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
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
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
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.