Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Real Bull Stearman

M-2 Bull Stearman at the factory.

Whether you’re 19 years old and far away at college or 44 and far away for job training, care packages always deliver a boost to morale.  Popular choices for contents include cookies or brownies, well intended clothing items, and the latest gossip from home.  Of course, that’s a big generalization.
Despite what you may have heard at airshows, a 450 Stearman (pictured here) is not a  Bull Stearman.
Ginger says that what you include in a care package highly depends on to whom and for what reason you are sending it.  I think she’s correct.  Why?  When I was away at training she sent one to me.  Inside were the perfect items; a mini-kite shaped like a Stearman, a new ATM card, the most sincere card my animals have ever given me, and a book titled “Bull Stearman”.  Clearly, she knows how to assemble a proper care package.
The kite was hung from a lamp, the ATM card relied upon, the card from the animals placed on the desk, and the book put by the bed.  Now that I am back home, the kite is boxed up, the ATM card is in the wallet, the card from the pets is in a drawer, and at the head of the bed is the book.  I guess you could say square tail Stearman are the stuff of dreams.
Although my wonderful wife mailed the book to me in Miami, let me tell you how and why I initially received it.
The M-2 Stearman was and is the "Bull Stearman".
Not too long after arriving at my new job, I received an email from Alan Lopez.  He was letting me know that a book about his latest project was on its way to me.  There you have it.  Alan sent me the book.  That’s how I received it.  Pretty simple hu?  The reason though is slightly more nuanced and a bit of a guess.
Several years ago while on an overnight in Philly, I rented a car and drove to see an extremely rare bird which was being rebuilt; an M-2 Stearman.  The Posey Brothers’ operation was not too far away and I wasn’t about to pass up the chance to visit.  The beast, nicknamed the Bull Stearman by early mechanics, was almost finished and Mike Posey had offered to give me a look.
Before I arrived, I knew enough about the plane to know it was large.  The act of standing upright under the engine revealed its true size.  Massive is a great descriptor for this flying machine.  As if the canopy of a favorite tree, she looms overhead.  Like a bull in the room, you feel its presence.
Having talked to Alan before the visit, I had to send him a note afterwards.  Filled with excitement, I’m sure it included more questions, a note of thanks for taking it on, and a request to see it fly.  More messages would follow.  And that is why I think he sent the book.  The following paragraph is how I am guessing it went down.
Alan was sitting at his desk, signing a few copies of the book for friends, when at some point he thought, “I better send one to that crazy guy who keeps sending me emails about it”.  The image I have in my mind is of him throwing it over the fence and saying “Here you go; now beat it kid; scram”.  Of course I am kidding; slightly.
Alan's M-2 Stearman
“Bull Stearman, The Story of the Stearman M-2 Speedmail” is a great book for enthusiasts.  Inside is the story of Alan’s passion for Stearman aircraft, some history on Varney Air Lines for which this plane flew, the life story of the six other M-2s, and a detailed history of the survivor.  Also included is the story of the restoration; a restoration very few people would attempt.
Despite the obvious things to like about this book, I believe it offers up a great example for something I would like to see more of from the vintage community; books about individual restorations.
The notion of creating and publishing, even in small numbers, books about restorations of specific aircraft is a wonderful idea.  A chance to share the history of vintage aircraft, fully credit everyone involved with bringing them back to life, and to reveal the fascinating timelines which often accompany specific airframes should not be passed.  Revisiting the restoration also gives them greater relevance and historical value.  This is what Alan Lopez has done with his book “Bull Stearman, The Story of the Stearman M-2 Speedmail”.
If you would like to purchase a copy of the Bull Stearman book you can do so by clicking here ( Alan also wrote a book about flying his A-75 Stearman to every US State and Canadian Province in North America.  Titled “Biplane Odyssey”, it can be purchased by clicking here (  Both books can also be published through Amazon.  Finally, if you would like to see some additional restoration photos, visit
Thanks again to Alan for returning the M-2 to the air.  It was a daring feat and you succeeded.

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