Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Canadian Website Features BT-13 N40018

A Canadian website, Aerial Visuals, has published a dossier about the BT-13, N40018, that spent so many years at Abken Airport.  The dossier contains a complete chronology and is illustrated with color photographs showing the aircraft it after restoration. It has survived all these years and is currently part of the collection of the Naval Air Station Wildwood Museum, near Cape  May, NJ. 


See the Abken Airport blog post for Sunday, September 18, 2011, for a view of the derelict BT-13 surrounded by weeds.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Aviation Historian Pens Book on Ashland Airport

In May 2017, aviation historian William E. (Bill) Martin published Ashland Airport, Eastern Kentucky's Forgotten Field, an illustrated history of the old airport located in Ashland, KY, where my father first learned to fly and where he crashed and broke his leg on July 31, 1943. Interview with Martin by Mark Maynard in the May 19, 2017, issue of the Daily Independent.

Friday, January 13, 2017

“Would you like to come up front and sit in the cockpit?”

Back in the late nineteen-forties and the nineteen-fifties, my father would fly commercially from time to time.  He flew with airlines that have since passed by the wayside such as Piedmont (1948-1989) Allegheny (1939-1979) and Eastern (1926-1991) that flew out of Huntington or Charleston, WV.  

As a commercial pilot and flight instructor, he was a long-time member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the AOPA (See the post for June 16, 2012, below).  In those days, people dressed up to fly, and my father would always pin the discrete AOPA pin in the lapel of his suit jacket.  

Not infrequently, during the flight, if one of the flight attendants noticed the AOPA pin, she—they were all women in those days—asked  my father, “Would you like to come up front and sit in the cockpit?”  Of course, my father accepted the invitation and would be escorted to the flight deck where he would take the copilot’s seat and “fly” the DC-3, or Martin 4-0-4 or Convair, or whatever it was, for a few minutes.  

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Archaeologist Vincent Versluis releases extensive report on site of Abken Airport

On June 29, 2015, Vincent Versluis, of Great Rivers Archaeological Services in Burlington, Kentucky, released a 178-page report on excavations conducted on the site of the former Abken Airport, as preliminary work for the proposed improvements at the Ashland Regional Airport in Greenup County, Kentucky.

The report is enhanced by numerous photographs, maps, diagrams and tables.  Certain photographs depict artifacts discovered on the Abken site during the excavations: prehistoric projectile point fragments and historic artifacts including cartridge cases, marbles, a die, a 1947 penny, buttons, fragments of whiteware and a glass bottle as well as a Hubley metal diecast toy replica of  a Navy jet fighter with folding wings, originally painted red and silver, produced during the 1950's.  One of the tables documents the chain of ownership of the property from 1857 to the present.

Great Rivers Archaeological Services was founded in 1998 by Vincent Versluis (M.A. Anthropology) and serves as Principal Investigator on all Phase I, II and III archaeological projects. Versluis, who is a member of the Register of Professional Archaeologists, has over 30 years of archaeological field and laboratory experience. Versluis has been involved in archaeological surveys and excavations in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia, as well as in Belize and Mexico. 

This document, Phase II of Archaeological Testing of Site 15GP326 for Proposed Airport Improvements at the Ashland Regional Airport in Greenup County, Kentucky, in PDF format, has been archived online at Dropbox.com and be accessed without charge.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Author, Abken Airport, July 5, 1948

A Piper PA-11 Cub Special is in the T-hangar in the background.
(Photograph courtesy William E. Martin)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

High praise for high flier

In its issue of Friday, July 14, 2006, the Ashland, KY, Daily Independent reported in an article entitled High praise for high flier that "Ashland native Jack. C. Meade has been honored for his contribution to aviation."

The article continues, "Meade, of Cincinnati, received the Wright Brothers Master Pilot ward, which honors him for 50 years of "dedicated service, technical expertise, professionalism and many outstanding contributions that further the cause of aviation safety.

"But Meade's involvement in flight goes back 63 years, to his first solo flight from the sod strip by the Ohio River at the corner by Sanitary Milk Co., near the Bluegrass Grill.

"'I started flying at 12 but I couldn't solo until I was 16,' Meade recalled. His teachers in Ashland were Carl Rutledge and Warner Kenyon.

