T50 Pheasant Hunting

Yes, you read that title correctly. I recently discovered photographs of my father with two other men standing before a Cessna T50 after a pheasant hunting trip. At least 12 birds are hanging from both propellers, so it was a very successful day, not including the few hanging from the center airspeed indicator!

Tony Riccio (left), other two men unknown.

I don’t recall Tony being a hunter when I was growing up, but this photo dates back to the late 1940s or early 1950s, and he was a much younger man. The group had a great time, from the smiles on their faces!

1947 Cessna T50 after a Pheasant Hunting Trip.

Unknown men, but very happy with their Pheasants!

So let’s stop and examine these photos. How did Tony land, or more importantly, take off a Cessna T50 in a grass field? The aircraft frame is light due to the steel tubing, wooden stringers, and fabric covering, which allows for slow operational speeds, but it’s not a bush plane. Am I correct, and would you admit to a similar experience? Leave a comment, and I would love to hear your story!

Tony (left), unknown photographer (center), unknown man (right)

But then again, it’s my father piloting this T50, and I’m sure he was out to impress these gentlemen and the poor photographer. So did he need a new set of trousers when they returned to the Air-Park? Unfortunately, there aren’t any photos stating such, and I wonder if he regretted taking the assignment.

Tony Riccio (left), other two men unknown.

Buffalo Air-Park owned this 1947 Cessna T50 with a serial number of 6652, and Tony was very proud to park it in a tie-down spot next to the office where everyone driving by could see it’s a beauty!

Tony Riccio (right), another unknown man.

The twin radial engines provide the necessary power of 245 HP each that rotates the variable-pitched propellers. The earlier models had fixed-pitched props. The cabin will occupy five, with a small cargo area in the tail section. Plenty of room for Tony, his two mates, a photographer, and their gear. Plus, the pheasants from that day’s adventure.

I love the nostalgic feeling when looking at these old photographs and thinking of a time so different from our current surroundings. Of course, it would be fascinating to experience the past personally, but that’s just smoke and mirrors, and I can only use my imagination. Or better yet, maybe share your “Time Traveling Device,” and we’ll go back together. I’ll even offer to buy us lunch!

Tony (center), two other men, unknown.

I hope you enjoyed these photos. Take care, my friends, and I’ll see you in the next post!

Tony, a 150, and Sattler’s

With the holiday season hastily approaching and little time remaining to complete our gift shopping, some of us decide to partake in the shopping mall experience for convenience. So naturally, I try to avoid the malls due to the sheer conglomerate of people hustling and bustling to complete their lists. Sure, it’s nice to have unlimited options, both in consumables and edibles, but I’ll save this for a “last resort.” Although, I do fancy a warm cinnamon roll or hot pretzel while shopping!

Have you ever stopped to think about what businesses will do to get our attention with hopes that we will divulge in shopping at their stores? It’s the time of year when the retail sector needs to make a profit, and they will do anything to grab our attention! My next story, although not during the holiday season, is still a marketing campaign that involved my father, Tony, a Cessna 150, and the old Sattler’s “998” store at the Boulevard Mall in Amherst NY.

Tony checking the propeller before flight.

I don’t know if Sattlers contacted Tony with the idea or the other way around, but it was a brilliant pitch and a perfect pairing! The idea is to land a small private airplane in the mall’s parking lot, dissemble the wings to maneuver it inside, and then reassemble the plane for the presentation. Afterward, the process repeats itself, and Tony successfully takes off from the same parking lot headed back to Buffalo Air-Park.

Here, Tony is checking the fuel.

Although I only have five photographs from the event without any dates, it was in the late 1960s, to the best of my belief. A 1965 Cessna 150F, N8179S, is used, and it astonishes me that Tony can pull this off! Can you imagine getting ATC clearance now for this stunt? You may get a visit from the FAA with a lot of questions. It’s funny how times have changed!

Tony in the pilot’s seat with the door open. Unknown co-pilot & person outside.
Tony going through the preflight checklist. Everything looks good!

I checked the registration number of that 150F, click here, and the airplane is still active! That’s very interesting, and I would like to know if the owner knows the history!

Tony is taxing to the opposite end of the parking lot for a clear takeoff.

Also, here’s a link to the history of Sattlers written by forgottenbuffalo.com, and check out their short video on YouTube below!

Leave a comment if you have more to share, and I hope you enjoyed this short story! Happy holidays, and see you in the post!

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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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.

