Sunday, July 23, 2017

Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome Part 2: The Museum--July 23, 2017

After looking at the airplanes that were going to fly that day, we walked up towards the hangars that feature the static display aircraft at Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome.  There is a museum building, which is slightly fancier and closed to the elements, while a good number of planes and artifacts are in old Quonset-style hangars.

The museum has a treasure trove of great airplanes but is not really arranged in a logical order but rather things are fitted in where there is space.  The untidiness is quite appealing as this must be one of the last intimidating museums in the world in spite of the undoubted value of what is on display.

1930 Monocoupe 90
Definitely an iconic airplane of the Golden Age, the Monocoupe 90 was a spirited light airplane designed by Don Luscombe, the Model 90, with its 90 hp Lambert engine one of a family of Monocoupe models.  This airplane was flown at the 1933 National Air Races in Cleveland by Phoebe Omlie, a record-setting pilot who was the first woman to receive an Air Transport Pilot licence.  Monocoupe, once a division of the Velie Motor Corporation, operated from 1927 until 1940.  Monocoupes were built in Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri at various points and a company was formed in Pennsylvania in 2016 to revive the Monocoupe as a kit airplane.

1929 Monocoupe 113
Although Don Luscombe built the first Monocoupe in 1926, productions was sporadic until Velie Motors Corporation took over the company and gave it stability.  The engine in the Monocoupe 113 was a Velie 65 hp radial.  The 113 was one of the first cabin monoplanes put into production when it arrived on the scene in 1928.  That same year, the principals at Velie Motors abandoned the car business to concentrate fully on airplanes.  A total of 324 Monocoupes were built.

1929 American Eagle A-129
A typical American light airplane of the 1920s, the American Eagle was built in Kansas City, Kansas and was a redesign of the company's earlier A-101 model that had some dangerous flying characteristics for a training airplane.  The A-129 was developed by the brilliant designer Giuseppe Bellanca and the airplane achieved considerable success, with more than 400 built.  Thanks to its long nose, housing its 100 hp Kinner radial, it acquired the nickname of "the Anteater,"  something of a comedown from its official designation of "the Master of the Skies."

1915 Nieuport 83 E.2
Legendary French fighter ace Charles Nungesser brought this Nieuport, a training variant of the Nieuport 10 fighter, along with two other French aircraft to the United States in 1924 for a series of barnstorming exhibitions.  The airplane appeared in the first aviation thriller, "Sky Raiders," made in 1925 at Roosevelt Field.  The airplane stayed in New York, although it was shown at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933 to illustrate the progress of aviation, and became part of an exhibition of vintage aircraft at Roosevelt Field.  In 1957 Cole Palen acquired a Nieuport 28 C.1 from movie pilot Paul Mantz and restored it for flights at Rhinebeck.  Eventually the Nieuport 28 was traded for the 83 in 1986 in an exchange with the Smithsonian Institution. After bringing it to airworthy condition, Cole Palen flew the 83 regularly at Old Rhinebeck from 1987 until 1990, when it went on static display.  The Nieuport 28 is on display at the Smithsonian.

Nungesser, a very colourful individual, was France's third-highest scoring ace in World War I, with 43 victories.  His airplanes were famously marked with a black heart, coffin and death's head motif and he was known as "The Knight of Death."  Another example of someone who did not fit well into civilian life, Nungesser had various adventures and occupations, such as trying to sell SPAD fighter to the Cuban government or serving as a movie pilot in "The Dawn Patrol."  In May 1927, he and his navigator, Francois Coli, disappeared while attempted to fly from Paris to New York, two weeks before Charles Lindbergh's successful flight in the opposite direction.  No trace of Nungesser and Coli or their airplane have been ever found.

1918 Thomas-Morse S-4B Scout
A compact single-seat biplane designed by a former Sopwith designer, the Thomas-Morse was built in Ithaca, New York in 1917.  Originally meant to be a pursuit/fighter aircraft, it never saw combat but instead became the US Army Air Corps and other service branches standard advanced trainer.  Around 500 were built in two variants and the Rhinebeck airplane may be the final S-4B of 100 before the S-4C went into production.  It is thought that this airplane was used by the Signal Corps for training.  It is powered by a 100 hp Gnome rotary engine.  The US Navy had a seaplane variant, designated S-4S.

