ROSEBURG — Harry Baumgardner first flew a Stinson Flying Station Wagon as a young man after a chance encounter at a California airport.
He worked for an airplane mechanic in Taft, Calif., and washed and tended a Stinson. One day, the owner, to Baumgardner’s surprise, offered to let him fly the small passenger plane.
“He said, ‘I don’t fly it as often as I ought to,’ and I said, ‘I don’t know how to fly one of those things,’ and he said, ‘Let’s go,’" Baumgardner said.
Baumgardner, who learned to fly while in the Navy, quickly got the hang of controlling the plane.
“Right then, I fell in love with that particular airplane, and I’ve wanted one ever since," he said.
In 1999, the Roseburg man got his wish when he purchased a 1947 Stinson in Colorado Springs, Colo. Now, at 86, he’s helping return the plane to its former glory.
About a year ago, Baumgardner sold the plane to his flying buddy Dave Olson, 65, of Roseburg. The two have spent the past five months at the Roseburg Regional Airport restoring the plane to near original condition.
They painted the plane maroon to cover a garish yellow, recovered the seats, replaced aging wiring and refurbished the instrument panel.
“We’re redoing the whole thing," Olson said.
The goal is to make the 65-year-old airplane appear new, he said.
“I decided this is a classic aircraft. You don’t do something wild and crazy," Olson said. “The color is Stinson Maroon. It’s an original color they put on the Stinson."
Olson said he was attracted to the plane and wanted to restore it because it’s classy and more refined than a fast plane.
“I’m not interested in the ‘zoomers.’ I like the nostalgia of (the Stinson)," Olson said. “I’d get there, but it would probably take me an extra day ... but I’d get there in style."
The model is called a Flying Station Wagon because, along with four passengers, it can carry a bit of cargo, Baumgardner said.
It isn’t the first plane on which Olson has worked. After 22 years as an Army helicopter pilot, he built a couple of experimental aircraft. But this is his first time restoring an older plane.
Parts for the airplane haven’t been hard to find because he buys them from a man in California who collects Stinsons, Olson said. The challenging part has been getting undisturbed time, he said.
“It’s just keeping people out of the hangar so you can work," Olson said. “Everybody that comes in the door has a suggestion."
Still, he’s tinkered with the Stinson all winter, Olson said.
“Usually, you take the winters and not use your flying season, which is spring, summer and fall," he said.
Olson said he’s not sure when the restoration will be complete.
“My only plan is to get it finished," he said. “I’ve got to get it together so we can get it up and we can get Harry up in it again. That’s important to me."
Baumgardner said he’s pleased Olson wanted to spruce up the Stinson in which they flew together many times.
“Dave and I have had a lot fun with this airplane," Baumgardner said. “He’s a great guy."
After he took the plane apart, it started to feel a lot more like the kit planes he built in the past, Olson said.
There was a difference. “I got this guy to come with it," he said.