Spared by Ike, Bax’s Old Stearman Gets a Facelift

Fans of the late Flying columnist Gordon Baxter (author of 'Bax Seat') will fondly remember his eloquent descriptions of flying M&M Air Service's two-hole 450 Stearman. Founded in 1946 in Baxter's hometown Beaumont, Texas, M&M now operates nine turbine powered ag-spraying Ayres Air Tractors. But back in the day, the company made its bread and butter with war surplus Stearmans. In 1949, M&M acquired 42 of them from the government for the princely sum of $55.56 each. Most were converted to cropdusters, with their front cockpits giving way to a spray hopper and their 220-hp engines upgraded with 450-hp fire-breathers. But they retained one in its original trainer configuration (but upgraded to 450-hp) to check out new pilots. Nicknamed Double-Zero (for "two-holer"), the Stearman remained in the M&M fleet for posterity, but was slightly damaged when the hangar it was housed in was blown away during Hurricane Ike in 2008. M&M contracted White Aero Limited Restorations in Ohio for a facelift. Old Double-Zero is now resplendent in its original M&M livery — a fitting tribute to the company that permitted Bax to fulfill his Stearman dreams. And in the end, we are all the richer for his accounts of those memorable flights.

Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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