Right time, right place, right friends: Historic aircraft with engine concern lands Logan County Airport

Send a link to a friend  Share

[June 25, 2020]   LINCOLN - An historic visitor made an unexpected landing at the Logan County Airport on the afternoon of May 31st. Mark Riedl with his daughter Olivia and Dean Del Bene and were on their way from Chicago to Dallas in an antique 1937 Stinson Reliant airplane when a problem with the engine caught their attention. They made a precautionary landing to check out the trouble.

Mark called his friend Ed Baker of Atlanta to come to the airport to help out. Ed is a local pilot and member of Heritage-in-Flight. After moving the airplane into the Heritage-in-Flight hangar and removing the cowling, it was determined that one of the nine cylinders on the radial engine had come loose. After inspecting the damage, they plan to assess it, find a replacement cylinder, and continue on their trip. This could take some time.

That is part of the story. The other part is a fascinating history of this particular aircraft.

The Stinson Reliant was built in 1937 and sold to a young company called American Airlines. The aircraft was used specifically to survey new routes for the airline.

Dean said, “At that time, when an airline pilot was assigned to a new route, he had to actually become familiar with the route and 15 miles either side of the centerline by actually flying it.

This was called a route survey. This was before the pilot could get into one of the airline’s DC-3s and actually carry passengers.

The Stinson was used to familiarize the pilots with their new routes. American Airlines actually had about six of these planes at one time.”

This plane is the only flying version remaining.

The aircraft had a secondary use. Up until the 1930’s, airline flights were always done in clear conditions. “Planes just did not have the sophisticated instruments nor did pilots have the skills to fly in the clouds,” said Dean.

Thanks to some pioneering pilots and engineers including the famous Jimmy Doolittle, instruments were developed to allow flight in cloudy conditions.

The Stinson Reliant was equipped with the new instruments, and pilots were trained in them to fly in the clouds, thus making the airline all weather capable.

Dean and Mark have a friendship going back thirty five years. After Dean bought the plane, a derelict on a local Chicago airport, he began the restoration process, a huge project that would eventually take ten years. “The airplane was ready for the junk yard when I found it,” said Dean.

Mark was crazy about planes. One day a twelve-year-old Mark showed up at Dean’s house and asked if he could help. Thus began their long friendship and dedication to the restoration project. During the project, a teenaged Mark often remarked that he would own the plane one day.

[to top of second column]

The finished restoration was completed in 1983 and is a spectacular success. The airplane has won many awards for the awesome workmanship.

And dreams do come true. Mark Riedl, an American Airlines pilot and safety officer, fulfilled his vow and bought the airplane on Saturday, May 30, 2020, 35 years after helping to restore it. That’s right, Mark had owned the plane for one day before beginning the flight that would take it from Chicago to Mark’s home in Dallas.


Ten miles north of Lincoln, Mark and Dean noticed a problem with the engine. They immediately made a precautionary landing at the Logan County Airport. After inspecting the plane for several hours, it was placed in the Heritage-in-Flight hangar to protect it from the elements.

Mark said, “An airplane with a fabric covering like this cannot be left outside, because the sun and rain would damage it.”

Heritage-in-Flight made space available, and the airplane was safely tucked in while the engine waited to be repaired.

It is a given in aviation that pilots always help fellow pilots even if they are complete strangers. Of course, pilots don’t stay strangers for long.

Mark and Olivia made their way back to Dallas on a local American Airlines flight, and Dean returned to Chicago in another historic plane, a 1947 Cessna 195, flown to Lincoln by a friend.

A close inspection has determined that the engine will need a complete rebuild to get the plane back in the air and off to its new home in Dallas.

Logan County Airport, Ed Baker, and Heritage-in-Flight Museum were all in the right place at the right time when Mark, Olivia and Dean needed a helping hand.

[Curt Fox]


Back to top