Plane & Pilot
Saturday, October 1, 2005

Navion Speedster

North American’s final triumph for general aviation

Buchanan has restoration in his blood. He has been involved in the P-38 Glacier Girl project since the beginning. After 12 years, they successfully restored the fighter, which had been frozen in the ice of Greenland since World War II. "We're trying to convince the owner to complete Glacier Girl's mission, to fly the P-38 to Europe. The chase plane would be a King Air, but if it happens, I would fly ahead of the P-38 in my L-17. We would try to go to the Paris Air Show or Farnborough show. I can't describe how much fun I've had on the project."

Working on and flying airplanes is so much fun that Buchanan built a grass runway on his land outside Clayton so he could be closer to his next project. Never one to do things in a small way, Buchanan now owns five Navions. Two are flying, two will be projects and the other will supply parts. "I found the one-of-a-kind Navion Model 72. This airplane had three lives, and I'm going to bring it back from the grave," he enthuses.

The Model 72 began life as an experimental hack for the Ryan factory in 1949. It was modified into a two-place aircraft with a heavy-duty wing spar and stringers for the Navy primary trainer contract in the early '50s. The Beechcraft T-34 won the contract. The Model 72 was the only Navion with adjustable rudder pedals and sticks instead of yokes.

Buchanan explains, "I found the airplane, and it had been modified back to a four-place. The owner had all the original components, and after several hours of negotiations, I hauled a pile of junk back to Georgia."

For Buchanan, life isn't going to get in the way of his dreams again as he forges ahead with all his enthusiasm and drive for the new project. He says, "I want to take the Model 72 back to original. In the year and a half I've researched the airplane, I even found folks that had worked on this airplane. I got brand-new manuals, brochures and everything for the airplane. I'm ready to start! I'm still having fun, and this is the greatest thing I've ever done!"

SPECS: 1947 North American Aviation Navion L-17

Labels: Piston Singles


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