Coonts’ story prompted some memories of my own about the old girl. I used to fly the Queen in my former weekend job as a scenic ride pilot/instructor in Atlanta–but my memories aren’t so fond. The Queen had much better performance than a stock Stearman. It’s engine and prop (a 300-hp Lycoming and constant speed prop) gave it a lot of pep compared to a standard 220-hp Continental and a fixed-pitch prop. But the Queen could be cantankerous. The engine sometimes refused to start on sultry Atlanta afternoons, and it had a tendency to backfire, run rough, and belch fire intermittently. On the ramp one evening, I watched an orange flame shoot about six feet out the single exhaust pipe. The backfire was a common occurrence, but the dark surroundings made this one particularly memorable.
The Queen always looked great with her raised turtle deck, sleek cowl, and wheel fairings–but she was never my favorite.
Steve Collins, the business owner, never shared my suspicions. He loved the Queen and flew her at every opportunity. When we’d fly to air shows or other events, he took the Queen, and I’d usually fly something else.
The Queen was also somewhat unusual for a Stearman in that it had a two-passenger front seat. But the passengers had better be friends because they’d have to sit awfully close. On one cross-country trip, two brawny guys had to share the front seat, and they were practically fused at the hip when it was finally time to get out . . .
Tags: Dave Hirschman