My Favorite Amphibian

The loveable amphibian. This modified aircraft design opens our travel by flight, with many more options to safely land our beloved companion. For example, we can choose a traditional paved runway or feel adventurous and choose an exciting water landing! Let’s be honest. The latter is why we are so fond of the amphibian!

Reading my friend Ron’s latest monthly issue of WNY AeroMail reminded me of this project that I started and set to the side. I’ve been organizing my father’s photos and started working on identifying an unfamiliar plane, to me, in the amphibian group.

At the time, I must have spent at least 3 hours trying to identify a photo from the 1940s with two amphibians. I finally spotted the aircraft in an old magazine advertisement and felt relieved from my accomplishment. On the same day, my brother Doug visited to see what I was doing. He instantly recognized the photo and said, hey, that’s a Grumman G-44 Widgeon! I should have called him earlier.

Two Grumman G-44’s parked on the grass next to the Quonset Hangar at BAP, 1943

Using the giant eight-seat commercial G-21 Goose as a design reference, Grumman engineers designed a more petite five-seat cabin amphibian, The G-44, in 1940. The G-44 received its FAA-type certificate on April 5, 1941, and became a service aircraft for the US Coast Guard as the J4F-1 later that year. Twin Ranger engines rated at 200HP provide the power of spinning wooden fixed-pitched propellors.

Notice the fuel pump to the right of the G-44. That was the second location before Tony installed the island with two pumps in the center of the tarmac.

The US Navy receives the J4F-2 in the following year, 1942. Unfortunately, I could not locate any upgrades to the J4F-2, but I’m sure there are. In 1946, the G-44A debuted with significant improvements, including a more profound bow, step vents, and upgraded mechanical equipment.

I love the lines of a G-44! (Unknown pilot and bystander)

Now, here’s where things become a bit intertwined regarding the development of the following two amphibians that my father operated at Buffalo Air-Park and Pompano Airport in Florida. I have yet to discuss Tony’s involvement with Pompano, but from what I have so far, it was a failed part of ownership that resulted in financial loss and emotional stress upon my father. He was also struggling with health issues, which sometimes clouded his judgment. I’ll touch more on Pompano when I have the facts together in a future article.

Notice the fuel pumps are now located in the island to the left of the Lake LA-4, 1968

N2019L. A 1967 blue and white Lake LA-4, serial number 353, was parked on the tarmac at BAP, waiting for the next rental or Tony to jump in and give a scenic ride to Lake Erie. This Lake is a four-seat amphibian powered by a single 180HP Lycoming engine. Here’s an interesting fact.
The engineers at Lake designed the LA-4 from the Colonial C-2 Skimmer IV with a few modifications. As a result, the LA-4 has an increased wingspan and length over the C-2 and is 50 lbs heavier, weighing 2400 lbs.

Look closely at the Cessna 172 on the far left. That’s N5394R, and I believe that it was damaged in the hangar collapse of 1977.

Tony Riccio, middle, other two men unknown

My favorite is the orange and white 1970 Teal TSC-1A, designed and built by David Thurston of the Thurston Aircraft Corporation! I am fond of this amphibian because of my time with my father when he took me for “joy” rides. I say joy loosely because I was terrified the first time we landed in a small lake in Florida. The landing was OK, but he opened the canopy and asked me to splash my hand into the water after he shut down the engine. What, are you kidding me? I was only 4 or 5 at the time, and my adolescent brain thought we were sinking because of how the plane settles into the water when floating.

Teal TSC-1A

I remember the look on his face when I started to cry. At first, he smiled as if he didn’t understand the problem, but then he realized I was freaking out. So he tried to calm me by explaining how an amphibian works and that it would be alright. No luck. I wasn’t having any part of it, and his only option was to close the canopy, start the engine, and take off. As soon as I felt the airplane start to lift out of the water, I stopped crying, calmed down, and enjoyed the flight back to the airport.

Teal TSC-1A on the beach. Can I get a push?

