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  1. The Fokker Super Universal was one of many entries in the CV of Anglo-Dutch aircraft designer Robert Noorduyn, who learned his craft in England during and just after WW1, before emigrating to America where he became variously the Chief Engineer of American Fokker, Pitcairn and Bellanca, finally moving north of the border to set up the enterprise bearing his own name and creating his most famous product, the Norseman. The Super Universal was an extrapolation of his earlier Universal with twice the power (420hp P & W Wasp) and seats for 6-8 passengers. Although primarily an airliner, it was designed with one eye on the bushplane market in Canada. One of its more unusual features was that it was designed for single man operation. Instead of seats in the cockpit was a simple plank (bring your own cushion...), which also served as a step on which the pilot could stand to crank the starter through the hinged panels in the top of the cockpit enclosure. This was not widely-practised however, as by all accounts it required a stomach muscle-busting effort... 80 examples were built for airlines and corporate users in the US, along with 15 slightly modified aircraft in Canada by Canadian Vickers and 50+ with Nakajima-built Bristol Jupiter engines in Japan/Manchuria, where it became the workhorse of the domestic airlines. It had the typical Fokker features of a thick plywood cantilever wing and fabric-covered steel tube fuselage and was effectively a baby brother to the Dutch-built F-VII. The first production aircraft was ordered for then-Commander Richard E. Byrd’s pioneering 1929 Antarctic Expedition, the first to explore the continent by air, where it served alongside the Fairchild FC2W-2 ‘Stars & Stripes’ and Ford Trimotor ‘Floyd Bennett’ (both surviving in museums). Named ‘The Virginia’ after Byrd’s home state, it became the first aircraft to take off from the continent, following unloading from the ship and re-assembly. It was a brief glory however, as it was destroyed in a 100+ mph blizzard which dragged the aircraft several hundred yards during a geological expedition, which required the 3 crew members to be rescued by the Fairchild. The engine and instruments were removed and the remnants of the wreckage are still there. An expedition to recover it was mooted about a decade ago, but came to nothing. It had a number of unique features, like a shorter nose for better cockpit heating, different cabin windows and extra fuel tanks in both the fuselage and centre of the wing which set it apart from the aircraft which followed. A couple of interesting films of it here: https://americanpolar.org/crash-of-byrds-fokker-in-antarctica-1929/ https://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675020812_Byrd-Expedition_Blizzard-wrecks-airplane-and-radio-equipment_eat-and-drink_chocolate-bars The first US airline operator was National Parks Airways, based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Like a number of early airlines, it was founded by a bus operator, Alfred Frank, who was the successful bidder on the Government contract to provide an air route serving Utah, Idaho and Montana. As the northern part of the route skirted Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, that gave the airline its distinctive name, which was really just a marketing gimmick. It took delivery of 4 of the Fokkers in 1928, which were the original equipment, along with Stearman mailplanes. 3 of the Fokkers served for over 5 years until replaced by Boeing 247s. NPA lasted until 1937, when it merged with Western Air Express and shortly after was renamed Western Airlines, which became a major US airline until it was taken over by Delta in 1987. Here are my 1/72 models, 100% scratchbuilt in plastic card. They were a very long, drawn-out project, so it was good to finally get over the finish line a few months ago. Fortunately I work on a number of models in rotation, which prevents it getting boring. Special thanks go to Clark Seaborn of Calgary, Canada, restorer of the sole-surviving aircraft, for creating some wonderful structural drawings of Canadian aircraft which were the starting point for the project and his insights which helped me to really understand the details . Byrd's 'Virginia', Fokker Super Universal first production aircraft, 1929 Antarctic Expedition : The distinctive Fokker 'cab' was assembled from 13 separate pieces : Fokker Super Universal (early production), National Parks Airways, Salt Lake City, 1928 : Replicating the triple external control cables to the tail surfaces is a major challenge in 1/72 scale: The real deal : Both together: A few WiPs to follow....