Tony’s Scrapbook; Burnelli CB-16

Tony had many scrapbooks, but his favorite is the one he started around 1930 using his father’s hardcover book “The Home” that he glued newspaper and magazine articles into that he found meaningful about aviation. Little did he know, or maybe he did, that he was preserving aviation history so the stories would always be shared and never forgotten! Before my father covered these pages with articles, this book outlined many home plans that you could browse with full descriptions and basic floor plans detailing the layouts. Towards the back, there is an order form to purchase complete plans and specifications for any of the model homes illustrated in this book. The price range is between $5 and $40 and includes an estimate of cost and materials list. I understand that my father’s parents didn’t have a lot of money during his childhood. They immigrated to Jamestown, New York, from Italy in the spring of 1920 when he was eight years old. He learned to utilize anything available by re purposing or upcycling, and this scrapbook is just one example he used throughout his life. He did this with aircraft hangers too, but I’ll save those stories for another time. The back cover is missing with some pages torn and discolored, but it’s in reasonably good condition for being around ninety years old!

I’ve been going through my father’s scrapbook and found a loose page that he saved from one of his “The AOPA Pilot” magazines. At first, I thought he kept it for the advertising for the new Narco Mark VI 190 channel crystal controlled VOR/LOC. I didn’t find a date, but it is page 105 and 106 from that unknown issue. When flipping this page over, I realized it was an article about Vincent Burnelli and his revolutionary CB-16 multiengine plane. Granted, it is only part of the article, but there is enough information about his CB-16 that I find him extraordinarily fascinating and yearning for more! I hope you enjoy this story as much as I did while researching and writing about this revolutionary aeronautical engineer, Vincent J. Burnelli.

Vincent Burnelli designed and built his first successful airplane, the Burnelli-Carisi Biplane, with his friend John Carisi at Maspeth, a borough of Queens in New York, in 1915 under the Burnelli Aircraft Company. The above photo shows the open cockpit “pusher” biplane at Hempstead Plains Aviation Field located east-southeast of Mineola, Long Island, New York. This field was renamed Roosevelt Field in 1919 in honor of President Roosevelt’s son, Quentin, who died during air combat in World War I. It didn’t take long for the two men to make money with their new biplane, and it was a great way to fund future projects. “We used it for barnstorming,” Mr. Burnelli explained. “You could make $500 to $1,000 in those days working a fair, and that was big money.” Vincent designed a night fighter a few years later with hopes of using it as a combat plane in World War I, but things didn’t work out, and he eventually sold the airplane to the New York Police Department for their aerial operation.

Lawson Airliner, 1919 (photo courtesy George Hardie)

At the end of World War I, Alfred Lawson, founder of the Lawson Aircraft Company, hired Vincent Burnelli as an aeronautical engineer and six engineering specialists to work on a new project idea of a sizable commercial aircraft to transport passengers regularly between major cities. Work began in March 1919, and within five months, the team built the first multi-engine passenger aircraft ever produced in the United States, the Lawson C-2 biplane “House on Wings.” This large aircraft features a 91-foot wingspan, is 48 feet long with a gross weight of 12,000 pounds. Powered by two 400-hp 12-cylinder Liberty engines mounted between the wings on each side of the fuselage developed a cruising speed of 110 mph with a range of more than 400 miles. Landing on two tandem wheeled landing gears mounted to the bottom wing inline with lower engine bracing gave maximum support, and a large tail skid supported the rear. Laminated wood bulkheads replaced the traditional interior wire and bracing commonly used on large bombers to allow passengers to walk freely through the streetcar style fuselage. Seating accommodates 18 passengers with eight additional folding seats when needed. For the first time, an enclosed cockpit design keeps the flight crew warm and dry by adding a roof and a Flexiglass front panel with a small sliding window on the co-pilot’s side. All previous airplanes in this era use the conventional open cockpit design. “Lawson Air Line” adorned each side of the fuselage in large letters.

Lawson C-2, Alfred Lawson, second from the left (photo courtesy PoorOldSpike)

On August 27, 1919, Alfred Lawson, “Captain in Command” along with his flight crew Charles Cox “Steersman,” Vincent Burnelli, Carl Schory “Engine Mechanic,” and Andrew Surini “Mechanic” departed the New Butler flying field in Wisconson headed to Ashburn Field in Chicago. Initially, the flight crew thought they were on a second test flight, but Lawson had other plans. Shortly after takeoff, Lawson ordered Cox to follow the shoreline of Lake Michigan south towards Chicago. “For one thing,” Burnelli later recalled, “we had planned on having several test flights; you just don’t build a plane from scratch in six months without encountering a bug here and there. For another, none of us had brought even so much as a toothbrush. Actually, however, we were all too excited and enthused to really care much where we went, although I doubt if I could say the same for our creditors in Milwaukee.” And so it begins, Alfred Lawson’s planned demonstration tour of the first airliner covering two thousand miles in over two months and ending on November 15, returning to the New Butler flying field. Shortly after this flight, Mr. Burnelli left Lawson Aircraft Company to pursue other avenues in his ever-challenging quest of designing and building the perfect aircraft.