We spent more time together in that Teal, and I became acclimated to the amphibian over time. We even brought two fishing poles on one occasion but didn’t catch anything. It could be more comfortable to cast a line without limiting a small area to work. Your only option is straight out either side, being careful not to hit the wing. I miss that Teal with its big black cushiony nose and, most importantly, our adventures!

Look at how close you can get to shore in that Teal!

N2003T was unique. This particular amphibian has a serial number of 3 out of the 15 built. I’d like to know how Tony acquired the third one off the assembly line, but he did have many connections due to his employment with Republic.

A nice shot of the Teal taking off from the water.

The Teal’s design comes from Mr. Thurston’s prototype, the TSC-1 T-Boat, which incorporates a boat hull without any landing gear. Later refinements of adding a retractable landing gear resulted in the first flight of N1968T in June 1968. During the test flight, the engineers thought adding a dorsal fin would improve longitudinal stability. Also, a single fuel tank located in the hull would be beneficial. As a result, the FAA issued a type certificate on August 28, 1969.

Now back to David B. Thurston. I won’t go into much detail on David, but I will discuss a rough timeline with his involvement regarding the C-2 Skimmer and the Teal. Many websites go into great detail about Mr. Thurston, and I found Steinar Saevdal’s article about Mr. Thurston interesting. Here’s a link to Mr. Saevdal’s website, SeaBee.info, and I highly recommend checking out his site! His home page is titled “Steinar’s Hangar,” where he features many other topics, including the Republic Seabee, the Trident Trigull, and the aircraft of Norway.

Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation of Bethpage, Long Island, NY, hired David Thurston in 1940 as a design engineer. David is involved with many projects throughout his career with Grumman but realizes that he must work full-time on the amphibian project he started in 1946. So he resigned in January 1955 to form the Colonial Aircraft Corporation with former classmate & engineer at Republic, Herbert P. Lindblad.

After the formation of Colonial Aircraft in Huntington Station, NY, the two men move the entire operation to Sanford, Maine, where they start the manufacturing and marketing the C-1 Skimmer. After nine years of development, the C-1 received an FAA-type certificate on September 19, 1955.

Colonial C-2 Skimmer N271B Oshkosh 24/07/18
Colonial C-2 Skimmer N271B Oshkosh 24/07/18 (photo by Vince Horan, flickr)

The C-1 needed improvements; thus, the C-2 Skimmer IV is Colonial’s next and final amphibian. The C-2 was certified on December 24, 1957, and what a wonderful holiday gift! But, unfortunately, it was short-lived, and Mr. Thurston sold the company to Jack Strayer in 1959. Jack developed the C-2 into the prototype of the soon-to-be Lake LA-4 and an unsuccessful business plan for Lake Aircraft.

Unfortunately, due to slow sales and the lack of interest in the LA-4, Mr. Strayer sold the manufacturing rights to John Dalton in 1962, where he formed the Consolidated Aeronautics Corporation. But, too, he finds it challenging to acquire funding for production and sells all the rights to Herbert P. Lindblad and Merlin L. Alson, where they successfully form the Lake Aircraft Corporation.

Did you see what just happened? Mr. Lindblad purchased back the rights to the LA-4, technically the C-2, that he co-founded when he and David Thurston first formed the Colonial Aircraft Corporation after David sold it out from under him in 1959. I’m going out on a limb here, but maybe the two men had a falling out, and that is the reason for the desolvation of Colonial. Just a thought.

What happened to David Thurston, you ask? Good question and I’m interested as well! Mr. Thurston formed the Thurston Erlandsen Corporation, a research, and development firm, in March of 1961, where he acts as president. He sells his financial interest at the beginning of 1966 to raise capital for his new company.

Thurston TSC-1A1 Teal TU-TWA  (TUTWA)
Thurston TSC-1A1 Teal TUTWA (photo by David Moth, flickr)

In July 1966, David established the Thurston Aircraft Corporation in Sanford, Maine, to produce the TSC-1A Teal. The maiden flight of this amphibian was in 1968, and it received an FAA-approved certificate in August 1969. Unfortunately, sales were slow due to an economic turndown, and Mr. Thurston had no choice but to cease all operations in 1971 after producing nineteen amphibians. Schweizer Aircraft Corporation of Elmira, NY, purchased the manufacturing rights of the Teal program in December of 1971.

