The path to Bill Charney’s global adventure, flying Around the World in a Staggerwing in Search of the Perfect Blueberry Muffin, began when he was in high school. Actually, it began in 1940 when he first saw a staggerwing at a US air show.Â In that moment it became his life-long dream to own a staggerwing.
As a teenager in high school, Bill began working at a local airfield washing planes to save enough money to get his pilot license. He never managed to get enough money to get his license but his dreams would be realized through a different path.
Bills flying dreams came through his entry in the National Guard. After joining the guard, he was soon on his way to being trained by the US Air Force.
Upon completing his training, Bill began flying the photo-reconnaissance version of the Martin B-57 (Canberra) for the National Guard. A university student at the time, Bill also become an airline pilot for United Airlines.
Bill went on to experience time in Viet Nam as an active front line combat pilot; he completed 200 combat missions. He 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. On the sidewall in the rear cabin in his D17S Staggerwing is a brass plaque in memory of one such comrade who did not make it home, Major Sherman E. Flanagan, Jr., USAF, 21 Jul 68 SVN.
When the war was over, Bill returned to his civilian life as a successful airline pilot with United Airlines.
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.
The aircraft was fully airworthy and still had many good hours left on the engine but Bill eventually wanted to do more.Â After eight happy years in the sky, Bill’s prized Staggerwing was ready for a complete rebuild and restoration.
While visiting New Zealand, BillÂ metÂ Colin Smith from theÂ Croydon Aircraft Company at Mandeville, experts in Vintage aircraft restoration.Â And so it began. The restoration of Bill’s beloved staggerwing began; the restoration took over three years.
From the moment the aircraft left the hangar after restoration, it was perfectly rigged and flew straight as an arrow. Every aspect of the restoration was superb. Bill was over the moon with the results.
Bill’s staggerwing, the Red Rocketteâ€”named in honour of one of his daughters who became one of the famed New York “Rockettes” dance troupeâ€”was now ready and raring to go. His “new” Staggerwing was in perfect condition and his round-the-world adventure lay just ahead.
The journey began last year in New Zealand.
Today, Captain Biff continues his journey in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.