The Lawson C-2 visited Bolling Air Force Base in September 1919, on its way from New York to San Francisco. (photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force)

1919 was a pivotal year for Mr. Burnelli when he changed his design approach from the conventional fuselage to his new airfoil-shaped fuselage stemming from his disappointment after his involvement and flight experiences with the Lawson C-2 biplane. The plane looked to him as a streetcar with wings. “The air is the roadbed of an airplane,” he said, “and I decided I’d leave streetcars on the ground from then on.” Being extremely fascinated with the flying wing and its efficiency, Mr. Burnelli started working on various transport designs of his “lifting body” wing type fuselages with twin tails or a tail-mounted on booms at the rear of the aircraft. He felt that these new fuselages could contribute about 40 percent of the lifting surface during flight and would be much safer in a stall or engine failure event. Not too mention the reduced structural loads on the wings, especially where the engines are mounted, and reduce the mortality rate in a crash due to the more robust flat rectangular shape of his fuselage. Mr. Burnelli’s design also places the engines well in front of the passenger compartment to help absorb the shock of a crash and locates the propellers away from the passengers. Another advantage is the flight crew’s partial access to the engines during the flight from inside the cabin.

(photo courtesy of aircrash.org)

In 1920, Mr. Burnelli moved from Lincoln, Nebraska, back to Long Island, New York, after a brief career opportunity at the Nebraska Aircraft Company when he left Lawson. Again, he struggles with other people’s concepts and designs and decides it’s time to start working on building his perfect aircraft. Once settled back in New York, he partnered with T.T. Remington to initially form the Airliner Engineering Corporation, but later merged as the Remington-Burnelli Aircraft Corporation in the same year. There he could focus on building a large transport aircraft using his new lifting fuselage design. With little time to waste, he finishes the RB-1 biplane in 1921 with a successful maiden flight at Curtiss Field in Garden City, Long Island, New York, in June that same year. The slab-sided airfoil-shaped fuselage of the RB-1 has a cabin width of 14 feet and can carry a maximum of 32 passengers. A luxurious, spacious lounge divides the middle section. Comfortable chairs are positioned beside the windows on each side of the cabin for a breathtaking view. There are two entrance doors on each side of the fuselage with access towards the rear just behind the wings. A vestibule separates the passenger compartment from the baggage and express compartment located in the fuselage tail section for easy access. Twin 550 horsepower Galloway Atlantic engines mounted in the nose powered this large airplane with partial interior access panels for in-flight service if needed. Two open-air cockpits sit on top of the fuselage and provide a 360-degree field of view for the pilot and co-pilot. Throughout the remainder of the year and into 1922, Mr. Burnelli promoted his RB-1 through promotional advertising and scenic rides. The “Flying Festival” at the Curtis Field, where he stored the aircraft, was a popular event with a high turnout.

Burnelli RB-2, (photo courtesy kitchener.load)

An upgraded RB-1, the RB-2 Freighter was built in 1923 with improved control surfaces, twin 650 horsepower Galloway Atlantic engines provided more power, and corrugated metal construction replaces the fabric skin. It was the most significant transport aircraft ever built with an unladen weight of 5 tons and a gross vehicle weight of just under 9 tons! The passenger cabin could accommodate 25 people with standing headroom or converted to transport 6000 pounds of cargo with a flight crew of 3, the pilot, co-pilot, and mechanic.

Burnelli RB-2 w/Hudson Essex Logo (P Matt via Avn Heritage)

With no potential sales and difficulty in marketing, his business partner T.T. Remington departed the company in 1924. During the same year, Mr. Burnelli partners with Thomas Garvin to form the Garvin-Burnelli Aircraft Corporation. The new partnership focuses on promoting the RB-2 rather than building a new aircraft. In 1925 the RB-2 carried a Hudson Essex automobile built inside the cabin on an aerial sales tour flown at Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York. The passenger cabin also featured a fully equipped office and could carry eight passengers. Even with so much exposure, the RB-2 was slow, and Mr. Burnelli couldn’t generate interest for future investors or the financing that he desperately needed to finance production.

