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1956 - 2023, Celebrating over 65+ Years of Service

Excerpts from
AAHS Journal, Vol. 51, No. 1 - Spring 2006
Table of Contents 

The American Aviation Historical Society, the first 50 Years

     The American Aviation Historical Society and its Journal were born on Sunday, January 29, 1956, at 3038 Bridge Street, Hayward, California, the home of Willis Nye. Three people met and formed the germ of an idea that has lead to more than fifty years of continuous cooperative effort to research and preserve the history of American aviation. You are now reading the two-hundredth product of this trio’s vision. Those three people were Willis L. Nye, Chalmers A. Johnson and William T. Larkins.
     Willis Nye had a connection with aviation that went all the way back to witnessing one of Louis Paulhan’s flights at Tanforan Race Track in 1910. He worked for air services, airlines, aircraft manufacturers, authored aviation trade school books and over one hundred magazine articles. At the time of the January 29 meeting he also had seven years experience with one of the two organizations that inspired the idea of an AAHS, the Nautical Research Guild.
     Chalmers Johnson was a graduate student in political science at the University of California, Berkley. He started taking and collecting photographs as an air crewman on TBMs in the Naval Reserve at Oakland.
     Bill Larkins was an audio-visual specialist working for the University of California, Berkley. His interest in aviation started in 1934 with ten-cent balsa kits and "Dare Devil Aces" and "War Birds" pulps. Like others, his interest in aviation led to an interest in photography. He was an . . . .

Complete Article (PDF)

Early AAHS Board Meeting

A Study of the Lawrance A-3 (C-2) Two-Cylinder Opposed Engine and the Aircraft It Powered

     Charles Lanier Lawrance (1882-1950), an American who attended Yale University, began work for a new automobile company that was eventually ruined by the financial panic of 1907. He then moved to France in 1912-1913 and studied at the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris and also designed the Lawrance-Moulton A V-8 racecar engine in 1913. He returned to the United States, briefly working for the Pierce Aeroplane Co. before forming the Lawrance Aero Company in New York City. He built the model B V-8 racecar engine in 1916-1917 and began the design of two smaller engines during this same period. The two-cylinder, single ignition, 28-hp A-3 was built in 1916. The two-cylinder 40-hp N-2 with dual ignition was started in 1917, but was dropped in favor of the development of a three-cylinder L-series radial engine that later led to the Lawrance J-I nine-cylinder radial in 1921. The Lawrance Aero Company was acquired by the Wright Aeronautical Corp. in 1923 and Lawrance was installed as a vice-president.
     Back in 1916, the Lawrance Aero Engine facility was small and only consisted of a Brooklyn, New York, loft or drafting room when the first A-3 prototype was designed and built. It is believed Kenneth J. "Spoons" Boedecker assisted Lawrance in the development of this engine. The Joint Army and Navy Technical Board bought the production rights, jigs, fixtures, dies and plans from Lawrance for $21,000 and they, in turn, granted a manufacturing contract to the Excelsior Auto Cycle Motor Mfg. & Supply Co. of Chicago, Ill., for some 450 to 500 engines. This firm shipped the engines to the Breeze Aircraft Co. for installation in their Breeze Penguin Trainers. These preflight trainers were designed with truncated wings so they would not fly; how-ever, the cadets could get the basic feel of an aircraft’s ground handling characteristics. The designation A-3 was shown on the data plate for all of these engines when they were initially built. It is also known a  . . . . . . .

