The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Bringing back the plane of the stars


By Taylor Jensen/NW news editor

A Beech 18 aircraft flown by movie stars and a pioneer woman aviator is currently being refurbished in the aviation department on NW Campus.

Curt Landrum, NW aviation technology adjunct, discusses the exterior of the Beech 18 plane with former student Jeff Dalton.
Photos by Carrie Duke/The Collegian

Curt Landrum, an aviation technology adjunct, has taken on the task of restoring the historical plane to its original condition.

“The aircraft was purchased [by TCC] in 1985,” he said. “We began working to restore the aircraft last summer.”

Landrum said that when they received the registration of the aircraft, its eventful history was revealed.

“The aircraft was owned by television and movie entertainer Merv Griffin, and a lot of big-named stars flew in the aircraft,” he said. “Gene Hackman, Burt Reynolds, Dinah Shore, Arthur Murray, Leslie Uggams and others have flown in the aircraft. There were actually movies shot inside it.”

However, the aircraft took prime significance when the department learned it was owned and operated by Jacqueline Cochran, Landrum said.

“We hit the jackpot. She got the WASP [Women Airforce Service Pilots] started and holds more world records in aviation than any [other] woman,” he said. “She is the star attraction of this aircraft.”

Because of this, Landrum said, they would do their best to restore the aircraft to the condition it was in when Cochran owned it.

A Beech 18 plane is currently under renovation in the aviation department on NW Campus. The aircraft was owned by famous female pilot Jacqueline Cochran and TV personality Merv Griffin.
Photos by Carrie Duke/The Collegian

“We have asked for corporate and business support, and, thus far, it has been very positive,” he said. “We have had a lot of help, and right now, we are in negotiations with a major airline. Things are looking very good.”

Although they have made definite progress, Landrum said they still require certain components to complete the project.

“We are doing the entire interior and exterior of the aircraft as well as treating the corrosion on the tail of the plane. We are going to take every aircraft system on it apart and rebuild it back to its original condition,” he said. “Right now, we need seats for the interior of the plane, and we are working very hard to match the color scheme of the plane to when Cochran owned it.”

The cockpit inside the aircraft still houses pieces from the plane’s original construction.
Photos by Carrie Duke/The Collegian

The goal is to restore the aircraft to the best possible flying condition so it can be flown by TCC as a historical aircraft, Landrum said.

“We can take it to different types of air shows and events to not just advertise the college but the history of aviation, which is really important to our department,” he said. “The history of the aircraft is remarkable, and that’s why I think it’s important to put it back together. Once it’s flyable, I sure would like to have the first ride in it.”

Businessman Bill Signs is one person in particular who Landrum said has paid attention to the project.

Signs began flying at age 16 and has since flown to more than 64 countries in various single-engine airplanes and has more than 10,000 hours of flight experience.

Photos by Carrie Duke/The Collegian

“I started flying in 1969. I would fly Beech 18 aircrafts to haul parts for General Motors,” he said. “They are very diverse airplanes.”

Signs said he first heard about Landrum’s project from a NW aviation student he met in Addison.

“I had parts they needed,” he said. “I’ve also worked on Beech 18s and flown them over 3,000 hours.”

This particular plane was flown by a woman who broke through constricting barriers to do what she loved, Signs said.

Photos by Carrie Duke/The Collegian

“Those engines on that plane were made and flown in World War II,” he said. “When it’s completed, I think it will be a great motivational tool for young people as well as a mobile historical monument.”

NW aviation director Joseph McCourt said the completion of the restoration will showcase the quality maintenance and education of TCC’s aviation program.

“This is an opportunity to demonstrate to the aviation community and the general public that we value aviation history,” he said.

Landrum, despite being retired from the military and TCC, still dedicates a huge amount of his time and effort to make this challenge a reality, McCourt said.

“Having this at our campus allows our students a chance to see, touch and work on a piece of history,” he said. “I believe that each student will gain a sense of pride being involved in something of this magnitude.”

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