"A 1945 graduate of Ashland High School, Meade recalled airmail service in Ashland.  'They used to have the all-American pickup,' he said. 'The plane would swoop down with a hook and hooked the mailbag.  That was airmail.'"

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Warner Kenyon in a 1950 AOPA Advertisement

This advertisement for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association [AOPA] appeared on page 55 of the June 1950 issue of Flying magazine.  Warner Kenyon is shown standing in front of Abken's Stinson.  

The quote reads, "In my opinion, membership in AOPA gives more for the money than any organization of its kind ever established.  I intend to be a member as long as I am connected with flying."

At the time, membership in the AOPA cost $5.00 per year, including a ssubscription to Flying.

The AOPA, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to general aviation, was incorporated on May 15, 1939.  AOPA exists to serve the interests of its members as aircraft owners and pilots, and to promote the economy, safety, utility and popularity of flight in general aviation aircraft.  With more than 500,000 members worldwide in 2012, AOPA is the largest aviation association in the world.

Copyright © 2012 Ronald W. Kenyon. Warning: this blog is protected under copyright. Do not plagiarize!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Warner Kenyon and His Navion

This picture, taken in early 1966, shows my father, Warner Kenyon, standing beside his Ryan Navion A, registration number N4332K.

This Navion, built in 1948, was the last in a long line of aircraft my father owned and flew.  It was certainly the most advanced, being equipped with retractable gear and a variable-pitch propeller among other features.  Unlike the Piper and Stinson aircraft my father owned, the Navion was built of aluminum sheets riveted to aluminum formers.  It was roomy enough to accommodate the pilot and three passengers.

According to an article by Bud Davisson posted on Pilotfriend.com, "When the second world war ended North American Aviation, maker of the Harvard trainer (Americans call it A6, or Texan) and the superior P-51 Mustang needed to diversify.  With military contracts gone, they turned to general aviation and designed this remarkable four place retractable cross country private aircraft.  Some components like the landing gear bear distinct resemblance to P-51 parts and the tail is similar.  North American put the aircraft into production and turned out 1,100 of them between 1946 and 1947...North American sold the design to Ryan [which built] more than a thousand with some variation in power and fuel capacity from 1948 to the early 50s."

Ryan also produced a military version, known as the L-17. Used as a liaison aircraft, it saw service in the Korean War. 

Davisson concludes, "In total, nearly 1,100 Navions were built for the military.  Another 1,100 were built for the civilian market so, by 1951, over 2,200* in total had taken to the air.  Probably the most important fact about the Navion's longevity is that about 1,400 of the machines are still listed on the civil register as being flying airplanes. That is a survival rate of about 60%, which may be the highest of any airplane ever built."

As with the amphibious Republic Seabee, the manufacturers of the Navion believed that demobilized pilots would continue flying once they returned to civilian life.  But the predicted boom in postwar civilian aviation did not materialize to the extent the manufacturers had envisioned.

Navion N4332K was still flying in 2012.  Like most Navions, it has undergone modifications. The in-flight photographs here, taken on February 25, 2012, over Chino, CA, show it fitted with a three-blade propeller and tip tanks.

* The General Aviation Handbooks gives the total number of Navions produced as 2,634. 

Top photograph by Bob Kates, courtesy William E. Martin
Bottom photographs copyright © Helicopterfriend. Used with permission.

Copyright © 2012 Ronald W. Kenyon. Warning: this blog is protected under copyright. Do not plagiarize!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ashland-Boyd County Airport 1953

The aerial photograph reproduced below,  taken in 1953, shows the Ashland-Boyd County runway under construction.  The Abken buildings and the town of Worthington, KY, can be seen to the right of the upper--eastern--end of the runway.  The Ohio River is to the left. 

This photograph was published in the Huntington, WV, Herald-Dispatch on February 19, 2012, in its "Do You Remember?" column.
View more historical photographs from the archives of the Herald-Dispatch in its online Gallery.  Since December 2010, archivists have been scanning boxes of old negatives and posting them online, adding whatever caption information is known.  Readers have been helping to fill in the gaps.

Photo copyright © Huntington Herald-Dispatch.  Used with permission.

