“What is it?”
These are just some of the comments visitors at EAA AirVenture 2006 made when they approached the Norseman UC-64A owned by Forrest Klies from Basin, Montana.
The gold and maroon high-wing beauty was parked in the vintage aircraft area amid the rows of Stinsons and Stearmans. The aircraft constantly had a crowd around it as people lined up to read an information card affixed to the propeller.
“It is a 1944 Norseman UC-64A — and it is rare,” Klies told us. “There were 793 of them made. This is number 637 to roll off the assembly line.”
It is Klies’ understanding that the aircraft was built at a Harvard T-6 factory in Canada and was used as a supply aircraft serving all the weather stations in Labrador and the Aleutian Islands.
Klies is by no means a newcomer to AirVenture, but 2006 was the first time he had the Norseman at the show.
“I sat here for 15 years in my white and blue deHavilland Beaver,” he said, gesturing to the rows of vintage aircraft. “I always wanted a single engine Otter but I could never find one that I wanted to restore. That probably would have been cheaper than this airplane, which was in an old barn in about 2 million pieces!
“This aircraft had been under restoration for 25 years when I bought it in 2001,” he continued. “You know how it is. When people say they are restoring it they buy a belt cover one day, and then an inspection cover the next year, then an inner tube the next year and in 25 years really nothing has happened.”
Klies hired Weber’s Aero Repair in Minnesota to do the restoration. It was a calculated move on his part, he said.
“They have a lot of artisans there who know how to work on wood and fabric airplanes,” he said, casting an admiring look at his prize. “And they did a quality, excellent job.”
The renovated Norseman returned to the sky April 12, 2006. By the end of July, when AirVenture kicked off, there were 31 post-renovation hours on the airframe.
One of the things that drew visitors to Klies’ aircraft was the vibrant and precise paint job. The colors come from the automobile industry: PT Cruiser Gold Metal Flake and 76 Eldorado Roxanne Red.
“There is no overspray,” Klies noted proudly. “If you have ever had a paint job done you know there is usually overspray — and I hate overspray! I told them pile every piece of metal in the corner and paint the whole thing PT Cruiser Gold. I told them I don’t care what, where, why, how or when. I also told them not to paint the screws because you can take the paint off when you turn a screw and if you slip while turning a screw you will put a hole in the fabric.”
When Klies got the aircraft it had 14 seats. He opted to cut that down to 10 because he could only find a 10-place intercom. Removal of the seats also gave him more room for camping gear. “I intend to fly around the country and camp with this airplane,” he said.
The cockpit sports an eclectic mix of original and modern instruments nestled in the panel behind a large control wheel.
The engine is a Pratt and Whitney R1340 with a Hamilton Standard propeller on it.
“It is a heavy plane,” Klies explained. “It flies like a heavily loaded crop duster and I have flown a crop duster. With this airplane you have to be on the controls all the time. It just really wants to go straight when it is on the ground. The tailwheel doesn’t really do anything but keep the tail off the ground.”