Tony Riccio

Tony Riccio in a three piece suit, 1930s.
A very determined young man, 1930.

From the hundreds of pictures that I have of my father, Tony, I decided to assemble a short timeline to better illustrate his life but not bore you with an extensive family photo album. I have chosen the most relevant ones starting with him as a young man until his passing in 1976. I’ve divided the photos into seven pages, with about ten on each page.

Tony Riccio sitting in the pilot's seat of an Alexander Eaglerock biplane.
Tony in the pilot’s seat of an Alexander Eaglerock.
Tony Riccio wearing his leather flighting jacket, helmet, and goggles.
Tony in his new leather flight jacket, helmet, and goggles.

I hope you find this interesting as much as I do and can’t help but think about the thousands of hours of flight time he accumulated throughout his lifetime.


Tony Riccio standing next to an Alexander Eaglerock, A-15, owned by the Burgard Vocational High School.
Tony is building up his flight time in an Alexander Eaglerock, A-15, owned by the Burgard Vocational High School, where he received his aviation diploma on February 26, 1935. A Kinner K-5 radial engine powers this airplane and is easily recognized by the shape of the cylinder heads.
Tony Riccio piloting an Alexander Eaglerock, A-15, on takeoff.
Looking good Tony! Nice and steady.
Tony Riccio and his flight instructor talking about a flight lesson while sitting on the wing of an Alexander Eaglerock, A-1.
Tony, on the left, going over a flight lesson with his instructor. The airplane looks to be an Alexander Eaglerock, A-1, from the rounded shape of the front fuselage.
Tony Riccio's aviation diploma from the Burgard Evening Vocational High School dated February 26, 1935.
Tony’s aviation diploma, graduated on February 26, 1935.

Goodyear Ranger Blimp at BAP, 1947

The four sizes in proportionate scale of the Goodyear blimp for the U.S. Navy.

Goodyear built the first “Ranger I” blimp, NC-10A, in 1940 as an upgrade to the previous advertising blimps, but it soon became a part of a fleet of airships for the U.S. Navy’s L-Class airship division, used during World War II. The Ranger measures 150 feet in length, is 51 feet high while resting on its landing wheel, and holds 123,000 cubic feet of helium. Two 145 hp Warner Scarab engines mounted on outriggers, one on each side of the 22-foot long car, provide a top speed of 62 mph. The blimp has a 600-mile range at a cruising speed of 50 mph. A preferred altitude is between two and three thousand feet, but blimps have a service ceiling limit of 10,000 ft.

The Ranger I’s first test flight was on August 13, 1940, and the U.S. Navy received delivery on February 1, 1941, reclassified as the U.S. Navy L-2. Unfortunately, this blimp is destroyed in a mid-air collision in 1942.

As U.S. Navy blimp L-2, the ship collided with Navy blimp G-1 (formerly Defender) on June 8, 1942 during night operations near Manasquan Inlet, New Jersey. Both blimps were destroyed.

www.airships.com

During World War II, Goodyear ceased the operations of all advertising blimps.

The Goodyear Ranger II (NC-1A) blimp docked to it's mobile station at Buffalo Airpark on June 13, 1947.
The Goodyear Ranger II (NC-1A) at Buffalo Airpark, June 13, 1947.

Goodyear built two other versions of the Ranger series blimps, the Ranger II (NC-1A) and the Ranger III (N1A). After World War II, the first flight of the declassified U.S. Navy L-18, now know as the Ranger II (NC-1A) is on May 28, 1946.

The Goodyear Ranger II (NC-1A) blimp docked to it's mobile station on June 13, 1947 at Buffalo Airpark. The Quonset hangar and operations building is seen in the background.
If you look closely, you can see the Quonset hangar in the background towards the picture center. The single-story Operations building is on the left.
The Goodyear Ranger II (NC-1A) blimp docked to it's mobile station in a field on the property of Buffalo Airpark on June 13, 1947.
Goodyear set up their mobile station in the grassy field North of the Operations building next to the taxiway. You can see the concrete pad from Tony’s first hangar in the right foreground.
The Goodyear Ranger II (NC-1A) blimp being controlled by a group of unknown people at Buffalo Airpark on June 13, 1947. Tony Riccio and his wife Maxine can be seen under the blimp to the left of the cabin car.
Tony is seen on the far left standing under the blimp and looking up while his wife Maxine looks towards the camera, third from the left. (Notice the neon light panels under the Goodyear logo.)


Tony Riccio shaking the Goodyear blimp's pilot's hand with one unknown person standing next to the staircase. Two unknown people are inside the blimp's cabin car.
Tony, on the left, shaking hands with the Goodyear airship pilot, June 13, 1947.
The back side of the above photo dating the picture to June 13, 1947.
Back side of the above photo.

The cover of Goodyear's booklet "Airships Over America".

Click the “Download” button to access this booklet and please feel free to save a copy for yourself, print, or share!

BAP Hangars & Maintenance Shop

In this series, you will find pictures of the hangars and maintenance shop at Buffalo Airpark in chronological order, separated by individual pages per hangar. Again, if you have anything to share or would like to comment on, please do so. Enjoy!

