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The Stinson 108 as a Bushplane

By Edited Aug 4, 2016 0 0

Back in the mid-60s my uncle had a Stinson 108.  I never got to fly in it, but when he passed away I investigated a bit and found that it's still flying here in British Columbia.  It's on floats now, and looks like a great bushplane. 

That made me curious about 108s as bushplanes.  It turns out they're quite good if you want a four person workhorse.

Edward Stinson started Stinson Aircraft in 1920, when aviation had to be a labour of love for a businessman. Eddie Stinson would have been a pilot first and a manufacturer second (I think we pilots can all understand why).  Sadly, he died in 1938 in a flying accident. This happened just as the Second World War was about to start, and while the war was a terrible event for millions of people it gave a great boost to aviation.  Stinson Aircraft many light planes for the military, specifically observation and liaison aircraft. 

After or during the war Stinson Aircraft became a division of Consolidated Vultee. In 1949 it was acquired by Piper, but it continued to build planes, most notably the 108 series. Many Stinson 108s have made their way into the bush, and many are still there, flying reliably into remote areas. 

The Stinson 108 was quite popular, and was produced from 1945 until 1950.  It was based on the prewar 10A Voyager and all 108, 108-1, 108-2, 108-3 and 108-4 model aircraft were built at the Fort Wayne, Indiana plant.  In 1949 when Piper got the STC for the 108 there were about 325 of the 5,260 108s built that were built, but unsold. This unsold inventory went to Piper and were marketed as Piper-Stinsons, but I've never seen any 108s on the modern used market referred to that way. Bottom line, all the 108s that you see were built during a five year period and there are still a lot of them around.  That fact certainly speaks to its ruggedness and utility. 


The 108 is a rag and tube aircraft, with steel tubes.  Some have been metalized with aluminum, on the wings, fuselage, or both, with STCs.  Metalized aircraft are perhaps a little more amenable to outside storage and bad weather, but they do give up a bit to fabric covered planes in terns of weight and performance.  

Usually the Stinson 108 came with a 150 hp Franklin engine but many other different engines have been installed in the 108 by STC .  These include the Lycoming O-360, Franklin 220|220, and the  Continental O-470.  Franklins are good engines, but there is a controversy on parts.  Some say it's hard to get parts.  Others disagree, and point out that there are lots of Franklin engines around which creates a secondary parts market.  Franklin engines were purchased by a Polish company, PLZ, and I have to admit, I see more Lycoming and Continental ads in the magazines.  The Franklin website indicates that the company is actually for sale right now, but they do offer conversions for 108s.   (Interestingly, in the late 1940s Franklin dominated the US aviation market, but it was purchased by the Tucker Automobile Company, which cancelled the aircraft contracts really damaged the company). 

Anyway, there are lots of engine conversions for the 108's and all of them bring more horses-  Lycoming: O-435 (190hp), O-360 (180hp) & IO-360 (200hp); Continental: IO-360 (210hp) & O-470 (230hp); as well as Franklin (220hp).  One thing to think about with engines is weight, which is going right up front.  It's all about trade offs, but pilots argue a little about whether the extra 10 HP from one engine is worth the weight involved. As they say, it all adds up. 

The 108 variants closely resemble each other but can be visually distinguished by some differences.  The 108 does not have a right-side cargo door, but the 108-1 does. Both these planes had 150 horespower motor. The 108-2 was essentially the same as 108-1, but it came with a 165 HP engine & inflight adjustable rudder trim (I've fooled around with my rudder trim tab, and I think inflight adjustment would be cool). The 108 and 108-2 had 40 gallon wing tanks. The 108-3 introduced a taller vertical fin and the rudder has a straight trailing edge. Some pilots report that the smaller tail fin in the 108-2 makes for better crosswind landing performance.  There seem to be a lot of these around. They have 50 gallon tanks in the wings,and a higher gross weight than the 108 and 108-2, (2400 lbs.), meaning full fuel, 680 lbs of PX, and 50 lbs. baggage allowance. 

The "Flying Station Wagon" version (did everybody try toget "Wagon"into their name back then?)  was an option available with the -1, -2 and -3 models, with a utility interior incorporated the wood paneling you see in so many cool restorations and a reinforced floor, allowing 600 lbs. of baggage in the passenger compartment.  The bush application is obvious.  The aircraft can be fitted with wheel, float or ski landing gear. 

The 108s can take 4 passengers.  They're 25 feet 3 inches long, with a wingspan of 34 feet. Wing area is 155 square feet.  Empty weight is between 1,350 lbs and 1,500 lbs. Max weight is 2,400 lbs. The difference between the two is the gear, fuel and people you can stick in.  The maximum speed is about 133 mph, but that obviously varies with different powerplants. Range is about 500 miles with a burn rate of about 12 gph.  Service ceiling, like most normally aspitrated aircraft, is 13,000 ft, but its got a good rate of climb - 650 ft/min. Takeoff roll is reported to be 620 feet. Pilot reports say that with two people they can get off in 500, but fully loaded require three times that. The landing roll is 290 feet.

The Stinson is a fantastic bush plane.  They are said to be smooth flyers, whether on floats or the traditional taildragger set up. They are also reported to be very stable in slow flight, which is a good attribute for short field landings.  The wing has a leading edge slot that contributes to the docile stall behaviour.  The landing gear is very rugged and absorbs shocks well.   While I've heard the 108 described as slow and ponderous,  I've  also heard lots of pilots sing its praises on internet boards.  It has a lot of room in it, that's for sure. 

Stinson Links:








There is an annual Stinson fly-in at Columbia, CA that has been going on for 30 years or so now, as wellas one inVancouver, Washington.  



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