around the world in a stagger wing

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Captain Biff Windsock, Around the World in a Staggerwing
Captain Biff Windsock

Courtesy of Thailand Aviation

About Captain Biff Windsock

Bill Charney, Captain Biff Windsock, is a true American aviator who has followed his boyhood dream by living his passion for aviation throughout his life. This deep love of flying has prepared him for his latest adventure—Around the World in a Staggerwing.

In 1940, when Bill first saw and fell in love with the Staggerwing at a US air show. It was the start of his life-long dream to one day own a Staggerwing.

The path to Bill Charney's global adventure, began as a teenager in high school. Bill wanted a pilot license so he began by working at a local airfield washing planes. As hard as he worked, he never managed to get enough money to get his license.

Realizing his flying dreams came through his entry in the National Guard. After joining the guard, Bill learned that the Air National Guard was in need of pilots; he was soon on his way to being trained by the US Air Force.

around the world in a staggerwing
Captain Biff in his beloved Red Rockette
"I had the most marvelous pilot training experience anyone could have. I was a civilian, lent to the Air Force to be trained to fly as a military pilot."
   —Captain Biff Windsock

Upon completing his training, Bill returned to his Air National Guard unit and began flying the photo-reconnaissance version of the Martin B-57 (Canberra). A university student at the time, Bill had also become an airline pilot for United Airlines, flying DC-6's and DC-7's.

Before long, Bill obtained a transfer to a ANG unit nearer his home. Bill's new unit was a fighter unit and flew Republic F-84F Thunderstreaks. After only about 300 hours in the B-57, Bill found himself in the cockpit of a jet fighter.

Bill and his colleagues in the ANG unit were never sent to fighter school; they were trained by ex-WWII fighter pilots in the unit. It was an experience with memories that Bill will treasure forever.

Bill would often fly in the evenings as well as most weekends, about 700 hours in the F-84, in addition to his full-time job as an airline pilot.

In 1961, the young Bill Charney was called up to active duty in response to the Berlin Crisis. Thankfully, the Berlin Crisis did not eventuate and he was soon able to return to normal life as a reservist.

It was as an F-100 pilot that Bill was once again called upon to pay his flight training debt to his country during the Vietnam War (1968-1969). Bill became an active front line combat pilot. He went on to complete 200 combat missions in Vietnam.
Major Sherman E. Flanagan, Jr., USAF, 21 Jul 68 SVN
Bill is reluctant to talk about his time in Vietnam. He was one of the lucky ones to survive a full tour, the same was not true for all of his friends; there is a brass plaque on the sidewall in the rear cabin in his D17S Staggerwing in memory of one such comrade who did not make it home, Major Sherman E. Flanagan, Jr., USAF, 21 Jul 68 SVN.

Nonetheless, Bill does joke about how he managed to survive unscathed; he says he always flew as fast as possible, fast enough to outrun the bad guys so he wouldn't be shot down.

When the war was over, Bill returned to his civilian life as an airline pilot and a successful career with United Airlines.

In 1994, fifty-four years after Bill first laid eyes on a Beechcraft Staggerwing, he was finally in a position to buy the N16S from an Arizona owner. While the aircraft was in good condition and had substantial work done to it, Bill knew he eventually wanted to do more.

The aircraft was fully airworthy and still had many good hours left on the engine. Bill spent the next eight years getting to know his aeroplane by keeping it in the sky as much as possible.

After eight happy years in the sky, Bill's prized Staggerwing was truly ready for a complete rebuild and restoration. At the same time as the Staggerwing was ready for restoration, Bill was visiting New Zealand.

It wasn't long before Bill established a "squadron of friends" in New Zealand. It is also where he first met Colin Smith from the Croydon Aircraft Company at Mandeville, experts in Vintage aircraft restoration. It was a matter of destiny as far as Bill was concerned.

And so it began. The restoration took over three years. Bill was over the moon with the results.

From the moment the aircraft left the hangar after restoration, it needed nothing else done. It was perfectly rigged and flew straight as an arrow. Every aspect of the restoration was superb.

Bill's staggerwing, the Red Rockette—named in honour of one of his daughters who became one of the famed New York "Rockettes" dance troupe—was now ready and raring to go. His "new" Staggerwing was in perfect condition and his round-the-world adventure lay just ahead.

And so the journey began . . . April 2009.

Keep up with Captain Biff's journey on the 'Journaling the Journey' page.

Copyright © William M. Charney. All rights reserved.