An aerial photo of the Gardenville Airport in 1944.
The horse stable/maintenance shop/storage building is on the right, and the remnants of Tony’s first hangar destroyed by a fire in February 1943, center-left. The new Quonset hangar is on the left, completed the same year as this photo, 1944. Clinton Street is in the foreground.

Horse Stable

The horse stable is one of the first buildings that my father, Tony, built after purchasing the property in 1939. He salvaged what he could from the small barn next to the farmhouse and constructed a much bigger stable further East of his Gardenville Airport Operations building. It was his first maintenance shop with room to store a few airplanes. His shop was on the South end, and the horse stall was on the North end with room in the middle for storage.

The horse stable at the Gardenville Airport with a horse grazing.
I’m not sure if this photo shows doors open on each side or if the building is currently under construction.
The horse stable at the Gardenville Airport with a horse looking at the camera.
Look who’s coming to say hello.
Tony Riccio's maintenance shop in the South end of the horse stable at the Gardenville Airport during the winter season.
Tony set up the South end of the building as his maintenance shop with electricity, an oil-burning furnace for heat, a couple of multi-paned windows, and a service entry door. The rolling shop door is on the East side. Check out that vast snowdrift!

Blizzard of ’77 Hangar Collapse

I dedicate this page to my sister Carol Payne Zagon for if it weren’t for her extraordinary photographic skills, this story wouldn’t exist.


Sometime between Friday night, January 28, and early Saturday morning, January 29, 1977, we suffered a devastating hangar collapse. The roof of the West building of our twin “North” hangars gave way to the snow’s tremendous weight due to the historical Blizzard of ’77. The valley between the two buildings quickly became impacted by the deep powdery snow transported from the frozen surface of Lake Erie by the daily peak wind gusts ranging from 46 to 69 mph.


The weight was too much for the large pine roof trusses, and the aircraft’s destruction below was inevitable. It breaks my heart to this day to see such devastation because these airplanes were not just machines for transportation. They became a part of each pilots’ life, a close family member, and a strange bond that develops, unexplainable except to another pilot.




My brother Doug Payne remembers that tragedy all too well, telling me, “I was at the airport on Friday, the day before, and received a phone call the next day on Saturday morning that the hangar collapsed. It was heartbreaking to see all the destruction.”

This view is from inside the partially damaged Eastside hangar looking towards the valley seam. We were able to save this side of the hangar.








I remember Doug showing me the hangar a few days later because of a travel ban and waiting for plow drivers to clear the enormous snowdrifts that once covered the streets. He wasn’t living with us then and was able to get to the airpark on Saturday. What upset me the most was the sight of just a tail sticking out of a snowbank where there should have been an entire airplane.

This view is from inside the collapsed Westside hangar that my sister, Carol Payne Zagon, bravely entered to capture the “perfect shot.”








Notice how the roof trusses split under the extreme weight of the snow!


And not only were the airplanes a casualty of this hangar collapse, but two local antique fire trucks that were stored were also victims.





What a shame!

To help you understand the twin hangars’ size, here are a few photos of when it was under construction in the late 1940s.




This photo shows the three hangar bays added to the large Eastside twin hangar’s apron side, replacing the original awning and probably taken in the late 1960s.

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Hangar Fire of 1943

Tony begins construction on his hangar in 1941.

To say that a hangar fire in February 1943 was devastating to my father Tony is an understatement. His business, the Gardenville Aeronautical Corp., suffered a total loss of revenue. He was fortunate enough to be employed by the Republic Aviation Corporation as a test pilot for their P47 simultaneously, which gave him the time to strategize for the airport’s future.


Tony and an unknown woman

Tony recalls that in the early heyday of government flight programs, he missed the boat when a fire “virtually wiped me out” in February 1943. Tony had qualified for a CPT Instructor school in 1942 and graduated his first 12 students when the fire destroyed hanger, airplanes, shop, classroom and records.

Tony kept the air-park open “as a landing strip” during the lush training years and stayed with Republic as a test pilot while he planned the fate of his airport. He returned to Gardenville in 1943 and “from scratch” started to build.

NYS Aviation Bureau Flyer, Volume 1, Number 4, October 1952



Is this a Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp? Please leave a comment if you know.



Look at the airframes under the metal roofing!
I can clearly see a rudder frame.


This is heartbreaking!





The space is cleared and now used for storage.
I don’t know the history of this photo, and I hope it wasn’t a fatality. It looks to be a Waco biplane from the distinguishing cross-bracing of the windscreen. Maybe an OEC model? Please leave a comment if you know.

Tony returned to his airport in the fall of 1943 and finished constructing a new Quonset hangar by August 1944.


I’ve posted a copy of the fire insurance quote on page 2 if you’re interested in reading it.

Aerial Pictures

I’m not going to lie. There are many pictures in this series, 68 total, and please give yourself some time to go through these. Most are aerial shots of the airpark throughout the years, but some are from different Western New York areas. I have broken it up into seven subpages to make it easier to navigate.

I love this silhouette of my father flying his J-3 Cub!