Copyright © 2012 Ronald W. Kenyon. Warning: this blog is protected under copyright. Do not plagiarize!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Abken Main Hangar, June 2012

This photograph shows the original Abken Airport main hangar, designed by Warner Kenyon and built in 1945.  Several light aircraft could easily be accommodated in the spacious interior. At right, from front to back, were a lobby-waiting room, the business office, a classroom and a lavatory.  Except for some patches of rust, the building appears to have held up pretty well after more than half a century.  It is currently occupied by a small technology company.

The photograph was taken in June 2012 by aviation historian William E. Martin of Ashland, KY.

Copyright © 2012 Ronald W. Kenyon. Warning: this blog is protected under copyright. Do not plagiarize!

A Tuskegee Airman from Ashland, Kentucky

Lt. Col. Washington DuBois Ross. 
The Tuskegee Airmen were a group of African-American pilots who fought in World War II.  Formally, they formed the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Corps (United States Army Air Forces after June 20, 1941).  The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American military aviators in the United States armed forces. The American military was racially segregated, and the Tuskegee Airmen were subjected to racial discrimination, both within and outside the army.  Despite these adversities, they trained and flew with distinction.

Thanks to aviation historian William E. Martin, I learned that one of these American heroes, Lt. Col. Washington DuBois Ross, lived in Ashland, KY, during his formative years--between 1923 and 1936--and took his first airplane ride in a Ford Trimotor at the Ashland Airport in the early 1930's.

Ross was born on March 4, 1919, in Mound Bayou, MS, then moved to Michigan. The family relocated to Ashland, KY, in 1923, the year that Ashland Airport was established.  His family lived on 35th Street, just a block from the airport's entrance, so during the later 1920s and early 1930s he and his siblings walked down to the airport often. It was there his interest in aviation began.  In an interview with Jeep Blog in March 2012, Lt. Col. Ross recounted his first flight at Ashland:

"I was 12-years old and the pilots would barnstorm, and one Sunday they announced you could take flights at noon. On Sundays you went to church so I missed the first round, but we got our pennies [passengers were charged a fare of a penny a pound]  together for the second round of flights. They started the engines and [the Ford Trimotor] shook. I started to think maybe it wasn’t such a good idea, but it staggered into the air and circled Ashland, and I told my parents I wanted to be a pilot."

Lt. Col. Ross was educated first at Booker T. Washington School in Ashland, KY, where his father, Robert Ross, was a teacher and administrator.  He then attended Ironton High School, across the river in Ironton, OH, because it was integrated.  He left Ashland in 1936 to enter Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in Hampton, VA, where he graduated with honors.  At Hampton, he entered the Civilian Flight Training Program and earned his Private Pilot License.

During World War II Lt. Col. Ross flew patrols over Naples, Italy, in a Bell P-39 Airacobra and bomber escorts in a North American P-51 Mustang, establishing a record of 63 sorties and missions.

Lt. Col. Ross was inducted into the Kentucky Aviation Hall of Fame in 2011, at the age of 92.

Watch a video and read a biography of Lt. Col. Ross on the Kentucky Aviation Hall of Fame website.  Read the full interview with Lt. Col. Ross in Jeep Blog.  Learn more about the Tuskegee Airmen on the official website of the Tuskegee Airmen National Historical Museum.  Find more information about the Tuskegee Airmen on the Wikipedia entry on the Tuskegee Airmen.

In January 2012, a feature-length film about the Tuskegee Airmen was released.  Titled Red Tails, the film is directed by Anthony Hemmingway and co-produced by George Lucas.  Learn more about Red Tails.

Lt. Col. Washington DuBois Ross died at his residence in Southfield, MI, on October 9, 2017. An obituary by Mike James was published in the Daily Independent of Ashland, KY, on October 10, 2018.
Photo courtesy Jeep Blog.

Copyright © 2012, 2018 Ronald W. Kenyon. Warning: this blog is protected under copyright. Do not plagiarize! 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Old Farmhouse at Abken Airport

When Warner Kenyon and L. D. Abernathy founded Abken Aviation Co., in 1944, they acquired a dairy farm located at Worthington, Greenup County, Kentucky, to build Abken Airport. The farmhouse on the premises was abandoned subsequent to the purchase and gradually deteriorated over time. The photographs here were taken in July 1961, probably with the Kodak-35 range-finder camera my father had given me, using Kodak Ektachrome reversal film. By 2012 the colors had faded and shifted to an unpleasant reddish tone.  After digitizing the slides, I used an online application known as Gimp to convert the images to more pleasing monochrome.