Lawrance A-3 (C-2) Engine

Standard Air Lines; A Productivity and Operations History for Davis-Monthan Aviation Field, 1927-1930

     Findings about Standard Air Lines operations described herein come mainly from the vintage Transient Register of the Davis-Monthan Aviation Field, Tucson, Ariz. Founded by the city of Tucson in 1919,1 the Field was the first municipal aviation field in the United States. The Field register is a large, leather-bound tome, which lived for over a decade in the terminal buildings visible in the photographs. It now lives protected in a glass case in the Operations Office of the contemporary Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. 
     The Davis-Monthan Aviation Field transient register is a robust United States regional aviation artifact. Meticulously handwritten are the historically significant pilot names and their airplanes, tens of thousands of destinations, dates, passengers and events. To this day, many of the pilots, passengers and aircraft have achieved continuing national and global importance and impact. 
     The author constructed a computerized database from all the information in the register. The register is only 218 pages. Yet, it reports 3,689 landings between February 6, 1925, and November 26, 1936. The database contains 166,005 elements, which can be sorted, filtered and queried. Manipulating the database compels questions, and enables answers, about the people, aircraft, places and events recorded in the log. 
     Specific to this article, several early air transport companies frequented the Field. Among them American Airlines (the inaugural sleeper service landed there), Scenic Airways (later Grand Canyon Airlines), and Standard Air Lines. 
     How is the Davis-Monthan Aviation Field transient register used to analyze Golden Age commercial transport activity? Although several Standard Air Lines aircraft landed at the Davis-Monthan Aviation Field, three of them (NC3317, NC8011, NC9724, all single-engine Fokkers) . . . . . . 

Standard Air Lines Fleet

The Stinson Reliant 

     In 1926, the Stinson Airplane Syndicate was reorganized and became the Stinson Aircraft Corp. The reorganized company produced their first airplane, the Stinson Detroiter, a cabin plane having an entirely enclosed, heated and soundproof cabin, engine starter and wheel brakes. The Detroiter’s first flight was on January 25, 1926, at Selfridge Field. The plane performed beautifully and started Stinson on a long line of quality aircraft.
     In April 1929, the Stinson Aircraft Corporation moved into a new factory at Wayne, Michigan, a Detroit suburb. Altogether, 121 Stinsons were manufactured during 1929. In terms of output, the company had become the nation’s third largest producer of cabin-type commercial aircraft.
     Also in 1929, a well-heeled investor named Errett Lobban Cord was attracted to the Stinson Company. He negotiated to buy a 60-percent interest in Stinson.

     The dynamic young executive already controlled Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg automobile companies, Lycoming Motors and several lesser holdings. Lycoming had developed an excellent smooth-running 210-hp radial aircraft engine that was ideally suited for the Stinson Junior. A merger with Cord would guarantee a steady supply of engines at minimum cost. Throwing in with Cord would also mean plenty of capital for expansion. The Cord merger also allowed a reduction in prices of the aircraft, because of the less expensive Lycoming engines.
     In 1931, two very talented aircraft designers joined Stinson. They were Bob Hall and Bob Ayer. They had come from the Granville Brothers Aircraft Co. in Springfield, Mass., famous for the GeeBee Racer. Hall, Ayer and Stinson’s . . . . .

Stinson Reliant SR-9E

Mach 1 and the North American XP-86

     It was the last half of 1944 and WW II was still in full swing. Europe was in turmoil with increasing action on the ground and in the air. Germany initiated their indefensible V2 supersonic ballistic rocket attacks against Britain and the V1 flying bomb attacks were neutralized later that year. Britain’s first turbojet fighter, the Gloster Meteor, became operational, and airmen over Europe were still astounded by the speed and firepower of the Luftwaffe’s Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter.
     Conditionally released for fighter operations in September 1944, the Luftwaffe’s heavily armed twin turbojet-powered Me 262 A-1a Schwalbe had a maximum operational airspeed of 540 mph, at Mach 0.76, or almost exactly 100 mph faster that the USA’s P-51D Mustang. When fully functional, the Me 262 outclassed all other fighters, but the 10- to 20-hour engine life tended to reduce its effectiveness. (A given Mach number at a particular speed is dependent on altitude, consequently the reader may notice some apparent inconsistencies in the following sections.)
     To counter the dire threat of the German Me 262, the United States Army Air Force (USAAF),1 at 1:30 p.m. eastern time June 8, 1943, ordered Lockheed Aircraft Corporation to develop a single-engine turbojet fighter around a 3,000 pound thrust de Havilland Halford Goblin H-1 single-sided centrifugal flow compressor engine. Lockheed responded with their model 180 or XP-80 (s/n 44-83020) in an astounding 143 days. The XP-80 flew for the first time on January 8, 1944. This effort gave birth to Kelly Johnson’s famous "Skunk Works" as well as the XP-80. Maximum airspeed of the XP-80 was about  . . . . .