I’ve organized the subpages in chronological order to the best of my ability, and please contact me if you see something out of place or have something to share. I’ve also numbered all of the photos after their descriptions for easy referencing.

I hope you enjoy viewing these pictures as much as I did, and together we are discovering Gardenville Airport/Buffalo Airpark’s history.

Where it all began! The future site of Gardenville Airport/BAP, 1938. (1)
The best aerial photo that I have of Gardenville Airport, 1944. Tony finished building the Quonset hangar, the operations building is only a single story, and the horse stable is being used as a maintenance shop/garage. The remnants of his first “North” hangar are visible, center left, from the devastating fire in February 1943 that destroyed the building. (2)
Gardenville Airport, 1944. Notice “Gardenville Airport” that Tony painted on the Horse Stable roof, lower right. (3)
Gardenville Airport, 1944. Notice paving just started in front of the Quonset hangar, center left. (4)
Gardenville Airport, 1944. Look at all of the undeveloped land at this time! You can just make out French Road at the top of this photo. (5)
Gardenville Airport, 1944. (6)
Gardenville Airport, 1944. (7)
Gardenville Airport, 1944. (8)
Gardenville Airport, 1944. (9)

Operations Building (Revised)

My father Tony first purchased a 20-acre lot located in Gardenville, New York, including two buildings, a farmhouse, and a small horse barn in 1938 at the age of 27. He converted the farmhouse into the beginning of the first operations office for his Gardenville Airport.


Tony is painting the background white before positioning the stencils to paint “Gardenville Airport” in black.

Tony completely redesigns the interior to include a custom front counter, new bead board, and rear office space on the left side. A central dividing wall separates the two sides and eventually supports the staircase to the future second-floor addition.

The right side has a lounge area, a showcase for sectional charts, access to the rear restrooms, and a small café. It also features a large floor heater along the central dividing wall.

Access window to order food or beverages and a place to sit while you enjoy a snack.

A gentleman is warming himself by the floor heater while people schedule a flight lesson at the front counter.
In this 1944 photo, you can see the horse stable/garage on the right with “Gardenville Airport” painted on the Westside roofing. The Operations building is still a single story, and the Quonset hangar completed on the left with the paving just started. Also visible is the concrete pad and steel posts of his first hangar destroyed by a fire in February 1943, about 100 yards North of the office.

Tony salvaged the usable lumber from the dilapidated horse barn from the initial purchase and built a more extended building on the office’s east side, where he painted “Gardenville Airport” on the roof. This building was often referred to as the “Horse Stable” because his first wife Maxine kept her horse in the end stall even though he used it as a storage garage and workspace.

The new horse stable/garage during construction.
Look at the size of that snowdrift!

Tony later changed the name from Gardenville Airport to Buffalo Air-park and continued to upgrade the office building. Then came the second-floor expansion in the late 1940s.

Tony adds the second-floor addition to the Operations building sometime in the late 1940s. I’m still working on an exact date.
Tony opens up the café service window and lengthens the countertop needed to accommodate the growing list of patrons looking for a “bite to eat.”
The building receives a facelift, and the café expands into a small restaurant featuring a revised full menu. This picture is from the early 1950s.


The second story white rear exit door is visible to the “Observation Deck” over the first-floor restaurant addition. Tony would later construct his second-story office there and eliminated that outside deck.
A wind gust flipped this Cessna 172 while sitting on the tarmac. Also, notice Tony’s second-floor office addition that has replaced the outdoor “Observation Deck” on the Operations building.

Doug Payne informed me that this photo’s date is sometime between December 1968 and January 1969 because of the brand new 1968 Ford Bronco with a plow, second vehicle from the left, that Tony purchased that same year.
That Ford Bronco did an excellent job of plowing the tarmac! Tony used the larger plow truck, center left, to clear the runway.
Now, this photo shows how I remember the airpark when I was growing up. It sure brings back memories!

I still have that propeller that hung over that archway!
The young lady sitting behind the desk is Pat Plummer, as my brother Doug Payne recalls.

If you have any pictures of Buffalo Air-Park that you would like to share, please contact me, and I would be more than happy to add them to this website.

Fokker G.I Heavy Fighter

While researching some upcoming articles that I’m working on, I came across a fascinating WWII aircraft, the Fokker G.I. I am familiar with Anthony Fokker, “The Flying Dutchman,” and many of his designs, but the G.I caught me by surprise. Maybe it’s my love for his initial designs during WWI, such as the Eindecker, or to get my heart pounding, the Dr.I triplane that I associate the Fokker name to and clouds my vision of the many aircraft that he produced.

General view of the exhibition hall during the assembly of airplanes, incl. 
Letov from Czechoslovakia, Koolhoven from the Netherlands, Caudron-Renault from France. 
On the left, a fragment of the reconnaissance aircraft of the French production Caudron C.600 Aiglon is visible. November 1936. (Photo & description courtesy, audiovis.nac.gov.pl)

The Palais de l’Air (Paris Air Show) of 1936 is the fifteenth exhibition since its inception in 1908 and showcased the modern aircraft construction techniques where the newly prototyped but never flown Fokker G.I is proudly displayed. Perched high upon welded steel wing stands positioned between Russian and Polish airplanes, the Fokker G.I gained the most attention because of its heavy armament.


