Safety first... or second.

Actually this isn't much about safety, but about equipment other than aircraft at Mineola.  Ivan kept photographs of all kinds of things which were interesting or significant about his life, and his letters indicate that he kept these scrapbooks on the fly (sorry, I did it again). There isn't really much to say about these photos from my perspective other than the above except the first photo below.

I had the good fortune of working for Lance Neibauer soon after moving to Bend, Oregon.  Lance started a company called Lancair around a handful of kitplanes and later came out with a certified version. Lance sold the company which would become Columbia, where I worked on the flight line, calibrating systems and making sure the aircraft were kept in a flight-worthy condition during flight testing for conformity.

Engine calibration was a big part of our job, so this photograph resonates with me pretty deeply. I have to laugh when I see the fuel tanks sitting right under a set of transformers, though. I feel happy that I have this in common with Ivan; we were both aircraft mechanics!

Ivan's biography notes that he did early testing in bombing and night-flying. I assume this bank of lights is in the collection for this reason. The other item behind the lights is a larger spot light covered up, probably for the snow.

I'm including the next two since Ivan was an automobile nut, and who can resist an early model Harley Davidson? Teddy Lyons is credited as the rider.

Much more to come!



Taxi Trainer?

I landed on (sorry) two obscure photos this week. Like the two photos on the 'hazing' recently, these photos are so different that they force me to look into them. There are literally hundreds of photos of Jennys, dozens of F-boats and over 300 of the Indy 500. But these two also tell a story, and one that I will probably revisit.

First, a close shot of two gentlemen, one in the cockpit. One person in the cockpit is significant. All of these trainers had two cockpits, a forward cockpit for the student, and the aft for the instructor. Even from this angle things don't look quite right. That rudder is very small, and the elevator cables look cobbled together. It is covered with what looks like very dry canvas and you can see the blotches of castor oil all over the forward part of the fuselage.

Next, a view from farther away. It may be hard to see from this distance but there is a single-piston engine driving the prop, which is huge compared to the plane. There is a small gravity fed fuel tank above the pilot.  Notice also the very narrow wingspan. The whole 'airplane' is very small and it rests on four wheels which do not appear to be steerable.

I recall from my reading that there was a plane designed for taxi training at this field, and I'm suggesting this was it. The student would tear around the field in the trainer getting the feel of the controls on the ground prior to getting in a 'real' plane. Perhaps this is why it had four wheels. Notice how far aft the rear wheels are located and how far forward are the front wheels.

I feel disappointed not to have found any source material for this little device. I hope to revisit this post when I find it, or if someone can provide the documentation it needs.



Safer than auto racing? (or, any landing you can walk away from...)

The old joke in our family about my grandpa Ivan is that his father invested in his flying career because it was safer than auto racing. Ivan wanted to begin preparing for Indianapolis (and, presumably other national events) but Van balked. Within months he was taking flying lessons.

My belief is that Ivan quit flying for one of two reasons. He saw many of his contemporaries die in aircraft accidents.  In some cases he likely actually witnessed their deaths. The second reason was a crazy and manipulative fiancĂ©e, but that's another story.

There are so many photographs of crashes is this one scrapbook that it's difficult to limit the number even to the six that I ultimately chose for this post. I'll present them in the order of calamity, from best to worst.

The two photos above are of the same crash. I chose these two photos because of the expressions on the faces or for what (iirc) they call in art appreciation terms "eye lines". Eye lines captures interest in a photo or painting by creating a point of interest either in the photo or outside the photo, to where people are looking. In the first photo, five of the seven men are waiting, looking expectantly to the left outside the frame. In the second photo the flyer on the left looks a bit embarrassed, with his hat in his hands. (Happy Bagnell, by the way)

Now things have gotten a little more serious, I guess that goes without saying. Again, I chose this photo for the expressions on the faces, and for eye lines. In this photo the stance of two of the men indicates that at least four of them were concentrating on the same thing before the photographer walked up. Notice that they've not shifted their feet from the direction in which they were looking. They don't look particularly happy to see the photographer, either.

