Restoration: Fleet Model 8
Three brothers, an inspiring teacher, and the airplane in the barn.
- By Lemuel C. Shattuck
- Air & Space magazine, January 2008
(Page 2 of 2)
During the restoration, Bumgarner discovered that the rear seat belt attachment fittings had been torn out of the fuselage; the accident report was incorrect. “I found it hard to believe that an experienced pilot like Fred would be flying without a seat belt,” Bumgarner says. He also has an opinion about the accident: “It was windy that day and he was probably flying low into the setting sun to stay out of the worst of the wind. The Kinner engine has a habit of specking up the windshield with oil from the rocker boxes. Those conditions could make it difficult to see and avoid a wire.”
The Fleet came to life in 1995, 11 years after the restoration began, and more than 45 years after it was left for dead on the Kansas prairie. This airplane is not a hangar queen; it’s flown regularly to aviation fly-ins. Bumgarner and Kittie Lou are in touch, and Kittie Lou plans to come out in 2008 to meet Bumgarner and the Fleet. She’s looking forward to seeing the prairie sky from the best seat in the house—as Blondie did so many years ago.