A few years have passed with no new interest in the RB-2, Mr. Burnelli is hired by banker and Skylines Incorporated president Paul B. Chapman in 1928 to build the CB-16 under contract on a progress payment basis for a total of $230,000 including design, engineering, and shop costs. He received the purchase order in May 1928, rented space and tools at the Aeromarine plant in Keyport, New Jersey, and completed the aircraft in December. The CB-16 was Mr. Burnelli’s first monoplane, single-wing, executive transporter with all-metal construction and retractable landing gear to reduce drag. It was accessible during flight for minor service or emergency release. The open cockpit design remains from the RB-2, but the CB-16 is the first multiengine aircraft capable of single-engine level flight in the event of an engine failure. A new twin-boom tail design is incorporated to correct stability issues encountered by the RB-2.

The CB-16 has a wingspan of 90 feet, a length of 56 feet, is 12 feet 6 inches in height, and has an empty weight of 11,400 pounds. The gross weight is 17,400 pounds, and two 625 horsepower Curtiss Conqueror engines supply the power with a cursing speed of 140 mph. The climb rate is 800 fpm, 300 fpm with a single-engine, and a ceiling of 20,000 feet. The cruising range is 12 hours, with a landing speed of 62 mph. For night flying, an ample center searchlight illuminates the pilot’s surroundings. With a spacious cabin measuring 12 feet by 18 feet, there is plenty of space for a large central lounge, ten swivel chairs, and soundproof luxurious tapestry and upholstery to finish the decor. An advanced air pressurization system maintains cabin ventilation and heating control while the unique washroom facility features running water. The stainless steel kitchenette has a hot plate and refrigerator with a radio in the center compartment.

A barge moves the unassembled pieces of the CB-16 to Newark Airport, which was still in construction at the time, to an available two-way cinder runway. The CB-16 is the first new design to be tested at the newly constructed airport, which officially opened on October 1, 1928, as the first major airport in the metropolitan area. With the assembly completed in December, a scheduled test flight occurs on a cold morning during Christmas week. Lieutenant Leigh Wade of Army ’round the world flight fame was at the controls with Jimmy Doolittle from Mitchel Field as a test collaborator. On that morning, Mr. Doolittle offered a parachute to Lt Wade. Still, he did not use it and instead brought along an assistant to operate the emergency release lever for the landing gear if they ran into trouble. Lt Wade landed after a successful 40-minute test flight and was eager to start performance tests the following day. Mr. Chapman chartered a bus on Christmas Eve to bring his friends to see his unique airplane, and Lt Wade offered to take anyone interested in a ride around the Statue of Liberty. When the aircraft landed, a line started to form for additional flights, and Lt Wade kept flying until dusk for four scenic flights carrying over a total of 50 passengers on this extraordinary holiday. In 1929, the CB-16 crashed during a test flight resulting from a maintenance error where the aileron cables malfunctioned. Thankfully, the pilot, Lt George Pond, and his co-pilot survived the crash, and it is a testament of how safe Burnelli’s fuselage designs are.

(photo courtesy aircrash.org)

Mr. Burnelli designed and built many more unique airplanes, the UB-20, the GX-3, and the CBY-3, to name just a few. He continued to promote his airfoil-shaped fuselage designs throughout his life but could never sell his ideas for mass production. He is a true pioneer in aviation history, and some people consider him a revolutionary genius. I hope you enjoyed my post on the CB-16, and I encourage you to research the life of Vincent Burnelli and his innovative lifting designed fuselages. You won’t be disappointed, and maybe I’ll find a few more clippings in my father’s scrapbook on him to share with you.

Burnelli CBY-3 Loadmaster restored (photo courtesy NEAM)

Vincent J. Burnelli passed away at age 69 on June 22, 1964 (as reported by The New York Times on June 23, 1964, page 33).

Happy Birthday Tony

Tony in a P-47

My father was born in Italy on October 31st, 1911. He became a US citizen in June of 1920 along with his parents, my grandparents, Michele and Anmina Riccio. He would have been 108 years old. He passed away on February 5th, 1976.

I remember as a young kid that Halloween wasn’t a day he enjoyed. It wasn’t because it was his birthday, but he was constantly being interrupted during dinner time by of all the neighborhood kids ringing our doorbell for Trick or Treat.

So Happy Birthday Dad and enjoy your peaceful flight!