One treasure in a hangar in Concrete: “The Spirit of Dynamite,” a race car with wings, so named because taking off seemed like lighting a fuse on a stick of dynamite.
There are hidden, vintage gems in the North Cascades.And most of them fly. Housed in six hangars at Mears Field in Concrete, Skagit County, are 35 classic aircraft. Some are from the “Golden Age of Civil Aviation,” the period roughly from Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 solo across the Atlantic until the 1940s. Others are from the early post-World War II period. At the North Cascades Vintage Aircraft Museum, planes are fully restored to be able to fly. Jim Jenkins, director of operations, is working on the tubular frame of a 1931 Stinson Jr. One hundred were built. Only 10 survive. It will require some 6,000 hours to rebuild, which means about three years of work. Jenkins’ son, Drew, and apprentice Sean Phillips push a Monocoupe Clipwing 110 Special from a hangar. It’s a tail-dragger that is basically a powerful, seven-cylinder radial engine attached to a fabric-covered, tubular-frame body with stubby wings. The snug two-seater can go 180 mph. Called “The Spirit of Dynamite,” it’s a race car with wings, and requires a pilot with a deft touch. Its first owner so named it because taking off seemed like lighting a fuse on a stick of dynamite. Built in 1937, this was the first production model after the prototype. It crashed in 1940 but was rebuilt 40 years later, beginning with the data plate and just a few scraps. The Clipwing has an art-deco look. The “wheel pants,” or wheel covers, are partly for appearance but mainly to reduce drag. This plane, like all the restored planes in the collection, looks showroom new. Drew Jenkins’ first rebuild is here as well — a Piper Colt made in 1961. He restored it while in high school in Massachusetts. Like many of the aircraft, it’s covered in painted fabric. They’re called “soft skinned,” though the fabric looks like metal because the finish they put on is high-end and labor-intensive, with up to 30 coats buffed out. “It’s just like restoring an old car,” says Jim, Drew’s dad, “but because it leaves the ground, it needs to be right.”