AMERICAN AVIATION HISTORICAL SOCIETY

   1956 - 2017, Celebrating  over 60 Years of Service
[click images for enlargements]
Excerpts from
AAHS Journal, Vol. 52, No. 2 - Summer 2007
Table of Contents 

The Aeronca Story: Birth of the Personal Plane

     Jean Roche (pronounced “row-SHAY”), born in Royan, France, 1894, came to the U.S. three years after the Wright brothers’ first flight, at age 12, settling with his parents in New York City. He spent much of his boyhood experimenting with model aircraft — a growing fad of the times. Active in model-aviation clubs in the New York area, he won awards for his planes, and earned money carving propellers. He spent hours with other model aviators on Long Island, and around the real aviators who frequented the island — like pioneer barnstormer John B. Moisant, and aircraft-designer Gieuseppe Bellanca.
     Young Jean absorbed all the aviation knowledge he could from this hub of experts. His mother tolerated (with varying degrees of displeasure) his cluttering the house with various aircraft subassemblies. In 1910, Jean helped build a stubby-winged clone of the delicate French Demoiselle monoplane. Where do you test-fly a homebuilt airplane in New York City? First time, its owner tried to fly it from home plate at Yankee Stadium. It flew eight inches high for about 10 feet, hitting a ladder before making outfield. But Roche, 16, was arguably now a co-creator of a real man-carrying flying machine. At 17, he even applied for a patent on an aircraft-stabilizing airfoil idea. (Too advanced for its day, it found no takers, but Roche would land a  . . . . 



Aeronca LC


Elephantine but Silent: U.S. Army Cargo Glider Development, Part I 

     The development and production of American cargo gliders for transport of airborne forces and equipment during the Second World War was among the U.S. Army Air Forces’ (USAAF) most turbulent aeronautical undertakings. This was due principally to the pressures getting the gliders fielded rapidly and the uncertainties associated with what was an entirely new concept for the Americans. The initial rush to procure tactical gliders saw contracts placed for 11,814 aircraft in 1941 through 1943, of which about 10,000 were delivered. An interim program in 1944 and final effort in 1945 saw nearly 5,000 additional gliders delivered of 8,150 ordered. In developing the cargo glider, the U.S. Army worked with 16 companies and 22 contracts. It expended $6,200,000 through October 31, 1944, and more beyond. Ten contracts were cancelled, all but two because of poor contractor performance. While the glider program succeeded in equipping the service to deliver airborne forces directly into combat, these were almost exclusively with the Waco CG-4A aircraft. The many other gliders that were developed, partially or completely, have been little reported.

     Observing early German successes with assault gliders, General ‘Hap’ Arnold, Chief of the U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAF after June 20, 1941) kicked-off a crash program to acquire a glider corps for the Army’s airborne forces. Within months, he set repeatedly high goals for number of aircraft and pilots that sent his staff scrambling in Washington, D.C., and that of Air Materiel Command (AMC) at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. There was by no means unanimous agreement with this course of action. As with any military innovation, even in the progressive aeronautical field, there were inertia and bias to overcome. Many career officers felt the enterprise a waste of resources on a wrong-headed concept.
     At the forefront of the development work was Maj. (soon Lt. Col.) Fred R. Dent, Jr. who led the effort in Dayton through its formative period with oversight of the newly formed Glider Branch within the Aircraft Laboratory, Experimental Engineering Section. Flight testing was initially undertaken at Wright Field until congestion compelled establishment of Clinton County Army Air Field (CCAAF)  . . . . . .



XCG-7 Cargo Glider


Emil Strasser Photographs - 1932 National Air Races

     It is time for another trip down the runway of memories. This time it is to Cleveland, Ohio, in the year 1932. The National Air Races (NAR) were flown from August 27 to September 5. The Thompson Trophy Race was held on the last day of the show. The Bendix Trophy Race from Burbank, Calif., to Cleveland was another major attraction of the National Air Races. We hope you will enjoy the 75-year trip.



Granville Bros. Gee-Bee Y
"Senior Sportster"


Newark International Airport: From Marsh to International Gateway

     When Newark International Airport was built, it was a humble airport; the first in metropolitan New York. Time would provide the airport with competition and numerous periods of uncertainty. Ultimately, however, consistent growth, aided by two major expansions following its creation, would transform a marsh located outside New York City into a major international gateway.
     In 1927, the City of Newark made public its intention to build an airport by the Port of Newark. In little time, the airport would prove extremely successful, becoming the world’s busiest airport. Competing neighboring airports and revolutionary advancements in aviation would lead Newark Airport to a massive expansion in the 1970s. Although setbacks greatly disrupted the expansion, time brought success to the airport, prompting a second overhaul at the end of the 1990s. True to the dream of the visionaries who designed the airport, Newark Airport became, with these expansions, a gateway to the world.

