One-of-a-Kind Bird Takes Wing: Peering into the Past with a Pasped

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One of the sublime wonders of EAA AirVenture is the number of planes gathered in one place. For a pilot, an aviator-wannabe, or just a lover of things with wings, walking through the rows of gleaming, spit-and-polished aircraft is the ultimate aviation Mecca ... a Utopia replete with nonstop flying, airplane souvenirs, photo opportunities, and plenty of functioning port-a-lets. Many who visit AirVenture and stumble through the different aircraft display areas open-mouthed and glassy-eyed find themselves playing the

AVweb's Daily AirVenture 2002 Coverage



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Buzz Penny is a purist. It's a word he uses often, peppering conversations with it to explain why he does what he does, why he is the way he is. Buzz loves airplanes, and he loves flying, but he wants to do things right, to make them the way they were. Luckily, he has the wherewithal to do it. As majority stockholder in a Midwestern telephone company, Buzz can pretty much do what he wants to do. What he wants to do now revolves around tractors and flying. Buzz spends a good part of his time messing around his Versailles, Mo., farm on his tractor. But when he's not scaring cattle, he might be in his hangar tending to his Stearman or Piper Super Cub, or fiddling with a T-50 Bobcat project. Six years ago, Buzz saw an ad in Trade-A-Plane for an airplane that "was not on my radar screen. The price wasn't right, but the airplane was." When Buzz saw the 1938 Pasped Skylark in person, he knew he had to have it, but he also knew he wanted to make it "right."
 
(Click photos for large versions)
Pasped Skylark at AirVenture
 Pasped Skylark at AirVenture

The Pasped's 55-year owner, Bob Greenhoe of Alma, Mich., had taken special care of the plane, but Buzz want to take it back to its original condition. That total down-to-the-bones restoration took six years and cost multiple headaches, a protracted legal hassle, and a bucket of money. The day the Pasped flew in to AirVenture last week was the first time Buzz had seen it completed ... and the sight of the beautiful white monoplane brought tears to his eyes. "When I asked Tom Brown [the restorer] how it turned out [before he flew in], he said, 'Yeah, I think it turned out all right, but I'll let you be the judge of that.'" "Gorgeous," said one bystander. "Beautiful," said another. Tom had mastered the art of understatement. The Pasped certainly looked much better than "all right."

  Pastorius and Pedersen with the Pasped
Fred Pastorius and Stanley Pedersen
 

It is perhaps a miracle that the plane exists at all. There are a couple of different versions of the Pasped story, and neither ends particularly well. One is that builders Fred Pastorius and Stanley Pedersen (their last names form the word Pasped) stopped building airplanes when World War II broke out and never resumed. The other is that the Pasped did not sell and the expenses bankrupted them. Either way, the single airplane's production signaled the end of the Venice, Calif., Pasped Company. The aviation magazines of the era say that little was known about the testing program of the Pasped from 1936 until it was produced, only that it started life with a Warner 125-hp engine and was upgraded to a beefier Warner 165-hp Super Scarab, which is the powerplant it uses now.

The sole Pasped Skylark on earth has perhaps lived a lonely life, but it has definitely been an interesting one. In 1941, it graced the cover of Flying and Popular Aviation magazine, and starred in several movies. Buzz owns a photo of actors Robert Armstrong and Sally Eillers in the Pasped's cockpit, leather helmets on, flying scarves blowing. When it was not being featured on magazine covers or doing film work, the plane was used by owner Greenhoe, who flew it around and, by all accounts, had great fun doing so. When Greenhoe finally decided to part with his prize, it was as if some great karmic finger of fate pointed Penny in its direction. He purchased the plane and, after taking one restorer off the job, karma intervened again as he discovered Tom Brown. Brown owns a shop in Unity, Wis., that specializes in vintage aircraft. He has restored Eagle Rocks, Commanders, and Wacos — anything unique and, especially, he says, "anything I want to fly."

  Tom Brown Next to Pasped
 Tom Brown, Pasped's Restorer
 

Brown was a maintenance supervisor at another aviation company for 20 years before opening his restoration business and taking on interesting projects. He admits the Pasped has been one of his most challenging, taking two-and-a-half years and roughly 3,500 hours to complete. The plane was taken down to its bones ... everything was redone except the fuselage tubing and tail. "Getting the authenticity was a challenge, because we were just working from pictures ... finding original instruments was a challenge." Buzz gave Tom instructions to "put the plane back like it was," stood back, and let him do his work. "But there were no parts to locate for the plane," says Tom. "We had to build anything we needed." The restoration also included a paint job to take the plane back to its original bright white. "The story," says Buzz, "is that Pastorius and Pedersen went to the hardware store in town and asked what paint they had in gallon cans. All they had was refrigerator white."

