Local’s plane restoration leads to world-class honor

PHOTO SUBMITTED / Paul Barnett recently received an award for the restoration of his Globe Swift at the AirVenture Oshkosh.

PHOTO SUBMITTED / Paul Barnett recently received an award for the restoration of his Globe Swift at the AirVenture Oshkosh.

Local aircraft enthusiasts, Paul and Jennifer Barnett, of Brookhaven, had the honor of seeing their Globe Swift model airplane awarded the “Silver Lindy” at the 2014 AirVenture Oshkosh. The convention is the largest air show in the world, and, out of around 4,000 other planes, the Barnett’s Globe Swift received Reserve Grand Champion in the plane’s division.

The award is the result of the dedication of Barnett and his friend Scott Anderson, who specializes in Globe Swifts, to restoring the plane to prime flying condition over the course of the past four years. However, for Barnett, the accomplishment has been a longtime dream of his since a very tender age.

Barnett’s fascination with planes began when he was five years old when he saw a Swift in an aircraft hanger and fell in love.

“Once you’re a Swifter, you’re always a Swifter,” said Barnett.

The love of planes and pilots stemmed from his father who was a pilot and doctor in the military. His very first plane ride was when he was three weeks old. Barnett trained in Brookhaven to be a pilot as soon as he was old enough to and had his first solo flight on his 16th birthday.

The Swift was in production starting in 1940 until 1951 and was catered towards military men who wanted to purchase a plane for personal use. Since the Swift was originally modeled after a Culver Cadet, a small plane used by the U.S. Army Air Corps and U.S. Navy, the plane closely resembled aircraft they might have operated before. After the war boom came to an end and the market for the private planes waned, the Globe Aircraft Corporation, who had partnered with the Texas Engineering and Manufacturing Company to mass-produce the Swift models, went under as a result of the suffering economy.

Barnett found his plane in Canada and drove over 1,500 miles to pick it up. When he arrived, the plane was in a hangar made up of scrap lumber, covered in Visqueen and disassembled. The former owner sold the plane under a promise from Barnett himself that the plane would be restored to the original grandeur it once possessed with no exceptions. After the plane was back across the United States border with a little difficulty, it was driven to Anderson in Athens, Tennessee.

After years of rusting under a plastic tarp and being inhabited by various animals, the plane had almost been completely rusted out and had rotted from the inside out. Anderson looked at the plane and told Barnett he could not restore it, but when Barnett was nearing the interstate, he got a call from Anderson.

“Did you mean what you said about restoring the plane completely original?” Anderson asked.

Barnett responded, “Absolutely.”

“Then I’m in,” said Anderson.

Barnett said that was the last thing Anderson had a chance to say on the phone. He hung up before he could change his mind and turned back for Anderson’s shop.

Anderson began restoration on the plane. The aircraft had to be completely re-skinned due to corrosion and at one point Anderson explained to Barnett he might not be able to finish the project. But when Barnett was growing up, his mother taught him a proverb that would aid him in achieving his dream one day: “When a task is once begun, never leave it until it’s done. Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all.”

Barnett’s mother could not have known how much her son would take it to heart, but he shows his virtue in hard work and dedication through the classic airplane restoration of the Globe Swift.

The plane was completed not long before the Oshkosh air show, and Barnett flew his Swift to Wisconsin. The task was completed with even the correct model number on the tail.

“Our goal was to get the Swift ready to fly, not to compete,” said Barnett.

Barnett said the judges at the air show were quite impressed with the project, but he did not expect to place high at his first convention.

“I’m just an individual with a love for airplanes,” said Barnett.

Barnett stated he will be at the 2015 Oshkosh AirVenture as well, and he is also restoring a TEMCO Buckaroo plane, a variation on the Swift, he hopes will be ready for the next convention.

A photo gallery of the restoration progress is available at http://n4pb.com/?page_id=116