General view of the two-story farmhouse, looking East.  At right, Abken's T-hangars, still standing and occupied in 2012.

Front porch of the farmhouse, looking East..  At left, Abken's T-hangars.

Even at the age of twenty, I was aware of the importance of composition in photography.  Here the image is broken into two equal parts.  On the right, a series of the horizontals is highlighted by a circle--the empty housing of an electricity meter.  On the left, verticals lead the eye to the T-hangars in the background.

View of the pantry and kitchen.  At right, orange trumpet flower vines.

Back door of the farmhouse. A study in verticals highlighted by the diagonal of the torn down screen and the arc of the sprung doorspring. These photographs are very much in the spirit of Walker Evans  [1903-1975], with whose work I was familiar.
View Walker Evans images in the Met.
 View and purchase Walker Evans works on Artsy.net.

View from the farmhouse, looking North.  In the middle ground, the asphalted runway. In the background, on the other side of the Ohio River [not visible] is U.S. Highway 52.  The hills had been truncated in order to facilitate the widened highway.

Copyright © 2012, 2017 Ronald W. Kenyon. Warning: this blog is protected under copyright. Do not plagiarize! 

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Story of Abken Airport

By Ronald W. Kenyon 

This post was originally written and uploaded on August 26, 2011.  Subsequently I have written additional posts on this blog relating to the history of Abken Airport and details of my father's career in aviation.

Read this post for the background, then browse the additional posts for anecdotes about the flying adventures of my father and mother and the development of Abken Airport from its inception in 1944 to the present.

Feel free to submit your comments on any blog entry.

Revised January 16, 2017

John Warner Kenyon (1901-1998)

My late father, John Warner Kenyon [known as Warner Kenyon], was born on August 29, 1901, in Oxford, Benton County, IN, where he spent his childhood. He attended Purdue University in Lafayette, IN, where he majored in mechanical engineering. He became interested in aviation after moving to Ashland. KY, where he was hired as a draftsman for Armco Steel Corp., now AK Steel Holding Corp.

My father obtained his pilot's license in 1935; his instructor was James A. Dobyns.  He bought his first aircraft, a blue Taylor J-2 Cub--registration number NC16993--at the Taylor Aircraft factory in Bradford, PA.  At the time, a J-2 Cub cost $1,325.00.  I remember my father telling me that the standard instrumentation on the aircraft did not include a compass; he therefore had to pay an additional $50 to have one installed.

Warner Kenyon held ratings as Commercial Pilot #36480, flight instructor and ground instructor.  He entered a light plane derby at the Cleveland Air Races in 1937 and won a trophy.  At one point, he considered making a career in aviation, but decided to remain at Armco, where he eventually rose to Chief Works Engineer, a position he held at retirement.

The 1937 Flood

From 1923 through 1952 and then briefly in the early 1960's an airport operated within the city limits of Ashland, KY.  Known as Ashland Airport, it was located at Thirty-fourth Street, near the Ohio River.  It was at this airport where my father hangared his Taylor Cub. 

The devastating flood of January and February 1937 surpassed all prior floods during the previous 175 years of modern occupancy of the Ohio River Valley.  Over half of Ashland was inundated, including Ashland Airport and the adjacent rail lines and the highways in and out of town.  Ashland was completely isolated from the outside world and many families in rural areas of Boyd and Greenup Counties were stranded.  Using one of the fairways at Bellefonte Country Club as a temporary airstrip, my father and two other local pilots, C. Giovanelli and James Dobyns, volunteered to airdrop food and supplies to those families; they also picked up and delivered bags of mail for the Post Office. 
My father continued his interest in aviation and eventually became certified as a flight instructor.


Photographs by Frank B. Elam 

At 6:20 PM on July 31, 1943, my father had an accident at Ashland Airport. Since the airport had no underground storage tanks, fuel was delivered in 55-gallon steel drums fitted with individual pumps. Instead of aviation fuel, Standard Oil of Kentucky had erroneously delivered a drum of naphtha to the airport. Before the flight, my father topped out the J-5 Cub Cruiser from that drum. There was sufficient fuel in the line to take off, but after the plane had reached an altitude of approximately a hundred feet, the engine died and the airplane nosedived and crashed in an adjacent cornfield. In the incident, my father suffered a broken leg and student pilot Harry "Jeep" Homan a broken arm. Fortunately, both made a successful recovery.   

