[MY APOLOGIES - this was supposed to post on Friday, July 8th.]
Air Force pilot and Minnesota native Matt Quy was introduced to Stearman biplanes at an early age. Local Twin Cities pilot Chuck Doyle had a 450 hp Stearman and used to fly over the Quy home after an afternoon of skywriting or just flying for fun. That gave Matt the bug to have a Stearman of his own at a very young age.
Fast forward about a decade and a half. Matt was an instructor pilot working out of South St. Paul's Fleming Field. His base was in the hangar right next to the Minnesota Wing of the Commemorative Air Force. Matt watched the first restoration of the Red Tail Squadron's (then known as the "Red Tail Project") P-51C Mustang and got to meet Lee Archer and other Tuskegee Airmen when they came to town to see the airplane's progress and speak to schools and civic groups. "You couldn't help but be impressed with those gentlemen," Matt said. "Their history is so inspiring and they sure knew how to fly."
Right after Matt finished Air Force pilot training and his wife, Tina, graduated from college, they happened upon a badly damaged Stearman - on eBay of all places! He said, "We were just getting started in our careers and the timing was terrible, but I'd always wanted one. We talked to Chuck Doyle's son and he said something that all airplane owners either know or find out - 'you'll never be able to afford one but do it anyway!'"
The wrecked Stearman was in Phoenix and the Quys were in Houston. Matt had a friend check the biplane out in person and after getting the thumbs up, Matt and Tina bought it, They arranged to have it trucked on a flatbed to Houston where Matt was stationed. Upon its arrival, an examination of the paperwork led the Quys to discover the biplane had been used as a trainer by Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. Matt said, "I was very excited to finally have a Stearman - even if it was in pieces - but to have it be a part of history made it even better.
Matt, Tina, and other dedicated biplane fans took three years to restore the Stearman which took to the skies again in 2008. They named it "Spirit of Tuskegee" and Matt has been flying it in the western United States for three years. He's made a few forays east as well, appearing at the Great Minnesota Air Show in St. Cloud last year. Here's a picture of the biplane and the CAF Red Tail Squadron's P-51C Mustang taken while Matt was here.
photo courtesy Max Haynes
Matt and Tina wanted to not only preserve the biplane but use it to educate and motivate youth. A couple of years ago, the biplane and the Quys' educational efforts came to the attention of a curator for the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum. Matt was approached to see if he'd be willing to donate the Stearman to the Smithsonian's new National Museum of African American History and Culture which is scheduled to open in 2015. The Smithsonian offered is final cross-country trip with "The Spirit of Tuskegee" as he flies it from Sacramento, California to the Smithsonian in Washington DC. On the way, he'll be stopping at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, the Wings Of The North Air Expo in Minnesota and AirVenture at Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The last weekend in July he'll bring the biplane back to Moton Field at Tuskegee, Alabama and then fly northeast to the Tuskegee Airmen Convention in Maryland. It's after that convention that Matt will present his Stearman to the Smithsonian.
So what does Matt plan to do with his "new" Stearman when its restoration is complete? He is going to paint it like a POW/MIA flag and use it as flying memorial to veterans. He and Tina hope to have it flying next year. He got the biplane bug bad as a kid and has never looked back - only up.
The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven 501c3 non-profit organization that operates under the auspices of the Commemorative Air Force. For more information, please visit redtail.org.