aircraft database
certified aircraft database

history and gallery
SR-10 Reliant

Station Wagon 108-3
L 5 Sentinel
Model 105 Voyager
L-5 Sentinel flight test report


Stinson Aircraft Corporation aircraft history, performance and specifications

The Stinson SR-10F Reliant was one of a series of powerful cabin airplanes outfitted as executive and business aircraft or as sturdy utility aircraft and airliners.
The SR-10 series was produced until the beginning of World War II.

The Stinson Aircraft Company was founded in Dayton, Ohio, in 1920 by aviator Edward “Eddie” Stinson—nine years after he learned to fly with the Wright Brothers. In 1925 Stinson would make Detroit, Michigan, the base of operations for his company. Over the next three decades, more than 13,000 aircraft would carry the Stinson brand.

Born in 1894 in Ft. Payne, Alabama, Eddie Stinson left school at age 16 and set out for St. Louis, Missouri, with a mission—to pilot an untested aircraft being built by a pair of men he did not know. Bursting with youthful bravado, Stinson convinced the fledgling aircraft builders that they lacked any practical flight experience and persuaded them to hire him as their pilot—conveniently forgetting to mention that he had never even seen an airplane before, much less flown one.

The flight test program was unremarkable. With Eddie Stinson at the controls, the kite-like aircraft briefly wobbled skyward from a farm pasture in a puff of blue smoke; then crashed back to earth, losing a wing in the process. The would-be aircraft builders gave Stinson the mangled aircraft as payment and moved on to other ventures; for Stinson, it was the start of a lifelong vocation.

Realizing that his brief experience as a “test pilot” did not qualify him as an ace flyer, Stinson exchanged his life savings of $500 in 1911 for flight instruction at the Wright Brothers' Dayton flight school. After graduation, Eddie Stinson quickly earned acclaim as a barnstormer, stunt pilot, and record-setting aviator.

Stinson sisters Katherine and Marjorie were also skilled pilots and aviation pioneers in their own right. Katherine sold the family's piano to pay for her flying lessons, becoming in 1912 only the fourth woman in the United States to earn a pilot's license. At age 21 and weighing a diminutive 101 pounds, she became widely known as the “Flying Schoolgirl,” performing in air exhibitions in the United States and overseas and becoming the first woman pilot authorized by the Post Office to fly airmail. Younger sister Marjorie also learned to fly at the Wright School, becoming the ninth and youngest American woman to earn pilot's wings and later, she was also commissioned as an airmail pilot.

Settling in San Antonio, Texas, in 1915, the Stinsons established the Stinson School for Aviation. After the United States' entry into World War I, the Stinson family trained U.S. Army and Canadian pilots at San Antonio's Kelly Field, earning Eddie an Army lieutenant's commission while Marjorie acquired the nickname of “The Flying Schoolmarm.”

In 1920, Eddie Stinson purchased the Dixie Flying Field in Birmingham, Alabama, with the intention of establishing a new flight school but instead, he soon relocated to Dayton where he formed the Stinson Airplane Company that same year. After five years of various business ventures, Stinson decided that Detroit would be the focus for his future flying endeavours.

Stinson found Detroit's business community receptive to his plans. A group of local businessmen—the Detroit Board of Commerce's Aviation Committee—supported Stinson's plans to establish the Stinson Aircraft Syndicate in 1925 at a site southwest of Detroit, where today's Detroit Metropolitan Airport is located, and provided $25,000 to develop a new monoplane.

Stinson SM-1 Detroiter

The six-seat Stinson SM-1 Detroiter made its first flight on January 25, 1926—the first airplane with a heated, soundproof cabin, electric starter, and wheel brakes. Inherently stable in flight, the Detroiter became an overnight success that enabled Stinson to quickly assemble $150,000 in public capital to incorporate the Stinson Aircraft Corporation on May 4, 1926. Always an aviator at heart, Eddie Stinson was still flying as a stunt pilot, earning $100,000 a year for his efforts—a huge sum in those days.

Skyhooking the mail
The Stinson SR-10F Reliant was used for picking up the mail in 1939 by means of a skyhook.

Stinson Aircraft Corporation sold 10 SM-1 Detroiters in 1926, and started refining the basic design. The Stinson SM-2 Junior, a three- or four-seat high-wing cabin monoplane designed for both business and personal flight, soon followed. Business steadily increased, and Stinson delivered 121 aircraft in 1929.

Automobile mogul E.L. Cord acquired 60 percent of Stinson's stock in September 1929, and his Cord Corporation provided additional investment capital to permit Stinson to sell its aircraft at a competitive price while still pursuing new designs. At the height of the Depression in 1930, Stinson offered six aircraft models, ranging from the four-seat Junior to the Stinson 6000 trimotor airliner.