Where railways, waterways, airways and highways meet

     Preliminary plans to provide for a $6,000,000 commercial airport which would be constructed, owned, and operated by Newark at Port Newark, were announced [August 3, 1927] by Newark [Mayor] Thomas L. Raymond.”  When the plan to build Newark Metropolitan Airport was made, it provided for ample opportunities and ease of use. The initial statement by the mayor noted that “…the airport site would be twenty-two minutes from Broadway and Canal Street when the vehicular tunnel under the Hudson River (the Holland Tunnel) is opened and the new State Highway Route 1 is completed…” The mayor also announced that, pending approval of his plan, the airport was to be completed by the spring 1928. It is also important to note that the airport was designed “exclusively for commercial purposes,” meaning there were no intentions of having any portion of the airport dedicated to military aviation.
     Although initial plans called for a spring 1928, completion of the airport, construction quickly fell behind the deadline. By mid-February 1928, the idea of completion by spring had been disregarded, and a new goal, to have the first unit of the airport completed by the beginning of August, was announced. However, this time frame was presented purely for financial reasons. Much of the metropolitan region’s airmail was being sent a few miles away from . . . .



Eastern Lockheed Constellation at Newark International Airport


The CAF Arizona Wing’s B-17G “Sentimental Journey”

     In the “Aircraft Photos by Emil Strasser, Part IX” which appeared in the Spring 2006 issue of the AAHS Journal there was a photo taken in 1975 of a B-17G, N9323Z, (44-83514) belonging to Aero Union in Chico, Calif. It was a surprise to see picture taken nine years before it became part of an organization that maintains and flies it to this day. This is the story of that aircraft.
     A few years after that photo was taken, 44-83514 became part of the warbird collection of the Confederate Air Force (now the Commemorative Air Force, CAF). It was assigned to the CAF’s Arizona Wing and became the cornerstone of that Wing. The CAF Arizona Wing fully restored the plane back into its World War II configuration, and it now flies and tours the country as a WWII memorial and flying museum under the name “Sentimental Journey.
     ”Our story begins the day his airplane rolled off the assembly line.
      During WWII, three aircraft companies built the B-17: Boeing, Douglas and Vega, a subsidiary of Lockheed. 44-83514 (which later became “Sentimental Journey”) was built under contract by Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach, Calif. It came off the assembly line in late 1944 and was accepted by the U.S. Army Air Forces on March 27, 1945. 
     Some of its early military history is obscure since portions of those early records are missing. But after coming off the assembly line, it is likely that it was flown to a modification center in Tulsa, Okla., then possibly into short-term storage at Patterson Field, Ohio, where many other B-17s in that production block ended up. It was then flown to Japan and placed in storage at Tachikawa Air Base. Records then show that in 1947 it was taken out of storage and assigned to the 5th Reconnaissance Group at Clark Field, Philippines, as a RB-17G where it saw service as a photo mapping plane. For nearly the next three years it flew photo mapping missions in the Pacific, then returned to the United States for a brief stay at Travis AFB, Calif. 
     In May 1950 it went to the Middletown Air Deport at Olmsted AFB, Penn., where it was converted into a DB-17G. It was then assigned to the 3250th Drone Group at Eglin AFB, Fla., where it performed drone duties as well as air-sea rescue duties. 
     In 1951, the plane participated in “Operation Greenhouse,” the fourth postwar atmospheric nuclear weapon test series conducted by the United States. The plane was used as a mother ship which flew radio controlled unmanned B-17 drone aircraft through radioactive clouds to measure blast and thermal effects and to collect radioactive cloud samples. In November 1956 it returned to Olmsted AFB for conversion into a DB-17P where upon it was assigned to the 3215th Drone Squadron at the Air Force Missile Test Center at Patrick  . . .



Sentimental Journal nose art


 The Bourdon/Viking Kitty Hawk & Viking (Schreck) Flying Boat Story

     As with many historical studies, and after years of collecting, by the time this writer was ready to put it all on paper, the key people in the original story were long gone, and in many cases it has been difficult to find, make contact, and interview their survivors. When any type of contact was made, there was no guarantee that historically significant photos or other documentation would be found, if in fact any such material did survive and does in fact exist.
     When I recently took on this study again, to do a final writing on the subject, questions arose that I did not think of many years ago when I was in contact with the people who were involved with Bourdon and Viking. Now after intense and painstaking research I realize that some of these questions may never be addressed or answered. I am therefore hoping that somewhere out there in the AAHS community, the answers to some of these questions will be found.
     This is a first attempt at telling the story of Bourdon and Viking, so one has to begin somewhere. We will start with some background details on some of the people involved during the early stages of development.