Two rapid-fire 23 mm Madsen cannons along with two 7.9 mm machine guns reside in the nose, and one moveable 7.9 mm machine gun protects the rear section of the transparent cone-shaped fuselage.

Fokker G.I Flyer (Photo courtesy, destinationsjourney.com)

This twin-engine aircraft with its streamlined fuselage nestled between two tail booms supporting a single rear horizontal stabilizer with twin rudders is a sight to see and leaves a lasting impression! The plane earned several nicknames during the show where the British referred to it as the “Reaper,” and the French called it the “Le Faucheur” or “Mower.” Though some suggest, Mr. Fokker nicknamed it the “Mower” himself, and I can see why. I would hate to see that coming at me in my 6!

Anthony Fokker (courtesy dutch-aviation.nl)

Mr. Fokker and his team of designers anticipated a large turnout that year and hoped to spark the spectator’s interest with their new aircraft, and in true Fokker fashion, his G.I is the prodigy of the show! Written by the flight correspondent on the eve of the show;

“Never in the history of flying has the technique of aircraft construction stood so high; the days of stick-and-string contraptions are over, and real engineering has taken their place. The art of designing aero engines has also improved very materially, with the result that power has gone up and weight down. Reliability, once a doubtful quantity, is now taken for granted.”

The G.I prototype painted green with a medium blue belly, designated X-2, first flew on March 16, 1937, from Welschap airfield, near Eindhoven, Netherlands, piloted by a Czechoslovakia pilot. It was a successful flight lasting for about 20 minutes until landing safely without any problems. Testing continued, and after four flights, some issues did arise on the fifth flight with one of the supercharged Hispano Suiza engines overheating due to a design flaw in the oiling system. Engine damage resulted from insufficient lubrication to the extent of broken parts exiting the exhaust and damaging one of the tail booms. Frustrated with the Hispano Suiza engines’ known issues, Mr. Fokker attempted to add extra oil coolers underneath each powerplant. Still, it had little effect on lowering the temperature, and he decides to replace the engines entirely with the more reliable Pratt & Whitney R-1535 Twin Wasp Junior known as the Fokker G.I “Wasp” version. He also produced the Fokker G.I “Mercury” version for the Dutch, where larger Bristol Mercury VIII engines rated at 850 hp replaces the less powerful and smaller 750 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1535.

Men inspecting the rear turret on a Fokker G.I X-2. (Photos courtesy, destinationsjourney.com)
Check out this video that I narrated and added a sound track. (The original was silent.)

*My brother Doug brought to my attention that he noticed in the video the Fokker G.I. X-2 prototype has counter-rotating propellers. I was unaware of that, and I thank him for pointing it out. He also said that he could see the propellers’ rotational direction in the photos of the X-2. The news piqued my curiosity, so let’s have a look into why Mr. Fokker designed it this way, and I’ll discuss it at the bottom of this post.


Mr. Fokker received the first production orders for the G.I “Wasp” from the Spanish Republicans just before the beginning of the Spanish Civil War that started on July 17, 1936, and lasted until April 1, 1939. The Republicans contacted him looking for a good fighter plane for the looming civil war. He told them about a new fighter plane that his design team started working on in 1935 for the French Airforce but later rejected when other French designs seemed more practical. Mr. Fokker saw potential in this new design and continued developing the prototype, referred to as “project 129.” The Republicans, in dire need of a fighter airplane, ordered 26 planes, even before Mr. Fokker could complete a test flight. Because of the signing of the Non-Intervention Agreement in August 1936 that places an embargo against the fighting parties, Fokker suspends the order and focuses his attentions on the upcoming Paris Air Show in November that same year. He did continue to build those 26 aircraft and later told the press that Finland is interested.

Servicemen in front of a Fokker G.I “Mercury” (Photo courtesy, destinationsjourney.com)

Soon after the test flight, the Dutch Army Aviation Group (Luchtvaartafdeeling or LVA) ordered 36 Fokker G.I “Mercury” airplanes and received delivery in 1938 with aircraft registration numbers 300 through 335. This airplane differed slightly from the prototype with the installation of the Bristol Mercury VIII engines. Most importantly, as requested by the LVA, eight fixed 7.9 mm Browning machine guns to be installed in the nose and one moveable 7.9 mm Browning machine gun mounted in the rear. Also, provisions to be able to carry a bomb load of 400 kg if desired.

Fokker G.I with hatches open (Photo courtesy, destinationsjourney.com)
Fokker G.I “Mercury” 312 (Photos courtesy, destinationsjourney.com)

The Fokker G.I “Mercury” has a wingspan of 17.16 m(56 ft), a length of 10.89 m(36 ft), and an overall height of 3.35 m(11 ft). The unladen weight is 3360 kg(7408 lbs) with a gross weight of 4800 kg(10,582 lbs). It can reach a maximum speed of 475 km/h(295 mph) and a cruising speed of 356 km/h(221 mph) with a service ceiling of 9300 m(30,511 ft). A flight range of 1410 km(876 miles) is possible with full fuel tanks carrying 550 liters(145 gallons) plus 150 liters(40 gallons) in reserve at cruising speed.