  2. Almost forgotten today, the 1927 Dole Race is one of the most infamous air races in history. An event which has come to symbolise the near-mania for risky over-water flights which followed in the wake of Lindbergh’s Atlantic flight. Hawaiian pineapple millionaire James Dole put up a $25000 prize for the first flight from Oakland, California to Honolulu, Hawaii. Expecting just a few, high-profile contenders, the organisers were surprised to receive multiple applications from pilots across the U.S., including some semi-amateurs keen to jump on the Lindbergh bandwagon. They decided the best response to this was to organise a ‘race’ between the various entrants. Now, Lindbergh’s flight from New York to Paris was one thing; he had a whole continent to aim at. But trying to find some small islands in the middle of the vast Pacific was something else entirely, calling for exceptional navigational skills that few aviators at the time possessed (even Earhart/Noonan couldn’t manage it, 10 years later...). It was the recipe for a disaster, which is precisely what ensued. The mayhem started well before the race start. The entrants in general were a motley collection of one-off, or small production aircraft from what was then only a fledgling civil aircraft industry in America and almost all were powered by the ubiquitous Wright J-5 engine. The Dole Race reminds me of the film ‘Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines’, transported to 1920s America. Three of the most outlandish entrants, a twin-engined triplane, a twin-engined, twin boom pusher/puller and something which can best be described as an orange crate with wings, all crashed on test flights, recording the first 3 fatalities of the proceedings. The field was further reduced as the scrutineers rejected other aircraft for having insufficient fuel capacity to reach Hawaii (!) and there were the inevitable drop-outs and ‘no shows’. One thing the organisers didn’t do, however, was thoroughly evaluate the competence of the navigators involved, although some basic tests were performed. Race day, 16th August 1927 arrived and 8 aircraft (reduced from the 30+ entrants) lined up for a sequential take off from Oakland's dirt runway, cheered on by 75-100,000 spectators. Two failed to become airborne and were wiped out, without casualties. Two more turned back with problems shortly after take off. Leaving just four to head out across the Pacific. Two of those were never seen again, as was one of the aircraft which had earlier turned back, but joined the extensive, but fruitless, search afterwards. It was not too much of a surprise that the only two aircraft which did make it to Hawaii, after a gruelling nearly 30 hours of flight, had the most experienced and best-known pilots. They were also directed by men who were both professional marine navigators and unusually, carried radios. A total of 10 deaths and 7 aircraft lost/destroyed was on the negative side of the balance sheet.... So here is my 1/72 , 100% scratchbuilt model of the winning plane, the Travel Air 5000 ‘Woolaroc’, built by one of America’s foremost 1920s aeronautical enterprises, the Travel Air Manufacturing Co of Wichita, Kansas and flown by Art Goebel with navigator Wm. V. Davis,USN. (The strange name was taken from sponsoring oil man Frank Phillips’ Oklahoma ranch, named after its ‘Woods, Lakes and Rocks’). I also built in parallel, the original commercial Travel Air 5000 from which it derived (in fact the Woolaroc was an extensive re-design by Horace Weihmiller and should more properly be considered a Travel Air 5000 ‘Special’, along with it’s sister plane ‘Oklahoma’, one of those which turned back during the race...). The Travel Air 5000 was the first aircraft designed to the specific requirements of a US airline, namely National Air Transport of Chicago (one of the four companies merged in 1930 to form today's United Airlines). It was mainly the work of US monoplane pioneer Clyde Cessna, an evolution in a long line of prototype monoplanes he had designed going back before WW1. 8 were built and flew mail and 4 passengers on the Chicago to Dallas portion of NAT’s network, until replaced by Ford Trimotors, whence they were relegated to charter service. The last survivor was restored around 2014 and is on display in Fort Worth, Texas ( I advised with some reference photos/notes, although disappointingly, it turned out less accurate in some respects than my model......) and ‘Woolaroc’ itself is preserved in the Woolaroc natural history museum in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, although not in its exact Dole Race configuration. A few drawings have appeared down the years, but none are close to being accurate. So I was compelled to create my own. I took the ok parts from the 1971 Aeromodeller ‘Woolaroc’ plan as a starting point (rear fuselage and vertical tail) and scaled most of the rest from original 8 x 10 photos and dimensional data. I’m happy with how they turned out and the models were completed in 2011. (If anyone is interested, the Dole Race has been the subject of at least 3 books and numerous US magazine articles.) One of the better internet articles: http://www.kingairmagazine.com/article/walter-beech-and-the-pineapple-derby/ Both models: Travel Air 5000 Woolaroc : NAT Travel Air 5000 commercial aircraft: Some WiPs: Many of my engines are scratchbuilt from the dimensioned drawings in the original engine manuals, as here.
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