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Aviation History: May 2000 Letters

9/23/2000 • Aviation History Archives

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Aviation History
Aviation History

Goodyear Duck Facts

Regarding the query in the “Letters” department of your January 2000 issue, the Goodyear GA-2 Duck was built by the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation at Akron, Ohio. The prototype, known as the GA-1, first took to the air in September 1944.

The aircraft’s construction included an all-metal, fabric-covered wing and an all-metal, single-step hull, powered by a Franklin 113-hp single pusher engine. In all, 20 demonstration aircraft were built. About 15 were GA-2s, powered by Franklin GA-4-145-A3 engines, while the remainder were GA-2Bs that had more powerful Franklin GA-4-165-B3 flat, six-piston engines. The plane had a wingspan of 36 feet, was 26 feet in length and had a maximum speed of 125 mph.

After the test program was completed and the aircraft evaluated, it was determined that the costs would be too high to market the Duck to private pilots, so the project was dropped.

Ronald C. Billman
Millersburg, Pa.

Editor’s Note: We received two other responses to David Brainerd’s query. Don Trunick of Escondido, Calif., also identified the Duck and wrote: “I got my single-engine seaplane rating in 1949 in this aircraft at Vail Field, near Los Angeles. The aircraft was on loan as a test plane to W.D. “Hank” Coffin’s flying service. It had the Franklin 145-hp engine and was equipped with crosswind landing gear.” And Nicholas H. Hauprich of Green, Ohio, wrote: “As it happens, I was a design engineer with Goodyear Aircraft Corporation during the war and for quite some time afterward. I was on one of the design teams for the FG-1D and F2G Corsairs and after the war on the Goodyear amphibians. Later I became project engineer on the GA-22A ‘Drake,’ the last of the type. Some years ago I wrote a history of the Goodyear amphibians for the American Aviation Historical Society. If anyone would like to obtain a copy of that article, which costs $10, please address requests to me at P.O. Box 232, Green, Ohio 44232-0232.”

A Link With the Past

In reference to your “Letters” column in the September 1999 issue, I am also familiar with Bennett Field in Binghamton, N.Y.

When I was 9 years old, in 1929, my grandfather took my brother and me to see a huge plane that had landed in Binghamton. I have a photograph of my younger brother and me taken in front of the Ford TriMotor, wing No. NC 9642. We were allowed to go aboard and sit in its wicker seats. The field is now covered with Interstate Highway 81.

At this time, boys of my age were busy trying to whittle out copies of Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, and I had been bitten by the aviation bug, as were my grandfather and uncle. The year before we had visited an airshow in Endicott, held at the old Endicott Airport, located between old State Route 17 and the railroad tracks, across from the golf course clubhouse. The field consisted of a red barn hangar and a grass runway, running alongside the railroad.

The key attraction at the field was a flight of three Army planes, which I believe were brand-new Curtiss 1B or C Hawks. To cap off the day, my grandfather and I took our first ride in a Jenny-type, open-cockpit biplane.

From Lindbergh’s flight in 1927, through World War II, most young men’s dream was to become a pilot. One young man in our area, whose grandfather owned a company that made pipe organs, built a functional model large enough to sit in. It sat atop an air chest taken from an organ and it could climb, dive, turn and bank in response to the stick and rudder. He installed a coin slot to activate the mechanism and planned to make several of them to be used as moneymakers at carnivals and fairs. He had placed it on display in the showroom of the local Ford dealer, the Newing Motor Company, where my uncle and I went to see it. The owner showed me how to use the controls before I inserted my coin–probably a dime.

Little did he know at the time that this identical machine, with a hooded cockpit cover, would be used to train WWII pilots in instrument flying. His company would go on to be the primary builder of flight simulators for most of the planes flying today. The modern local airport is named for Edwin A. Link.

Harold S. Smith
Punta Gorda, Fla.

