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Up in the air

Posted February 26, 2014 in Community Featured

The first time Brian Stansberry was up in an airplane, he was too small to reach up and peer out the window.

Stansberry’s father ran the Moulton Airport, which no longer exists. That early exposure to aviation, though, led to a lifelong career for Stansberry, who does metal fabrication for airplanes and drag race cars.

Brian Stansberry is restoring the 1940 Piper airplane his father used to fly.

Brian Stansberry is restoring the 1940 Piper airplane his father used to fly.

“The airport was mostly just guys that flew for fun,” Stansberry says. “There used to be a John Deere dealer in town, and sometimes the executives would fly in here.”

Stansberry, who grew up on a farm outside Moulton near the Moulton Airport, went to California while in the U.S. Navy. After he got out, he stayed there for several years. In 2002, he moved back and lives on that same farm.

In the Navy, Stansberry worked on aircraft. Afterward, he worked in a shop in California doing metal fabrication.

When he came back to Appanoose County, he started working on his own. He specializes in custom metal fabrication work on drag race cars and aircraft. Sometimes that means crafting one replacement part, and sometimes it means creating a whole new frame.

Stansberry says most of the people he does work for hear about him through word of mouth. Right now he is doing work for customers in Minnesota, Missouri and Canada.

Every year Stansberry has a booth at the Antique Aircraft Association’s annual fly-in, which is held in Blakesburg over Labor Day weekend. He says between 300 and 400 antique planes usually show up for the event.

“That’s probably helped me more than anything,” he says.

Older airplanes often need to have the sheet metal covering them replaced. Currently Stansberry is working on a 1940 Ryan aircraft for a customer in Ohio.

He is also slowly working on restoring his father’s 1940 Piper, a project he started two or three years ago. The Piper was damaged in a tornado and had been in storage since 1980.

The restoration work is labor intensive. Stansberry could easily have 45 hours in fabricating a small aluminum replacement part. So far he has about 200 hours in restoring his dad’s plane and has yet to start covering it with aluminum parts.

“When I first moved back I was mainly doing cars, but the last few years that has tapered off, probably because of the economy,” Stansberry says. “Planes, that’s pretty much the main thing now.”

Contact Darren at 515-953-4822 ext. 304 or to recommend someone for an upcoming issue of “What’s In Your Garage?”

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