Say hello to the latest family member at Andover Flight Academy. It's a Boeing Stearman, a 1940's-era biplane, the military trainer of the day. And soon this one will be available for joy rides, aerobatics and taildragger instruction, and generally spreading its sweet radial engine song across the valley around Andover Aeroflex Airport (12N).

The thing is, it's got no wings at the moment. But that didn't stop my friend John and the gang over at Andover from pulling the plane out of the hangar and attempting to fire up the engine for the first time since the school took ownership of this project last fall.

And airplane nuts will congregate -- with cameras, no less -- at the thought of seeing an old fussy engine cough, pop and crackle to life, even if it's attached to a fuselage with no wings. And I had to drop off my plane for its annual inspection today, so I had a good excuse to fly over there and join this congregation:

Stearman (Click for larger view)

Stearman Startup (Click for larger view)

That's my friend John catching the loads of oil that leached out of the old radial as Vic turned the prop; this engine has not run in a while and it was filled with oil. Purge as they might, there was still sure to be more left in there, and so Bill had an idea to affix some hose to the exhaust stack to try and catch some of the oil that would otherwise spray all over the side of the plane. The hose didn't last long, as the photo shows, but it did manage to catch about a quart of oil. That's Damian, the plane's owner, with the fire extinguisher; you never know, you know. (Click any of the photos for larger versions.)

With the great weather we had this weekend, the airport was buzzing with activity, and I had a ball spending the afternoon on the ramp with friends and airplanes. It was a preview of what lies in store for me this July when we all go back to Oshkosh for the biggest general aviation event in the universe. Here's hoping that the annual inspection goes well on 93F.