SETTING

     This story begins in Rhode Island. The state capital, Providence, is the second largest city in New England and was founded by Roger Williams. The city lies at the head of Narragansett Bay, about 40 miles southwest of Boston, Mass.
     Providence was founded in 1636, and became the capital in 1900.

LOCAL AIRPORTS IN 1928

     On the north shore of Greenwich Bay, in Warwick near Nausauket, there was a flying field known as Pothier Field, at the summer community of Buttonwoods, about eight miles south of the city of Providence. It is a small community of beach cottages, small year-round homes mixed in with a few larger well-maintained residences.
     Pothier was named after former Governor of Rhode Island, Aram J. Pothier, and had one hangar in 1928, as seen in photographs, showing a Bourdon Kitty Hawk sport biplane there at that time.
     About seven miles northeast of Providence, in the town of Pawtucket, on Newport Avenue, was What Cheer Airport in 1928. It was owned and operated by a Mr. Bertucci. The site eventually became the Narragansett Race Track, so well known in this part of the country. Part of the old racetrack can still be seen there, but nothing of the old airport can be found. The one hangar was torn down a number of years ago. The airport was located close by the Central Pond of the James V. Turner Reservoir, just to the east of the airport . . . .



Viking V2 Flying Boat


Extreme Canadensis

     Since the late 1960s air-taxi operators situated around the shores of Lake Hood seaplane base, next to Anchorage International Airport, Alaska, have been operating DHC Beavers on floats. They carefully observe each other’s business and aircraft acquisitions while flying camera equipped tourists, hikers, campers, hunters, and sports fishermen to and from the bush.
     Also scheduled between summer tourist flights, were camp resupply and cargo hauling missions. Numerous visitors, pilots and mechanics around the lake have observed heavily laden Beavers carrying stacked sheets of plywood, two by fours, two by sixes, and other materials to build summer cabins and camps in the wilderness. The lumber was stacked atop the floats, and strapped to the slab sides on both the starboard and port fuselage.
     Every so often, a loaded Beaver was unable to “get on the step.” Some pilots tried burning off gasoline by taxiing to the west side of Lake Hood and making another run, hoping to effect a liftoff from the lake’s smooth surface. Pilot’s often taxied back to base and offloaded a bit of cargo before making another attempt.
     In 1971, the Lake Hood air-taxi owners, pilots, and mechanics were startled to observe the return of a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) Beaver to its hanger on the south shore of Lake Hood. Arguments and speculations about strange and dark influences, affecting the minds of the Government USFWS employees, were bandied about. Some thought “them Government people” over at USFWS had committed blasphemy upon observing the sheet-metal surgery that had formerly been a masculine looking standard-issue DHC Beaver. These criticisms originated when the chosen victim DHC Beaver N754, returned from a radical modification performed by Volpar Aircraft  . . .



USFWS Volpar Beaver


 Remember When - the Cessna 120/140

     For those of us who recall the period, a boom in general aviation was to take place following World War II. It was anticipated that returning airmen would trade their wartime aircraft, flown in hostile skies, for light planes flown over peaceful American terrain. The return of many veteran pilots, aviators and airmen was to be the catalyst behind the figurative statement “an airplane in every garage,” and it gave impetus to artists’ conceptions of smiling families flying to vacation destinations in futuristic light planes. Aviation magazines of the day reinforced this vision by depicting modern-day housing developments with a runway and individual taxiways leading up to each new home.
     Aircraft companies and subcontractors shared this optimism as they converted their wartime facilities into the manufacturing of general-aviation aircraft. Soon their drawing boards were busy as they transitioned from the manufacturing of bomber and pursuit aircraft of war to the postwar pursuit of building light planes. In some cases, and for expediency, their aircraft were prewar or updated designs. Other companies, however, capitalized on wartime knowledge and transferred newly developed technology into modern and innovative aircraft designs.
     New light-plane designs and prototypes from major aircraft manufacturers, including Douglas, Grumman, Lockheed, North American and Republic, entered into development. Additionally, new light planes from many other aircraft companies entered the developmental stage at the end of the war (see listing of aircraft). Concurrently, production was resumed on prewar aircraft, including the ERCo Ercoupe, Globe Swift, and the Luscombe Silvaire.
     However, the aviation boom was not to be. Many war-weary pilots turned their vision from the sky to earthbound goals, including home, automobile, family and peacetime employment. Also, the exigencies and economic conditions at the time helped to fuel the death knell of the aviation boom.



Cessna 120/140  brochure


In the News  |  Book Reviews  |  Links  |  Store  |  Members Only  |  Membership  |  About AAHS  |  Contact Us  | Site Map
Copyright © 2002-2016 American Aviation Historical Society