A Stitts Skycoupe Restoration Project

The Stitts Skycoupe is also known as Stitts SA7 D

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Two Experts Give their Input

After the clean-up the Skycoupe is in a decent shape to be examined by the experts: Tom Malechuck and Jack Phillips. They provided us with a long list of valuable "to do and to not do". New marching orders will soon be concocted based on their input but the good news is that there is nothing wrong with this airplane! (although for the engine we will need to have a closer look inside).

Tom explaining how to "undress" the fabric off the elevator while Kent takes notes

Jack, a Pietenpol builder is comfortable with the wooden wing's ribs and spars

Conclusion: After being forgotten and almost lost to the elements, this Skycoupe could find its destiny, soaring, sooner rather than later...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Team SA7 Visits Mud Flats International

On Saturday, May 28th, 2011, Terry Gardner, Kent Misegades, Noel Fallwell, Konrad Schoen, Niels & Judy Nielsen and Sam Arbes traveled to the Johnston County airport where they met EAA506 president Joe Mancusi and mechanic Mr. Lee. Their mission : locate an inspect an early Skycoupe owned by its co-builder, Mr. William Talton of Smithfield. The photos below show what we found. Here are a few specifics:

  1. The airplane was built by a group of four men from Smithfield in the early 1960s. It was completed around 1963-1964 and is one of the oldest Skycoupes in our area.
  2. The builders started their work prior to building the airstrip where it is located, known simply as "Mud Flats International". You won't find the airstrip on the charts, but it is easy to see on Google Maps (satellite image), just south of the I-95/US70 interchange, off Mallard Rd. It is a well-manicured, 3,000+ foot turf runway surrounded by collapsed hangars and a variety of interesting old machines, vehicles, and airplane parts.
  3. The only surviving hangar housed a recently restored Super Cub, and, in the back corner under a thick layer of dirt and dust, the Skycoupe we came to see.
  4. Our host, Mr. Lee, had maintained and flown the aircraft up to 2005, when an engine fire on a cold morning grounded the airplane indefinitely. While the engine would need major work to get running, the airframe suffered no damage from the fire and could probably be restored/rebuilt.
  5. A number of pictures were taken of various details, which will serve us well in the restoration of our own Skycoupe.
  6. The engine is the same as ours, a Lycoming O-290-D. Mr. Lee reports that the plane gets off the ground quickly and he had only good things to say about it.
  7. The airplane' prop, undamaged from the fire (we think) was a Sensenich 72 X 50, Model M76AM4, Serial Number 140006.
  8. As far as handling is concerned, Lee noted that the thin ailerons result in a fair amount of adverse yaw - pilots need to use the rudder. We believe that our Skycoupe incorporates ailerons of larger chord, one of the improvements made by Stits in the early 1960s after this plane in Smithfield was built.
We learned a great deal from this trip, and it was sad to reflect on what must have been a very active airfield in our area at one time, now essentially defunct. The fellows who built this airplane a half century ago were true pioneers, with little more than a set of plans and their own mechanical abilities to rely upon. Ray Stits was known to have skimped on detailed builder directions in his designs, believing that a builder who needed these probably shouldn't be constructing an airplane. How times have changed!

The best part of Mud Flats International: 3000 feet of smooth turf.

Talton's Skycoupe uses the same Lycoming O-290-D as in ours. This one suffered a carb fire 6 years ago that grounded the plane.

Close-up of the 125 HP Lycoming O-290-D. 12V generator can be seen behind gear on prop flange, same as on our engine.

Talton's Skycoupe must have had a fairly advanced panel for a homebuilt from the early 1960s.

Original, hardware-store wheels and tires, typical of a Stits design, all known for being low-cost and simple. Note brake line along front tube, an advancement over the simple mechanical "friction band" in the original plans.

Mold used for canopy. The last builder of our Skycoupe, Mr. Oppegaard from Garner, borrowed this mold for his work in the 1990s according to the records we found.

Terry Gardner checks out the remains of a Stinson 108 at Mud Flats International. He was heard to mutter, "Looks nearly complete! We can get it flying again, no problem."

This is the original-style nosegear, all scratch built. Later versions, like ours, use components from production aircraft.

Terry takes some pictures of the interior.

This simple strap is one of the hinges for the ailerons, themselves little more than formed aluminum riveted to a half-span torque tube. Simple, cheap & effective.

