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.