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Spartan History

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The modern aviation age, ushered in by the Wright Brothers’ flight in 1903, is just over 110 years old. Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology in Tulsa, OK, has been part of aviation’s story for more than 80 of those years. Since its founding in 1928, Spartan College has played an important role in educating pilots and technicians for military and civilian flight needs. This article describes the key events in Spartan’s long history, and its future as an aviation school for the 21st Century.

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Spartan C3 Restoration
Spartan Aircraft Company built the first Spartan C-3 biplane in 1930. The airplane was designed and built to provide safety and rapid transportation for a pilot and two passengers. I first saw the Spartan C-3 in the Tulsa Air and Space museum where Spartan had donated the airplane in 1998. I wanted to return the airplane to its original glory and received permission to restore the airplane in September 2007. In November, the plane was ferried to the maintenance hangar at Spartan Flight School, Riverside Airport in Jenks, Oklahoma. In the maintenance hangar, I began what was to be a long and detailed restoration project. As I started the restoration, I had to inspect and analyze the C-3. There were no blue prints and little information about the airplane and I so realized what a project this would be. I began by removing the fuselage skin and discovered that the wood used was for building homes, not aircraft. The aircraft frame was stripped bare. The frame was sandblasted and painted. The longerons, bulkheads, and floors were replaced. Most of the new parts had to be handmade. Basically, the only original parts on the fuselage are the pilot’s stick and the pilot’s wooden seat base. Originally, I was only going to re-skin the fuselage, but, I needed to make sure that the wood in the wings was aircraft quality. So, off came the wing skin. Surprisingly, the wing’s wood was in excellent condition for being 80 years old. The wings and fuselage were recovered using a poly-fiber process which required FAA approval. The interior was replaced with new leather upholstery. Swirled polished aluminum was installed on the floor at strategic locations to prevent worn areas on the wood flooring. I handmade the copilot’s control stick and I carved the handle for the pilot’s control stick.On both, I installed a push to talk and transmit switch for the radios. Avionics installation included a Garmin radio, transponder, and a helicopter intercom. All antennas were installed inside of the fuselage to maintain a 1930’s appearance. There wasn't an electric system, so I installed a wind generator and finished with a new, 406 Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT). New fuel lines, screws, bolts, brake cables, and pulleys were replaced with modern hardware. The fuel tank was rusty and was cleaned and encased with fiberglass. Inspection of the landing struts revealed they were filled with water and very rusty. One cylinder on the strut had to be cut off and a new one made. Modern “O” rings replaced the leather “O” rings of the 1930s. After five attempts, I made the missing rear navigation light from a mold. Amazingly, I found original instrument panel lights on a shelf in Spartan’s hangar. The missing data plate was replaced with a reproduction. The infamous Spartan head and other decals were reproduced based on a picture of the C-3 in a 1930’s advertisement. The C-3 was indeed a complex and time consuming project. It took approximately 3,600 hours to complete. However, through hard work, dedication and prayer the Spartan C-3 took back to the skies for its maiden flight on January 29, 2011. I thoroughly enjoyed restoring her to the original beauty and I hope she continues to fly and entertain people for years to come.

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Aircraft Quality, Nifty Interiors

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The Spartan News, published during the War years, documented the contributions of women pilots during that time, and the openness with which Spartan accepted them as equal partners in the war effort.

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The British Are Coming! (1941-1945)
“Captain Maxwell Balfour, his piercing black eyes scanning the motley crew, gave them their first official greeting in the U.S. ‘Welcome to Tulsa.’, he said, ‘Climb on that bus and we’ll take you to breakfast’. The British had come to Spartan.”
“One of five flying cadet schools to be operated in the United States for the training of British civilian pilots will be opened in Miami July 19 under direction of the Spartan school of Aeronautics, it was announced at Tulsa Tuesday by Capt. Maxwell Balfour, director of the school. “The school will be one of three operated by Spartan, the nation’s largest trainer of civilian pilots, in the state of Oklahoma. The other schools are at Tulsa and Muskogee.”
Taken from The Spartan Story, an article in the June 19, 1941 edition of the Afton American announces the British cadets coming to America.

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Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology.
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Our Locations:
8820 East Pine Street
Tulsa
OK
 
74115

123 Cessna Drive
,
Tulsa
,
OK
 
74132
 
8911 Aviation Boulevard
Inglewood
CA
 
90301
 
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,
Riverside
,
CA
 
92509
10851 W 120th Ave
,
Broomfield
,
CO
 
80021

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