This week’s blog digs deeper into the history of the Peter Pan plane here at the Air Museum. Blog post by Kirsten Olson.
The 1944 Stinson Reliant, N60924 gullwing airplane, is the Navy version of the Civilian SR10 Reliant from the 1930s. The US Air Corps. version was called the AT19. Stinson Reliants had beenthe plane of choice for Alaskan bush pilots for more than a quarter of a century. This Stinson was owned and operated by Captain George C. Clayton.
Clayton began his flying career as a bush pilot and mail carrier for the Kuskokwim and Yukon River areas in the 1940s. In a letter written in 2002 to Merrill Wien, Clayton recounted the first time he saw the plane, “I remember about 1948 when Clyde McLaughlin arrived in Fairbanks with a sparkling new V77 Stinson Reliant. It had been built in August 1944 and shipped to England to be used in wartime instrument training. With US allied victory over the axis, these war birds were not required and were shipped back to the U.S. Navy at Norfolk, Virginia. They were still crated and sold to civilians who were overjoyed to acquire them for personal or airline use. Many found their way to Alaska. Clyde flew his very little before fate stepped in and took his life.” The plane sat vacant at Weeks Field over the winter and had been vandalized; the radio removed, more than seventy holes poked in the fabric from careless shoveling, and the tires had been deflated in an attempt to steal them. In 1949 Clayton had decided to purchase the plane from the McLaughlin estate and with the help of 17-year-old Merrill Wien the plane was airborne.
The plane, now named “Peter Pan” took Clayton and his family to New York. His wife, Virginia Merrill Clayton, acted as copilot and was quite capable as she had been Clayton’s flight instructor. Their trip began in Bethel, Alaska and ended in Boston, Massachusetts. The family took residence with Clayton’s mother while he studied for his Air Transport Rating (ATR) written examination. On weekends, he flew weekends with a Pan American instructor who also arranged for him to acquire more training at the Pan Am facility. Clayton passed his ATR written exam and later received a multi engine type rating on a DC3.
The family and the Peter Pan were bound for Alaska again. The plane was stored while in 1950 George C. Clayton went to work with Wien Air Alaska for 30 years and retired in April 1980 as a captain on the Boeing 737.
Sketches by Clayton of modifications made to the Peter Pan in 1985.
The Peter Pan has less than 300 flying hours logged and became a permanent fixture at the museum in 2003.