Fokker G.I “Mercury” 302 fitted with dive brakes at Soesterberg. (Photo courtesy, destinationsjourney.com)

The aircraft completed missions in their 3rd and 4th JaVA (Fighter Flight Department) used as a hunting/cruiser airplane. Initially, the Dutch intended to use them as a dive bomber aircraft but decided not to because it performed better configured as a fighter plane. Some testing included fitting dive brakes on aircraft number 302, similar to those found on the Junkers Ju 87 or Stuka, but showed poor results on the Fokker G.I “Mercury.” Other variants included setting up aircraft number 304 as a scout by installing an observation dome or “Bathtub” under the hull, but proved unsuccessful. I can imagine the extra drag and weight created significantly reduced flight performance.

Fokker G.I “Mercury” 304 Reconnaissance Scout (Photo courtesy, destinationsjourney.com)

The Fokker G.I “Wasp” version is similar to the “Mercury” version but with the smaller, lighter, and less powerful 750 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1535 Twin Wasp Junior engines. The nose armament is reduced to four fixed 7.9 mm Browning machine guns but still retains the single movable 7.9 mm Browning machine gun in the rear. This airframe is slightly shorter than the “Mercury,” with an overall length reduced to 10.30 m(34 ft) needed to adjust for the center of gravity. The unladen weight diminishes to 3150 kg(6945 pounds) with a decreased gross weight of 4400 kg(9700 pounds). While maintaining a cruising speed of 322 km/h(200 mph), the pilot can expect a flight range of 1580 km(982 miles), and at full-throttle will result in a maximum speed of 434 km/h(269 mph). Both Fokker G.I versions operated with a flight crew of two but had an optional “middle seat” for a third crew member, but rarely used. Through testing, the aircraft performed better with a flight crew of two. Fokker produces 26 G.I “Wasp” aircraft and assigned registration numbers 341 through 365.

Fokker used his proven mixed construction technique in building the G.I with a combination of welded steel tubing covered with removable aluminum panels for the nose armament, front cockpit, and engine nacelles. The fuselage’s rear consisted of a wooden frame covered with thin plywood and Perspex windows, a clear acrylic, hung in aluminum frames. The rear conical turret is capable of turning 360 degrees for the gunner.

Fokker G.I Under Construction (Photo courtesy, destinationsjourney.com)

Aluminum framing and removable panels form the wing roots and contain the oil tanks along the leading edges and the middle section’s fuel tanks. Fokker also constructs the twin tail booms, horizontal stabilizer, and twin rudders from aluminum. Past the engine nacelles, the outer wing development consists of wooden framing and plywood covering. The wing spars run through the cockpit behind the pilot and fore of the rear gunner turret providing maximum support. Steel frames covered with linen make up all of the controlling surfaces. This mixed construction technique is a standard Fokker process and became characteristic of their cantilever high-winged monoplanes such as the Fokker F.VIII in the late 1920s.

In April 1940, the Dutch Ministry of Defense purchased the remaining 26 Fokker G.I “Wasp” aircraft leftover from the Non-Intervention Agreement signed in 1936 involving the Spanish Republicans. They were supposedly going to Finland after that cancellation but never left the Netherlands. Most were incomplete and stored in multiple hangers in various locations, but the JaVA were able to complete some ready for service in a short time.

Fokker G.I Advertisement (courtesy dutch-aviation.nl)
Fokker G.I “Mercury” (courtesy dutch-aviation.nl)

In the early morning on May 10, 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands with the Luftwaffe attacking the Dutch airfields. The battle was fierce and devastating to both JaVa divisions, and on May 14, the Dutch surrender. The Germans seized the remaining Fokker G.I airplanes and were taken into service by the Luftwaffe as testing and training aircraft.

A crashed Fokker G-1 with on the nose in the foreground the emblem of a duck with a button on its neck, the emblem of the 3rd JaVA (Fighter Flight Department) which on
Waalhaven airfield was stationed. (Photo & description courtesy, europeana.eu)
Luftwaffe soldiers at a captured Fokker G-1 Wasp, now equipped with Luftwaffe crosses, at Waalhaven airfield (Flugplatz). (Photo & description courtesy, europeana.eu)
Wreckage of a Fokker G.1 Mercury of the 4th JaVA at Bergen in front of Hangar 6. Left front. (Photo & description courtesy, europeana.eu)

None of the original Fokker G.I survived the war with only a few pieces found not worth saving, but a replica is proudly on display at the Dutch Nationaal Militair Museum (National Military Museum) in Soesterberg, Netherlands. I hope to visit this place someday and enjoy first hand the true beauty of this Fokker design!

A replica of a Fokker G.I on display at the Dutch National Military Museum. (Photo courtesy Nationaal Militair Museum)

*The term “counter-rotating propellers,” is used when a twin or multi-engine aircraft has propeller(s) on one wing that spins in the opposite direction of the propeller(s) on the other side. The primary purpose is to remove any potential issues related to a “Critical Engine” situation by balancing the torque output between the engines along the vertical axis.

