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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:

 

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Travel Air 5000 Woolaroc :

 

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NAT Travel Air 5000 commercial aircraft:

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Some WiPs:

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Many of my engines are scratchbuilt from the dimensioned drawings in the original engine manuals, as here.

 

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What an amazing build of a brace of very attractive aircraft that symbolise the development of the airliner-to-be of the early days of flight.

The degree of detail you have incorporated into these models is indeed an inspiration.

 

Accompanied by an amusing, but ultimately tragic backstory, these are models of aircraft to which the budding scratch builder should aspire.

You, sir, are a master modeller !

Rog 

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Absolutely superb modelling Roger and a great story.

 

Cheers

 

Malcolm

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Fantastic work - scratchbuilt too! along with a fascinating summation (beautifully written) of an event I’d never even heard of. 
 

Thanks very much for posting. 
 

Eating a can on ‘Doles Pineapple’ will never be the same again. 

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Not one but two scratch built Travel Air models!  I'm absolutely flabbergasted, Roger, enjoy some polite applause.  😎

 

The back story reminded me of Bill Bryson's book about 1927 in America; apparently everybody went a little bonkers that summer.  Crowds would gather for any sort of excitement, aviation was all the rage, and attention-seekers were ready to risk their lives at the drop of a hat.

 

 

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2 hours ago, Jackson Duvalier said:

Not one but two scratch built Travel Air models!  I'm absolutely flabbergasted, Roger, enjoy some polite applause.  😎

 

 

 

To hell with that! Have some raucous disorderly applause! 🎉 👏 🎊 

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Incredible, your scratch-building skills! Both look absolutely amazing. Such a nice subject with a unique achievement in aviation history.

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A fascinating piece of history followed by two exquisitely crafted models. The quality of work is inspirational and I'm not sure I've seen anything to match it in 1/72. Even the engines are a work of art!

I've been clumsily staggering around to find the right superlatives, but these models are truly outstanding.

 

Cheers,

Mark.

Edited by lasermonkey
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This must be one of the most impressive posts ever to grace these pages!

 

A colourful story of a crazy event I haven't heard of, and two of the most wonderful scratchbuilds I've ever seen.

 

The wings actually look as if they are covered framworks. Was that how you attained this totally convincing portrayal of fabric covered structures?

 

Thank you for sharing these masterpieces!

 

Kind regards,

 

Joachim

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A skilled writer who produces scratch built models that're far far better than anything I can produce from a kit. The recognition you've earned here is well deserved. Many congratulations.

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19 hours ago, roginoz said:

Accompanied by an amusing, but ultimately tragic backstory, these are models of aircraft to which the budding scratch builder should aspire.

You, sir, are a master modeller !

Rog 

From one Rog to another - thanks !

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15 hours ago, Jackson Duvalier said:

The back story reminded me of Bill Bryson's book about 1927 in America; apparently everybody went a little bonkers that summer.  Crowds would gather for any sort of excitement, aviation was all the rage, and attention-seekers were ready to risk their lives at the drop of a hat.

 

 

That sums it up pretty well.  A good story of the aeronautical aspect is the book  '1927 - Summer of Eagles'.

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4 hours ago, Spitfire31 said:

The wings actually look as if they are covered framworks. Was that how you attained this totally convincing portrayal of fabric covered structures?

 

 

Hi Joachim,

No, they are planed from thin wood planks and covered with embossed sheets of plastic.  Basically the method 'invented' by the late, great Harry Woodman and described 

in his classic 1970s book 'Scale Model Aircraft in Plastic Card'.  https://rclibrary.co.uk/title_details.asp?ID=1216 

 

I consider myself a fabric aircraft specialist and have refined the method over 30+ years. I've seen other methods of representing fabric-covered surfaces, but they are all inferior..... 

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That is a rue modelling! I am deeply impressed...

Beautiful models and horrible story.

Regards

J-W

 

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8 hours ago, lasermonkey said:

A fascinating piece of history followed by two exquisitely crafted models. The quality of work is inspirational and I'm not sure I've seen anything to match it in 1/72. Even the engines are a work of art!

I've been clumsily staggering around to find the right superlatives, but these models are truly outstanding.

 

 

1 hour ago, SAT69 said:

A skilled writer who produces scratch built models that're far far better than anything I can produce from a kit. The recognition you've earned here is well deserved. Many congratulations.

 

4 hours ago, Spitfire31 said:

This must be one of the most impressive posts ever to grace these pages!

 

A colourful story of a crazy event I haven't heard of, and two of the most wonderful scratchbuilds I've ever seen.

 

 

11 hours ago, Toryu said:

Incredible, your scratch-building skills! Both look absolutely amazing. Such a nice subject with a unique achievement in aviation history.

 

Many thanks, gentlemen, for your comments which are more than kind. Projects like this take a few hundred hours of single-minded determination (masochism ?), so it's

nice to know it's appreciated.  I'm also a big student/fan of this era of aviation history and like to 'set the scene' and place things in their correct historical perspective (no pasting from Wikipedia....).

 

Regards, Roger

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Wow!

I can't begin to think how I'd go about scratch-building something like this - although the hints from your WIP pics are very welcome.

Truly awesome models - a fine tribute to the brave people who flew them across the ocean.

:clap2::clap2::clap2:

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