Mr. Thurston joined the Schweizer Aircraft Corporation as an engineering manager in 1972 but resigned in 1976 to form yet another company, the Thurston Aeromarine Corporation as an aircraft design consultant. David was passionate about aircraft design but was never satisfied with the final construction or the responsibilities of running a manufacturing company.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post; I didn’t intend this article to be so long. It always amazes me the many stories intertwined in aviation history! Leave me a comment, and I’ll see you in my next post!

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Hell’s Angels, 1930

First, I apologize for my absence from writing anything new and for not posting on this website lately. I planned to create a new post for many days, but I needed more time. As the years progress, time speeds up, or I’m getting slower. Either way, I hope you understand. I’m working on changing my daily schedule and will do my best to post new content more consistently.

Have you heard of the film “Hell’s Angels”? I know what you’re about to say. How is a motorcycle club involved with aviation, or am I pursuing a new chapter in my life? Well, neither, at least of myself joining a club and exploring the open road on two wheels. I welcome all to participate if any club members are interested in flying!

(courtesy IMDb)

Howard Hughes directed and produced “Hell’s Angels,” a film he was most proud of and considered a great accomplishment in his life. The movie debuted in the US on November 15, 1930. It had taken three years to produce since its conception in 1927, first shot as a silent film, then portions re-shot for sound.

Why for change, you ask? Mr. Hughes previewed “The Jazz Singer” with its release on October 6, 1927, when he was still finalizing the scenes of his movie. He is astonished by the quality of the music scores and how enjoyable it is to hear the actor’s dialog, realizing that he must finish his “Hell’s Angels” film as a “talkie.”

Did you know that “The Jazz Singer” marked the end of the silent film era, being the first full-length motion picture with synchronized music and speech? Neither did I.

Ben Lyon, Jean Harlow, James Hall (courtesy TMC)

The film’s storyline establishes the adventures of two offbeat brothers serving in the British Royal Flying Corps during World War I. Actor Ben Lyon stars as Monte Rutledge, and James Hall plays his brother Roy Rutledge. In addition, actress Jean Harlow makes her first big screen appearance as Helen, the love interest between both brothers Roy and Monte. Miss Harlow was only 18 years old then, and the short dance scene was the only known full-color footage of Jean before her death in 1937. Was she the first “Marilyn Monroe”?

Hell’s Angels dogfight scene (courtesy blog.elmc.co)

Howard Hughes and pilot Harry Parry choreograph most of the stunts for the dogfighting scenes, but the stunt pilots approve not all. Paul Mantz is the principal stunt pilot and coordinator for leading actual World War I pilots hired directly by Hughes, while Elmer Dyer is the pioneering aerial cinematographer. Finally, during the last major flying scene, one hundred thirty-seven pilots take to the skies for a most epic dogfight! I would have loved to see that in person!

(courtesy greatwarfilms.net)

Four people die during the production of this film, and Mr. Hughes servilely injures himself during a stunt that Mr. Mantz refuses to fly because it is too dangerous. Unfortunately, he is correct, and Howard cannot coordinate a deep pullout after a strafing mission. The crash left Mr. Hughes with a fractured skull which required facial reconstruction.

Now that’s a commitment to get the perfect shot or just stupidity. But then again, it’s Howard Hughes, and it doesn’t surprise me. If you’re looking to “go down the rabbit hole,” search more on the life of Howard Hughes. You won’t be disappointed!

We need to pause for a moment and honor the four people who lost their lives. Pilot Al Johnson crashed after hitting power lines while landing at Caddo Field near Van Nuys, CA, where most of the filming took place. Pilot C.K. Phillips crashed while delivering a SE 5 fighter plane to the Oakland, CA filming location. Australian pilot Rupert Syme Macalister died, but I don’t have any additional information on his passing. And flight mechanic Phil Jones was killed when he failed to bail out before the crash of a Sikorsky S-29-A piloted by Al Wilson, who survived.