Eddie Stinson did not live to enjoy the success of his company. He died in an air crash in Chicago on January 26, 1932, while on a sales trip. At the time of his death at age 38, Stinson had acquired more than 16,000 hours of flight time—more than any other pilot to date.

Two new Stinson designs—the 1931 Model W and the 1932 Model R-2/3—were powered by Wright or Lycoming radial engines and combined dependable performance with a luxurious cabin. These two models were the ancestors of the most famous of the Stinson line—the Reliant, first introduced in 1933.

From 1933 to 1941, Stinson delivered 1,327 Reliants—ranging from the SR-1 through the SR-10—each variation building upon its predecessor with upgraded engines and design refinements. The Stinson Reliant SR-10, introduced in 1938, was considered the ultimate, featuring leather upholstery, walnut instrument panels, and automobile-style roll-down windows.

The Stinson Reliant was a rugged aircraft built of fabric-covered welded steel-tubing structures with a single strut-braced double-tapered wing, and one of the last of the “taildraggers” (an airplane lacking a nose-wheel so it looked like its tail dragged when taxiing). Powered by a radial engine, the Reliant carried a pilot plus three or four passengers at speeds close to 165 miles per hour (266 kilometres per hour) and could fly about 815 miles (1,312 kilometres) on a tank of fuel. Pilots appreciated the Reliant's durability, safety, and stability in flight, while passengers enjoyed a comfortable ride in an opulent cabin.

The Reliant's high price tag—new models sold for between $10,000 and $18,000—prevented its wide acceptance among private fliers, but corporations and commuter airlines eagerly purchased the plane because of its speed, amenities, and styling. Gulf Oil, Shell Oil, and Pepsi Cola were among the corporations to use Stinson Reliants to ferry their executives and clients around the country, while future military leaders Dwight Eisenhower and Jimmy Doolittle used the airplane as a versatile transport in remote areas such as the Philippines.

Stinson Reliants also played a unique role in the history of the United States Post Office. In 1939, an experimental airmail “sky hook” service was introduced in rural communities that lacked air strips. A container loaded with mail was positioned on the top of a tall pole. A Stinson Reliant swooped down as the flight officer grappled the airmail container with a long hook while incoming airmail was dropped from the plane to a waiting Post Office representative.

Stinson built their first retractable gear airplane, the Stinson model R-3, NC449M, serial number 8600.  This particular view shows the registration without the NC, and it may be this photo was taken prior to type approval.  Few high wing airplanes ever had retractable landing gear, the Stinson R-3 used a mechanical system.  Engine was 240HP Lycoming R-680, Type Certificate 493.  

Another popular Stinson aircraft was the Model 105 Voyager, a three-passenger airplane featuring a strut-braced wing mounted on the top of the fuselage and capable of flying at about 120 miles per hour (193 kilometres per hour). First introduced in 1939, Stinson sold about 530 Voyagers before World War II intervened and the Stinson aircraft line was adapted for an important mission.

The 105 Voyager became the U.S. Army's L-5 Sentinel. It remains one of the most used, and least recognized, U.S. aircraft of the Second World War. Serving as a short field takeoff and landing liaison aircraft, the L-5 Sentinel supported missions such as artillery spotting, medical evacuation, aerial reconnaissance, and passenger transport. Stinson delivered more than 3,590 of the versatile Sentinels between 1942 and 1945 under a variety of designations. A few pre-war Voyagers were commandeered for wartime use and designated the AT-19/L-9.

Stinson L-5 Sentinel
The Stinson L-5 Sentinel was one of many pre-World War II U.S. general aviation aircraft pressed into military service for liaison and observation work during World War II

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps received 458 Sentinels transferred from the Army, designating their models as the OY-1 and OY-2, while two versions went to the British Royal Air Force as the Sentinel Mk. I and Sentinel Mk. II. After the war, most Sentinels were sold for surplus, but a number of aircraft (now designated the U-19) served in the Korean conflict. A few Sentinels remained in active military service until the late 1950s.

The Stinson SR-10 Reliant was also transformed for use in World War II as the UC-81, used by the U.S. Army as a utility aircraft, and the AT-19/V-77, used by the British Royal Navy for a passenger transport, instrument trainer and photo-reconnaissance aircraft.

The Stinson name did not last much past the end of World War II. Eddie Stinson's tragic death accelerated the assimilation of Stinson Aircraft Corporation into larger corporate entities: first by Cord Corporation, then by Aviation Corporation (AVCO), and later by Consolidated Vultee. These corporate reorganizations, however, did not diminish the legacy of Eddie Stinson—a high school dropout whose dreams of flying led to the creation of an aviation trendsetter.