On the spectrum of popularity, various aircraft types ebb and flow from decade to decade, and the most sought-after models become easy to spot. Cessna 170s and Carbon Cubs are currently among the most desirable types, and while their popularity and reputation are not necessarily undeserved, the resulting prices often stretch out of reach for many.
Less obvious are the underappreciated and undervalued airplanes that hide in the less-traveled corners of classified listings, and one that presently seems to be lurking there is the Stinson 108. The 108 is a four-place, steel-tube-and-fabric 1940s-era taildragger powered by a variety of engines. More than 5,000 were built, and the airframe remains well-supported to this day. We examine here its strengths and weaknesses, as well as explore how the 108 ranks as an approachable aircraft.
The 108 was first offered in 1946, and a total of 5,261 production aircraft were built through July 1948. Four primary subtypes were available: the 108 (or “straight 108”), 108-1, 108-2 and 108-3.
The “straight 108” was the initial model. It came equipped with a 150 hp Franklin engine and a gross weight of 2,150 pounds. The 108-1 saw an increase in gross weight to 2,230 pounds. The 108-2 came equipped with a 165 hp Franklin engine and bungee-based rudder trim.
The 108-3 was the first model that differed visually. The tail was increased in size and stood a foot taller than the preceding models. Unfortunately, the rudder itself was only slightly enlarged, and many pilots complain that the 108-3 is more difficult to handle in crosswinds and while taxiing in windy conditions. Rudder trim was provided via a trim tab, and the gross weight grew to 2,400 pounds.
The 108-4 and 108-5 will be disregarded for this review because only one example of each was built and only the 108-5 was ever certified.
Two trim levels were offered. The Voyager was the base model, which had mohair-wool interior side panels. The “Flying Station Wagon” came with wood interior panels that resembled the “woody” cars of the era and added a structurally reinforced rear floor that raised the weight capacity from 350 to 600 pounds. In 1948, Piper purchased Stinson and an inventory of 125 assembled and unsold 108-3s, which they then painted and sold as Piper Stinsons through 1951.
It has been said that every Bellanca Viking costs $150,000. The implication is that you’ll spend that amount in one of two ways: either in the form of repairs, making an inexpensive example safe and airworthy, or in the form of purchasing a pristine model in the first place. To a certain degree, the same logic can be applied to the Stinson 108.
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