|History of N25485|
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My Airmaster is registered N25485, serial number 580. It was built in 1940 and started out life as a factory
demonstrator. It was purchased by Aero Services of Philadelphia and converted by the
Cessna factory into a photo airplane, with camera port in the aircraft belly and
side-windows on the lower panels in the lower front cabin. I have copies
of the original paperwork and work orders from the Cessna factory detailing the
photo-conversion changes and the factory checkout lists.
The original logbook #1 lists not only maintenance, but each flight location and duration. Immediately after purchase, 485 was sent to central America for photographic work, returning to the US via Cuba. Aerial photography had wartime value, and 485 was not impressed by the Army or grounded as were most private airplanes. An "Authorization to Purchase Aviation Gasoline" from the Aviation Petroleum Products Authorization Committee is included in the paperwork. This document authorizes the purchase of 770 gallons of 80 octane per month for January to June 1944. It is easy to forget how intrusive the government became during the war years. I should hope that this country would not tolerate such an intrusion today, unfortunately evidence is everywhere that many think more intrusion is not only necessary but desirable.
During the war years and throughout the 50's, 485 ranged throughout the country doing aerial surveys. Several engine overhauls and cover jobs where accomplished during this period.
Aero Services sold the airplane in the late 50's to a private owner near Philadelphia, who flew it infrequently until 1969. Here's a photo of '485 in 1955, taken in Collegeville, PA. Note that it still has the aerial surveying windows.
In 1969, '485 was sold to Gar Williams. Gar performed a major overhaul of the airplane and restored it to the condition it is in today. The photo plane equipment and ports were removed, various repairs and patches performed, and the airplane was recovered in Irish linen with dope. A new engine was installed at the same time.
When the restoration was complete in the early 1970s, 485 was one of the finest Airmasters in the air. During the 70's, 485 was featured in several aviation magazines including Flying and Sport Aviation.
Gar sold the aircraft in 1990 to a fellow at Santa Paula, California, which is a wonderful airport at which to find antique and classic aircraft. During this time the airplane was flown infrequently but maintained well. The only major work done was installation of a transponder, a wing repair where the rib tapes were pulling away and most recently an engine overhaul. '485 was one of the airplanes featured in the 1997 Michael Terry Aviation Legends calendar with a very pretty sunset shot over a river delta. Since people cut up these calendars and use them as posters, I often see this photo of my plane hanging in various FBOs and hangars.
Mid-summer 2000 I happened to be in SoCal for a weekend and drove up to Santa Paula to see the sights. In the Flight Center FBO there was an ad posted for 485. I'd been looking at Airmasters for some time for their uniqueness, lines, and keeping with the 4-place cruiser theme that I've been collecting. The owner and I managed to hook up, inspect the airplane, and the deal was struck.
After flying the airplane back home to Renton, it took most of the winter to perform some avionics updating and fix some airframe details, such as worn-out throttle cables and a sticky, leaking fuel valve. After getting the updates done, I was able to fly the airplane exactly once before the starter locked up and refused to turn.
Starter replacement is not easy on the Airmaster. It requires floating the engine mount away from the firewall in order to get sufficient clearance behind the engine. Then you have to have a special wrench to turn the starter nuts. After much greasy wrenching and an overhauled starter from Galvin Flying Service, the Airmaster flew again in early July.
Everything was ready in time for the Arlington 2001 fly-in, where '485 took Reserve Grand Champion Antique. Gar says the airplane has won numerous awards before earlier in its life including Antique Aircraft Association awards, and a trophy from Merced.
'485 will also be featured in a future issue of AOPA Pilot. The photo shoot was in August 2001.
In the meantime, come visit at Renton!