This is what we found upon arriving at Mud Flats International - a boneyard of machinery, equipment, rusting vehicles and airplane parts. 40 years ago this was a bustling airstrip with 20+ airplanes in hangars and a large grassy tie-down area, back when the local tobacco industry was thriving and allowed local farmers to pursue their aviation interests.

Agent Konrad Schoen, who found Talton's Skycoupe through masterful sleuthing. In his younger life, Konrad made a living finding old Gypsy Moths and similar aircraft in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Oh, the stories he can tell!

Below: this recently-restored SupeCub was in the front of the hangar, and is now for sale.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

To-Do List

I made the following To-Do list at our airplane clean-up session last week.

  1. Research history of plane - Terry Gardner has done a good job of this, see other postings here. Our plan started life in 1961 as a set of plans, Serial # P-445. The engine was purchased by the first builder in 1961, and was first run (again) on March 15th, 1994, by Mr. Oppegaard from Garner.
  2. Research FAA Records - Noel Fallwell will contact the Greensboro FSDO and request all documents on our airplane.
  3. Schedule Inspection - Jack Phillips will tentatively look at the plane next Tuesday evening, May 31st. We are hopeful that Tom Malechuk can be present, too.
  4. Obtain PolyFiber books - Kent ordered four copies of the POLY-FIBER "HOW TO COVER A/C" book. These will be given to the chapter Tool Bin that Terry has established.
  5. Bill of Sale - Konrad Schoen has created a bill of sale that will be sent to Tom Hall. Kent will assure that we have a formal transfer of ownership to Tom, who will later sell the plane to a new Club that we will form.
  6. Club - I have contacted Brenda Anderson of the EAA's Chapter Office, who confirmed that the EAA currently does not allow chapter ownership of any flying aircraft. They have recommended the purchase of a book written by member/lawyer Bruce Luedeman, "Keeping the Peace in Partnerships - A Guide to Aircraft Co-Ownership." I have also obtained a copy of the Wings of Carolina's Handbook, which includes its Bylaws. The WOC is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, so they must be doing something right. Once we learn the recommendations from Jack and Tom, we'll all meet and decide on the next steps, which will include formation of an Aero Club that will own the aircraft.
  7. Insurance - I have contacted AUA in Greensboro for advice on insurance. AUA is well-known for providing insurance to non-certificated aircraft, warbirds, vintage aircraft, etc. I have had my insurance with them for many years.
  8. Other Skycoupe at JNX - Thanks to Konrad Schoen, we'll be having a look at this other plane today at 3PM when we'll meet at the FBO of the Johnston County Airport to travel to the airstrip where the other plane is located.
  9. Post articles on Skycoupe - I think I have a fairly complete archive of all articles, in PDF form, that the EAA has ever published on the Skycoupe. Terry Gardner has hardcopies.
  10. Project Blog - JP Bernoux was way ahead of us on this, which is what you are now reading!
  11. Plans - Konrad and Joel McLaughlin checked both sets of plans and found that we have all but two, #7-2000 (Instruction List) and #7-7000 (Empennage Details). I have contacted David Doherty, EAA32 president and owner of a Skycoupe (in pieces) in St. Charles, MO, who has kindly offered to scan and send us these two missing pages.
Thanks to everyone's help!


Friday, May 27, 2011

SA7 Assembly Instructio​ns

Terry took time to scan the following instructions from the documentation retrieved with the Skycoupe. You can click on the images to enlarge them.

A brief history of our Skycoupe

Thanks to Terry Gardner, we now have a more complete understanding of the 50-year history of our Skycoupe project:

A number of folks are curious about the lineage of our Skycoupe. After combing thru the existing records here is the story!

Stits SA7 Serial Number P-445 began its life in 1961 with:

1st Owner: Paul Schauber, Baltimore, Md

Mr. Schauber started the project no sooner than 1961, based on the latest revision date found on the plans. No builders logs exist for this period

Terry discovered Mr. Schauber spoke to the Eastern Region FSDO on 18 March, 1963 before starting a project. So that means we now know he started the SA7 after this date!

Built fuselage (unclear if he built the complete fuse) acquired O290-G engine and parts to convert it to a aircraft D Model. The fuselage welding was signed off on 8 June, 1964 by FAA Eastern Region GADO Inspector T. Johnson.

Parts for the O290G were magnetically inspected by Mertz Aviation, West Chester, Pa. on 31 October, 1961(complete list is available). This inspection was done for Walter Szymczewski, Severn, MD. We don’t know if Mr. Schauber bought a started kit from Mr. Szymczewski or just engine parts.

