Peter M. Bowers
Born(1918-05-15)May 15, 1918
DiedApril 27, 2003(2003-04-27) (aged 84)
Alma materBoeing School of Aeronautics
Known foraviation journalist, author, historian, engineer
Height6 ft 2 in (188 cm)[1]
Bowers's amateur-built airplane design, the Fly Baby
A Bowers Bi-Baby, this is the Fly Baby with the optional upper wing installed.

Peter M. Bowers (May 15, 1918 – April 27, 2003) was an aeronautical engineer, airplane designer, and a journalist and historian specializing in the field of aviation.[2][1][3]

An engineer for planemaker Boeing for over 35 years,[4] Bowers is famed in the aviation community for his role as a military and general aviation historian and writer, and designer of the popular Bowers Fly Baby homebuilt aircraft design.[2][3]

Personal and early life

Bowers lived in Seattle, Washington, for most of his life.[5]

Bowers's first ride in an aircraft was in 1928, at the age of 10. He began intensively designing and building aircraft models, which led to requests for plans and articles about them from editors of model airplane magazines—his first article appearing in 1938 in Air Trails.[2][6]

Bowers took a course in aeronautical engineering at the Boeing School of Aeronautics in Seattle, then enrolled as an Engineering Cadet in the Army Air Corps.[6] During World War II, and after, Bowers spent five years in the U.S. Army Air Forces as a maintenance and intelligence officer,[5][6] before his discharge in 1947.[6]

Aeronautical career

Following his 1947 discharge from the military, Bowers went to work for The Boeing Company in Seattle, eventually becoming an aeronautical and research engineer for the company, and remained with the company for 36 years.[6][4][7]

Bowers learned to fly in 1948, and by 1962 had reportedly logged over 3,000 hours of flight time, mostly in sailplanes, homebuilt aircraft, antique aircraft, and "other romantic types"—becoming "an internationally-known consultant on aviation history and sport flying."[6]

Bowers's designing and building of model aircraft evolved into developing actual, full-size aircraft.

In 1961, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first trans-continental flight, Bowers crafted a reproduction of the Wright Brothers' Vin Fiz Flyer (first plane to fly across the U.S.). The plane was built to airworthy standards, and flown as a towed glider, before becoming a display in the San Diego Air and Space Museum.[8]

Starting in the 1950s, and culminating in 1962, Bowers designed a noted homebuilt aircraft, the Bowers Fly Baby (winner of the 1962 Design Contest of the Experimental Aircraft Association—one of the most successful homebuilt designs, eventually built by over 500 homebuilders)[6][7][9]

Bowers also designed and built the Namu II, and also completed and flew a Detroit G1 Gull primary glider.[10][11]

Under its Fly Baby entry, Jane's All The World's Aircraft, 1964–1965, says of Bowers:

Mr. Peter Bowers, an aeronautical engineer with Boeing in Seattle, is a principal source of detailed information on vintage aircraft in the United States, and has provided much of the data for a number of replicas of 1914-18 War aircraft now under construction or flying. He is currently engaged on a redesign of the Fokker D.VIII monoplane of 1918 in association with Herr Rheinhold Platz, the original designer, with a view to starting a replica building program.

A full-scale Fokker Triplane replica of this period has been under construction by Mr. Bowers for nearly five years. At least six others are known to be under construction from plans that he has provided.

Another aircraft built by Mr. Bowers is a full-scale replica of the Wright Model EX of 1911, the first aeroplane to cross the American continent. This machine was tested as a towed sailplane in the Autumn of 1961 and is to be powered by a converted "B" Ford automobile engine from a 1938 Funk monoplane.

In addition to this work on replicas, Mr. Bowers has designed and built a single-seat light aircraft known as the Fly Baby...

Bowers was the founding president of the EAA's Chapter 26, in the Seattle area.[1]

Aviation media career

One of the principal U.S. aviation historians of the 20th Century,[2][12][13] Bowers wrote or co-authored over 40 aviation books, and several hundred magazine and journal articles. His first articles, about his model airplane designs, appeared in Air Trails magazine in 1938.[2][6] By the time his plans for his full-sized airplane, the Fly Baby, began appearing in the EAA magazine Sport Aviation, in 1963,[9] he had already published his first books about aircraft.

Bowers was an avid aviation photographer—particularly noted for photography of historic aircraft—accumulating over 25,000 negatives in his collection by 1962. The photos further supported his publications.[6] The collection became known as one of the largest such collections in the nation, and is now in the archives of the Museum of Flight in Seattle.[2] Bowers wrote a text on the subject, A Complete Guide to Aviation Photography (TAB Books, 1980), which was reprinted in several subsequent editions.