S-29-A (courtesy sikorskyarchives.com)

The S-29-A is Igor Sikorsky’s first biplane, which he built after arriving in the US and used as a Gotha GV heavy bomber in the film. Unfortunately, Mr. Sikorsky only created one S-29-A, which first flew in 1924 and was later destroyed in 1929 when it crashed during the filming of this movie.

The other aircraft in the film are the Royal Aircraft Factory SE 5 and the Fokker D.VII. I could write entire articles on either plane, but I’ll save that for a later date. So instead, I’ll touch on a few points of interest to keep things moving and not take up any more of your time.

SE 5 (courtesy thoughtco.com)

The SE 5 is a British fighter biplane used by The Royal Flying Corps during World War I and manufactured by the Royal Aircraft Factory in Farnborough, Hampshire, England. Henry Folland, John Kenworthy, and Major Frank Goodden were the designers, and the first one of three prototypes flew on November 22, 1916. Unfortunately, the first two crash due to a weak wing design, killing one of the designers and chief test pilot, Major Frank Goodden. The third prototype features redesigned wings with a squarer surface area which improves lateral control at low airspeeds and increases the diving speeds. As a result, the SE 5 is one of the fastest aircraft during the war, with a maximum speed of 138 MPH!

Would you enjoy seeing an original SE 5 in person? Yeah, me too! Check out the Shuttleworth Collection, an Aeronautical & Automotive Museum located at the Old Warden Aerodrome, Old Warden, in Bedfordshire, England.

Fokker D.VII (courtesy nationalmuseum.af.mil)

Now on to the German side. The Luftstreitkrafte, Imperial German Air Service, uses the Fokker D.VII for their fighter. The airplane dominated the airways when it first entered combat in May 1918 with its excellent handling, high rate of climb, and extended ceiling operation—designed by Reinhold Platz of the Fokker-Flugzeugwerke company. However, the first experimental V.II was tricky to fly, as reported by pilot Manfred von Richthofen, aka the “Red Barron.” So Mr. Platz lengthens the rear of the fuselage and redesigns the rudder to add stability. The results are a success, and Mr. Richthofen praises the new aircraft as the best he has ever flown. Fokker immediately receives an order for 400 aircraft. After the war, Germany must surrender all remaining D.II’s as per the Armistice agreement and place them into service among other countries.

Manfred von Richthofen, aka the “Red Barron”
Fokker D.VII (courtesy oldrhinebeck.org)

Again, I would love to see an original Fokker V.II, but it’s too late, and I need help locating any that still exist. But there are many reproductions! For example, there is one on a static exhibit under restoration at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in Red Hook, NY.

Howard Hughes (courtesy historylink.org)

Hell’s Angels take three years to complete from 1927 through most of 1930 and is the highest-grossing film of the early sound era. However, despite the film’s great success, the total revenue didn’t cover the cost of 2.8 million US dollars.

I recommend watching this film or watching it again if you have already done so. I found options to purchase this movie, and I even found a copy on YouTube to watch for free at the time of this writing. Check the link below. If not, search for “Hell’s Angels 1930” to see your options. Be sure to add 1930, or you will see a lot of biker films.

Enjoy the film, and please leave a comment!

Crossword Puzzle-Aristocrat 102E

Do you enjoy a crossword puzzle as much as I do? I know what you’re thinking. That’s an odd question from someone I barely know other than his writings on this website. You’re right, but now you know that I like solving crossword puzzles, and maybe you’ll enjoy what I have to share.

I find it easier to write facts down on a classic yellow legal pad while researching for a new article because it helps me retain and organize the paper’s overall structure. Plus, it helps hone my writing skills, which seem to be degrading as I age. Do you find it helpful to do the same, or do you prefer to keep notes on your tablet, PC, or phone? I guess it’s all the same as long as you’re happy with the results.

