Porterfield NC32412 is better than ever!

By Judy Birchler, host of www.LadiesLoveTaildraggers.com

Of all the things I’ve posted on the website, this one makes me the happiest!  I have a personal connection to this very special bird and I’m delighted old friend and current part owner in this great project, Hank Meador, has sent me photos and details to share.

So what’s the story?  This beautifully restored Porterfield is the first airplane I ever owned – well, 1/3 of it anyway! But hey, when you’re flying it, it’s all yours!  I flew the daylights out of it shortly after getting my pilot’s license and spent many hours flying along the Ohio River chasing ducks, landing on grass strips and getting my first taste of the very best in flying – tandem taildragging.

Judy in 1976, proud 1/3 owner of a 1940 65 hp Porterfield

The red  ’40 Porterfield had a 65 hp Lycoming back then that leaked a little oil, didn’t always want to start on the first few swings of the prop and had some minor issues you’d expect in an old taildragger that hadn’t been flown a heck of a lot in recent years.  It also wasn’t too speedy but I wasn’t particularly interested in speed anyway.

I remember flying it 40 miles north one afternoon getting pushed along by a very generous tailwind only to start getting really nervous when I decided to turn and head for home.  I remember holding onto the stick, eyes glued to the fuel tank, hoping I’d get back to the airport before the last drop of fuel ran out.  I did!

Here’s newly restored 1940 Porterfield LP-65 with partners Bud Sherretz, Randall Krystosek, Hank Meador & Fred Williams.

On December 10, 1940 the Porterfield factory in Kansas City, MO completed the aircraft, serial number 842.  She had 14 owners over the next 30 years until purchased in 1972 by Tom Crane of Skylane Airport, Evansville, IN.  It remained at Skylane throughout the next 38 years , flyable until a tornado pounding 100 mph winds struck the airport in 1982.  Even though most of the airplanes based there were destroyed or substantially damaged by the wind, #842 received only minor damage; 3 left wing ribs were broken, the fin and rudder bent and the wooden turtledeck was fractured.  Due to the damage the airplane was taken out of service and stored in pieces in an old barn.

Newly restored Porterfield NC32412

Fast forward to 2005 when the 4 partners made the decision to do a full and complete restoration of #842.  With the combined experience of amateur woodworkers & model airplane builders, auto body repairman, a Xerox field engineer who can repair anything electrical or mechanical smaller than a locomotive and of course the necessary veteran tailwheel pilot(s), their project  began.

Beautiful from every angle

Some of the details included replacing the entire turtledeck with 1/4″ aircraft five-ply plywood & straight-grain white cedar stringers, adding new side and bottom stringers, floor boards & seat panels, and covering in Dacron polyester fabric.  They needed replacements for the heel brake pads and found the reproduction Model A Ford accelerator pedal footrest was an exact duplicate.  All the instruments were tested, serviced and found to be in good working order.  Upper & lower cowl panels we irreparable and were duplicated. A freshly rebuilt Lycoming O-145-B2 was mounted and a gorgeous old Flottorp 69 x 44 prop hung in place.

Local burled walnut was used on the new instrument panel

On May 22, 2008, NC32412 flew again for the first time in 26 years.  Bud was given the honor being the pilot of the first flight.  The project required almost 2 years from start to finish with the partners meeting on a regular schedule at least three workdays a week.

1940 Porterfied NC32412 is based at 3EV, Evansville, IN

Congratulations to Hank, Fred, Bud & Randall on a beautiful bird.  And oh, I’m patiently waiting for my first ride in 34 years!??!!

Thanks to Vintage Airplane Magazine, Sept. 28 issue where you’ll find the complete story.

  • Tom Porterfield
    Posted at 22:09h, 13 March Reply

    This is a great story. I would appreciate it if you would join and share the story and pictures with us at the Porterfield Airplane Club on-line. Hank and Fred are members. The membership is free at: http://porterfieldplane.ning.com
    Thank You
    Tom Porterfield

  • shannon gallagher
    Posted at 16:19h, 27 February Reply

    Chucks main reason for doing this is me I think he wants me to have one that makes me happy. It will take time but it will be worth it and in the meantime i can still fly songbird.

    Have a great day and I will make a note in our flight calendar to stop and see the Porterfield this summer.

    We are going to be doing alot of cross country this summer so perhaps we will see you at one of the functions.


  • Judy Birchler
    Posted at 12:20h, 27 February Reply

    Shannon, if you ever get up to Skylane make sure you see the Porterfield. It will give you and Chuck something to strive for as you’re rebuilding your TCraft. I’ve never had a nearly perfect airplane to fly and don’t really feel the need but I’m happy for anybody that puts that much time, effort and money into creating a masterpiece. Me, I’m just happy to have wings – some cosmetic flaws here and there are fine.

  • shannon gallagher
    Posted at 11:12h, 27 February Reply

    Judy I think that it’s great that you got to see the old plane come back to it’s glory. I know what its like to see them falling apart. Chuck found a 1946 Taylorcraft in a field in Mississippi just after a fire, and now we are going to buy it and rebuild it. I will send you some pics of what it looked like the first time seeing it in the field, and keep you posted how it is coming along. We are thinking it will take us about 2 years to rebuild to perfect.

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