The definition of a “Critical Engine” on a multi-engine airplane would be the engine that would cause the most significant impact upon the aircraft’s performance and handling if it were not in operation. A “Critical Engine” does not exist on multi-engine aircraft with counter-rotating propellers that spin towards the fuselage looking at the propeller’s top while seated in the cockpit, like on the X-2. A good reason why Mr. Fokker set up the G.I this way, and I understand his reasoning.

When counter-rotating propellers spin away from the fuselage, the opposite is accurate, and both engines are critical. A prime example is the Lockheed P-38, but I’ll save that for a future post.

Happy Birthday Dad!

Just a quick post to wish my father a happy birthday and that I think of him everyday! Enjoy the photos and Happy Halloween!

Tony suited up for a flight lesson in a Alexander “Eaglerock” biplane in the early 1930s. Notice the Kinner K-5 radial engine!
The back side of the above photo.
Tony and his first airplane, The General Aristocrat 102-E with a Wright J6 radial engine. I don’t have a date yet, but I would guess mid 1930s.
The back of the above photo.
Tony in his bright yellow J3 Cub, late 1930s.
The back of the above photo.

Tony’s Scrapbook; Boeing 247 Transport

Passengers waiting to board the Boeing 247

The Boeing 247 revolutionized civilian air travel through high speed, passenger comfort, and futuristic designs not seen by the previous airliners, virtually rendering them obsolete in a single day. Some examples of earlier airlines consisted of the Ford Tri-motor “Tin Goose,” the Fokker F-10 Super Trimotor, and the Curtiss Condor biplane. These airliners were usually underpowered for their size with open engines and large fixed landing gear resulting in a large drag coefficient and overall poor performance with long flight times between destinations.


Newspaper clipping from Tony’s scrapbook dated January 1933

The first flight of the Boeing 247 happened on February 8, 1933, and enters into service with United Air Lines on March 30, 1933, launching United well above the competition. The Eastern division of United received the first delivery in April. By the end of September, the entire fleet is in service operating in all of the United Air Lines territories. The 247 sets the trend for future airlines with United on top and momentarily deems all other current airliners out-of-date for about a year until the Douglas DC-2 entered the market on May 11, 1934, for TWA.

United ordered sixty planes in 1932 after seeing a final version model with the first batch of fifteen airplanes entering production by mid-1932. Boeing built much of the 247’s components in secrecy because United Air Lines didn’t want the other airlines knowing of their intent on the future of airline travel.

Boeing 247

Prototyping of the 247 began in 1930 and evolved from a combination of Boeing’s previous single-engine high-performance mail plane, the Model 200 “Monomail,” and it’s twin-engine military bomber, the Model 246/Y1b-9A.

Boeing “Monomail”

On May 6, 1930, the Boeing “Monomail” completes a successful test flight powered by a fully cowled Pratt & Whitney “Hornet” B radial engine rated at 575 hp with a maximum cruising speed of 140 mph at sea level. This new all-metal airplane has a cantilever low-wing design with retractable landing gear and three mail compartments totaling 220 cubic feet.

Boeing Y1B-9. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) ordered five Boeing YB-9 bombers for assessment and tested it against other competitors’ aircraft, all competing for a new military contract. Boeing produces the YB-9 as an upgraded model based on their earlier experimental designs, the 214 and 215 models. Powered by two Pratt & Whitney 600 hp “Hornet” engines, this cantilever low-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear can carry five crew members, two machine guns and has an external explosive payload limit of 2200 pounds.

Martin B-10

As impressive as the Boeing YB-9 is, it has its limitations, especially without any internal bomb bay. The Martin B-10 bomber is a better fit, and the Glenn L. Martin Company of Baltimore, Maryland, wins the contract.

Boeing YB-9 (courtesy Ray Crupi)

Boeing retains the cantilever low-wing twin-engine monoplane construction of the YB-9 in designing the 247 but completely redesigns the fuselage for passenger transport. Designers add seating for ten passengers and a flight crew of three, including the pilot, a co-pilot, and a flight attendant. The wing spars of the internally braced cantilever wings became a tripping hazard where passengers had to step over them to traverse the cabin forward and aft.

Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp
Pratt & Whitney R-1340 “Wasp” engine (courtesy Insomnia Cured Here)

The Boeing 247 is the first airline with twin direct-drive supercharged Pratt & Whitney S1D1 “Wasp” engines rated at 550 hp at 5000 ft spinning three-bladed fixed pitch propellers and has a top speed of 180 mph. The retractable landing gear attaches under each engine mount and folds into each wing’s leading edge engine nacelles. The all-metal construction of the 247 proves durability, safety, and efficiency, which reduces the previous transcontinental flight between New York and San Francisco by seven hours, with only seven stops in less than twenty hours. United Air Lines revenue increases dramatically because of their fast and dependable schedules, passenger comfort, and aggressive advertising campaign, earning the title “Three-Mile-A-Minute-Transport.”