I have all of these facts written down, and I recently concluded that it wouldn’t be too challenging to create crossword puzzles. So, let us give it a try, and I’m proud to offer you my first puzzle!

I couldn’t think of a better aircraft than the Aristocrat 102E, my father’s first airplane. I love this plane and wish I could have had a ride with him!

Tony Riccio and his Aristocrat 102E, photo taken between 1936-1937.

I’ve touched briefly on his airplane, and here’s a quick refresher. The above photo shows my father, Tony, standing in front of his Aristocrat 102E airplane built by the General Airplanes Corporation in Buffalo, New York, about 1930. A five-cylinder Wright J6, the “Whirlwind Five,” radial engine supplies 165hp to the propeller.

Tony on the right, unknown person on the left.

I recommend reading an article published in the 1983 July issue of AOPA Pilot magazine under the Yesterdays Wings column, “The General Airplanes,” written by Peter M. Bowers. Click on the link here, or download the article below.


Now, let’s try that puzzle, shall we? Click this link to complete this puzzle online, or you have the option to print it if you find it more accessible. There’s also an option to print the answer key if you need help. Good luck!

Below is an example of the actual crossword puzzle, but I don’t think you’ll be able to input the answers here. So instead, click the above link to complete the crossword puzzle online, and feel free to share!

Also, if you have time, please submit your feedback by clicking on the green button in the lower-left corner. Thanks again for visiting!
Billy

Air Shows

As spring rapidly approaches with the first sighting of my feathered friend, the Eastern Robin, I find myself gleaming with anticipation of the warmer weather and shed myself of the long, cold, and dreary months of winters past. And what a better way to welcome the arrival of a beautiful summer season than planning to attend upcoming air shows! To reunite with old friends, see familiar faces, and experience the sights and sounds of those glorious aircraft!

I remember coming across a few pieces of air show memorabilia in my father’s aviation collection and thought they would be nice to share. It’s interesting to me how times have changed since the late 1940s, and as I read this literature from the past, I daydream of an exciting time for both spectators and participants that seems so distant. But in a strange twist, I find it relevant to the year 2022 and can relate to the excitement covering all things involving aviation!

Let us go back to the weekend of September 14 & 15, 1946. Harry S. Truman is our acting President, country musician Hank Williams signed a recording contract in Nashville, and American film actor Tommy Lee Jones was born on Sunday, September 15, 1946.

The Army Air Forces and Civil Air Patrol presents the Niagara Frontier Air Show at the Niagara Falls Airport, NY. This 23 paged brochure, although 11-14 are missing, speaks of the importance of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) written by Colonel Stuart C. Welch and outlines the exhibits and schedules of each event during the two-day air show. The relevance of the New York Wing of the CAP is historical, with its formation in December 1941 under Commander Beckwith Havens. Then, in March 1942, the highly publicized and successful creation of the Anti-Submarine Aerial Patrol, first based in Atlantic City, NJ, was a pivotal point in the wartime efforts.

Airplanes proudly display a familiar symbol of a white triangle in a blue circle. These CAP pilots flew their light aircraft without military status, over open sea patrolling the East Coast from Maine to the southern tip of Florida, then around the Golf Coast to New Orleans. Fitted with bombs and two-way communication, these CAP pilots successfully destroyed several enemy submarines while operating closely with nearby Naval vessels. But unfortunately, the CAP pilots who lost their lives or were seriously injured were uneligible for reimbursement or military recognition by the government.

Members of CAP Tow Target Unit No. 22 in Clinton, Md., show off their personalized target sleeve. (CAP National Headquarters)

After the Navy acquired complete control of all anti-submarine activities, the CAP continued with their Courier Service by transporting government personnel and materials between military bases and manufacturing plants. The Army authorities also requested that the CAP construct bases throughout the US for military training exercises towing aerial targets for Army Air Forces (AAF) to fire upon inflight and ground munitions.

