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My Favorite Airplane-Stearman PT-17 Kadet

My Favorite Airplane-Stearman PT-17 Kadet

Someone recently asked me what my all-time favorite airplane (real and RC) was. It was a tough decision and I had to pick between my two all time favs. The Piper J3 Cub and the Stearman PT-17 Kadet biplane. Well, after some soul searching I have decided it has to be the Stearman! I have built several of these great primary trainer biplanes and can’t really fault the design in any way. My first model was the little Stearman PT-17 from Guillows. It was one of many stick and tissue planes I built and it flew pretty good as a U-control model with a Cox .049 engine in it.

The next one I actually helped my father build and it was an RC Stearman built from the old Sterling Models kit! It was powered by an HP .61 rear induction engine and it was guided by a Blue Max radio built from a World Engines electronics kit. Flew pretty good but the wire landing gear did not stand up very well. It was covered with silkspan and dope.

After a long while, I built my first scratch design from a set of plans from Flying Models magazine. It was Nick Ziroli’s PT-17. It had a 53 inch span and was powered by a K&B Torpedo .40 and guided by a Kraft Signature Series Single Stick Radio using KPS 15 servos. I covered it with Super Shrink Coverite and painted it with Rust0lium paint.

After this one I built my all time favorite RC Stearman, again it was a Ziroli design, the 1/5th scale 77 inch version. I covered and painted it with Scale Stits Poly Tone paint over Stits Fabric. I chose a Navy N2S version from an EAA calendar to be a little different. It was actually the first “101” as I gave the documentation to Nick Sr. when he was painting his newer, bigger 88 inch Stearman. My “101” was powered by a Quadra 52 and I guided it with my JR 8103. It had Robart gear struts and I did some rib stitching and panel line detailing. Also had custom graphics made up for it including nomenclature lettering. It flew great!


The next plane I built was a Stearman ARF from Great Planes and it flew very well indeed. It was powered by an OS 1.20 4-stroke and Controlled by a Futaba Super 8. Covered with MonoKote it came as a Navy N2S.

The last one I built and flew is a very nice E-flite electric powered one with Outrunner motor and a 3S Lipo Pack. Of course it is guided by a JR radio with JR servos.

But my all time favorite Stearman has to be “Long Legged Beauty” owned by my good friend Nick Ziroli Jr. He gave me a ride up and down Long Island during the LI skyhawks Warbird Fly In and we had a great time!

Photo by Sal Calvagna.

There have been a few other Stearmans in the lineup but can’t find the photos. What’s your favorite plane? Have you built a Stearman? let me know, I would love to hear your reply/comments.


Updated: July 16, 2015 — 4:45 PM


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  1. Dear Gerry,

    I recently was able to get a Ziroli PT-17 77″ kit and was thinking of putting on a 55cc on it. Did yours with a Quadra 52 have any problems as far as having an over powered engine? Prop to ground clearance? Any info would be great.

    1. Hi PG. my Ziroli Stearman was definately over powered and a little bit overweight also. I am currently flying another Z PT-17 and it flies great with a Zenoag G38 turning an Xoar 18×8 prop. The new DLE is lighter than the older Q52 so you could use it but, the DLE like the 23×10 prop and that might give you a little ground clearance issues! with a 20×10 prop, I hear friends say the engine is running to fast.

  2. Ger,

    Thanks for the quick reply. Hmm..maybe a DLE-30 then? 1.2Hp more and 2lbs lighter the G38. Leaning towards DLE’s since they’re relatively available here. Just concerned about not having enough power. Any more tips on the build would be great. PM me?

  3. Gerry I am interested in bulding a Ziroli 77″ Stearman and converting it to Electric. I want to have a full kit cut and I plan to buy all of the goody accessories for it. I would appreciate it if you could direct me to where I can get this info and suggest two top of the line Kit cutters that you would personally use. I dont know if you are from San Diego or not but I used to know a Gerry Yarrish who lived in San Diego in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. I used to go to him for YS engine parts and advise. He was a well known go to guy for YS engines. Thanking you in advance for any assistance you may give me regarding the previously asked questions. Jim

    1. Thanks for writing Jim. I have never lived in California, I am not aware of anther Yarrish in the hobby industry but who knows… I know there are a lot of cousins floating around on the west coast. But, to your question. I know that Larry at Precision cut makes a very good kit and if you are looking for a laser cut kit, my good friend Pat at will set you up with excellent parts. Plans from Nick Ziroli are the best, and their website has several great accessories including the Robart custom designed shock absorbing landing gear, which I think is a must. I am still flying a 77 inch Stearman from Ziroli plans and it is ideally powered with a Zenoah G-38. good luck with your electric converstion.

  4. I’m strictly a rank amateur at RC flying but, I will manage the thing. But, I am commenting about your Stearmans. They are all beauts and I especially like that Navy paint scheme. And of course, that full sized baby had to be a real thrill!
    Congrats on all of them.

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