Sunday, March 24, 2019

Award Winning Robin Down Under

We got another brief letter this week from Jack Vevers, who is really having a ball with his Curtiss J-1 Robin.  We are very happy to hear that Jack is representing in Australia!  Beautiful airplane!

Hi Terry,

The Australian Antique Aircraft Association had their national fly-in, which is a bit like your Blakesburg, where VH JUV has won the President’s Choice award.  We had around 130 aircraft attend and there was plenty of classic and vintage aircraft lined up for everyone to admire.

It was great to finally get the Robin out into the public after disappearing for almost 3 decades. The interest in her was huge and it was a great feeling to share the Robin with everyone there and take her up for a flyby and show her off in full flight.


and then this...

Hi Terry,

Phil Hosking took this photo at the Australia Aeroplane Association Fly in 2 weeks ago. 

He has given me permission to share it.



Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Update on Curtiss Robin NC517N: Dick Fischer

Chances are if you have ever flown in an old airplane, it likely had a set of "Fischer Wheels".  You may already know that numerous sets of the 30 X 5, 28 X 4, and other sizes of wheel parts were made available to the antique airplane world during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s through the talents and creativity of Mr. Dick Fischer.  You may not know that Dick is restoring a Curtiss Robin.  Here on BRA, we featured his project back in August of 2011.    His Robin is going back together in the 'J-1' configuration.  Just last week, we got a recent update from Dick.  Here are his comments and photos:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
Hi Terry,

It seems like I’d forgotten to CC you with Robin progress reports.  So attached below are some photos.  Since we last communicated, I have been upholstering and covering the airplane.  At this point the interior upholstery is complete, and there is fabric on the entire airplane.  The wings and control surfaces are completed up through final color.  The fuselage is covered and up through two coats of clear so far.

The cover job is Stits Poly Fiber, with Poly Tone color coats.  The fabric is attached to the frame using CAM 18 as a guide for machine sewing, hand sewing, rib lacing, etc.  No glued attachments except where Curtiss might have doped the fabric down.

Dick Fischer

Interior is wool broadcloth, with cotton headliner

Baggage compartment before upholstery.
Access flap to baggage compartment.

Fuselage with fabric on and two coats of clear.
Fuselage side access panel.  It’s an aluminum frame sewn into 
the basic covering.  The removable panel is also a fabric covered 
aluminum frame.  The panel cover is attached to the fuselage 
with leather shoe lacing on boot hooks.

Horizontal Stabilizers
Vertical fin and rudder.

LH wing panel completed with N- numbers.

Reinforcements around fittings are leather patches, 
with patterns for each patch copied from original covering samples.

Wing inspection panel frame.  The actual panel is clear plexiglas. 
There is a print of this frame in the Robin drawing set.

Hard to see, but there is a stitch pattern around the wing perimeter. 
That’s the hand stitching, covered by a 2” pink tape.  
Hand stitching is on 1/4” spacing with hundreds of inches in an airplane.
Again, copied from original Robin fabric samples. 

LH wing panel during color coats.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

While he isn't setting any records on time, Dick is faithfully plugging away in the day-by-day restoration process.  Along the way, his attention to detail is incredibly wonderful.  To follow all of his steps would be a monumental learning experience for us all.  Dick is certainly in the category of "Master Restorer" in my book.

I wrote him back to inquire about his comments concerning the stitch pattern around the perimeter of the wing.  It was a treat for him to write back and add the following information.  This will certainly be appreciated by future restorers.  Thanks for the education, Dick !

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

 Hi Terry,

Thank you for the kind words.  Actually, I don’t believe I’ve made any major progress of late.  It’s just a long, slow, steady grind for more years than I like to think about.

Below are a couple of photos of the hand stitching in progress.  It’s nothing specific to a Robin.  The CAM 18 manual shows all the various sewing details.  I had some miscellaneous fabric scraps that I’m pretty sure were original Robin fabric and just used them to verify that Curtiss was conforming to the CAM 18.  On the fuselage, I didn’t have any original scraps to look at, but all the evidence of how most fuselages were factory covered indicated that machine sewn sleeves were used .  And the pictures of fully assembled (but not yet covered) Robin fuselages in the factory show the fuselages standing on the gear before covering.  The only way I can imagine that they could have put the fabric on at that point was to slide on a sewn sleeve.  By the way, installing a machine sewn sleeve would still entail some hand sewing on at least one longeron in order to get the sleeve past the passenger step.  Also need to leave an open spot at the rear to get the sleeve past the hand holds on the lower longerons.

By the way, you can usually spot original Robin fabric not only by the paint color, but also by the fact that there was no silver dope applied.  Wonder how long that initial factory fabric job lasted ?

I forwarded your email to Lane Tufts, so hopefully he will contact you.

Dick Fischer

Here is a hand stitched wing tip.  The fabric is sewn at the trailing edge and at the wing tip.  The leading edge has no seam, as it is wrapped around the wing and only sewn at the rear.

Here is an aileron.  The trailing edge has been stitched, and the end flap is ready to fold up into position for stitching.  This is typical of all of the surfaces

Kind of a blurry picture, but you can see that the end flap is folded up, then stitched to the upper cover and to the leading edge.

A little clearer picture of what hand sewing looks like.  By the time the cover is fully shrunk and a 2” pink tape applied, the stitching is pretty hard to see.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Dick Fischer is a rare gem to the vintage aviation community. Keep up the great work and thanks for keeping in touch with us Dick.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Drew Hallam's big Robin News!

Last year at the "Grassroots 2017" fly-in at Brodhead Wisconsion, we met Drew Hallam for the first time.  Drew has the obvious Curtiss Robin infectious disease.  You can tell because you seem to find him anywhere there might be a hint of Robin conversation.  Drew and I since hooked up on instagram and I learned there that he is not just a Robin nut, but loves all things vintage... cars, motorcycles.. you name it.  And for a young guy this is pretty cool.  Drew is a solid participant as a next generation antiquer.  We want to encourage Drew and others in his era to keep the antiques flying.

A photo of Drew from his Instagram page.

We ran into Drew again this hear at Brodhead but this time he seemed to have a bigger smile and a broader step to his gait.  Something about him was different.  Lo and behold, we started talking and he announced some big news.  I asked him to send us a write-up and he did.  And so here is some pictures and Drew's own words about his big Robin announcement.

Good Morning Terry,
I wanted to update you about the rebuild of Robin s/n 215. This Robin was last seen in the Curtiss Robin Flyer in 2014. Since then, Rich Beinhauer bought this Robin along with another project from Candler Field, after lots of progress was made restoring the fuselage, and overhauling several main components. Most recently, NC8333 was moved to my workshop, where restoration efforts will eventually continue. This will be an authentic rebuild, with no brakes, a tail skid, and will be powered by its original OX-5 engine. Included are some photos showing the Robin's current condition. I will be sure to update CRF as progress is made. Thank you for your interest!

Drew Hallam (Nov. 12, 2018)

Drew referred to the Curtiss Robin Flyer 2014.  For those who don't know, the Curtiss Robin Flyer is was a newsletter that I published for a few issues and then later abandoned the snail mail publication method.  The Curtiss Robin Flyer now lives on as a Facebook page.  If you haven'g see it, look it up.  We try to keep up with all things Curtiss Robin there as an extension of this blog.  We have a pretty good following there.  Check it out.
The following photos are those to which Drew was referring.  These are photos that were taken of s/n 215 (C8333) while in the possession of the museum at Candler Field at the Peach State Aerodrome in Georgia.  It looks to be a very nice project.


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