2nd Owner: Lawrence Oppegaard, Garner, NC

Mr. Oppegaard acquired an incomplete fuselage assembly, engine / engine parts and plans on 7 September, 1991. He had previously attended an EAA Meeting on Experimental Airworthiness with Jeffrey Halliday FAA FSDO Morrisville speaking on 8 March 1991. Is this the spark that jumpstarted Mr. Oppegaard’s desire to build an airplane? Mr. Oppegaard then completed the lion’s share of the work on the Skycoupe which became our project. (Minwax Spar Urethane was used on the wings.) He worked on the project until abruptly ceasing 4 years of work on 23 September, 1995.This was the last work performed on the aircraft, as it over time passed thru others hands.

Spring 2011 – Chapter member Tom Hall discovered the airplane in the back of a hangar at Triple W airport, part of a collection of derelict aircraft projects owned by Tom's friend, Bill Amos. Bill offered to give the airplane to Tom, who has since donated it to the chapter.

May 19th, 2011 – A crew of chapter members moved the airplane from Triple W to Cox Field where it was displayed at the annual family picnic on May 21st. Later that same day, it was moved to Terry Gardner's large hangar shop at Eagles' Landing, where the restoration has begun.

May 25th, 2011 – A dozen chapter members played hooky, working all afternoon disassembling and cleaning the airplane in preparation for a thorough inspection by IA Tom Malechuck and chapter Technical Counselor Jack Phillips in the coming week.

Stay tuned for more!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tips on removing old covering

My son Tim just called. In the course of chatting about the 'Coupe, he advised that when we remove the cloth from the fuselage, we cut it in large pieces that will serve as patterns for the new cloth. If access panels are on it (I did not see any), this will also allow for easy repositioning of new access panels later. He said we'll need less cloth as a result, and make our lives easier.

Wood varnish

Chapter TC Jack Phillips passes along the following comments about the wood varnish he used on his Pietenpol:

"As for varnish, the best (and what I used) is PolyFiber Epoxy Varnish. It is impervious to any of the PolyFiber solvents and will not "lift" when polyTak or PolyBrush is applied as regular spar varnish or one-part polyurethane varnish will. Only problem with epoxy varnish is it is very expensive.

Thanks, Jack! He will meet us at EL next week to inspect the airplane, as will Tom Malechuk. Stay tuned for dates and times.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Time for Cleaning and a bit of Disassembling

Tom Hall, the happy donor:

The Instrument panel has to go!

It's Gone!

The diagnostic for the engine is pending:

The cleaning crew:

Test to put the blue prints on line:
(You can see details by clicking on the picture)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Registry of Stits Skycoupe

(From Airport-Data.Com)

Tail Number Year Manufacturer Model Serial Engines Seats Location
Quebec, Canada
Quebec, Canada
Manitoba, Canada
Quebec, Canada
British Columbia, Canada
N14091967 Stits Skycoupe WITWER 1000111OK, United States
N173630000 Moore STITS SKYCOUPE SA7DP39712CA,
N1964B1966 Stits Skycoupe SA7DP-41111TX, United States
Photo N21621973 Stits Skycoupe SA7DP54612OR, United States
N265S0000 Standing STITS SKYCOUPE SA-7DP44411WY,
Photo N28371969 Hergert-stits Skycoupe SA7D312AZ, United States
N300831968 Stits Skycoupe SA7DP-31812NE, United States
N3253H1971 Dillon-stits Skycoupe SA-7DP-55012IN, United States
N35721971 Standing STITS SKYCOUPE SA-7DP55311OR, United States
N3594G1964 Stits SKYCOUPE00111CA, United States
N35981971 Stits SKYCOUPEP52911NJ, United States
N4093B1974 Stits Skycoupe SA-7DP-38711CA, United States
N4667T1966 Stits Skycoupe SA7DP-35611MS, United States
N4685S1965 Stits Skycoupe SA7DEC-111NC, United States
N4701G1965 Stits Skycoupe SA7DP-42511OH, United States
N56200000 Stits SKYCOUPEJMC-5611WV, United States
N59491971 Teigen-stits Skycoupe SA7D112CA, United States
N64100000 Stits Skycoupe SA7DRW111AZ,
Photo N69321974 Kershow STITS SKYCOUPE SA-7DP47912MA, United States
N78311974 Melau STITS SKYCOUPE SA7D53712WI, United States
N84791979 Stegner-stits Skycoupe SA7DP-42712MN, United States
N8695R1962 Stits Skycoupe SA7D111NY, United States
N9428H0000 Stits Skycoupe SA7D34911

