Glenn Moore's Ryan ST-R

Years ago someone speculated that antique airplanes such as the Cessna Airmasters would eventually disappear because no one would consider so challenging a task as building a new all-wood, cantilever wing for one. Today, we have to smile at such naivete because it seems that nothing intimidates builders and restorers any more.  Absolutely nothing!

 

Glenn Moore's Ryan ST-R

There's no better example of the phenomenon than the aircraft you see pictured here.  It looks like a Ryan STA, it sounds like a Ryan STA, and it flies like a Ryan STA, but, in reality, it's a reproduction . . . built from scratch by Glenn Moore of Burgaw, North Carolina!

Considering the monumentality of such an achievement, we HAVE to start with the man, himself.  Glenn Moore was born in Royal Oak (Detroit), Michigan and went into the Air Force in 1946 right out of high school.  He was trained as an A&P and spent most of his enlistment as a P-80 crew chief at Williams Field near Phoenix.  He joined the Michigan Air National Guard upon returning home, so was called back into active duty during the Korean "police action."  Ironically, he ended up right back in Phoenix, but this time on the other side of the city at the reactivated Luke Air Force Base.

After a year, he was returned to civilian life, and proceeded to follow his father into the insurance business. He had always wanted to learn to fly, so he spent his mustering out pay to take flying lessons at the Big Beaver Airport, eventually soloing in a 90 h.p. Piper PA-11.  After getting his Private license, he bought a Taylorcraft BC-12D and, later, stepped up to a Stinson Voyager.

Some years before, Glenn's father had moved to the sunnier clime of Wilmington, North Carolina, but by 1960 he was wanting to retire.  Glenn looked over the situation and decided to move to the Tar Heel state himself and buy his father's insurance business.  He and his wife, Catherine, have lived in the Wilmington area ever since, raising six kids along the way. Glenn ultimately sold his insurance agency and became the plant manager for a furniture company, where he remained until his own retirement.  By that time he and Catherine were living on Stag Airpark, which is just north of Wilmington and near the town of Burgaw.

Jumping back to the 1950s and early 1960s, Glenn had become one of the early members of EAA and had become enamored with the sensuous lines of the Piel Emeraude.  Perhaps the most beautiful of the early homebuilt designs, but with its semi-elliptical, full cantilever, all-wood wing also considered one of the most challenging to build, the Emeraude was a tough choice as a project, but Glenn was determined to have one.  Not only did he complete the airplane in the early 1960s, but it was quickly apparent he had produced a trophy winner that marked him as an exceptional craftsman. He enjoyed the Emeraude for about eight years and won trophies everywhere he displayed it, but ultimately sold the airplane to a person in California.

Glenn's next project was the restoration of a Bonanza, which he enjoyed for a time.   A very active participant in his local EAA Chapter activities, he served as a Designee (now Technical Counselor) and wanted to have experience in all the different construction methods and materials, so when the Rutan Revolution came along, he decided to build a VariEze.  He flew that little speedster until moving to Stag Airpark, but quickly found that its grass runway was simply not well suited for the VariEze's tiny wheels and long take-off roll.  Paying hangar rent for the Eze at a paved airport in Wilmington while his Stag Airpark hangar sat empty didn't make much sense, so ultimately the airplane was sold.

There's nothing that tugs at the heart strings of a veteran builder/restorer like an empty workshop, so, inevitably, the time came when Glenn began thinking about a new project.  He had already built an all-wood and a composite airplane, so this time he thought he might try an all-metal design.

"Looking back through old issues of Sport Aviation, I came across one with a Ryan STA on the cover and it just hit me.  I thought, man, that would be a project!  I didn't know at the time that plans were available, so I obtained a set of quarter scale model airplane plans, thinking I could scale them up to full size.  Fortunately, however, before I got too far into that, I had the opportunity to talk to EAA's Chuck Larsen at Oshkosh and he told me he thought plans for the real airplane were available. About a week later, he called and gave me Ev Cassagneres' name and address, and I was able to buy the plans from him.  That was a tremendous break, because it would have been next to impossible to build an authentic ST without them.

"Even with the plans, it was difficult to decide where to start.  I finally began trying to loft full scale ovals for the fuselage formers, and one day one of our Chapter members who works for GE walked into my hangar and asked what I was doing.  I had been there two hours on one lousy oval, plotting out the points, and was pretty frustrated at the time.  He said, 'Why don't you just give me the major and minor coordinates and I'll plot them for you.'  Shortly afterwards, he brought them back on vellum, computer plotted to full scale.  That was the real start of the project.  I have subsequently given Ev a copy of the plots and he has incorporated them in the plans.  They will save somebody a lot of trouble.

