My good friend Eddie Andreini owns the most heavily modified Stearman in the world. It's amazing that he can get such a big plane to perform like a little Pitts. I've been seeing him fly it for years at air shows and I finally got him to sit down with me and tell me all about this amazing plane.
So Eddie, can you tell me little bit about your Stearman?
Yes it's been a great airplane. I had flown Stearmans before this one here and I had the opportunity to buy this one and it was the mate to my other one. Just one serial number off! I said if I'm going to have another Stearman, I'm going to modify this thing to fly real airshow work! So I proceeded in modifying it and the more I did, the more I kept going with modifying it and the airplane did nothing but get better and better. It's a big plane but it will do what you want it to do because it has enough good modifications on it that it performs very well.
What are some of the modifications you've made to your Stearman?
What we started with was the engine because that's what you always start with and we went from a stock Stearman engine with 225 hp to a Pratt and Whitney R-985 with 450 hp. It's probably putting out a little bit more than 450 because of the pressure carburetors and the blower section has been polished out so is probably putting out about 500 hp.
But we didn't stop there. We went and made a cowling and had it fully cowled because that reduces the drag and lets the airplane go faster. We even experimented with the size of the propeller blades and we found out with shorter blades the climb performance was good but the cruise performance wasn't as good so the longer the blade, the better it was, so we ended up putting the same blades out of an AT-6. They can be anywhere from 108 inches to 110 inches but the one we have on now is 108 inches and it really performs well. Naturally we also had to do the inverted fuel system and oil systems because if you want to do aerobatics you've got to have both to let you run inverted.
Right. So what about all the other modifications you've made like your canopy and you've added wheel pants to the wheels.
We finished the canopy later on but first we built the plane and did the four ailerons instead of the stock two. After I got flying it, I found that the ailerons had servo boosters on them that made the controls really easy to operate and roll the plane but they use a flat tab that comes up and it takes away from the performance of the aileron, so I took those off and made the ailerons solid. In other words they had no deflection tabs on them to make it easier. I still needed the booster, kind of like like power steering, you need that to make the plane roll even better. What I ended up making was spades just like the little aerobatic airplanes have but these are not spades, they're actually shovels! They're about 12 to 14 inches wide and they're really big so that took a while to develop and they had to line up to be with the relative wind so wouldn't snatch on you and the airplane would roll. We were able to figure that out so that was another big thing.
Originally I had the big stock Stearman tires but they were of course really big. So we made some wheel pants but the wheel was too big and it couldn't be properly streamlined. We ended up taking those wheels off and got axles from a 310 Cessna and modified the axle and pressed it into the existing gear on the Stearman which that let us put on wheels from a Cessna like a 195 or a 310. Because they're really narrow and small I then made wheel pants for them and got really small and streamlined wheel pants.
Another big thing is we put more wires on the wing for inverted flying. I do a lot of outside maneuvers and because the Stearman only has four flying wires and they only had two landing wires, for the inverted. So we ended up putting one more landing wire on the wings to make them stronger for negative G’s. We also ended up putting bigger wires in the tail to make that stronger too. We made the rudder bigger to get more authority and I really helps it with knife edges and stuff.
(See the 3 wires going down to the bottom wing)
Then after that came the canopy. The canopy was really a big thing. It really helps in the cruise speed of the airplane and also in aerobatics. You can go outside negative without losing helmets, goggles, or cameras which was just ridiculous sometimes. We also have root fairings on the wing and gap seals on the ailerons like some people put on Cessna’s because every little thing makes it go better and fly better. I used to have fairings that went around all the struts but I’ve taken them off because it was a lot of work to take them off to ship the plane overseas when I was performing in Australia or in a C-5 Galaxy when I was performing in Alaska. The airplane will still cruise at 135mph indicated which is really fast for a Stearman. A good Stearman will normally go 105, but this thing with all the modifications will go about 135 miles an hour and you can get up at altitude and make 130 kn which is really good for cross country flying.
A few years back I had problems with the wings. The leading edges of the wings are made with wood construction and in the leading edge there's a piece of aluminum wrapped around the nose of it and fabric over the top of it. Because I fly this thing at redline and do aerobatics with it, the nails worked out of the aluminum and actually all the fabric came off of my top left wing while I was doing an air show! I looked at it and thought that it may have been just older and maybe it was the fabric or something so we repaired it and started monitoring it really closely and pretty soon I started seeing the nails coming out of the wing again. They were coming out of the aluminum and then the fabric. So that I realized because the way it's modified and everything it goes really fast and lets me do aerobatics at higher speeds which is taking it's toll on the airplane. So we had the wings redone and we put a plywood veneer on the leading edge and then fabric over the top of that which made the wings a little more rigid which has also made it snap roll better too!
Pitts, Edges, and Extras all have less than half the weight and the same power as Eddie's Stearman …... and you should see what Eddie can do with it!
Just check him out in this video my dad made .......
or this one
Eddie is a great guy and a terrific aerobatic pilot. Be sure to look for him at an upcoming airshow because you won't believe what he can do with his Super Stearman.