The Fly Baby story isn't complete without the tale of the Story Special. It shows how the Fly Baby is a fundamental part of the history of homebuilt aviation.
Back in the '30s, a guy named Les Long designed a couple of fairly neat homebuilts. The Longster was one. Long even performed a trade study with the Longster…it started out as a mid-wing aircraft, but Long did some experimentation with wing position. He tried a parasol wing, and a low-wing configuration. He decided the low wing was best.
His design work culminated in the Wimpy, which caught the imagination of an Oregon man named Tom Story, who built one just before World War II. It had a welded-steel fuselage, tail feathers, and landing gear, and a wooden wing. It used external wire bracing, like the Fly Baby, except the flying wires attached to a bit of structure behind the tires rather than through the wheel hub.
After the war, Story's airplane was bought by another Oregon man named George Bogardus. Prior to the war, reaction against homebuilt aircraft had caused them to be banned in every state except Oregon. Bogardus wanted the CAA to implement a new certification category that would overrule the state limitations.
Bogardus modified the Story Wimpy, calling it Little Gee Bee. He successfully flew across the country several times, and his efforts helped lead to the introduction of the Experimental/Amateur-Built category.
About the time of Bogardus' flights, a friend of Tom Story's named Dick Andrus decided he wanted a similar plane. Story wanted one again, himself, so he struck a deal:. Andrus would supply the materials, and Story would do the welding.
The airplanes were built on the cheap…the SEVERE cheap. Two A-65s were bought from the junkyard and given a rag overhaul. Andrus also bought the tubing for the metal fuselages from the junkyard. He didn't have a pickup truck or a trailer, so he'd buy a crashed J-3, cut the tubing in lengths long enough to fit in the trunk of his car, then take it home for Story to weld.
The planes turned out well. They were almost identical to Little Gee Bee, except they were open-cockpit. Story kept S/N 1 for himself, and Andrus took S/N 2.
Story S/N #2
Oddly enough, S/N 1 eventually got a canopy added…the plane still exists today, and is the spitting image of Little Gee Bee.
Andrus kept S/N 2 for several years, then decided to sell it in 1954. He advertised it for $600.
Cecil Hendricks, a young garage mechanic in Seattle, saw the ad. The plane was just perfect for him…but in the mid '50s, $600 was a lot of money. He decided to look for three partners.
Unfortunately, he found only two. One of the potential partners liked the airplane a lot, though, and decided to buy two of the shares so they could buy the airplane.
The partner's name? Peter M. Bowers.
Pete flew the Story for a number of years. When EAA announced their design contest, he started thinking. The Story was a fun airplane, but one of the factors in the contest was ease of building. The Story had some fairly complex weldments in it. It just wasn't suited for the design contest requirements.
But Les Long has already proven the low-wing design was the most efficient. Pete decided to design a new airplane, of similar configuration as the Story, but all-wood in construction.
The result, of course, was the Fly Baby. The Fly Baby isn't just a Story Special in wood…you can't just replace a steel tube with a wooden longeron without a major design effort, and the Fly Baby landing gear is MUCH simpler than the Story's.
The Fly Baby went on to win the EAA design contest. The Story just kept going. It still flies today…the "Second Story Flying Club" is still in operation, with Cecil Hendricks still a member. The Story resides in the hangar right next to Moonraker; I've flown formation with a number of members of the club over the years. In fact the aerial picture of N500F on my web page was taken by a man flying the Story…and at the time, N500F occupied my hangar, next to the Story.
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