Story of the Skycoupe Restoration Project at Flabob Airport


William Wynne on the Skycoupe

Late this afternoon, I received a phone call from Corvair conversion expert William Wynne of Orange Park, FL. A number of chapter members have attended his famous "Corvair Colleges" in recent years. I had asked William about the Skycoupe owned by Gary Coppen that appears on his web site. It turns out that Gary loaned Wynne the Skycoupe for the purpose of a Corvair installation, then allowed his plane to serve as a "mule" for further modifications of the Wynne engine conversion. This even included installation of a turbocharger on the Skycoupe!

William only had good things to say about the Skycoupe. Here are some of his comments:

  1. It is a surprisingly good little airplane, incredibly rugged, good for training, tough little bird that flies surprisingly well with no bad habits.
  2. Our first flight with the 100HP Corvair engine was unintended and with the doors removed. The plane's gears resulted in a few degrees of negative instance in the ground roll. I wanted to see how much stick force would be needed to raise the nose off the ground. With its relatively short wing, I did not expect it to actually fly without more back stick, but was surprised to find myself flying a few feet off the ground only after moderate back pressure on the stick at 40-45 mph.
  3. It has full-span ailerons made of aluminum built around wood stiffeners. The plane has no flaps, and they are not really needed. The lack of flaps is one of the reasons it is a good aircraft to train in - one less thing to remember when flying it.
  4. We replaced the original, high-drag landing gear with a spring steel gear in our goal to achieve 100mph cruise at only 5gph fuel consumption behind a 100 hp Corvair engine. We almost achieved this goal.
  5. We replace the original nose gear with one from a Zenith as we felt it needed better damping that the Zenith provides.
  6. If you check the reports from the old EAA Rockford fly-ins from the mid-1960s, you'll find that many Skycoupes were present. It was considered an ideal chapter project plane due to its low cost, simplicity to build, rugged construction and good flying characteristics. It is an ideal chapter project plane that kind of grows on you the more you fly it.
  7. Daphne SD1A Tailwind - Tailwind pilots needing an airplane with better short field performance found this by mating Skycoupe wings onto a Tailwind fuselage. The result was the Tailwind Daphne SD1A. Ray Stits and Steve Witmann were two of the most popular designers of early homebuilts, so how ironic that two of their most popular designs would be combined in this manner. [ Scroll down to see more images of this Daphne at this link. Note the aileron attachments on the Stits SA7 wing, and what appears to be a flap, which is not in the original SA7 design, a flap-less airplane. ]
Left: Daphne SD1A

Below: Daphne aileron and flap details.

I checked today the online list of all issues of EAA Sport Aviation since the 1950s. I will see how many of these I can convert to PDFs. I have started a collection of all such articles.

How to clean a dusty airplane


I just spoke with Al Gester of EAA Chapter One, Flabob airport. Al is responsible for the Wathen Foundation's restoration of an old SA7 they found hanging in the rafters. All the work is being done by school kids with Al's oversight.

I asked Al how to best clean the dust and dirt from an old plane. Here is what he advised us:

1. Remove all cowlings, covers, inspection plates, etc. Record and mark these so you know where to replace them later. Take pictures as you proceed.

2. Blow off as much dirt as possible with compressed air, but taking care not to overdo things as it will only result in a cloud of dust that will resettle on the airplane.

3. Next, use soft, slightly moistened cloths to wipe of any remaining dirt.

4. Do the above outside to keep the dust out of the hangar and so that any remaining moisture can quickly evaporate.

5. Move the plane into a hangar and go over it closely with a flashlight, recording any areas where repairs or replacement might be necessary.

6. Coat all wood components with Stits wood varnish to protect surfaces.

7. Engine - seriously consider an overhaul if you are not familiar with the recent history of it.

He mentioned that he once had the same O-290 as in our engine and only had good things to say about it. According to Al, when the ground power unit O-290-G4 is converted back to an airplane engine, its designation is an O-290-D. See more on the engine here:

More on Gester's project At the links below. He seems happy to help us, and he knows his stuff.