Ok, call me crazy, but let’s reflect on that last sentence. I love adrenaline-producing, heart-stopping activities just like everyone else. Still, I draw the line at flying a light civilian aircraft towing a target for military personnel to shoot from an airplane or anti-aircraft gunners. I hope those pilots had a new pair of shorts when they landed! Are you with me?

Floyd Carlson is in the pilot’s seat.

Here’s a quick history fact that I just read in this brochure. The Buffalo CAP unit sponsored the first indoor helicopter flight by Bell Aircraft at Group Meeting 65th Armory.


Now, back to the air show. The exhibits include an AAF eighteen trailer caravan spotlighting the Norden Bombsight, captured enemy material including Hilter’s possessions seized at Berchtesgaden, and postwar equipment. Also, private aircraft displayed in a hanger, including a Globe Swift 125 that I’m sure my father was showing, but I don’t have any photos to prove it.

A Norden bombsight in the nose of a B-29 Superfortress at the Museum of Aviation. (Museum of Aviation photo)

And the best for last, aerial displays of a P-80 “Shooting Star,” a B-29, a P-51 “Mustang,” a C-47, and lastly the A-26 “Invader.” Also, two demonstrations for “control-line” model aircraft by Buffalo Miniature Aircraft Engineers featuring a 113mph model by Robert Ackley and a jet-propelled model by Harold Diebold.

Douglas A-26 Invader

Harry Barrie, “Red” Williamson, and Edward Evers will demonstrate formation and acrobatic flight in light aircraft. Twenty minutes later, “Red” Skelton of Jamestown will perform “How Not To Fly An Airplane.” Finally, Bell Aircraft Corporation presents a helicopter demonstration “flying from zero to ninety miles per hour backward, sideways, up and down as well as straight away.”

Before the finishing ceremony and the ending of the first day of the show, the CAP Cadets demonstrate a parachute jump. “These boys and girls are members of the Parachute Squadron, Michigan Wing, CAP and are between the ages of 15 and 18.” My hats off to them!

I highly recommend downloading the full brochure to read the complete article on the CAP and enjoy the vintage advertising! Click the link below.


Do you have plans for Sunday, August 31, 1947? Good, neither do I, so meet me at the air show presented by the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce at the Hamburg Air Park in Hamburg, New York. I read over their flyer, and it looks like fun!

The featured attraction is Roland Maheu, Minot, Maine, Pathe & Paramount newsreels star. “The man that thrills his daring stunts. Walking on a plane wing at 100 miles per hour. His display of non-excelled aerobatic flying. Square Loops, starting from the ground. Snap Rolls. The whole book of tricks.”

Roland Maheu (courtesy Sun Journal)

“Plus, that Believe It or Not stunt featured in Ripley’s Column of climbing out on the landing gear to restart his engine, while the plane glides free in mid air.”

Click the link below to download this 4-page flyer and read the “Spot Landings” article starting on page two. It’s a fascinating piece and enjoyable to read about general aviation in that era. Unfortunately, I’m sorry to say that the answers to the “Plane Quiz” on page 4 are missing, so do your best, and I’ll leave it up to you to self-check your answers. Good luck!


And lastly, in the collection, a couple of newspaper clippings about the first annual air show at Buffalo Air-Park was on Sunday, July 11, 1948. It looks as though my father, Tony, gained inspiration from the other previous airshows.

Tony convinced the West Seneca Chamber of Commerce to sponsor the event. With approximately 5000 to 8000 spectators, the air show is a great success and scheduled for the following year by Authur Lewis, Chamber president.

The show started promptly with formation flying led by my father Tony and two other BAP employees, Niel Smith, sales manager, and Clarence Sheldon, assistant chief pilot.

The feature event is an eight-person mass parachute jump coordinated by Bobby Ward of Philadelphia PA and his Sky Devils. “After circling the field several times, the Sky Devils jumped from the two-engine ship, one motor of which had been shut off, from an altitude of approximately 1000 feet.”

