Robin Beeler described her father’s Boeing P-12E 3/4-scale replica as being like another family member.
Robin’s connection to her father’s homebuilt Army pursuit biplane replica began when he started building the airplane in the 1960s in the family garage. He completed the project 13 years later and flew the plane for the first time in April 1982.
“I have three brothers, so there’s four of us and really that plane is like a fifth sibling,” Robin said. “When we’d go to parties, Dad would pull pictures of his plane out of his wallet. We grew up with it in the garage and at one point, the upper wing was in our living room.”
Joining EAA in the 1960s following service in the Air Force as a fighter pilot and instructor during the Korean War, Robin’s father, Andrew Reid, purchased plans for a Smith miniplane and modified them to look like a 1930 Boeing P-12E, a fighter he remembered from his youth. Featuring fiberglass skins attached to aluminum stringers on a steel tube fuselage structure, wooden wings with fabric covering, and powered by a 165-hp Warner radial with an F-220 Aeromatic propeller, the Reid Boeing P-12E 3/4-scale replica flew for a number of years and traveled to Oshkosh from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in 1989.
When Andrew died in 2004, Robin and her three brothers decided to loan the aircraft to the Tennessee Museum of Aviation in Sevierville where it remained until earlier this fall. With the Tennessee Museum of Aviation filling up and changing its exhibits, the family was asked to consider donating the airplane to the museum, where it would be suspended from the ceiling, or to take possession of the P-12 and find it a new home. Robin and her brothers chose the latter.
That’s when EAA Chapter 17’s involvement began. After EAA agreed to take the plane to showcase in the EAA Aviation Museum on a five-year loan, it needed to be disassembled for transportation to Oshkosh.
On a weekend in early November, eight volunteers from Chapter 17 out of Knoxville traveled to Sevierville and began the process of disassembling the P-12E replica. Led by chapter president George Douglas, EAA 650843, the crew removed the wings as well as the horizontal stabilizer and helped tie the parts down in the moving truck — an all-day process.
“I got ahold of George and he just jumped right in,” Robin said of Chapter 17’s assistance. “He pulled out an A&P mechanic and a few other people with experience to come and help. … There were six of them for six hours and they treated it like it was their own. It was amazing.”
Without Chapter 17’s help that weekend, the disassembly and move would have been nearly impossible, but George and the rest of the volunteers were simply happy to assist.
“I was just trying to help her,” George said. “We took a lot of burden off her, just trying to get it done. She was grateful.”
With her father being a longtime EAA member and someone who was actively involved in the local homebuilding community, Robin is sure he would have been elated about his airplane receiving a place in the EAA Aviation Museum.
“It’s the highlight of this year, if not the highlight of many years,” Robin said. “It’s been a tough four months trying to find the right home. We were really concerned that people would get it and cannibalize — take it for the engine or the prop. For us, the beauty is in the build because that’s what my father spent all his time doing. … I think he’d be pretty proud. That was the one way I could get my brothers to agree (where the airplane should go). With four family members, it can be kind of tricky for who wants to do what. When they heard it was for Oshkosh, all of them were 100 percent in.”