Jeep Homan was a World War II Army veteran who served in Europe as a paratrooper from January through August 1945 with the 12th Airborne Division and then with the 82nd Airborne Division.  He died in Ashland, KY, on December 14, 2010.
Following a lawsuit, my father was awarded a settlement for the injuries sustained in the crash. He had sought compensation of $10,000.00 for personal injury, $1,434.40 for medical expenses and $1,200.00 for damage to the aircraft.

Abken Airport
Around 1944 my father met Lawrence D. Abernathy, who worked as an accountant for the C&O Railway and lived ​in Russell, KY.  ​Combining the first letters of their names, the two partners founded Abken Aviation Co. in 1944, and bought a 55-acre dairy farm near the Ohio River in the Melrose Addition of Worthington, in Greenup County, KY.  [In researching this blog, I discovered that "Abken," is a family name of German origin.  Certainly neither Mr. Abernathy nor my father knew this when they decided on the name of their company.]

The two partners built a 3,000-foot turf airstrip running approximately East-West, and constructed a large hangar-cum-office​ building—after plans drawn up by my father—and number of T-hangars that they rented to local pilots to house their aircraft.  They named it Abken Airport.  Later, they erected a galvanized steel Quonset hut.  Abken Airport opened to the public on September 23, 1945.  At one point in the early 1950’s Abken had some signs made up professionally; I remember accompanying my father once as he drove around Greenup County posting signs indicating the direction of the airport. 
Also in 1944, my father helped found the Civil Air Patrol [CAP] squadron at Abken Airport, and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. ​​
Since my father was a certified flight instructor, Abken set up a flight school and my father taught scores of returning veterans to fly under provisions of the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944known as the G.I. Bill, on weekends and holidays. The company also hired qualified former pilots as instructors.   
According to my father, after World War II people were “flying crazy” because of all the movies and newsreels about the war featuring air battles. Everyone wanted to be a pilot. At one time Abken owned upwards of 18 airplanes, including various Piper models, a Stinson 108-3 Voyager,  World War II surplus Vultee BT-13 and North American Aviation AT-6 trainers and even a Cessna UC-78 Bobcat, a twin-engine trainer used for training bomber pilots.  I particularly remember the Stinson because it was comfortable and could accommodate all four members of my family: my parents, my brother Marc and me. 

During the late 1940’s Abken frequently sponsored air shows. On one occasion, the National Guard had to be called out for security because there were so many people. 

In chronological order, my father flew the following aircraft: Aeronca C-2, Taylor J-2 Cub, Aeronca-K, Piper PA-11, Piper PA-12, Aeronca Champ, Aeronca Chief, Stinson 108-3 Voyager, Bonanza, Waco, Ryan PT-22, Vultee BT-13 and North American AT-6.  The last plane my father owned was a Navion, a single-engine, low-wing monoplane with retractable gear.

Ronald Kenyon (left) and Marc Kenyon (right) beside a Cessna-195 at Abken Airport circa 1953

Ashland vs. Huntington
In the period from 1948 through 1952 a competition for airline traffic took place between Ashland and the nearby town of Huntington, WV. Each city wanted the airport to be built on its side of the Big Sandy River that separates Kentucky from West Virginia.  After initial negotiations broke down, each city started construction on its own project.  
The City of Ashland used state and local funds to purchase the Abken runway and adjacent real estate. Abken retained the buildings and the the surrounding land it owned at the eastern end of the runway. The grass airstrip was replaced by a 5,000-foot long asphalt runway. It was opened in 1953 under the name Ashland-Boyd County Airport, even though it was located in Greenup County. 
Many observers considered the Kentucky location as more suitable for airline traffic because it was ​located on flatland with no nearby physical obstructions. The West Virginia airport was on the top of a hill, whose summit had been bulldozed to create enough space for the runways and buildings. Nevertheless, the West Virginia location was completed first and became the hub for commercial aviation traffic in the “Tri-State Region” of Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio.
Ashland Oil Company

Top: Ashland Oil corporate aircraft fleet 1955. Cessna 195, de Havilland Dove and Lockheed Lodestar. Bottom: Ashland Oil corporate pilots with Lockheed Lodestar.  At extreme right, A. B. Berkstresser.
Ashland Oil Co., now Ashland, Inc., whose corporate headquarters were at that time located in Ashland, KY, built a large hangar and ancillary facilities at the western end of the airport to house and maintain its fleet of corporate aircraft.  Abken Aviation retained the right to access and utilize the asphalt runway.