Bell Aircraft Corporation gave a hovering and spot landing demonstration with Floyd Carlson, chief test pilot of the Helicopter Division, at the controls. Delbert Reed of Buffalo, NY, presented a glider demonstration and Pete Wilkins of Cornell NY put on an “airobatics” show.

H. Lloyd Child, Curtiss-Wright Airplane Division test pilot. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test & Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

Former Curtiss-Wright chief test pilot Lloyd Child gives a Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) cross-wind landing gear demonstration. In addition, Cook Cleland, Thompson trophy winner at the 1947 Cleveland Air Show, made a personal appearance.

Cook Cleland (courtesy City of Pensacola)
Tony Riccio, 1948 BAP Air Show. Notice the wing of a Republic Seabee on the right.

Tony needed an excellent closing act for the air show than just formation flying, so he teamed up with Wallis McGinnis of Hatboro PA, one of Bobby Ward’s Sky Devils. The two men attempted to start the silent motor on an airplane, piloted by Tony. McGinnis stood on the strut at an altitude of 800 feet but pretended to slip and fall with a delayed parachute jump finishing out the act. Sound familiar, at least hand propping a silent motor? Roland Maheu must have left a lasting impression on Tony from the 1946 Niagara Frontier Air Show.

A Republic Seabee, 1948 BAP Air Show.
Globe Swift 125, 1948 BAP Air Show.
Unknown spectators at the 1948 BAP Air Show.
Cessna 195
Luscombe 11 Sedan (Thanks, Doug, for the correction)

Mike Steffen, Tony’s Flight Instructor

Mike Steffen was Tony’s flight instructor when he learned to fly at Burgard Vocational High School in the early 1930s while attending night classes. The two developed a pretty unique relationship and remained good friends throughout my father’s aviation career.

“In 1928, Mike was one of the first tenants at Buffalo Airport, where he sold and serviced airplanes and conducted a flying school.” courtesy Buffalo Courier-Express, February 12, 1967

Tony graduated on February 26, 1935, after enrolling in Burgard’s three-year evening vocational aviation course. He continued his employment at Curtiss Aeroplane & Motor Company in Buffalo as a mechanic until purchasing his Gardenville Airport property in 1938.

Tony standing in front of Burgards Eaglerock powered by the upgraded Kinner K-5.

I am not too familiar with the history of Burgard, other than what my father acquired in his collection. However, that recently changed when I received my monthly WNY Aeromail newsletter, #55, from Ron Ciura, the reporter. In that newsletter, Ron shares some history of the Elm/Burgard Flying Club provided by Paul Faltyn, a Burgard Grad and Curator of the Niagara Air Museum. Click the link button below to read a document outlining the Flying Club with its inception in 1927.

If you have trouble with the provided link above, you can download the 1927 Burgard History document below.


May 30, 1933, is Tony’s first logbook entry flying dual instruction with Mike Steffen in Burgards Eaglerock biplane, NC-6323, powered by a Kinner K5 engine. Tony flew for 45 minutes on his first flight, and I can only imagine his excitement!

On September 7, 1933, Tony piloted his first 5-minute solo flight and finished his training for an additional 25 minutes of dual time with Mike Steffen on that day, continuing to build hours in Burgards Eaglerock. Tony continues to acquire solo time, and on October 13, 1933, he flys a full solo flight.

Tony received his Amateur Pilots License on October 14, 1934, with just over 55 hours logged of total flight time. He focuses on the required classroom study to complete the Burgards aviation course, although he dreams of getting back in the air after graduation. As I mentioned earlier, his hard work and determination pay off, and Tony graduates on February 26, 1935.

He continues his flight training with Mike Steffen, starting on April 20, 1935, adding additional hours in his logbook flying solo in the Eaglerock. Tony received his Private Pilots License on July 8, 1935, and flys his first passenger from Buffalo to Niagara Falls three days later, on July 11, in the Eaglerock. His logbook doesn’t state who his first passenger is, but I’m guessing it was either his mother, father or brother Victor.

