Monday, April 27, 2015

2015 Central Texas (Taildragger) Fly-In

  Formerly known as the Central Texas Taylorcraft Fly-In... this year, we merged forces with the folks from the Cessna 120/140 association.  We also invited Champs, Cubs, and Stinsons.  The result was a good time in spite of some unstable weather conditions on Friday, Saturday morning, and Sunday.  As always, the crew at the Old Fort Parker Historic site and Fort Parker Flying Field were extra hospitable.  The food was great, the people were awesome.  Here are a few fun photos from this year's event.

Field Manager Darius Farmer proudly displays his custom Hand Washing Station

Uhhhmm... well it was all a big mixup and misunderstanding.

Mid morning lineup on Saturday.

The McGregor HS Howling Dogs Jazz Band entertained us under the Oak Trees.

Overhead view of the flying field and the old fort.

Sarah McReynolds is always a gracious host at the Old Fort.

View on short final coming over the trees to land on Runway 17.


Wonders of Wicker and Workmanship

    For those who cling to the bygone days of the early aviation, there is a sense of wonder regarding the sights, sounds, feelings, and smells that embody the spirit of old airplanes.  Sometimes it's wondering... whether or not this old thing will start, or quit, or leak, or even fly.  Or we may wonder... why did they make it this way?  or... how did they accomplish such perfection with the basic materials and manufacturing technologies they had back in the day?  And then, sometimes we are faced with wondering... should or shouldn't we update this design... will this or that afford us the level of safety we desire?  Such are the dilemmas one must face in dealing with old airplanes.

   Perhaps these questions are a large part of the adventure and mystique of vintage airplanes.  Looking back, we find that somehow through all these questions, these old birds have endured through time and are still here after many people have come and gone.  We must realize it is out of duty and respect to those who came before us/who created and maintained these wonderful flying machines that we are called to do our best to "Keep the Antiques Flying" (as is the motto of the Antique Airplane Association). It is therefore necessary to study the details found all throughout the machine so that we form an appreciation for their simplicity, practicality, and fine workmanship.  It is in this way that we might establish for ourselves, the same or higher standards in homage to these great machines.

   And so, for this posting, I wanted to share some of the "wonder"ful things that we have noticed while working on the St. Louis Robin over the past few months.

8-day Time-Piece by Waltham

 About the Waltham Watch....
 - We wonder... was this the actual time piece used for the endurance flight in 1929?
 - Wonder how many times they wound it over the 17 day endurance flight?
 - Wonder who climbed out on the catwalk to do the winding job? (its on the backside of the unit).
 - We wonder... did they pay attention to alignment of all the screw slots horizontally?  Well... the prior restorers (the Erale's) certainly did.  And so any screw that isn't in alignment, really stands out!
 - We did find from the watch repair folks who replaced the mainspring that this watch is indeed from the correct time period.


Cowling fastener - requires a quarter turn
About the cowling fasteners... These things are really cool!
 - Wonder if they ever got the patent?
 - Wonder why such a simple/effective design isn't still in use today.
 - Wonder which other Curtiss Airplanes used them.... Thrush? Fledgling? KingBird? Condor?


Perhaps one of the most essential pieces of equipment in the airplane, the pilot seat is often taken for granted. As is the case with many airplanes of the 1920s, typical airplane seats were made from bamboo and wicker.  On this Robin, the prior restoration in 1976 included a pilot new seat made from a rattan (similar to bamboo) frame with wicker cane weave for the seat and back.  What a beautiful job done by Mr. Erale in building this seat. Although it was authentic and very cool, the old seat was just not practical for the future plans of this airplane. The problem.... after 39 years, the frame was beginning to crack in its weak joints, especially at the side b races which keep the back upright.  This was quite concerning to us from a safety standpoint.  You could just imagine the back collapsing on takeoff which would likely have catastrophic consequences. So....