Udet and the Iron Man

O’Brien Browne’s excellent story about Ernst Udet in the November 1999 issue omitted a poignant detail of Udet’s suicide. In his World War I days, Udet’s leader, mentor and friend, Hermann Göring, came to be known by the nickname “Eisener,” man of iron. When Udet ended this association of over two decades by putting a bullet in his brain, he left a message for his comrade scrawled on his apartment wall: “Eisener, Du hast mich verlassen” (“Iron Man, you have forsaken me”).

William L. Shields
Woodbridge, Calif.

Credit Where It’s Due

I have always enjoyed reading Aviation History, as I find the articles entertaining and generally accurate. However, I want to point out a fact about the “Enduring Heritage” department in the November 1999 issue. The B-17F was restored for the Museum of Flight by members of the Boeing Management Association at the Boeing plant in Renton, Wash. The Museum of Flight really had little to do with the restoration. The airplane was test-flown by Boeing and then delivered to the museum. Since then it has resided outside the Museum of Flight and has not flown again.

The accomplishments of Pat Collucio and the Boeing Management Association deserve more credit than they have received in producing a restored aircraft that is as good as any assembly line production.

Harry Friedman
Memphis, Tenn.

Memories of Ken Walsh

Having just seen Stan Stokes’ tribute to Ken Walsh (“Art of Flight”) in the November issue, I hope I’m not too late in sending an attaboy for the article and the litho. Ken sent me one of his copies just a month or so before he died.

Ken could do just about anything. The first time I visited him in Santa Ana, he came out of the garage wiping his hands on a shop rag. He’d just finished rebuilding his lawnmower engine and asked, “Does your car need a tuneup?”

Unlike many (even most) aces, Ken was a student of aviation history. He could converse knowledgeably about the evolution of fighter aviation, including foreign air arms and personalities. He just loved gunnery and never tired of discussing it, which was one reason I asked him to write the foreword to my 1979 history of the Corsair.

It’s not well known that Ken was one of a handful of Marine Corps landing signal officers. Although he never deployed as an LSO aboard a carrier, he shared that rare status with another ace, Bob Galer.

Largely, though, I remember what a genuinely nice man he was. He usually phoned me on my birthday and never lacked for time to talk. I last saw him at Marion Carl’s memorial service. We made plans to get together that fall, but five weeks later he was suddenly taken from us. There’s a lesson for all of us: Savor the old warriors, for they are fading fast.

Barrett Tillman
Mesa, Ariz.

College Park’s Contributions

I particularly enjoyed the article about College Park, Md., by Charles Spence in the January 2000 issue (“Enduring Heritage,”) because of my interest in pioneer aviation, especially as it relates to Louis Blériot and his Type XI monoplane. However, I would like to set the record straight about two of Henry H. “Hap” Arnold’s early flights at College Park.

First, the article refers to the latter part of 1911 when he piloted an aircraft “to the then amazing speed of 42 miles per hour.” Two years earlier, on August 24, 1909, Louis Blériot set a world speed record of 46.18 mph. In 1910, Claude Grahame-White won the James Gordon Bennett Aviation Cup in a Blériot XI monoplane at 61.2 mph at Belmont Park, N.Y. By June 1911, the speed record had been raised to 77 mph by Alfred Leblanc, also flying a Blériot XI.

Second, the article claims that Arnold, in 1912, became the first pilot to fly more than a mile high. Yet the record book shows that back in October 1910, J.A. Drexel set a world altitude mark of 9,449 feet at Philadelphia. The record-setting airplane was, once again, a Blériot XI. By September 1911 the altitude record rose dramatically when Roland Garros reached 13,943 feet in a Blériot XI near St. Malo.

I don’t mean to imply that all the early records were set by Blériots. Other aircraft set their share. But without meaning to detract from Arnold’s tremendous contribution to aviation and the security of our country, his speed and altitude feats at College Park were neither amazing nor record setting.

Sanford Solarz
Levittown, Pa.

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