23 June, 2015

Stearman Biplane Cockpit Cover

This is our Stearman Biplane out of the hangar.

 I made the cockpit cover before I started the blog (in 2009 - I think I made this cover in 2006) and I wanted to snap some photos of it for posterity my use. Documentation - if you will.

This post is photo heavy - 24 photos. It's probably only interesting to me but you never know.
It's me at my best long-winded self.

The Stearman has been thrown out of the hangar because hubby needs some room to paint the wings of the J-5 Piper Cub. This involved a lot of maneuvering. Chiefly - extending the paint booth to get those long wings inside.

Tonight, in the humid sweaty airless evening, we moved the stearman back into the hangar as it will be over 100' this weekend and hubby didn't want plane to sit in the sun.
You can roll eyes any time here. Two neighbors helped us hang the J-5 wing so painting can commence.

The Stearman is expensive to take up and fly, so a plan was hatched to buy a little plane (the J-5) that costs much less in avgas and is enclosed so supposedly flying could be done at all times of the year. The Stearman is open cockpit so its a mite cold up there in the winter.

Some specs on Stearmans:
1942 WWII trainer. This is what the farm boys learned to fly in. Pilot flys from the rear cockpit but student can also fly from the front cockpit as well. Its like sitting in a huge bathtub on the ground with limited forward vision. To taxi, pilot must maneuver side-to-side to make sure nothing is in the way.

Its powered by a Continental 220 engine - what we call a round engine - lovely music - similar to Harley motorcycle music. This Wiki article is pretty in depth if you've a mind to know more.

This plane is built to survive farm boys crashing. We know this because we crashed two years ago. This plane is so well built and solid that chances are you will walk away from a crash. We walked away and rebuilt the plane.

It is lovely to fly and I really totally lose all stress when I am airborne. I am reminded of one of my favorite poems every time we go flying. It was written during WWII by a Canuck named John Gillepsie McGee, Jr., entitled, High Flight.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

It was a cloudy morning when I took these photos. We only ever use the cockpit cover at airshows if we stay overnight. For security and to keep things dry.
A friend had one and hubby wanted to buy one at $400+. Frugal me piped up and said, " I can make one."
You have to recall this is before I started blogging and I had not yet 'met' The Selfish Seamstress.

I did. I made this.

It only took all winter. I borrowed our friend's cover and made a pattern. I bought all  my fabrics at Rose City Textiles - RCT Fabrics.

I needed 1000 denier  Cordoba, something like fleece to go over the acrylic (easily scratched) windscreens, straps, buckles, stuff.

The gal at RCT fabrics was a huge help. I dragged in the cover and some photos and she zeroed in on all the particulars.

I believe I spent $115 to make this.

 Each buckle has a strap underneath it so it would not scratch/rub against the paint in windy conditions.
There are three long straps that go around fuselage up to other side. In addition, there are the front pieces that secure around the wing strut.

Yes, I burned all the edges of every strap so they wouldn't fray.

 Two sizes of strapping.

 All corners and centerpieces are reinforced with fabric. 
All seams are enclosed - welt seams.
All the edges are finished with grosgrain ribbon  - folded in half around raw edges of cordoba and stitched down the entire lengths.

There was something else I used at the edges - about 2" wide to stabilize the edges but I can't recall now what it was. It's underneath - I'll have to go peak underneath later.

You can see the weird angles here.
Couple of camel humps topside to manipulate fabric around. Those are the acrylic windscreens.

 This is where we climb up onto the wing to get into the cockpit. 'No step' is on fabric. Please step only on the black stuff next to the fuselage.
No Step is just to remind you to watch where you step.
This is a fabric covered airplane. Sewing was involved and ironing to shrink the fabric.

 Our round engine.  Propeller is upper left - wood.

Throwing the last of the photos in. If you read this far, thank you.

"...reach out and touch the hand of God..."


  1. That is some impressive custom heavy duty sewing! I am in awe of your talents.

  2. I think sewing draperies and sheers was more difficult - swaths of fabric acreage taking over the living room. This project was only 8 feet of fabric pieces.

  3. Impressive commitment to sew such a cover. It looks very professional. What a blessing to have walked away from your crash 2 years ago. The rebuild of your plane looks perfect as well. Try to stay cool in those HOT temps this weekend!

  4. Wow, I'm super impressed with your cockpit cover! I admire you as I would never have the gumption to take on a project as big as that. Dayle actually sewed us some mast and sail covers for our Sunfish. I was impressed that he did that. Keep cool this weekend!! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  5. Sewing sails is more like draperies. The fabrics take over any floor space, any table space. The weight of them pulls the fabric off the table. Lots of things to keep track of in these big projects.
    Now I'm impressed with Dayle!

  6. WOW that you crashed your plane and survived! And super WOW for sewing that cover!

  7. Awesome, Kathy!!! What an amazing job you have done. I have so enjoyed reading this post and looking at the photos. I am in awe.


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