October 2, 2014 - After a multi-year volunteer restoration effort, EAA’s 1917 Standard J-1 biplane with The Great Waldo Pepper paint scheme made its maiden post-restoration flight on Monday, September 29, along a freshly mowed makeshift grass strip parallel to Runway 9 at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Test pilot Larry Harmacinski, EAA Lifetime 241492/Vintage 11740, described the flying qualities of the nearly century-old design. “Ponderous, like the Ford Tri-Motor, even slower if you can imagine. It’s quite a timepiece.”
The “meat and potatoes” of the aircraft, which had the serial number 1956, have been in the EAA family since the early 1970s. At that time EAA member Charlie Klessig found its fuselage in an EAA warehouse and asked EAA Founder Paul Poberezny if he could rebuild it, and Paul agreed. The aircraft had no wings, no engine, and was more or less a giant paperweight.
Standards were originally equipped with Hall-Scott A-7A engines which were unreliable, so Klessig installed a Hispano-Suiza Model A engine, more commonly called a “Hisso.” He spent the next several years building the plane at both his home in North Dakota and his winter home in Arizona. He got it flying and brought it back to the Oshkosh fly-in and convention in the late 1970s. When Klessig passed away his estate generously donated the aircraft back to the EAA Museum, where it remained on display at Pioneer Airport for the next quarter century.
Long-term static display took its toll; wood became 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 Hangar volunteers began restoring the antique. Before AirVenture last year, the airplane was very close to completed. It was displayed at AirVenture 2013, resplendent in its bright yellow Waldo Pepper paint scheme, then signed off on September 13, 2013.
Weather and other factors prevented a first flight from occurring until this week. Plans for the plane are to be a part of end of World War I commemorations in the next several years, said Sean Elliott, EAA vice president of advocacy and safety.
History of the Standard J
The Standard J two-seat tandem biplane was designed by Charles Healy Day for use as a military trainer. Because of the problematic Hall-Scott engine, all Standard Js were grounded in 1918 until upgrading to a $2,000 OX-5 engine - the same powerplant used in Curtiss JN-4s. Many Standard Js wound up being scrapped due to that high cost – some never even leaving their delivery crates.
Produced from 1916-1918 by four different companies, 1,601 aircraft were built. Only about a dozen remain intact (two of which were restored by Klessig).
Here’s a video of the first flight