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home : current news : current news July 22, 2017

8/20/2013 11:52:00 AM
Arctic Tern settles in Sisters
Vern Goodsell is working in his shop on an Arctic Tern restoration. photo by Jim Anderson
+ click to enlarge
Vern Goodsell is working in his shop on an Arctic Tern restoration. photo by Jim Anderson

By Jim Anderson

Birders are wondering what an arctic tern is doing in Sisters Country, the last possible place to find one. But it's true, there is an Arctic Tern in Sisters - and Vern Goodsell, Sisters airplane-builder, is restoring it.

This tern is made of aluminum, wood, steel tubing and fabric.

An old flying pal from over in Forest Grove called Vern just recently and asked if he would take on a rebuilding project of the Arctic Tern that's been stored over there for a number of years. In his call, the owner said, "Vern, I want this to be a showcase restoration project."

He came to the right guy.

We all can remember the scratch-built Spitfire Vern built in his shop several years ago; a fabulous piece of workmanship that is still flying today and is a showpiece of air shows all over the U.S. He also has a miniature, Chevy-powered, P-51/Spitfire look-alike, XP-Talon that is a beauty. The Arctic Tern is going to be another of those types of projects, and perhaps even more.

To begin with, there will be new wings, longer and stronger than the originals.

"Yeah," Vern said, when asked about the old wings, "those wings have been around too long and rebuilt just too many times, they have wooden spars and won't be airworthy much longer."

He and the owner agreed that a set of new Taylorcraft wings, with 10 inches added to each side, would be ideal. They will be stronger, and with adjustable flaps fit to the wings that will add a great deal more performance to the aircraft - shorter, safer and quicker take-offs and landings.

It's taking a lot of time to assemble (as in rivet) the new wings together, re-cover them with new fabric and then paint them, but all that work will add even more performance and safety to the aircraft.

The fuselage is bolted on Vern's painting rack at this moment, but he hopes to have it all assembled and ready for instruments, seats, loading compartment, wings, tail assembly, engine and landing gear in a short time. But for the moment, the newly covered fuselage will undergo that special treatment Vern gives to all his projects - like the 10 hours of sanding on the primer coat.

The original design of the Arctic Tern was first flown about 1939 as the Interstate Cadet, manufactured by the Interstate Aircraft and Engineering Corporation based in El Segundo, CA. About 320 or so of them were produced between the years 1941 and 42.

The aircraft, in its original version (the S1 prototype), was powered by an air-cooled, 50-hp Continental opposed-piston engine, but was soon upgraded to the Continental A 65-hp engine. This was the mainstay used in most small two-seat aircraft of the time. This aircraft was also used in World War II, with the military designation of the L-6A.

Many pilots of the day wondered why the S1 was not a financially successful design during early 1940s. One reason is that the Cadet cost almost three times the price of the comparable - and very popular -Piper J-3 Cub. However, those who flew both aircraft found the Cadet far superior in performance and load-carrying abilities. It was faster, stronger, and could be operated safely in a more rugged environment with its oleo-strut/compression-spring suspension landing gear.

During World War II, upgrades for this airframe included: larger engines - 75/85/90/100hp - better brakes, and a steerable tail-wheel system. All of which allowed the L6 to operate from primitive airfields or no airfields, short runways or no runways, and in some instances when it was used to evacuate wounded personnel, it was possible to carry two men in the back on stretchers, while the Cub could only carry one.

In the late 1960s - because of the need for a newer, more powerful bush plane in Alaska - bush pilot Bill Deihl morphed the old Cadet into the Arctic Tern. All type certificates and tooling were purchased from the parent company by Deihl's newly formed Arctic Aircraft Company, who transformed the S-1B1 into a bush plane by upgrading structural elements of the fuselage, landing gear, and wings. This new aircraft, designated the S-1B2, was reconfigured with a hefty air-cooled, Lycoming 0-320, 160-hp engine, swinging an 82-inch McCauley aluminum propeller that really got it out of rough terrain in a hurry.

In 1975, with the need for an even more powerful bush plane of this type, Arctic Aircraft revived and modernized Model S-1B2 and with the blessing of the FAA, certified it into he workhorse known today as the Arctic Tern.

(In October of 2009, while flying his latest derivative of the Arctic Term, the Arctic Privateer, Diehl made his first unplanned landing - due to an engine problem - on the South Knik-Goose Bay Road, just two miles south-east of his destination, Wasilla Municipal Airport. After

fixing the problem, he

used the same road for takeoff.)

When Vern has it finished, the Tern will be added to the stable of aircraft he has built and restored. Like the Spitfire and the high-performance XP-Talon he has for sale as we speak.

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