Boeing 247
Boeing 247 (courtesy planephotoman)

Boeing soon discovered that replacing the fixed-pitch propellers with variable-pitch props improved performance and added 10mph to the already impressive cruising speeds. The demand is high for the Seattle Washington Boeing Airplane Company, a division of the United Aircraft & Transport Corporation, to produce sixty aircraft on time. Boeing soon increases its workforce to thirteen hundred workers and sublets work to Stearman Aircraft in Wichita, Kansas, another division of United, to assemble the landing gears, tail wheel assembly, and various small packs for the 247.

Interior seating of the Boeing 247

The 247’s semi-monocoque fuselage’s main cabin has five seats on each side and seating for the flight attendant located towards the aisle’s end at the plane’s rear. The 20′ x 6′ high cabin features separate heating and air vents for each passenger, reclining seats, dome and reading lights, and convenient ashtrays. Gray-green fabric adorns the interior walls, covering insulation layers and soundproofing, making for a pleasant flight with complimenting green whipcord patterned fabric upholstered seats.

A businessman prepares to climb three portable steps to board the 10-passenger Boeing 247 operated by Varney Air Lines, part of the United system in the 1930s. A flight attendant stands at the ready. Once aboard the airliner, they will have to step over the wing spars to reach the front of the cabin. (Frederick A. Johnsen collection)

A right-side main entry door, aft of the right wing’s trailing edge, allows access to the welcoming cabin by traversing a few steps on a short rolling ladder. Once inside, one must carefully step over the interior wing spars that intersected the floor while proceeding towards the passenger cabin’s front. The wing spar is an inconvenience, but the passengers soon accept it as visual reassurance of the strength and engineering behind the new 247 design. On the left side, a small lavatory and stewardess pantry that can serve light meals during the flight sits across from the rear main entry door. A tail section cargo bay is easily accessible through a door to the left of the main entrance with a maximum capacity of 65 cu ft. A second 60 cu ft cargo area is located behind the aircraft’s nose but can only be accessed externally.

Notice the forward slanting windscreen on this early 247

The forward-slanting windscreen quickly identifies the cockpit of the early 247’s as opposed to the later models with backward slanting windshields, but I’ll cover those other models later. All cockpits have dual controls, sliding side windows, two-way radios, state of the art navigational instruments, night-flying equipment, and a radiophone in the nose compartment’s upper area.

1933 Boeing 247

The stub wing is an integral part of the fuselage that firmly supports the massive landing gear, engine mounts, and nacelles. Fuel tanks also reside in the wing stub, one on each side with an additional 70-gallon reserve in the right tank. The smooth metal skin consists of anodized aluminum sheeting riveted to internal framing, resulting in a grayish exterior color often left unpainted. The all-metal tail section uses a similar cantilever design where internal bracing strengthens the horizontal stabilizer, but later models switch to fabric-covered rudders and elevators to reduce weight.

Boeing 247-D at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. Photo by Eric Long. Photo taken on March 19, 2018.

Newly designed “trim tabs” added to the ailerons’ trailing edges, elevator, and rudder allow the pilot to trim the aircraft during flight. Offset hinges installed on both the rudder and elevator provide additional aid to the pilot by reducing the amount of force needed at the control wheel to steer such a large airplane with substantial control surfaces.

Boeing 247 9444
Boeing 247 (courtesy Del Hoffman)

This impressive aircraft measures 51′ 4″ in length and has a height of 12′ 6″ with a 74′ wingspan. It has an empty weight of 8370 pounds with a useful load of 4280 pounds, bringing the maximum gross value to 12,650 lbs. The top speed is 182 mph at 5000 ft, but a comfortable cruising speed of 161 mph at the same altitude is ideal. Climbing to 8000 ft is achieved 10 minutes after takeoff, with the initial rate of climb decreasing from 1070 ft after the first minute to 830 ft at 5000 ft. The maximum fuel capacity is 265 gallons when the tanks are filled to the caps when needed but usually run below that level resulting in 203 gallons per flight. Cruising range is about 600 miles when the pilot can manage the fuel-hungry “Wasp” engines to sip just 30 gallons each per hour.

Boeing sees room for improvements in powering the 247 and is confident that the airframe is structurally sound to handle larger engines. After discussions with Pratt & Whitney, the two reach an agreement that Boeing will modify the 247 as a test plane for their new “Twin Wasp Junior” engines currently in development and used exclusively as an executive transport for the officers of the United Aircraft & Transport Corporation. The 247-A is born.

Pratt & Whitney R-1535-96 Twin Wasp Junior
Pratt & Whitney “Twin Wasp Junior” engine (courtesy Daniel Berek)

On September 14, 1933, Bernard “Benny” Whelan piloted the newly designed 247-A airliner’s first flight. “It’s a delight to fly with the increased power,” Benny remarked after landing and is impressed with the redesigned engine nacelles and broadened shrouds that now cover the more in-depth double row engines. He also enjoys seeing the new plush interior, now with spacious seating for six passengers, and still retains the rear lavatory and small kitchenette. Larger fuel tanks increase the capacity to 356 gallons extending the cruising range to about 1000 miles and reduce the number of stops on longer flights. The Pratt & Whitney SGR-1535 “Twin Wasp Junior” engine is rated at 625 hp at 2400 rpm at 7000 ft.