Tony’s first night flight is on October 13, 1935, in the Eaglerock, departing the Buffalo Airport at 5:30 pm and returning at 6:50 pm, bringing his total logged hours over 76 hours since he started flying. His first logbook of the nine that I have covered from May 30, 1933, to June 27, 1938, with a total flight time of 228 hours and 30 minutes. Only 14 hours and 50 minutes were dual time!

I discovered an article that my father saved featuring Mike Steffen printed in the Buffalo Courier-Express, dated February 12, 1967. It’s terrific writing to a fascinating person, and I highly recommend downloading a copy for yourself!

Tony Riccio, a P-47 Test Pilot

Tony Riccio wearing a leather flight jacket with his Republic photo identification pin.
Tony Riccio wearing a leather flight jacket with his Republic photo identification pin.

Tony had heard that Republic was hiring for test pilots to fly their newly developed P-47 in the summer of 1942, and he knew that he couldn’t let this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity pass by. Two years have gone by since he first opened his Gardenville airport, and he felt this could be financially beneficial to expand his business. Could the airport survive without him, Tony thought to himself. It must, he later concluded, and began to make arrangements so the airport would remain operational while he was away.

Tony found out that he needed to complete a flight check before submitting an employment application to Republic. On December 9, 1942, he met the requirements through a test flight in a North American AT-6 trainer at the Romulus Army Air Field in Detroit, Michigan. Tony flew for 1 hour and 45 minutes with an instructor, and upon landing, he receives his certificate to fly a P-47!

Tony's logbook.
Tony’s logbook.

Tony’s last flight at his Gardenville Airport is on February 7, 1943, in a Taylorcraft model D airplane with a 65 hp Franklin engine. He finished a long dual-time lesson with one of his students for a total of 3 hours and 30 minutes under the Civilian Pilot Training program.

Tony standing in front of a P-47 in full flight gear!
Tony standing in front of a P-47 in full flight gear!
Tony would accumulate many flight hours from this cockpit!
Tony would accumulate many flight hours from this cockpit!
Tony's logbook.
Tony’s logbook.

Tony’s first test flight for Republic is on February 23, 1943, in a P-47-C warplane with a 2000 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800-21 “Double Wasp” twin-row 18 cylinder radial engine. The plane’s registration number is 16650, and he flew for 55 minutes from Republic’s base in Farmingdale, Long Island, New York.

On March 1, 1943, Tony test piloted his first P-47-D, ship number 16864, for 55 minutes.

Tony ready to start the engine of a P-47. Clear!
Tony ready to start the engine of a P-47. Clear!

Let’s stop for a minute and think about how Tony must have felt on this day. At the beginning of February, he last flew a Taylorcraft airplane and is now test piloting a P-47 warbird, all 8 tons of her glory, pushing it to its structural limits with speeds above 400 mph at 30,000 ft. I consider this a life-changing event, almost an enlightenment of one’s self-being, that I know Tony cherished throughout his life and was very proud to share his experiences. I remember him telling me stories of flying the P-47, and I was the most popular kid during “show and tell” at grade school when he let me bring photos of him in his flight gear and the P-47. He even let me bring in his leather flight helmet and goggles one day, but I’m sure he was concerned about its safety because that opportunity never came up again.

One of Tony's many logbooks.
One of Tony’s many logbooks.

P-47 Racer 4 (photo courtesy usaaf-noseart.co.uk)
P-47 Racer 4 (photo courtesy usaaf-noseart.co.uk)

I found a fascinating entry in Tony’s logbooks while researching his flight time in the P-47. On April 6, 1943, he only flew two P-47’s that day, but the second one, he recorded ship number 28079 as “Racer #4.” I was intrigued by this. With a little research, I believe this to be a War Bond Plane used as a promotional airplane for Republic to generate civilian revenue to offset production costs and salaries. It seems to be a popular option used by other manufactures during the war, and I knew nothing of it.

A signed photo by Tony and the other test pilots in his squadron.
A signed photo by Tony and the other test pilots in his squadron.

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, goes over a flight lesson with his instructor in a Waco UPF-7 that was used in the CPT program at the start of WWII.
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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