Right: Chet's Stinson "S" Junior, NC-10888, S/N 8062, probably at the time it was delivered. The license for the plane was issued in November 1931.

Chet's first plane that figures prominently in our story was his Stinson "S" Junior. It served him well in the time leading up to and after the 1932 Washington Air Derby.

Eddie Stinson was one of America's great aviation pioneers. A native of Fort Payne, AL, he and his sisters Katherine and Marjorie began a flying school in San Antonio, TX, during World War I. In 1920 he formed the Stinson Airplane Company in Dayton, OH, moving it to Detroit in 1925.

In 1929 Ernest Lobban Cord aquired a controlling interest in the company. This is probably what connected Chet with Stinson; Chet was the Cord-Auburn auto dealer in Washington. He expanded his offerings to include the Stinson aircraft, using Washington-Hoover as his "lot." This was an unusual combination of product lines for a dealer to offer; with an enthusiast like Chet, though, unusual things become reality.

The Stinson "S" Junior was a reliable, well built and easy to fly airplane, suitable for both Chet's sports flying and business travel for his many commercial interests such as banking (Chet was a director of the Riggs National Bank for many years.) It was also the first of his "Son-Dot" series of airplanes, the name coming from his children's nicknames. Chet's daugher Dorothy ("Dot") designed a logo for the plane (shown at right; visible on the plane below) which Chet had registered with the United States Amateur Air Pilots Association. (The extending rays were a common feature of design in the "Art Deco" 1930's, but their popularity surely waned during World War II when Japan used them in their flag; ironically both Chet's son and son-in-law served in the Pacific Theatre.)

On 25 January 1932 Eddie Stinson was killed in a tragic plane crash near Chicago. About 0100 he was forced to make an emergency landing in Jackson Park; in the dark he did not see the 150' flag pole, which ripped his wing and forced the Stinson Junior down, killing him and injuring his three passengers. His sister Marjorie, working at the time for the Navy Department in Washington and a famous pilot in her own right, departed for Chicago from Hoover Field at 0700 in a Lockheed.

Although the company continued to design and built excellent aircraft during the 1930's, during and after World War II, its absorption by its parent companies led to the loss of its identity. This has unfortunately obscured the contributions of one of America's great aviation pioneers.

Right: the Stinson at the Ford Airport near Detroit 5 April 1932, being refuelled. Ford Airport had one feature that was exceptional at the airports Chet frequented: paved taxiways and runways. (Click here for more photos of the Ford Airport.)

This trip was a "factory tour" trip; Chet first visited the Auburn factory in Auburn, IN, before going onto the Stinson plant in Detroit. While in Detroit they also took in an air shown. With him on this trip was Bill Payne, Chet's salesman for the Stinson aircraft. When they returned to Washington-Hoover, their arrival was noted in the newspaper (such comings and goings were frequently covered in the press.) The paper also noted that "coloured" airman Leon Paris had also arrived at Washington-Hoover from New York in a Stearman aircraft; Paris "aspired to fly the ocean this (1932) summer."

The Stinson Aircraft Corporation factory near Detroit, Michigan, taken during Chet's 5 April 1932 visit.

The Stinson Duck, their amphibious plane.

Specifications for Stinson "S" Junior

ENGINE Lycoming R-680
Nine cylinder radial
215 horsepower
WINGSPAN 41' 6 1/4"
LENGTH 28' 8 3/8"
HEIGHT 8' 9"
GROSS WEIGHT 3,265 lbs.
CRUISE SPEED 100 m.p.h.
MAXIMUM SPEED 128 m.p.h.
CEILING 13,500 ft.
RANGE 400 miles
FACTORY PRICE (1931) $4,995
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This website is dedicated to the memory of Dorothy W. Grove, Chet's daughter and my aunt, and Kennon G. Freese, her daughter and my dear cousin, both of whom went to be with the Lord in 2003.