Engine testing continued with the installation of Pratt & Whitney’s newest development, the S1A1G engine rated at 660 hp at 2400 rpm at 7000 ft. This upgrade added 695 lbs to the total gross weight while retaining the same performance level as the previous SGR-1535 engine. Only one 247-A is produced for the sole purpose of testing and logged more than 3000 hours of flight time from 1933 to 1942 from its hanger based in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1947 the 247-A was scrapped but not before an accident-free career spanning 14 years, including two mercy flights saving both people’s lives and valuable data collected during those flight years.

The 247-A “Special” variant of the 247-A features higher torque engines, the Pratt & Whitney SA7G rated at 655 hp, increasing the gross weight to 13,650 lbs. That’s a 1000 pound increase from the original 247s gross weight of 12,650 lbs! This new 247-A “Special” also tests previous engines used in the 247-A, the 625 hp SRG-1535, and the 660 hp S1A1G with different passenger configurations leading up to the 247-D.

The 247-D is the last variation of the easily adaptable 247 in Boeing’s goal to stay competitive and easily identified by its backward sloping windshield. New supercharged Pratt & Whitney 550 hp S1H1-G “Wasp” engines fit in larger, more streamlined nacelles with close-fitting NACA cowls that reduce drag and increase speed. The 3:2 geared prop shaft spins the Hamilton-Standard “Controllable Pitch” propellers for better thrust, replacing the direct-drive fixed pitched props of the earlier 247s. The 247-D can carry ten passengers with up to 750 lbs of baggage and a flight crew of three, retaining the original configuration of the previous 247s but with an increased payload weight. Improvements to the cabin provide passenger comfort and convenience while the pilot enjoys an increase in performance and updated controls, making it easier to fly. Plus, the revised instrument panel, including an optional Sperry autopilot and Goodyear deicer boots on all leading edges. The aircraft can maintain the “Three-Miles-A-Minute” status at 3/4 throttle compared to the first 247s needing full throttle to achieve the same results due to the reduced drag and larger engines.

NC13369 - BOEING 247   Washington
Boeing 247-D (courtesy Vin LK)

Pratt & Whitney S1H1-G “Wasp” engines are rated at 550 hp at 2200 rpm at 8000 ft, increasing the service ceiling from 4500 ft to 11,500 ft with one engine out under full payload compared to the earlier S1D1 engines. Gross weight remains consistent at 13,650 lbs, but the maximum speed increases to 202 mph at 8000 ft with a cruising speed at 3/4 throttle of 184 mph at the same altitude. The climb rate in the first minute is 1150 ft at sea level and can reach 11,000 ft in ten minutes with a service ceiling of 25,400 ft. Cruising range reduces to 800 miles due to the smaller fuel tanks needed to offset the extra weight of 10 passengers and their luggage, burning 66 gallons of fuel per hour at cruising speed. The redesigned all-metal tail group features additional internal strengthening under the aluminum skin and improved control surfaces. Fabric-covered rudder and elevator installed with offset hinges replace the metal cover units to reduce weight and lighten the force at the pilot’s control wheel.

247-D “Adaptable Annie” and Paul Garber

On October 20, 1934, Roscoe Turner and Clyde Edward Pangborn entered a modified 247-D “Adaptable Annie” into the MacRobertson Centenary Air Race celebrating Melbourne, Australia’s 100th anniversary. This aircraft had additional fuel tanks installed into the fuselage and upgraded navigational equipment for the grueling 18,000-kilometer trip.

The flight path traversed over three continents, nineteen countries, and seven seas with five stops in Baghdad, Allahabad, Singapore, Darwin, and Charleville starting from Mildenhall, England, and finishing in Melbourne, Australia. The race has two divisions, speed, and handicap with no limitation on the aircraft, engines, or flight crew size. Turner and Pangborn finish the race in 92 hours and 55 minutes, coming in third behind a Douglas DC-2 entered by KLM piloted by the flight crew K.D. Parmentier, J.J. Moll, B. Prins, C. Van Brugge, and carrying three passengers. The DC-2 finished the race in 90 hours and 13 minutes and won the handicap division. This race showcased the strength and durability of stressed metal airplanes and that air travel over long distances is possible, making international air transport a safe alternative.

CF-JRQ (Chevron Standard)
Boeing 247-D Chevron Standard Limited (courtesy Reinhard Zinabold)

In Seattle, Washington, the Boeing factory builds thirteen new 247-Ds while the United Air Lines Overhaul Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, converts existing 247s in their service fleet. By 1937, the 247-D finds itself becoming obsolete through fierce competition and new advances in aviation development, especially in the Douglas DC series of airliners. United decides to lease or sell most of its service fleet of 247-Ds to smaller airline companies who are more than happy to acquire them. In 1942, 27 are called into duty by the USAAF and rebranded as the C-73 for military use. By 1944, undamaged deactivated planes return to their former owners or lent to foreign countries temporarily and eventually return to the U.S.

Boeing C-73, at Hammer Fld
Boeing C-73 at Hammer Field (courtesy SDASM Archives)

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