North American XP-86

 Remember When ... North American Aviation Navion 

     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 were 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 . . . . .

North American Aviation Navion

Aircraft Photos by Emil Strasser, Part IX 

     It’s time for another journey into aviation’s past, the 1930s, 1940s, 1970s at locations such as Akron, Ohio; Porterville, California; Reno, Nevada; and Cleveland, Ohio. This collection is truly a treasure of aviation history., Thanks to Gerald Liang for making it available to the AAHS.



Golden Eagle Jr. Pursuit

Chronological Development of Rotary Wing Aircraft

1483  -   LEONARDO da VINCI’S sketch of his non-operative helicopter, of a fixed-wing design, corkscrew-type, was designed around a vertical shaft. The bottom of this shaft was to be mounted on two bearings on a conical base. The corkscrew was meant to revolve in the same manner as a merry-go-round. It is not clear what he intended to use for power. No controls of any kind are shown. 

1908  -   KIMBALL - "The helicopter consisted of a light framework in which are 24 small wooden propellers set in a horizontal plane and run by a single motor." (The helicopter closely resembled a rocket launcher and as the three photographs, with the inventor inside, show it is standing fast on the ground with "ceiling underground.") (POPULAR MECHANICS, December 1908, volume 10, number 12, page 802, "THE KIMBALL HELICOPTER") 

1908/1910  -   IGOR SIKORSKY, in Kiev, Russia, built a helicopter with a 25-hp Ansani engine. It was the second helicopter he built at that time. The first and second helicopter never rose from the ground. The picture of his helicopter does not show any means of control for free flight and has no provision for a pilot’s space. "Sikorsky’s first helicopter rotors, therefore, were contra-rotating and coaxial. He employed vanes, as in the Cornu design, for control. The machine was found incapable of lifting its own weight from the ground, so Sikorsky redesigned it to remove a hundred pounds of weight and to increase the length of the rotor blades. When the tests were resumed, the craft could rise into the air, but it was beset by the basic helicopter illnesses of insufficient control and stability." (HELICOPTER GUIDE, April 1951, Charles Lester Morris) 

1912  -  JENS CHRISTIAN ELLEHAMMER, the Danish . . . 

Evolution of the Liaison-Type Airplane, 1917-1944, Part III

     Early in 1940 the Air Corps Tactical School circulated a questionnaire among the existing observation squadrons for opinions regarding proposed organizational changes growing from the trend toward mechanization, the formation of the new infantry division, and the development of new observation equipment. The questionnaire was significant not so much for the details it contained as for the attitude it represented. The Tactical School appreciated the changes of the times which impelled reconsideration of tactical doctrine, and directly or indirectly the school’s interest proved important, since shortly thereafter the longstanding basic regulation governing the use of observation aviation, TR 440-15 of October 1935, was superseded by FM 1-5, Employment of Aviation of the Army.
     The new field manual considered observation aviation in two classes, reconnaissance on the one hand and observation and liaison on the other. The really radical change over previous doctrine appeared in the definition that observation and liaison aviation were "characterized by the ability to fly at very low speeds and to take off and land within small level areas." It was apparent from this definition that official thinking was beginning to outstrip existing equipment, for at that time the O-47 and its predecessors were still the standard equipment of observation squadrons.
     The growth of the tactical concept of slow-flying airplanes was perhaps far slower in the tactical units, which were still using obsolete equipment, than in the higher echelons of command, where European reports, information concerning anticipated O-49 procurement, . . . . .

Curtiss O-52