During the 1960’s Ashland Oil’s Chief Pilot was Blaine “Berkie" Berkstresser.  Berkie was at the controls of the firm’s twin-engine Lockheed Lodestar when it exploded and crashed on September 4, 1962, near Ravenna, OH. All thirteen men on board, mostly Ashland Oil executives, perished in the crash, which was the worst industrial aviation accident in the nation’s history.
The Civil Aeronautics Board [now the National Transportation Safety Board] determined that the crash was caused by an electric trim tab motor that malfunctioned and pitched the aircraft suddenly downward thereby exceeded the plane’s operating limitations. The downward force caused the right wing to separate outside the right engine.

Some time during the mid to late 1960’s Ashland Oil acquired a Douglas DC-3 for its fleet, probably as a replacement for the Lodestar. Its tail number was N10000W.

Aviation historian and pilot William E. Martin sent me the following recollection of an unforgettable encounter with Ashland Oil’s DC-3:

“In the spring of 1966, your father soloed me in the old J-3 Cub which I had purchased from him a few months prior.  One evening I was practicing tough-and-goes. On my last landing I touched down on the runway’s east end while Ashland Oil’s DC-3 was touching down on the runway’s west end.  Unbeknownst to me, a ‘mouse’ and an ‘elephant’ were on a collision course.  Apparently the DC-3 pilot saw me first and stopped halfway up the runway.  I was slowly costing along in the three-point position, with forward visibility about zero, when suddenly I was looking up at the long nose and whirling propellers of the DC-3.  In that split second, now knowing if it was still moving, I stomped one ruder pedal and shot off the runway into the grass.  With knees still shaking, I turned and taxied back up the field (to the Abken end) and put the Cub to bed for the night.”

Ashland Regional Airport DWU

My father died on April 20, 1998, in Saint Petersburg, FL. Before his death, around 1980, Dick Brannock, a former Ashland Oil pilot, bought my father's share of Abken Aviation Co. He remains in partnership with Mr. Abernathy's progeny. The facility in Worthington still exists today and is known as Ashland Regional Airport [DWU].  It currently serves local charter and private aircraft.
Revised January 16, 2017.  All photographs courtesy William E. Martin.

Sanford Vaughn

From left to right: Sanford "Sant" Vaughn, Ronald W. Kenyon, Warner Kenyon, circa 1946. Photo by Bob Kates.

By William E. Martin

Sanford Vaughn was a swell guy and a pilot's pilot. He could "fly the crates they came in," as some would say. When I bought the J-3 Cub from Warner Kenyon, he suggested I have Sanford do my annuals. Sanford had a beautiful private airport in Chillicothe, Ohio, with lots of flat surrounding farm land. The approaches were excellent from any direction, and he always kept the field mowed like a golf course. It was always a pleasure to land there.

Sanford owned a red Pitts Special, which he built himself and used for aerobatics at air shows, and he could fly everything from the Pitts to a C-47, the military version of the Douglas DC-3.  And, he was also an excellent aircraft mechanic.
One beautiful day, I flew Col. William C. Lambert, a resident of Ironton, OH and one of the top American aces of World War I, to Vaughn's airport.  Vaughn was so honored to meet Col. Lambert that he placed two lawn chairs on the edge of his strip, rolled his Pitts out of the hanger, and put on a private air show for the two of us.  As Vaughn swooped low over the field doing a series of snap rolls, Lambert turned to me and said, "I used to be able to do that."

Sanford played a banjo and also had an old piano inside his hanger. One day he found out that I played piano, and he would never let me leave there until we had a jam session. And, that happened every time I landed there.

Sanford Vaughn died in Chillicothe, OH, on February 5, 1982, at the age of 71.

