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Acroduster Too History N5462 The ProtoType

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Dave Baxter

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Acroduster History N5462 The prototype

By David C Baxter

As most of you know I was employed by Lou Stolp as a welder fabricator for Stolp Aircraft back in the late 60s. Also as most of you know he was not a big advocate of aerobatics. He did however know what pilots and builders of these biplanes were going to do with the airplane, and that is why the Starduster Too is a 6 g airplane.


When I worked for Stolp Aircraft several builders and those I worked with had ideas and interests that we talked about. One was a retractable gear version of the Starduster Too, little did we know at the time A Flying Tiger Capt and maintenance officer for the freight hauler by the name of Jack Swan was doing just that. This is a story all by itself.


The other thing that was talked about was an aerobatic version of the Starduster Too originally known as the Super Starduster Too, better known now as the prototype Acroduster Too. Enter Morgan (Bud) Schrack, a TWA Captain, who's first officer was Bob Herendeen. Morgan also built one of the very first plans built Starduster Too's to fly.


As a historian and advocate of all things Starduster I think the Acroduster Too has gotten a bad and undeserved reputation, in many ways that was unintentional. Partly because of the recent accident in Australia, and want to set the record straight, at least in my view. The Prototype Acroduster Too N5462 also known as the Super Starduster Too. In the following text you will read the airplane was built much like the Starduster Too. As that airplane had weld on cabane struts with no eye bolt adjustments, it also had conventional push pull control tubes above the floor like the Starduster Too without the front under seat bell crank reverser's. Both of these items were changes made by Jim Osborne, when he redrew the plans and the Acroduster Too and became his design. To be fair the reason he made these changes were.

  1. Bolt on and Adjustable Cabanes that Incorporated Eye Bolts: So that the airplane could be moved in and out of a two car garage with out having to remove the wheels due to height clearance, of most two car garages. It was also done so that builders would have the luxury of adjustments for upper wing incidence, both thought to be reasonable design changes, at the time.
  2. Under Floor Control Push Pull Tubes: Many were concerned with stepping on the aileron push pull tubes when entering and exiting the rear cockpit, for me, and all of the time I have in these airplanes I never viewed this as a problem: So by putting the controls under the floor this would solve that problem, however by doing so required a bell crank to reverse the direction of travel back to the original required direction. Also thought to be a good and reasonable design change.
Both of these at the time were thought to be good ideas however as most know over the long run these changes would have detrimental effects on this airplane. Had these two changes not been incorporated into the plans, and left as originally designed the history of the Acroduster Too may have been quite different?


Also in the late 70s and early 80s Starduster Corp was every bit as big as Aircraft Spruce. They were an OEM for Lycoming engines as well as Hartzell Propellers, and also for Parker Cleveland wheels and brakes. They also had sweet heart deals with several steel and aluminum companies that provided them with 4130 tube and plate, and all of the aircraft aluminum. As well deals for straight grained spruce and marine grade plywood from the same company that was supplying Aircraft Spruce.

In the early 80s Jim Osborne bailed out and sold the company to his foreman Bill Clouse. I am not sure what the exact reason was, but my personal opinion based on conversations of those that knew him. It had to do with the two fatal accidents the first Manx Kelly in 76 and the other with Cindy Rucker in 81 that had recently happened at the time. He was quite smitten with Cindy and I think her accident and fatal injury may have been at least one of the main reasons, for his departure.

However one positive thing he did do every year that Jim Osborne owned the business he promoted the aerobatic aspects of both the SA-700 Acroduster, and the SA-750 Acroduster Too, had airplanes on display at Oshkosh as well as a number of fly-ins and IAC competition events on the west coast. John Helton campaigned N750X the first company built Acroduster Too prototype on the west coast IAC circuit and did quite well with it.


After Bill became the new owner a lot of what Jim had done ceased. Bill Clouse was a great guy in many respects. When he acquired the company there were four full time employees, in less that a year there was one, and shortly after, that person was gone. From that point on he hired a number of self contractors, welders and fabricators and paid them cash for piece work. He did not want to deal with all of the payroll issues of workers comp along with the hassle of having full time employees. Bill as the foreman knew most everything about the business, and although he was not a welder almost everything else regarding the day to day business and the fabrication of all things Starduster he knew quite well. Bill was retired Air Force Master Sergeant and B-52 crewman, but like many military men he also had a drinking problem that progressively made running the business challenging and working for him as an employee very difficult.

He was not a big promoter of the airplanes or for that matter the business man that Jim was, one that wanted to grow the company, and because of his Air force retirement needed little in the way of money. The business was doing well and making money all on its own at the time with him just selling hardware, material and fabricated parts. He also brought his girlfriend Brenda in as the office girl.

He did have a number of friends airplane builders and airport bums with no life around that along with a succession of welders helped get things finished and out the door. He continued to go to Oshkosh and give out awards for the best Starduster aircraft, also flew several owner airplanes to this event as well as ferried them across country. Much of the work for the Greens SA-101 single place Super Starduster was done at Starduster during this time, as well as the Skybolt MK II that Eric Schelling built. The Starduster Too had inspired numerous builders, and its heyday was during the 70s and was a force to be reckoned with as plans were still being sold. The Acroduster Too on the other hand did not share the same interest that The Starduster Too did. But even then with so many new home built designs appearing along with the RV-4 becoming available in larger, and larger numbers. Plans built labor intensive airplanes like the Starduster Too started to loose their appeal to many home builders.
 

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