Al Gester, EAA1, Wathen Foundation, www.flabob.org (Al does not do email)
951-683-2309 (weekdays 8-3:30), leo@flabob.org

Stits SA7 Project Cleanup

After Cleanup:

All volunteers welcome! We will be cleaning the Stits up this (Wed., May 25) from 1400-1800. Work will include removing 2 decades of dust and dirt from the wings and fuselage. If you can bring a large soft sponge that would be great. The work will occur at my hangar . We can have a bite to eat if there is interest after. Hope to see you there!


More on the SA7:


From this link I conclude that what we have is an SA7B as our plane does not have the squared and sweptback vertical tail surfaces of the 7D.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Various SA-7s

While doing some research on the SA-7, I came across a number of images of the plane, some of which are shown here.

EAA Chapter One, whose founder Ray Stits is the designer of our SA-7, announced an effort in 2010 to restore an SA-7 back to flying status. Read about it here:

One of recent restoration is N7230K, a Corvair-powered Skycoupe owned by Gary Coppen of Orange Park, FL. Read about his plane at William Wynne's Corvair web site:


EAA1114 Stits SA-7 Project - Volunteers

1. Terry Gardner, - chapter Technical Counselor

2. Noel Fallwell, - car/airplane builder, chief documentation guy

3. Tom Hall, - airplane's Godfather

4. Kent Misegades, - works cheap, chief "organizer" for stuff and money

5. Tim Misegades, - aspiring vintage restorer, works for Tom Malechuk lives nearby in Siler City

6. Jim Patterson, - Looking for a project

7. Konrad Schoen, - Fly Baby / Sport Car restoration

8. JP Bernoux, - RV-12 builder, retired, will blog for you!

9. Joel McLaughlin, - Lots of energy

10. Sammy Arbes, - Young guy, time this summer?

11. Tom Rudisill, - RV builder, retired, has time

EAA1114 Stits SA-7 Project – Other Resources

1. Denny Mercer, - nice woodshop at Cox Field

2. Bobby Cox - experienced scratch builder

3. Jack Phillips, - Pietenpol/wood experience

4. Tom Malechuck, - IA, engine, etc. inspections

5. Brian White - Recent SuperCub restoration, experience with wooden Stearman wing

6. Cecil Boyd, - Flight Adviser, has extensive machine shop at home and owner of Apex Vintage near RDU with extensive shops

7. Grover Macnair, - has good sheet metal tools in car repair shop near RDU

8. Michael Crowder, - electrical engineer, experienced with avionics

All email address on file, please contact EAA 1114 to get them

Ground Zero: May 19, 2011

It all started at Triple W airport (5W5) with a crew of determined Plane Movers :

Followed by our marching orders from Kent Misegade Chapter 1114 President:

Thanks again for your interest in our new Stits SA-7 Skycoupe project.

Attached are several articles on this design. You'll find quite a bit of information on the web on the SA-7 and its certificated sister-ship, the SA-9A. See the links below.

Ray Stits not only offered kits for the SA-7, but gained FAA certification of a modified SA-7D he called the SA-9A. There are a number of them flying and we have established contact with their owners. I will be calling Ray Stits (who is 90) this week in California to see if we can obtain a set of "fresh" plans.

What's next?

1. The plane is now safe and dry in Terry Gardner's hangar/shop at Eagle's Landing.

2. Noel Falwell plane to contact the FAA's Greensboro FSDO to retrieve copies of all records related to this particular project, which came with a good builder's log.

3. Noel will be loaning us his wing slings used during the construction of his RV-6A.

4. Terry will schedule a cleaning session at Eagle's landing soon where we'll clean two decades of dust from the airplane in preparation for its first inspection.

5. As soon as possible, we'll invite Tom Malechuk and Jack Phillips - among others - to have a close look at the airplane and its engine, which looks in good condition.

6. The engine is a Lycoming O-290-G4, 125-hp four-cylinder original from a military ground power unit that was converted back to an airplane engine.

Once the inspection is complete, we'll make a decision on how to best proceed, which will likely involve assigning tasks for each person to do.

Assuming the plane and engine are usable, I believe we should set ourselves the goal to fly it to AirVenture 2012 in 14 months.

We'd likely establish a separate aero club that would own and rent out the airplane to members. Too early to specify details, though. From what I have heard and read, the plane flies much like a Piper Tri-Pacer or C120/C140. The engine burns 6.5 gph of autogas or avgas in cruise.

If you know of others in the chapter who would like to be involved in the project, please have them contact me for now.