Monday, June 1, 2009

If you receive this blog its because I thought you might have an interest in my project to bring a wonderful airplane back to its original form. To me the greatest American aircraft company ever was North American Aviation, the designers and builders of Jimmy Doolittle's B-25's, the immortal P-51 Mustang, the T-6 Texan and of course the F-86 Sabre. Many people don't realize that right after the war-1946- N.A.A., to fill a void in their production line produced one light aircraft. The same people-Dutch Kindelberger N.A.A. president and Edgar Schmued-who designed the Mustang decided to design and produce a new light plane: the NAvion(you can guess what NA stands for). They built it stronger than all other light planes because they knew no other way. They lost money on all 1100 NAvions because they were built so hell for stout and when they got busy with the F-86 they sold everything to Ryan down in San Diego. Between N.A.A. and Ryan 246 Navion's called L-17's were purchased for the Army and Air Force(out of the total 2300 Navion and Navion A's built). Two L-17 examples-47-1340 and 47-1354- also flew in the California Army National Guard and the wonderful picture above was taken by one the most famous American aviation photographers-William T. Larkins over Stockton, CA in January 1950 from the back seat of an Army Aeronca L-16 with its door off-I'll bet it was cold!. So here we go restoring one of these rare birds few know much about. They did things like flew General MacArthur in Korea, even flew Marilyn Monroe around Korea to visit the troops(lucky Army Aviator, what a memory to have),flew general officers in the CAL Guard. Now there are only about thirty real L-17's flyin g in the U.S. most in civilian colors. Many civilian owners have painted phoney markings on their civilian non-military Navion's but only a couple of actual L-17's have been accurately restored. We are going to restore this wonderful aircraft in the markings of the CAL Guard, just like the Bill Larkins photo. This blog if you are interested will be updated every few weeks. For those that don't know me, I also restored a" Loach"that served in Viet Nam, a T-6 that was in the Brazilian Air Force demonstration team and a Stinson L-5. This will be my last restoration, so I decided to include some special people-you- by putting together this blog-something I absolutely couldn't do without the help of my son Matt a freshman at Fresno State and a competitive cyclist and my tech consultant. I hope you will enjoy hearing about this project. Included in the group receiving this blog in addition to Mr. Larkins are some unique people and I would like to highlight each one of you with your permission(send me an aviation related picture by e-mail)as we go along. For now you should know that among those recieving this is the talented young man who I will highlight in the next blog who discovered and put 33C/974 back into the air (this old bird which had been sleeping in a neglected state in a SOCAL hanger for almost 25 years), two for real former L-17 pilots one of whom actually flew the picture plane in Stockton and one who flew L-17's and Bird Dogs in combat in Korea, two current military pilots (with a connection to Stockton )one of whom just came back from Iraq, and one who started out as an Army Aviator but now defends the west coast while we sleep in his F-16C, and a lifelong friend named Bob highlighed below in this initial blog. I'll keep you posted-the aircraft is now in Fresno at Chandler Field waiting the first steps in the restoration to original.You are likewise free to forward this blog to anyone else you feel may have an interest in old military aircraft. Ron Paliughi

Pictured above is Ryan L-17B 48-974, mfg. ser. no. NAV-4-1680, FAA N7733C. produced in December 1948. In the cockpit is my good friend Bob Juarez. Bob is an A&P mechanic, retired industrial engineer and commercial and instrument rated pilot . Bob lives in Fresno with his bride of 50 years Phyllis, who both own a Stinson 108-1. Bob served in the California Air National Guard as a young mechanic working on the F-86. He is a good tail-dragger pilot, and he made the successful ferry flight of 33C/974 back to Fresno from El Centro, CA three weeks ago in 974. I flew along side in the T-6D with the power pulled back-a neat seldom seen formation: a T-6 and a military L-17 flying through the California skies. Maybe Dutch was looking down. Bob will be heading up the next phase of the restoration project at Chandler Field from his recently purchased hanger. Bob is a methodical, safety oriented mechanic who will do a great job. One of the really neat things he will be doing is restoring 974's nearly original panel.