"The most intimidating thing I found about starting the airplane was the Number Two fuselage former.  It's 4130 steel and the part that the struts, landing gear, wires - everything - attaches to.  It's got fittings all over the place.  I looked at that and thought if I could build that sucker, I could surely build the rest of the airplane!  That was the first part I built.  I had to make it in pieces and have it heliarced together rather than trying to form it like the rest of the formers.  It is 1/8" thick steel and ended up weighing 40 pounds.  I don't know how the factory did it."

The Cassagneres plans contained all the factory bulletins on problems that showed up after the STs went into service, so Glenn used them to beef up all the applicable areas as he built his airframe.  He spent about a year making formers, ribs and other parts out of 2024-0 aluminum, then began searching for a shop where he could get them heat treated. Unable to find one capable of working with thin aircraft aluminum in the Carolinas or Virgina, he ultimately located a company in Michigan and while on a visit there with his sister, he personally delivered the 120 some pieces he had so laboriously formed.  The shop owner was somewhat concerned that the parts were made of such thin aluminum, but finally decided that, yes, he could do the job.

"It took a while, and I even had a local EAAer go by and check out the work being done, but eventually the crate arrived at my home in North Carolina.  When I took the top off and looked in, I just sat down and cried.  It was the most demoralizing thing - all the ribs were twisted as much as 30° and the fuselage formers were just as bad. "I had a full year's work in those parts and I just couldn't start over, so I had no choice but to buy a hand shrinker and stretcher and straighten all the parts so I could use them.  That set the project back quite a bit and made it very difficult to jig everything up for riveting, but it all eventually went together."

The ST fuselages were made using thick aluminum skins, and that presented some special problems for Glenn.  The tail cone skins are .032, the next section forward is .040, the next .050, then back to .040.  He was able to wrap the .032 skins around the tailcone formers for riveting, but quickly found there was no way on the thicker skins.  Those he took to a sheet metal shop and had them rolled.

"I wasted an awful lot of hours thinking about the joint where the straight section of cockpit skin joins the tail cone, wondering how in the world the factory made them fit together.  I thought about it and thought about it, and finally I made up the two sections in separate jigs.  Then, believe it or not, I rotated that whole tail cone edge through my hand shrinker - shrunk that sucker down and plugged it into the straight cockpit section just as pretty as can be.  I was so tickled with it because I had spent sleepless nights for a month trying to figure out how to do that. Fortunately, it worked out great.  All the fuselage rivets, incidentally, are 1/8".  With the big heads on them, the fuselage came out looking like Jules Vern's submarine!"

The wing spars were the only wood parts in the STs and their construction was typical of fabric covered airplanes of the 1930s.  Glenn built up his in a vertical jig much like RV-6 wings are built and found the assembly to be quite straight forward . . . once he straightened out all the heat treated aluminum ribs.  The wings and control surfaces are fabric covered and Glenn used Ceconite and Classic Aero dope on them. He purposely avoided the wet look, because he wanted the fabric surfaces to look like they did in the 1930s.

Glenn Moore's Ryan ST-R

The ST wings and landing gear legs are held in place by a cat's cradle of flying and landing wires . . . big wires . . . big expensive wires!  An order for Macwhyte wires was ultimately placed through Nick D'Apuzzo in Pennsylvania, but arrived just about the time Macwhyte employees went out on what turned out to be their last strike.  Sadly, Nick would die and Macwhyte would sell its aircraft wire tooling back to Bruntons in Scotland before Glenn's wires could ever be made and delivered, so they were reordered from Hale Wallace at Steen Aero Lab in Marion, NC and arrived in about three months.

Much of the exterior sheet metal on the STs was flat wrapped or rolled, but a few items, such as the big, bulbous wheel pants and the bottom cowling piece, were stampings.  Making stamping dies for just one set of parts is impractical, so Glenn had to learn how to form his parts by hand.

"I had never tried metal forming before, but, surprisingly, I don't think it was as difficult as people would think.  The basic thing is trying to get the pattern right to begin with.  I wasted an awful lot of metal learning that.  I started out and I'd beat on a piece for a while and it would look so bad, I'd just throw it away and start over.  I finally determined that I was not at it long enough.  I was throwing away pieces that were actually all right at that point in the process.  I just needed to keep working at them until I got them to the proper shape and smoothness.  I used a sand bag and wooden mallet for most of the work, but I found another tool to use to make the big curved front pieces of the wheel pants.  My 91-year-old mother-in-law decided she wasn't going to bowl any more, so I bought her ball and, boy, that made a beautiful mandrel for those parts.  I also tried the English Wheel.  Actually, mine was a Scotch Wheel - I was too cheap to buy an English Wheel so I made my own.  It worked well on the big panels, but you can't make the really tight turns you need to make some of the small fairings."

