donate it to EAA and if I ever want to go and look at it, I can drive for an hour and go see it.”
EAA Vice President of Philanthropy and Donor Stewardship Ken Strmiska said the donation is a testament to how Gruett feels about EAA’s work over the last 65 years to steward others’ aircraft and use them to educate future generations.
“The fact that Mr. Gruett chose EAA to be the stewards of these aircraft after he so lovingly took care of them for the past several years is almost unbelievable,” said Strmiska. “He entrusts us to have the same love, care, and respect for these aircraft.”
A prized possession of Gruett’s for many years, the T-34A, an early 1950s-era military training aircraft, has a unique yellow-and-white paint scheme with black insignia, a Continental engine, and is in excellent condition.
“I originally got it from a guy in Texas and it was painted red, white, and blue like Captain America,” Gruett said. “It was horrible-looking, but I didn’t care because it flew so beautifully.”
Meanwhile, the Reliant, one of the most classic designs of the 1930s, features an orange paint job and red trim, Lycoming engine, and a beautifully restored instrument panel.
“The 1936 Stinson SR-8 and the classic military T-34 trainer, you could tell they were part of a collection that was owned by an EAA member that is very passionate about aviation,” said Sean Elliott, EAA’s vice president of advocacy and safety, who also oversees EAA’s operational aircraft. “He clearly took loving care of them and clearly took great pride in sharing them with others and lighting that spark in aviation. He felt strongly that EAA was the right organization to continue that mission. That is exactly what we’ll do. Those airplanes will be something that will be shared with our members, the public, and continue to tell their story.”
Elliott said no concrete decisions have been made yet as to the airplanes place within EAA’s collection, but he said he is working with the EAA Aviation Museum team to explore the possible options while keeping EAA’s mission in mind.
“EAA members associate with the organization because they see that likeness in how they think and how they feel and that passion for aviation,” Elliott said. “It’s our jobs as stewards of this wonderful collection of airplanes to make sure that we fulfill that expectation. That’s what’s special about EAA is that we’re an operator. We fly airplanes. We do things with airplanes beyond just placing them in our museum. I think that’s what our members, like Don Gruett, really appreciate and respect about the organization, and why they feel so strongly about seeing their prides and joys come to EAA when it’s time to do so.”