Richard Rezabek’s 1937 Stinson SR-9F got the attention of the fans as well as the judges. Besides winning the trophy in the Classic category (aircraft built and flown in 1936 or later), the red-and-black Stinson gull-wing Reliant grabbed the most votes in the People’s Choice competition. Maybe it was the Reliant’s elegance that made it so popular, or maybe it was the story that appealed to the fans.
It was originally owned by Katherine May Edwards, who learned to fly after hearing stories of her uncle’s adventures in the Lafayette Escadrille (a group of American pilots who volunteered to fight for France in World War I). Edwards bought the Stinson for $18,000 in 1937, a year when the cost of an average house was about $4,000. At the start of World War II, when the U.S. Army Air Corps impressed civilian aircraft to use as transports and trainers, Katherine Edwards’ luxury Stinson was among them. The Air Corps gave it to Republic Aviation, which sent it to its factory in Evansville, Indiana, where the company built P-47 Thunderbolts. After the war, Republic sold it to one of their test pilots, but Edwards liked her Reliant, and dispatched a representative to buy it back. The test pilot struck a hard bargain. Ms. Edwards ended up paying $30,000 and trading her Fairchild 24, but she got the airplane back again. Rezabek, who worked at Lockheed on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter before he retired in Santa Clarita, California, bought the aircraft in 2004 and says now that he’s flown it, he can understand exactly why Edwards went to so much trouble and expense to get it back.