Notes by Ronald W. Kenyon

The Pitts Special, a single-engine biplane, was created by Curtis Pitts [1916-2005] and first flew in 1944.  The aircraft was designed for aerobatics and won many competitions in the 1960's and 1970's, before being dethroned by higher-performing monoplanes.

Originally, Pitts manufactured the Special, but in 1962 he produced and released detailed plans enabling hundreds of pilots like Sanford Vaughn to assemble their own home-built Specials.

The design of the Pitts Special has been refined over the years, but still remains quite close to Curtis Pitts's original conception.  Many Pitts Specials are flying today and compete in high-performance aerobatic competitions.  Kits are available for home-builders and one company, Aviat Aircraft, manufactures and sells Pitts Specials.

Col William C. Lambert shown with a pipe in the unusual pipe rest that he invented; it allowed a smoking pipe to be rested on the smoker's chin.  Photo courtesy William E. Martin.

Col. Willliam Carpenter Lambert [August 18, 1894 – March 19, 1982] was born in Ironton, OH, across the Ohio River from Russell, KY.  He took his first airplane flight in a Wright biplane on July 4, 1910.  In 1917, Lambert joined a Canadian unit of the Royal Flying Corps.  He was the second-ranking American ace of World War I, participating in 32 aerial combats and scoring 21 1/2  air-to-air victories, 4 1/2fewer than "Ace of Aces" Eddie Rickenbacker.  [Half the credit for one kill went to another pilot.]  Authorities agree there may have been more victories for Col. Lambert, but record-keeping was sometimes lost during the heat of battle.

Col. Lambert was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by the Prince of Wales in a ceremony at the British Embassy in Washington, DC in 1919.
According to aviation historian William E. Martin, Col. Lambert was left out of the earlier history books because he flew for the Royal Flying Corps and the Americans didn't claim him.  Neither did the British, because he was an American.  It wasn't until 1968 that the late Royal Frey, curator of the Air Force Museum, discovered Lambert's score and came to Ironton to meet him.

Col. Lambert related his wartime experiences in western France in his 1973 memoir, Combat Report.

More information on Col. Lambert.compiled by Wright State University.

Sources: American Aces of World War I, theaerodrome.com

November 26, 2011
Revised December 28, 2011 

Copyright © 2012 Ronald W. Kenyon. Warning: this blog is protected under copyright. Do not plagiarize! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

An Emergency Landing

By Eugenia M. Kenyon

On a trip back from Louisville, KY, one time, in a 65-hp Cub, we had a terrific headwind, ran low on gas and made an emergency landing in a field in Carter County [Kentucky] near the highway, U.S. Route 60.   While we were discussing strategy, a Crown gasoline truck driving through stopped and we filled up on gas and came on into Ashland, KY.  Once in a while, it made a peculiar noise, but it worked.

Commentary by Ronald W. Kenyon

This event was recounted by my late mother, Eugenia M. Kenyon, in a letter dated February 9, 1962, addressed to Tom Hamer, Aviation Editor of the Huntington, WV Herald Dispatch.

The "65-hp Cub" would most likely have been the Piper J-3 Cub that my father and mother ferried from the Piper factory in  Lock Haven, PA to Ashland, KY on New Year's Day in 1939. This is the aircraft in which they crash landed near New Matamoros, OH, as described in the blog entry "Hang on, Honey, I think we're going to crash."

Whether it's a 65-hp Cub flying at 1,000 feet or a Boeing 777 flying in the lower stratosphere, headwinds can considerably reduce an aircraft's speed and increase its fuel consumption.  For example, a flight eastbound from Washington, DC to Paris in a 777 takes 7 hours 15 minutes.  But a westbound flight from Paris to Washington takes 8 hours 20 minutes.  Flying time for the same distance is one hour greater going west because of the prevailing westerly headwinds at high altitude. My father had correctly calculated that, under normal flying conditions, he would have had sufficient fuel to reach Ashland Airport.

Aircraft fuel is not the same as automobile gasoline.  Each is formulated differently for each type of engine.  Small private aircraft such as Piper Cubs were equipped with air-cooled engines, whereas almost all automobile motors are water-cooled.  In the United States, aviation fuel--avgas--is rated 100 octane, contains low levels of tetraethyl lead and is dyed blue.   Automotive gasoline--mogas--is now formulated without lead and is produced in various octane ratings.   The automobile gasoline enabled the Continental engine in the Cub to function, albeit inefficiently, thus the "peculiar noise."