Around a dozen "Tommies" still exist.  After a 15 year restoration, a S-4B was flown on September 29, 2018 by a Rhinebeck pilot at Ithaca to celebrate the airplane's centennial.  It has now been placed on permanent static display at the Ithaca Heritage Center.

1911 Bleriot XI
The Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome possesses two of the famous Bleriot XIs.  The 1909 example is airworthy while this later 1911 one is on static display only.  It was manufactured under license by the American Aeroplane Supply House in Hempstead, New York, and was stored in a barn after a minor accident in 1915, only to be rediscovered when the fire department came to put out a fire in the barn.  The airplane had no major damage and after acquisition by Cole Palen from the US Marine Corps Museum in exchange for a Curtiss Pusher replica it was restored in 1975-76.  It was limited to short, runway-hopping flights and is not on active flight status anymore.

The mannequin in the purple garb evokes Harriet Quimby, the first woman to receive a pilot's license in the United States and the first woman to fly the English Channel.  A journalist and screenwriter, she was considered a glamorous figure in aviation.  Her career ended early, as that of many early pilots did, when she and her passenger were thrown from her new (but seatbeltless) Bleriot XI on July 1, 1912, after encountering turbulence while flying near Boston.  The airplane glided to a landing on the mudflats with little damage afterwards.

1917 Morane-Saulnier A1
Introduced in 1917 and intended to replace the Nieuport 17 and SPAD VII in French service, it featured a strut-braced swept-back parasol wing.  1210 were built, with 51 going to the United States Expeditionary Force as an advanced trainer.  The A1, which early on suffered from structural problems, was eventually phased out of front line service by mid-1918 in favour of the superior SPAD XIII.  After World War I, a number of surplus A1s were purchased for private use and used for aerobatic demonstrations. Temply Joyce, an American pilot living in France, flew 300 consecutive loops before running out of fuel, and an A1 was also used by Charles Nungesser.  Cole Palen acquired this A1 in 1981, one of two surviving aircraft, and it was used for flying demonstrations starting in 1982.

1913 Deperdussin Racer
Far ahead its time was the elegant Deperdussin Racer, with its monocoque fuselage.  This mid-wing aircraft won the 1912 Gordon Bennett Trophy race flown by Jules Vedrine, with another Deperdussin coming second.  In 1913 Maurice Prevost, who had come second the year before, won the race in a Deperdussin with clipped wings.  Maximum speed with its 160 hp Gnome Lambda rotary was 200 km/h.

The Rhinebeck example was inspired by a visit to the museum at Le Bourget in Paris, where an original is on display, but the reproduction, built in 1974, was limited to ground taxying due to its high speed and minimal surface areas and the in adequate length of the Rhinebeck runway.  It was restored in 2000/2001 as a static display with a dummy engine.

1929 Pitcairn Mailwing PA-7
The rugged and attractive Mailwing series of aircraft were built by the Pitcairn Aircraft Company in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania,  between 1927 and 1931, with total production of 106.  With their simple construction and weight-carrying ability, Mailwings found use as well as crop-dusters after dedicated airmail routes ended.  This example, with a 220 hp Continental radial engine, was flown from Vancouver, Washington to the Aerodrome in 33 hours and used in flying demonstrations from 1963 until 1980.

1931 Great Lakes 2T-1MS
This Menasco-engined Sport Trainer was used for demonstrations starting in 1974.

1909 Rinek Voisin
Based on a design by Charles and Gabriel Voisin, this airplane was built in Easton, Pennsylvania by Norvin C. Rinek, who incorporated a number of his own ideas into its construction.  These included the use of chrome-moly welded steel tubing rather than wood for the frame structure.  Rinek developed his own V8 engine, which he made available to other airplane builders, and the Voisin was meant as a testbed for the engine.

This aircraft is believed to have been flown six times before disassembly and storage in 1910.  It was purchased by Cole Palen in 1972 and restoration was undertaken the following year.  It has been displayed at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, as well as the Intrepid Museum in New York City.

1935 Morgan (left) and a 1912 Metz

1912 Hupmobile Model 20

Aircraft engine display
Go on to Part 3: The Static Display Hangars here.

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