Once the basic airframe was complete and the systems installation stage was reached, Glenn was faced with a number of situations in which he had to choose between authenticity and either safety, practicality or just pure personal preference.  Modern 600 x 6 Cleveland wheels and brakes with 700-6 Bonanza main wheel tires were a no-brainer choice over the old 18 x 8 x 3 Goodyear air wheels with their quirky mechanical multiple disc brakes - if, indeed, he could have found any to use.  Glenn also decided to install toe brake pedals instead of the heel brakes of the original Ryans, but that was strictly a personal preference.  Another switch was from the original ST series full swivel, eight inch tailwheel to an eight inch Scott 3200 steerable tailwheel.  The original Ryans had a reputation of being a little squirrely on the ground, so every attempt was being made to avoid crunching six and a half years of hard work on the reproduction.  Other non-standard items included shoulder harnesses and a hand hold over the rear instrument panel to make it a little easier to get in and out of the rather small cockpit.  The ST series, incidentally, changed in several respects as it progressed from the original ST prototype of June 1935 until it ultimately evolved into the PT-22 in the early 1940s.  One of the changes was a progressive enlarging of the cockpit openings, and Glenn chose one of the intermediate cut-outs.

Glenn Moore's Ryan ST-T

The original civilian STs were powered by various inverted, four cylinder, air cooled, in-line Menasco engines.  Few are available today and parts are harder yet to come by, so Glenn chose the somewhat similar (in size and configuration) Spanish Tigre engine instead.  The original S-T (Sport-Trainer), of which just five were built, was powered by a 95 h.p. Menasco B4, and it was followed by the STA powered by the 125 h.p. Menasco C4 Pirate.  The STA Special came next, powered by a supercharged 150 h.p. Menasco C4S Super Pirate.  With the 150 h.p. Tigre, Glenn's reproduction thus was closest in configuration to the STA Special when he flew it for the first time on June 26, 1998.

Unfortunately, the Tigre did not turn out to be a good choice for the Ryan reproduction.  In retrospect, Glenn thinks he had too much prop for the engine.

"Every time I tried to push it over 1,800 rpm the temperature would go out of sight.  I think it was just completely loaded down with the prop I had on it.  It would jump right off the ground, but it would only turn maybe 1,700 static on the ground.  It should have been turning up around 2,200 and cruising 1,900 or 2,000 rpm.  Another problem for me was that the engine did not have an electrical system.  I had to hand prop it and it was often pretty hard to start - which became a real problem after I developed a bad back. Ultimately, I decided the Tigre had to go and I replaced it with a Walter LOM M132A.  I came across it at Sun 'n Fun in 1999, bought it and had one of our EAA Chapter guys haul it home in his pickup.  I've spent the past year redoing everything ahead of the firewall to accommodate the new engine - a new engine mount, new cowling, new nosebowl, new spinner and everything.

"The LOM turns in the opposite direction so I had to get a new prop.  I had it made by a fellow in Iowa who still puts brass leading edges on wood propellers.  I wanted that because that's the way props were made in the 1930s.  To determine what pitch and diameter to use, we conferred with Joe Krybus in California and he recommended a 74" x 47".  I kept saying that's not going to go anywhere, but as it turned out Joe was right. It lets the engine turn up where it is supposed to.  It's not a low rpm engine, it turns up more like a Lycoming or Continental.  With it the airplane now climbs good and indicates about 115 mph at 2,400 rpm, which is pretty close to the speed of the STAs, which had the 125 h.p. Menascos. (The LOM M132A is a 120 h.p. engine, so  Glenn's reproduction is now closest in configuration to the STA.)

"There are a number of things I really like about the LOM.  The case is magnesium, so it weighs about 100 pounds less than the Tigre.  The LOM has a 24 volt electrical system with starter and generator and even with batteries, I saved about 50 pounds.  The nice thing is that it starts right up and just runs great.  With the overheating problems I had with the Tigre, its nice to now have an engine that seems like no matter what you do, the temperature is nailed, the pressures are nailed.  It's just great - don't have to worry about it at all."

Glenn, Catherine and their STA (he calls it an ST-R) made their fly-in debut at Southern Pines, NC the first weekend in May of this year. Quite a few people walked by the airplane a couple of times before they realized what they were looking at, but when they learned Glenn had built it from scratch they were properly amazed - and properly appreciative of the talent and persistence necessary to single-handedly complete such a complex airplane and do it so well.  Fortunately, the weather was absolutely beautiful the day the Moores flew in so the STA gleamed like a new dime in the bright Carolina sun.

Glenn was able to obtain NC14910 for his STA, which is within the N number blocks of the original Ryans, and he picked 103 as his serial number, which falls within the numbers of the first five S-Ts built.  The numbers even fooled some of the Ryan afficionados for a time.  The airplane is that good.