JN-4b and Overton Bounds


Ivan began flying at Mineola on August 4th, 1916 according to his log books.  His earliest flights all record him having flown in JN-4bs, while there.  His initial instructors are Overton M. Bounds and Peter Carl (aka "Tex") Milman. I'll write up another post on Milman later.

This is long, but I'm going to copy it in its entirety because it paints a great picture of early flight instruction.  It's a eulogy for Overton, who died in 1942. I'm copying it, because I'm not sure that the website where I found it is being maintained, and I don't want to see it disappear.  (From here)
They won't have to issue wings to O. M. "Rusty" Bounds in whatever special heaven awaits the men who give their lives that others may learn to fly. Rusty, it always seemed, must have been born with wings and he died with them Sunday, victim of a churning propeller which struck him down from behind at Cimarron field Saturday. There, he still was keeping them flying in his twenty-eighth year at the stick.  (Bounds was killed by a taxiing aircraft - kpw)
When they conduct services at 3 p.m. Tuesday for Rusty, the damp eyes of ordinarily hardened men gathered in the First Presbyterian church will pay tribute to a great flier and a great instructor.
If Rusty had come "spinning in" calmly trying to talk some frantic fledgling off frozen controls, the heart break would not have been half so bad to the legion of pilots and former students who knew him down the years. Rusty might have expected it to come that way. But it seemed like a specially cruel and mean trick that fate played on the great instructor in the end. It seemed that Rusty had to die finally to prove the point of the first lesson he hammered into the unnumbered students he gave wings.

This reporter was one of them when Rusty was an instructor in the civilian pilot training program. Overeager and itching to get at the controls, you found no helmeted, romantic Flash Gordon waiting at the field. There was Rusty, thin, red-faced, sharp and cold eyes, wearing a brown felt hat, corduroy pants and a battered gray jacket, sitting at a desk rolling cigarette package tinfoil for his daughter to save. Everybody threw tinfoil into Rusty's desk. "Glad to know you," Rusty said, shaking hands. "Let's go." 
And then the work began. You trudged in silence behind him out to the ship and you noticed he walked with the habitual stoop of men forever with the weight of parachutes on their backs. The propeller was the first thing. "That's the prop." he would say, "and you'd better learn to respect it right now. It's a baseball bat with a motor on it and it's not something to lean on. Keep out of its way and don't guess the switch is off when you touch it." 
Then he'd show you how to spin it to start the engine. He demanded, in taxiing, that the ship never proceed straight ahead but that it follow an S-shaped path so the pilot could see what was dead ahead. "And don't trust the brakes-take it easy," he insisted. 
Horseplay was out. Wordless and poker-faced on the ground, he exercised an almost Prussian discipline in the air, rattling away like a verbal machine-gun. Precision and perfection in maneuvers were his only yardsticks and his students got a course in first-class cussing thrown in. "Damn it," he would say, after sitting calmly through the hair-raising bounce of his student's landing, "that's what I call a 'prayer' landing. You just pull the stick back and pray it'll land by itself. That's what those suicides do." 
And then the day he cut the gun at 800 feet and shouted into the Gosport tube; "Okay, forced landing! Let's see you sit down in the grass over there!" You circled and came in right over a nice green stretch, beaming with self-satisfaction. "I said grass-not wheat! There's the grass over there- it's brown!" Well, you thought it was grass. "Damn it man," he stormed. "This is a course in flying-not agriculture!" 
To alibis, he listened with the half-patient tolerance of a man who has heard the same joke countless times before. Then, he would shake his head and spend 20 minutes in explaining the correction of a stupid error. To him, an airplane was like a finely-tuned violin. The rest was up to the player-and he was a master. Could you ever forget his five-word sendoff on your solo as he climbed unexpectedly out of the front cockpit and said, quietly: "Okay, do that again-by yourself." You did it, more or less, with heart in your throat as he waved you around again. Then you taxied up to him, hoping for a bouquet, and he climbed in and said: "Okay, see if you can get it back to the hangar." 
Ages later, it seemed, came the big day when you rode with the inspector and got your private license, much to Rusty's professed amazement. He invited you over for a cup of coffee and it was only then you got to know the great other half of him. He burst into a big smile, razzed you roundly, pleaded to keep up safety and precision in flying and laughed: "I cussed the hell out of you, all right, but don't think I didn't see you out of the corner of my eye up there cussing me out, too."
But it was good for them and his students, many of them now in the army air corps and at least one in the R. A. F. in a fighter over the English channel, must when they get in a pinch hear Rusty's rasping voice talking them through. 
It's just as well Rusty won't read this. If somebody showed it to him, he would find a convenient bit of tinfoil on the floor and turn away and grumble: "Nuts! That's the damndest tripe I ever saw!" But heaven help the angels he catches skidding on their turns. 
Bounds also filed a patent for a parachute braking system in 1930, which would prevent a plane from nosing over in the event of hard braking while landing.



  1. Thanks for viewing this high quality image it is unbelievably clear and sharp. Just for accuracy, this cannot be a Curtiss JN-4B as they arrived in Mineola in mid-January 1917. There is also a subtle difference between the Curtiss JN-4 and the JN-4B, where the JN-4 has a 'long' tailskid and the JN-4B has a much shorter tailskid.
    The actual machine on the picture seems to be modified on several points, the obvious three-bladed propeller, the wind-screen before the back seat which seems to missing and the (extra) wires visible for the steering of the rudder (two wires actually, high on the rudder). Also the engine seems to be different, but I cannot view the details clearly.
    Mysterious also is the identity on the rudder T S1 and the omission of a serial number on the machine, which could mean it is no Curtiss Jenny of the Army.

    Most of the information given above comes from the book of Robert Casari Encyclopedia f U.S.Military aircraft 1908 to April 6, 1917 Volume 4 Curtiss JN-4, JN-4B, JN-4C, R-2, R-4 and Twin JN.

    There is a small reference to your grandfather on p.17, which - shortened - goes this way

    ....Leaving Mineola on 30 December [1916] twelve machines [11 JN-4 and 1 LWF] flew toward the Phildelphia Navy Yard, 110 miles away. .... At Dean, New Jersey, Lt. Robert Carolin and civilian trainee Ivan P. Wheaton wrecked their airplane beyond repair in a collision with a fence during a forced landing.

  2. Okay, this is getting interesting! I posted that he was flying JN-4Bs, since that is what he has in his logbooks. He makes no mention of any other type, other than a Standard J1. The only other note he made was regarding T77, which had Curtiss Controls, rather than Deperdussin. I will post photos from his logbooks soon.

    I thought the cockpits looked different, as well, but I'm only just beginning to study Jennys.

    You're revealing my secrets! :) I will publish photos and the newspaper clippings of the crash incident, also soon. As a reward for your diligent research, here is his logbook entry from that day...

    "Lt. Carolin & Lt. Wheaton -pass- smashed up at Dean, N.J. on way to Philly." They were in T120 and flew one hour at 6000'. They claimed one landing, which I suppose is correct. If you can walk away from it, it's a good landing.