More than a plane

Roger Starr’s Fairchild is the reason he gets up in the morning

There are some airplanes that you don’t acquire and fly — you have a relationship with them. That’s how Roger Starr of Canby, Oregon, describes his “ownership” of his 1946 Fairchild 24W-46.

“With the exception of my wife, it’s the reason I get up in the morning,” he explained with a wink when I caught up with him during the Arlington Fly-In and Sport Aviation Convention in Arlington, Washington, last summer. The yellow and green high wing was parked in a place of honor in the vintage display. All during the show people walked around the Fairchild, taking photos from every angle, commenting on the fit and finish of the vintage machine.

According to Starr, his interest in the high-wing monoplane with the distinctive Pegasus logo stems from seeing one when he was in high school.

“I went over to Evergreen Field in Vancouver, Washington, one day and there one was, sitting by one of the old hangars,” he recalled. “I didn’t realize what it was, but I remember the step on the cockpit and the Pegasus logo. Years later I bought a Piper Cub, but I kept thinking about the Fairchild and how attractive it was to me.”

In the late 1990s, a friend of Starr’s acquired a Fairchild 24.

“I got a chance to watch him restore it and got a chance to fly it, then I got the bug,” Starr said. “That friend helped me find one of my own, a 1947 model.”

Starr enjoyed flying the 1947 Fairchild, but noted that the Seconite and paint was showing its age, and he is not an aircraft restorer.

“It had last been recovered in 1960,” he said. “And by 2009 it still looked good, but it was tired. When a friend brought this 1946 Fairchild back from the Midwest, then decided he didn’t want to keep it, I was right there.”

Starr sold the 1947 airplane to buy the 1946 model.

“What makes this 1946 Fairchild unusual is that, although it rolled off the assembly line in 1946, it didn’t get sold until two years later,” he explained. “That wasn’t that unusual because of the glut of civilian general aviation airplanes on the market at that time.”

The Fairchild 24 was originally built by Kreider-Reisner Aircraft, located in Hagerstown, Maryland, which was a division of Fairchild Aviation Corporation. During World War II many of the airplanes were shipped overseas as part of the Lend-Lease act.

After World War II Texas Engineering & Manufacturing Co. (TEMCO) in Dallas bought the rights to the design and started turning out aircraft. Starr’s plane is one of 280 Fairchilds to come from the Lone Star State. A total of 1,500 Fairchild 24s were built before production ceased.

Because Starr’s airplane is yellow and trimmed with green, many people wonder if he is a University of Oregon alum or a Green Bay Packers fan but, in reality, the yellow and green is one of three color schemes offered by the factory in the late 1940s. The other two were maroon and light tan and red trimmed with gray.

The phrase “art deco” describes this airplane. The registration number is emblazoned on the wings in large characters. The tires are covered with tear-drop shaped wheel pants.

The interior has appointments one might find in a vintage luxury car of the same era. You won’t find plastic and cheap paper placards or decals in this airplane. The interior is woven cloth with a cloth patch that bears the name Fairchild. The panel is polished wood. The door handles, as well as the crank to actuate the aircraft trim, looks as if they have come out of a vintage automobile, and frankly, they might have, as during those days, aviation and the automobile industry often borrowed from one another.

The luxury of the airplane did not go unnoticed in its heyday. The Fairchild 24 was popular among Hollywood’s flying elite.

One of the things that sets the Fairchild apart from its contemporaries is its ability to safely fly at night thanks to a large retractable landing light. When not in use, the light is recessed in the wing.

“Inside the cockpit there is a switch that you flick for the light,” he said. “It drives an electric motor which brings the light down. About halfway down in that cycle the light comes on by itself. The pilot has the choice of leaving the light on or turning it off. To retract the light you flip the switch again.”

Starr’s airplane sports a 165-hp Warner engine, which gives it the capacity to cruise at 110 mph and land at about 60 mph. The landing gear of the airplane is sturdy, which may be part of the reason so many Fairchild 24s have survived to this day.

It’s a great airplane to cruise around in, noted Starr. He’s fond of trips to airshows and fly-ins and, of course, to get a $100 hamburger.

It is Starr’s understanding that N77630 spent most of its life in the southern United States. “Then in 1993 it was acquire by a fellow in Iowa,” he said. “He parked the airplane and in 1996 started the restoration, finishing it in 2003.”

But if you ask Starr if he is the owner of the airplane, he smiles and shakes his head, replying, “I am the caretaker of it.”

And good care of it he takes.




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