U.S. Route 60 is a trans-continental highway extending 1,670 miles [4,300 kilometers] from the Atlantic Ocean in Virginia to western Arizona.  It traverses the entire Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Carter County, Kentucky was formed on February 9, 1838, from portions of Greenup County and Lawrence County.  It was named after Colonel William Grayson Carter, a Kentucky state senator. 

Copyright © 2012 Ronald W. Kenyon. Warning: this blog is protected under copyright. Do not plagiarize! 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The 1937 Cleveland Air Races

The world's first air race was held in Reims, France, in August 1909, with competitions for distance, duration, altitude and speed.  Glenn Curtiss was the only American pilot who had made the trip across the Atlantic to participate.  The first American air race was held near Los Angeles, CA, in January 1910.

The most famous air races in America were known as the National Air Races and  were first held in Cleveland Ohio starting in 1929 and in most of the following years until 1939.  After a hiatus during World War II, the races resumed in 1946 and continued each year through 1949.

The races included a variety of events including cross-country flights that ended in Cleveland, landing contests, glider demonstrations, airship flights and parachute-jumping contests.  The most popular event was the Thompson Trophy Race, a closed-course competition in which aviators raced around pylons. 

My parents attended the 1937 Cleveland Air Races, which were held from September 3-6 of that year.  In a letter written on February 9, 1962, to Tom Hamer, Aviation Editor of the Huntington, WV Herald Dispatch, my mother, Eugenia Kenyon, states that my father, Warner Kenyon, entered a light plane derby that year and won a trophy.   I remember seeing the trophy, which had become tarnished with time.

While at the Cleveland Air Races, my parents met some of the more colorful aviation personalities of the day.  My mother, in her letter, cited three famous airmen they met: Bevo Howard, Harold Johnson and Milo Burcham.

Beverly "Bevo" Howard (1914-1971)  was a famous aerobatic pilot.  He began airshow flying in 1933 and in 1938 became the first pilot to fly an outside loop in a light plane, flying a 37 1/2 HP Taylor Cub.  Eventually Howard became one of the best-known air show pilots in the United States.  On October 17, 1971, he was killed when he crashed while performing at an airshow in Greenville, NC.  Illustrated website about Howard and about his Bücker Jungmeister single-seat biplane, both curated by Howard's son.

Harold Johnson (1910-?), born in Chicago, was renowned for being the first pilot to perform a number of aerobatic maneuvers, including loops, spins and snap rolls, in his cumbersome, all-metal Ford Trimotor, nicknamed the Tin Goose, registration number NC-9610.  Known as the King of the Fords, Johnson was once greeted by Henry Ford himself when descending from his Tin Goose.  Johnson reportedly performed 17 consecutive loops during one demonstration.  Harold Johnson is last known to have been alive and living in Santa Monica, CA, in 1965.  I have been unable to locate the place or date of his death or his burial.  Illustrated article about Johnson from 1965.  Short video clip showing Johnson's aerobatics.  Even nowadays, his performance is astonishing.

Milo Burcham (1903-1944)  was an American stunt pilot, airshow pilot and test pilot.  In 1933, Burcham and Lt. Tito Falconi of the Italian Air Service competed in setting inverted flight records.  Burcham's flight in his Boeing Model 100 of 4 hours five minutes and 22 seconds in December 1933 was not broken until July 24, 1991!  Burcham, as Lockheed's Chief Pilot,  was killed on October 24, 1944, in a flame-out on take-off of a prototype version of the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star, the first American jet fighter to be used operationally.   More on Milo Burcham.

Reading the accounts of the extraordinary exploits of these early aviation pioneers inspires admiration for their courage, their daring and their exceptional skills as pilots in aircraft that lacked many of the modern systems, controls and safety features. These men--and women such as Jacqueline Cochran and Amelia Earhardt--were, indeed, genuine 20th century heroes and heroines.

Read more about the 1937 Cleveland Air Races.

Source: Wikipedia

Copyright © 2012, 2018 Ronald W. Kenyon. Warning: this blog is protected under copyright. Do not plagiarize!