I like the photo above because it's so difficult to tell what happened. Maybe engine failure? Why not miss the hangar by steering a little to the right? I'm leaning toward a stall because of the broken fuselage. Anyone's guess.

This is just a mess. I think we're looking at an early Curtiss model similar to the headed pusher we saw a few posts back. They say that "any landing you can walk away from is a good landing". I don't think this was a good landing.

I've yet to find photos in the collection more shocking than the set of photos depicting this wreck.  Ivan marked one of the photos "Bill Miller's Wreck".  I was unable to find anything about Mr. Miller, but I have a book on the way about early aviation at Mineola that may shed some light on the subject. I will update if I find anything, or if anyone can provide credible information.

Enough death and destruction for one post! Next time I'll post photos of the training mock-up at the airfield, and perhaps some equipment.



The McLaughlin Gold Bug Hotel, Aeronautical Headquarters.

Some of the photos in Ivan's scrapbook catch my eye right away and others get passed over many times before they wake up some interest in me.  Today, I was really looking for another photo I had planned to scan and publish here.  I guess I was curious to see what the name of the place (a hotel) was on the sign in the photo.  The detail and focus of the photo is very good, so I grabbed my loupe and took a closer look.

McLaughlin Gold Bug Hotel | Aeronautical Headquarters, the sign read.  Well, that sent me to my friend Google, where I found some fascinating references.  Glen Curtis had a hangar, well really a tent across the street from his father-in-law's (Peter McLaughlin) hotel in Mineola, NY.  A lot of seminal flying accomplishments took place across the street from the hotel; and what better to do after a day of flying than to go across the street and drink some beer and talk about flying!? So Curtis and fellow flyers made it their own, and McLaughlin capitalized on the meeting by naming the hotel after the Gold Bug.  (you astute aviation buffs saw that right away, didn't you?)

The Gold Bug was Glen Curtis' early headed pusher.  Headed, meaning it had a horizontal stabilizer in front of the pilot, and pusher meaning the propeller pushed the plane, rather than pulling it. Interestingly, the sign shows a headless pusher at the top.

Library of Congress photo

Looking at the above photo you can see the steering wheel which controlled the rudder.  How were the ailerons actuated?  Below, (from this site) you can see a pair of bars on either side of Curtiss' shoulders.  This setup has been seen before in the blog and was known as Curtiss controls, with the steering wheel used for rudder and elevator, and the shoulder harness used for ailerons by leaning into and out of the turn. If you're a pilot you can imagine why this never caught on. An airplane gets pushed around a lot while in flight and your body swings like a reverse pendulum up from your hips.  You would need to keep leaning back into the controls for one thing, and try and keep your body from rocking side to side to avoid involuntarily rolling the aircraft, too. Completing the controls was a foot operated throttle on the right side.

After I had finished studying the wonderful photo of the Gold Bug I realized that the hotel is seen in the photograph, just to the left of the telephone pole! A little bonus like that when doing my research really makes doing this fun.

I remember seeing a documentary by a fellow who built one of these for the anniversary of it's first flight a while ago, and found that Kermit Weeks had purchased it from him. Notice that this reproduction does not have Curtiss controls, and the throttle is between the two seats since the rudder has been put in its modern place.

I'm still trying to get to the crash photos.  Shooting for the next post.



What about famous women? A real pearl!

After going through this current scrapbook looking for famous men, it occurred to me that I had neglected a woman who was far more famous than any of these men!

Pearl White was a silent film actress who starred in "serials" films. Her starring role in "The perils of Pauline" and later in "The exploits of Elaine" made her a well-known starlet by the time these photos were taken.  I believe they must have been shooting for the film "Pearl of the Army" because of the subject matter and the proximity to the film's release in 1916-17.

I don't have any documentation of any kind other than the proximity of these photos in the album to tie them to Mineola other than to observe that the aircraft is a Standard J1 which was plentiful at the airfield.  Ivan often received photos from other sources and pasted them into the scrapbook.  In any event, here are the photos of the famous actress, Pearl White.