Restored WWII plane takes flight

Published 10:58 am Saturday, February 4, 2012

Pilot John Fuentes lands a World War II plane at Franklin Municipal Airport after a 45-minute flight on Jan. 16. It was the plane's debut flight after a 10-year restoration. -- James P. Euverard | Submitted

The Stinson OY-1 Sentinel after the fuselage's tubular airframe was covered by fabric.-- James P. Euverard | Submitted

FRANKLIN—Franklin resident Steve Hager on Jan. 16 caused a disruption at work when he saw a World War II plane fly overhead.

He herded co-workers from the downtown Franklin Habitat for Humanity ReStore outside to catch a glimpse of the Stinson OY-1 Sentinel making its debut flight after a nearly 10-year restoration. Hager was among members of the Commemorative Air Force Old Dominion Squadron at Franklin Municipal Airport who restored the plane.

“We were happy,” said Hager, who worked on the plane’s wiring and detailing. “We’d been waiting on this for a long time.”

Hager stumbled upon the project after moving to Franklin two years ago.

“I wandered in here and said ‘I’d like to work on the plane,’” he said. “They handed me a wrench and said ‘get to work.’”

Franklin residents Tom Klemenko, left, and Steve Hager stand next to the Stinson OY-1 Sentinel. -- DALE LIESCH | THE TIDEWATER NEWS

The plane had been used for observation in the Pacific during WWII and Korea.

“This airplane was completely torn apart,” said Squadron member James Euverard. “Even the engine was sent to Connecticut and completely restored.”

The squadron began restoring the plane in 2002 when it was discovered the engine needed to be overhauled. The plan was to restore the plane to near-original condition as a Marine Observation Squadron 6 OY-1.

“No one added up a dollar figure for the restoration,” Euverard said. “There were costs associated with the engine.”

Donations covered those.

The Army first used the plane in May 1943. It later served with the Coast Guard for rescue and liaison duties. The plane was sold as surplus and passed through several civilian owners before going to the squadron in 1998.

Pilot and Franklin transplant Tom Klemenko helped install the seats and did whatever he could to help.

“I was overwhelmingly happy when it flew for the first time,” the New York native said.

The aircraft will join the squadron’s Ryan PT-22 Recruit on tour at air shows in the region once the radios are reinstalled and the plane is put through a 10-hour engine checkup, Euverard said.

“We’re hoping the birds will be ready by April,” he said.