In the 1960s, Bowers was among a small handful of writers chronicling U.S. military aviation.[13] He served as a contributing editor for Sentry Publications' twin magazine titles Wings and Airpower, drawing on the lifetime of aviation photographs of his own, and of a vast archive collected through his employment at Boeing.[citation needed]

Bowers was a member of the first board of directors of the American Aviation Historical Society[14] (AAHS), and a principal contributor to the AAHS Journal from its first issue in 1956 until the late 1960s.[15][16][17]

Starting in 1972, Bowers wrote over 800 articles detailing historic aircraft for a column in General Aviation News called "Of Wings and Things." Bowers was a fixture of the newspaper for decades, until his death in 2003.[citation needed]

Awards and recognition


Bowers died in 2003[12] from cancer.


During his career, Bowers authored or co-authored over 40 books on aviation subjects, and over 800 magazine and journal articles. This is a partial list.

Magazines & Journals


Bowers authored or co-authored over 40 aviation books, including a dozen about aircraft of Boeing (or about aircraft of companies that Boeing acquired).

Aviation generally

Aircraft generally

Civilian aircraft

Military aircraft

  • Aircraft Profile No. 14: The Boeing P-26A, 1965
  • Aircraft Profile No. 37: The Curtiss JN-4, 1965
  • Aircraft Profile No. 45: The Curtiss Army Hawks, 1965
  • Aircraft Profile No. 2: The Boeing P-12E, 1966
  • Aircraft Profile No. 79: The Nieuport N.28C-I, 1966
  • Aircraft Profile No. 80: The Curtiss Hawk 75, 1966
  • Aircraft Profile No. 83: The Boeing B-47, 1966
  • Aircraft Profile No. 97: The American DH4, 1966
  • Aircraft Profile No. 116: The Curtiss Navy Hawks, 1966
  • Aircraft Profile No. 245: Boeing B-52A/H Stratofortress, ASIN: B0007BNZS6, 1972


  1. ^ a b c d Spangler, Scott: "Classic Caretaker: As the Fly Baby celebrated its 50th birthday, one builder preserved his affordable flier." December 12, 2012, Kitplanes, retrieved July 8, 2022
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Bowers Fly Baby 1A", Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington, retrieved June 7, 2022
  3. ^ a b "History of the Fly Baby,", The Hangar Flight Museum, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, retrieved July 8, 2022
  4. ^ a b "Over 10,000 Attend 20th Annual Conference and Trade Show," April 1, 2003 Airport Journals, retrieved July 10, 2022
  5. ^ a b Skyways: 58. April 2001. ((cite journal)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Antique Plane Guide, Modern Aircraft Series, Sports Car Press, NY, 1962 (back cover bio note)
  7. ^ a b c author bio note in "The Alexander Bullet: Flying too far ahead of its time," July 1981, AOPA Pilot retrieved July 10, 2022
  8. ^ "Vin Fiz Flies in the Museum's Rotunda," San Diego Air & Space Museum, retrieved July 10, 2022
  9. ^ a b c "Bowers Fly Baby Model 1A," Pima Air Museum, Tucson, Arizona, retrieved July 8, 2022
  10. ^ Said, Bob: 1983 Sailplane Directory, Soaring Magazine, page 40. Soaring Society of America November 1983. USPS 499–920
  11. ^ Federal Aviation Administration (May 2011). "Make / Model Inquiry Results". Retrieved May 7, 2011.
  12. ^ a b Goyer, Isabel: "The Bowers Fly Baby: An Underappreciated Classic Homebuilt", June 7, 2022, Plane & Pilot, retrieved July 8, 2022
  13. ^ a b Tegler, Jan: "An Interview With Col. Walter J. Boyne, USAF (Ret.)", June 7, 2012, Defense Media Network, retrieved July 8, 2022
  14. ^ "Introducing The Members," AAHS Journal Vol. 1, No. 1
  15. ^ "AAHS Journal Volume 1 (1956) Table of Contents", APT Collectibles (affiliate of AAHS), retrieved April 31, 2021
  16. ^ "AAHS Journal Volume 2 (1957) Table of Contents", APT Collectables (affiliate of AAHS), retrieved April 31, 2021
  17. ^ "AAHS Journal Volume 11 (1966) Table of Contents", APT Collectables (affiliate of AAHS), retrieved April 31, 2021
  18. ^ a b "Call-Up For Recognition," November 1968, EAA Sport Aviation, pp.48-49 retrieved July 10, 2022
  19. ^ a b c d ["Building a Great Air and Space Library,"] March 2002, Air and Space Magazine, retrieved July 10, 2022
  20. ^ Handleman, Philip: "Aviation History Book Review: An American Adventure", August 22, 2017,, retrieved July 10, 2022
  21. ^ Table of Contents, Air Classics, February 2018
  22. ^ a b Johnsen, Frederick: "Of Wings & Things returns," March 13, 2017, General Aviation News retrieved July 10, 2022
  23. ^ Hallion, Richard P: book review, listed "Reviewed Works: Curtiss Aircraft, 1907-1947 by Peter M. Bowers; McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920 by René J. Francillon,", Technology and Culture, Vol. 23, No. 1 (January, 1982), pp. 133-136, The Johns Hopkins University Press,, as listed at JStor, retrieved July 10, 2022]