 - We were beginning to wonder if this thing might break down in flight???
 - We wondered, is there a way to repair it?
 - We wondered... Why didn't the Aero Bulletin 7A have any better strength requirements.
 - We decided.... whatever happens, this seat must be strong.

A TEMPORARY solution was to weld up a steel tube frame to be laced onto the existing seat for reinforcement.  This enabled us to proceed with short test flights while awaiting a more practical permanent solution.  The repair was done in such a way that it might not be difficult to remove the reinforcements, so as to allow the seat to be retained for future display of authenticity in the plane if desired.

Starting the process of lacing on the steel reinforcement.

Steel reinforcement almost done, laced on with rawhide.

We decided to have our ace fabricator, Lon Carr, build us up a new welded 4130 steel seat frame.  Since we were making it all new, the airplane owner requested a change to allow fore and aft adjustment..  We also were able to eliminate the uncomfortable side braces to make the new seat more comfortable for long flights.  The new frame was essentially a copy of a steel frame seat used in another Curtiss Robin, NR82H.

New adjustable steel frame to replace the existing rattan frame seat.

New steel seat frame woven with fiber rush cord.

The fiber rush cord is a practical alternative to wicker cane material.

The weaving job was expertly completed by Lisa Perry, of  Wicker Revival.

  We now have a couple of flights using the new seat.  It is certainly more comfortable than the prior one. And though its not original, I think it is a good compromise between practicality, safety and authenticity. 


Monday, December 1, 2014

ESPIRITU TICO - Famous Curtiss Robin of Costa Rica

Tico - a colloquial term for a native of Costa Rica. Costa Ricans are usually called ticos by themselves and persons of other Spanish-speaking countries, in place of the more formal costarricenses.  The name is short for Hermanitico ('Little Brother'), a friendly and respectful way the people of Costa Rica used in the past (during the Central American war against William Walker) to refer to themselves.  (from Wikipedia)

Such is the name given to one particular Curtiss Robin in 1933 by a small cultural neighborhood community of Costa Rican's of the greater San Francisco area.

The story begins with a fatherless native Costa Rican boy who was brought to San Francisco at a very young age by his mother who sought to provide a better life for her son.  Don Román Macaya Lahmann was born in San Jose in 1903 , in the home formed by Juan Ibáñez and Angela Macaya Lahmann Carazo, his maternal grandparents were Frederick Wendt Lahmann and Paulina Carazo Peralta.

As he matured, the young Macaya became interested in flying and eventually earned his pilot's license and studied aviation. Due to the economic crisis in America, in 1933 decided to return to his native country.  He chose to purchase a Curtiss Robin airplane model C-1, NC911K, with which he planned to bring aviation into Costa Rica.  As he prepared for the long journey, his local neighbors blessed the airplane and prayed over his flight.  They christened his plane with the suggestive name of " The Tico Spirit " , emulating the feat in 1927 did Charles Lindbergh to cross the Atlantic in the famous " Spirit of St. Louis " 

Roman Macaya prepares to leave California in his Challenger powered Curtiss Robin.
Roman began his flight from Oakland, California, and eventually landing in his home country of Costa Rica on October 5, 1933.  The trip was risky at best for the time of year.  Plagued along the way with bad weather, Macaya could not land at the airport in La Sabana.  Instead, he followed towards Limon where he fueled.  Finally reaching the destination airport, he was receivedby more than 30 thousand people as a hero.  They paraded him along the Paseo Colon.  Macaya was invited into the presidential palace, where he was welcomed by Don Ricardo Jiménez Oreamun. 

The Curtiss Robin was the first of many airplanes that  Macaya eventually brought to pioneer a new way of life for his homeland through aviation.  He used them to deliver mail and supplies across the mountains from the east coast to the west and return.  He established airplanes as a viable mode of transportation, which changed commerce and the way of life for the nation.  For this successful venture that resulted in the country's first commercial airline, among other aviation services, Roman Macaya is remembered as a national Hero. 

Macaya brought several Curtiss Kingbird airplanes to Costa Rica for his Airline venture.


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