Despite the long hours and effort in putting the plane back together, Tom is extremely happy to have gotten the job, and still marvels at his luck. He had seen the Pasped in its fire-engine red incarnation at Oshkosh some years ago. "I used to admire it," he says. "I'd sit here and stare at it like everyone else. My dream came true when they called, because then I knew I'd get to fly it." The restoration has been a difficult process for Buzz. First were the problems with the initial restorer ... but even harder was the fact that he owned a wonderful plane but couldn't go flying. Tom kept Buzz updated with emails and pictures, but not being able to take the plane out for a spin around the countryside was difficult. That will soon change. "There are people walking around the show that have more time in the plane than me," Buzz laughs. "One old guy came up and told me he had flown the plane in 1940 and wanted to buy it. His instructor talked him out of it because he told him it was too much plane for him to handle." Buzz also wonders how the plane handles. He currently has just one hour in the Pasped; Tom, who test-flew it after restoration, has 14.

  Diane Pedersen in Cockpit
Diane Pedersen, Stanley's Granddaughter
 

Quite a number of the older Oshkosh attendees who walked by the bird commented that they had seen it before, but there was one younger visitor who had not. The woman, from Anchorage, Alaska, on her first trip to AirVenture, and her boyfriend, were walking the rows of vintage airplanes when she saw the white airplane, looked at it again, asked what it was. Fate works in strange and mysterious ways, someone once said, and this encounter was both. The woman's name? Diane Pedersen, granddaughter of the original builder. Her arrival at the plane became an instant homecoming, two generations removed. Buzz and Diane spent the next several hours poring over Buzz's scrapbook that contained originals photos of Diane's granddad, Stanley. She had never seen the photos, never seen the plane in person before; in fact, didn't even know it existed until her aunt told her about it just a couple of years ago. Buzz was excited, too. "Do you think your Grandpa would be proud?" he asked her. "I think so," said Pedersen. "I just wish he was alive to see it." After going through the pictures and showing off the plane from stem to stern, Buzz invited Diane to sit in the cockpit. "Who is that in the cockpit?" passersby asked. "The granddaughter of the builder. She didn't even realize the plane would be here." "Oh, neat." Oh yes, very neat.

  Buzz Penny Relaxing Under Pasped
 Robert "Buzz" Penny, the Pasped's Owner
 
 

Now that the excitement of AirVenture has passed, and the million questions from fly-in visitors answered, it is time for Buzz to really get to know his little bird, to become one of the few who will ever fly it. He has been reading the literature written about the plane back in the '30s and '40s to prepare. The articles say the Pasped climbs at 890 fpm, will cruise at 110 mph, can jump off an airstrip in 500 feet, will stall at 40 mph without flaps, and lands at 35 mph with flaps. One unique feature is a center flap that enables the plane to sit down almost vertically, making it a natural for short-field landings. Its 31-gallon tank gives the plane a range of about 545 miles. Brown, who has 14 hours in the plane, says the Pasped shouldn't surprise Buzz, who has two other taildraggers at home. "Everything happens kind of slowly, but the plane is honest. Airplanes of the late '20s, early '30s, were just not crisp like today's airplanes. That's just because of the design ... a lot of wing and tail."

In just a few weeks, Buzz the purist hopes that he and his historically-correct Pasped will be winging to a Labor Day weekend air show in Iowa. After that, he will build time and have fun. So what does the future hold? "I want to enjoy it for a couple of years and then find a home to put it in," Buzz says. Maybe he will and maybe he won't. Perhaps the two were just meant to be.



More Photos of the Pasped Skylark

Early Photo of Pasped            Photo from Movie
Pasped with Original Paint Scheme
 
Sally Eilers and Robert Armstrong in a Movie Starring the Pasped (Possibly "Without Orders," 1936)
 
Diane Holding Photo
Pasped on the Cover of Flying and Popular Aviation Magazine
Diane with a Photo of Her Grandfather, Stanley Pedersen
 
Diane and Buzz
Pasped Instrument Panel
Diane Reminiscing with Buzz
Pasped Instrument Panel - with Original Instruments
 
Pasped Skylark
Buzz, with Diane and Friend in Cockpit
A Break from the Admiring Crowds
Buzz, Friend, and Diane
 
Rear Quarter View
Looks Just as Good from the Back!