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Claude Gray and Bob Conover, two Western Airlines pilots, spent many of their “between flights” hours building a Smith Miniplane during the late 1950s. The Miniplane first flew in the fall of 1960 and remained in use until the summer of 1985.

The airplane was built exactly as Frank Smith designed it with a few modifications, the most noticeable of which is the conventional fabric covered “V” strut landing gear in place of Smith’s unorthodox gear set-up. Claude and Bob went all out on the use of fiberglass, using it for wheel pants, engine cowl, headrest, and small detail parts like aileron push-pull rod covers. The Miniplane was deluxe all the way, sporting tuck and roll upholstery and a gleaming hand rubbed red and black finish with gold trim. The airplane was initially powered by a 65 hp Continental engine, but later was replaced with a Lycoming O-290G.

Claude flew the Miniplane to Rockford for the fly-in in 1961, 1962, and 1964. The Rockford fly-in in 1964 was the last time the airplane was east of the Rocky Mountains until it made the trip to EAA Headquarters. As time went on, Claude became increasingly involved in other areas of sport aviation and sold his share of the Miniplane to Bob Conover. Bob continued to take the Miniplane to fly-ins up and down the West Coast where he won many awards for the little airplane.

In 1985, Bob decided to donate the Miniplane to EAA. Fred Griffith, an experienced Miniplane pilot who was inspired by Claude and Bob’s airplane in the 1960s, flew the Miniplane over the Rocky Mountains to Wisconsin. When the Miniplane landed in Oshkosh, it had flown a total of 689.23 hours in its illustrious 26 year career.

The Smith/Conover-Gray Miniplane was donated to the EAA AirVenture Museum by Bob Conover in 1985.

Smith/Conover-Gray Miniplane Smith/Conover-Gray Miniplane

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