Restoring a World War II airplane becomes man’s dream
BREEZY POINT — It was a Stinson 10-A military airplane called a L-9B that came out of the factory on July 14, 1941, ready to be flown in World War II.
The airplane was used for military flight training until 1944. It was last flown in 1974 by the U.S. Department of Defense. Over the decades, the military airplane deteriorated — until now. Cliff Muller of Breezy Point, is restoring the airplane.
It’s been a dream of Muller’s, a Vietnam War veteran, to rebuild the military airplane at his hangar at the Breezy Point International Airport, where he houses his Cessna 172 aircraft.
Muller has done a lot of research on the airplane — a L-9B — that he and Scott NIckelson of Crosslake purchased from a retired pilot at the Minnesota Department of Transportation three years ago. Muller said there are only 110 of the L-9B airplanes left in the world. All the others have been destroyed. Muller said the airplane in the 1940s was worth about $3,000 and today it’s worth about $25,000. However, Muller said it may be worth even more money because of its history.
The military airplane weighs about 1,625 pounds, can carry a load of 600 pounds, can fly as fast as 110 mph and holds about 40 gallons of fuel. Muller said this L-9B airplane was the only one of its kind during World War II that had ever sunk a submarine with a 100-pound bomb.
Aviator greats such as Howard Hughes and Roscoe Turner owned L-9B military airplanes.
Muller began restoring the aircraft four months ago when all he had were parts upon parts that were stored in boxes that sat in his workshop and the base structure of the airplane. Muller hopes to have the airplane up in the air by summer’s end. Muller spends eight hours, five days a week working on the airplane and his friend Carl Specht of Baxter, who also has a love of antique military airplanes, helps him two days a week.
Muller has most everything he needs to restore the airplane, and the skills. Muller, who moved to Breezy Point 10 years ago, is a construction worker by trade and he built his own hangar that is attached to his home built with all the necessities he needs. He also has been a pilot for 40 years, including being in the airborne infantry when he was in the Army from 1965 to 1967. Muller received a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and an Air Medal for his military service.
Muller painted his unit number, the 1/12th Cavalry from the Army, onto his airplane to give it a piece of himself.
He said he has the original manual of building the airplane that comes with black and white photographs that help him put the airplane together. Muller said the biggest challenge in restoring the airplane has been getting parts. Most of the parts he got with the airplane were trashed, so he had to find new parts and order them. Muller said he belongs to a national Stinson Club that is helpful in finding parts across the country.
Muller was able to use the 70-year-old sparkplugs for the airplane.
The easiest thing in restoring the airplane was putting the engine together, said Muller. Muller said the engine was rebuilt by students who attend Thief River Falls Aviation School, so all he had to do was install it in the air frame.
Muller said at this time he is not sure what he will do with the military plane once it is restored. He said some day it could be placed in museum of some kind, but for now he’s enjoying the time restoring it and he can’t wait to fly it.
Muller is a history buff, not only of military airplanes, but of other military memorabilia. His home is full of military antiques, such as a military parachute he purchased from the Oshkosh Museum in Wisconsin that hangs in his hangar and he has several wall size portraits of photographs in his home taken during Vietnam War of his buddies, some who were Killed In Action in the Battles in the Monsoon.
Muller also has used antique or restored items in his home, such as railroad tiles and stonework from a high school in Lake Superior that was quarried in the 1900s.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5851.