Across the Continent in a Homebuilt

The Air & Space/Smithsonian article at the link below is a mini-version of “The Propeller Under the Bed.” The article describes Arnold’s record, along with the previous records set by Juhani Heinonen, Ed Lesher, and Gary Hertzler.

Click here to read the article: http://www.airspacemag.com/history-of-flight/across-continent-homebuilt-distance-180957787/

The print version of the magazine should be available in stores next week!

E-1 World Record Selected as NAA Notable Record for 2010!

In January 2010, the NAA selected Arnold’s feat as one of the “Ten Most Notable Aviation Awards of 2010,” and he attended an awards banquet on March 15, 2011, in Arlington, Virginia, along with my sister Kate and me. Here’s a picture:

 

NAA Ceremony DC

NAA Ceremony in Arlington, VA, 2011 (Eileen Bjorkman personal collection)

Richard Truly, a retired navy admiral, retired astronaut, and former head of NASA, was also feted at the event. Normally, my dad would have hung back, hoping for an opportunity to meet someone like Truly, but instead, when the event was over, Truly marched over to our table, introduced himself and said, “Wow, that was quite a feat you did!”

 

E-1 World Records Certified!

Here’s a picture of the overall route that Arnold flew:

14_Record Route_comp

The stair-step line is his return trip to Harvey Field — he made several stops along the way!

In the fall of 2010, the NAA certified Arnold’s distance as a U.S. record, and then the FAI certified it as a world record.

Click here for an article in the EAA’s Sport Aviation about the flight!

First Long Distance Flight: Louis Bleriot

In 1909, a British newspaper, The Daily Mail, offered a £1,000 prize to the first person to cross the twenty-one-mile English Channel in an airplane. Although many considered flight over water to be insane, by late July 1909, an aviator named Hubert Latham had already crashed his airplane into the channel waters, followed by a hair-raising rescue at sea.

Distance wise, crossing the English Channel sounded doable. After all, the Wright Brothers had been covering distances of up to twenty-four miles as early as 1905, but those flights had taken place within the relatively safe confines of Huffman Prairie, a large field near Dayton, Ohio.

Enter the Europeans, among them Louis Blériot. By 1909, he had designed a monoplane that could stay aloft at least an hour, more than long enough to make the 21-mile Channel crossing. He was confident he could capture the prize. Here’s a picture of Bleriot:

Louis_Blériot_repülőgépében

Louis Bleriot (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

On July 25, 1909, Blériot rose at 2:30 a.m. to prepare for his flight. He first asked that a torpedo boat destroyer, the Escopette, launch into the Channel. The French government had provided the destroyer, apparently as both a potential rescue vehicle and landmark for navigation. Reflecting the state-of-the-art in aviation at the time, Blériot had no compass on his airplane.

At 4:30 a.m., it was light outside, but the English coast was lost in a morning haze. Undaunted and determined to complete the flight, Blériot took to the air, wearing blue cotton coveralls over his tweed clothes to ward off the cold.

Flying about 250 feet above the water, he soon spotted the Escopette below cruising at 26 miles per hour, but it proved useless for navigation – speeding along at 42 miles per hour, Blériot quickly left the destroyer behind. All alone now, the sea air rushing by the open cockpit felt invigorating, but the waves below were unsettling.

Ten minutes into the flight, Blériot was astonished that he could still see nothing. He pressed on for another ten minutes letting the airplane go where it may, totally lost, but unconcerned – he knew he had enough fuel to turn around and head back to France.

Blériot’s luck held out, and a few miles from land, he spotted the cliffs of Dover, but the wind had blown him off-course and he had passed his intended landing spot. He turned back, and the winds shrieking off the cliffs buffeted and slowed his fragile airplane as he creeped back to his destination. Although the windy landing looked like it would be sporting, Blériot couldn’t resist the urge to land – he had come too far to turn around now.

Above the landing field at seventy-five feet, Blériot turned off his engine and fell straight to the ground. The airplane crumpled as it crashed, but Blériot escaped unscathed to claim his prize.

In addition to his famous crossing, Blériot was the father of the monoplane concept that nearly all modern airplane designers use. Upon his death in 1936, the FAI established the Louis Blériot Medal in his honor. The medal is awarded to aviators who set certain world records. It is so distinguished that it has been awarded fewer than eighty times.

There will be no post next week as I take a break for the Memorial Day Weekend!

The World’s First Aviation Record: 722 feet at a blazing 26 MPH!

Alberto Santos-Dumont, a wealthy Brazilian coffee heir, set the first official aviation world record in 1906, three years after the Wright Brothers took their inaugural flight. In 1905, even though most airplanes could barely get off the ground, let alone sustain any sort of forward momentum for very long, aviation visionaries founded the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, or FAI, with the stated purpose “to regulate the various aviation meetings and advance the science and sport of Aeronautics.”

Santos-Dumant made his European aeronautical debut in 1901, when he flew a dirigible around the Eiffel tower; on September 13, 1905, he became the first person to fly an airplane in Europe. On November 12, 1906, still in Paris, Santos-Dumant took off in a craft of his own design, the 14-bis, climbed to a lofty fifteen feet above the ground and flew across a field for a distance a little longer than a city block.

Here’s a picture of the airplane.

20130117_800px-Santos_-_Nov12_1906

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

He claimed he could have flown farther, but landed early because he feared his propellers might injure the boisterous crowd that cheered him on. Because the FAI had observers present, they recognized his distance of 722 feet in 21 seconds as the first-ever aviation world record. At 26 miles per hour, the record paled when compared to the land vehicle record at the time, 128 miles per hour.

In 1994, the FAI established the Santos-Dumont Gold Airship Award in honor of the aviator’s many accomplishments.

The Vari-Eze and Another World Record

The 1975 Fly-In at Oshkosh took place just a few weeks after Lesher’s world distance record, and Burt Rutan’s new Vari-Eze was the star of the show. Hearts pounded and jaws dropped as delirious pilots proclaimed, “That’s it! That’s what I’ve been waiting for!”

Pilots liked the BD-5, but the Vari-Eze had the two seats desired by many builders and was said to be capable of flying non-stop from California to Illinois for only $30 in fuel. Rutan sold plans for the airplane from his company, Rutan Aircraft Factory.

However, the Vari-Eze didn’t just show up at Oshkosh — it showed off its stuff that week with a new world record for distance over a closed course set by older brother Dick Rutan. For a closed course record, the pilot flies several circuits over a fixed set of points on the ground, landing back at the point of departure – similar to running laps around a racetrack. Dick, a major in the Air Force at the time, required two attempts to break the record – the engine blew up on the first try and he made an emergency landing in Green Bay.

Resourceful helpers back at Oshkosh scrounged a VW engine from another engine, slapped it onto the Vari-Eze, and Dick tried again two days later. This time he made it, breaking the previous closed-course record set by Lesher in his Teal by more than 83 miles. However, the absolute distance set by Lesher on July 2 still stood, and it would be another nine years before that record fell, to another Vari-Eze. In 1986, Dick Rutan, along with co-pilot Jeanna Yeager, set an even bigger record – they were the first to fly any aircraft non-stop around the world, unrefueled, in yet another of Burt’s designs, the Voyager.

In the early 1980s, a pilot named Gary Hertzler tinkered with the Vari-Eze design by redesigning the exhaust system, changing the inlet to the engine, adding a special propeller, and coating the airplane with exceptionally smooth paint. Beginning in 1982, Hertzler won an award for fuel efficiency three years in a row. Just a few weeks after his third win in June 1984, Hertzler flew non-stop from Mojave, California to Martinsburg, West Virginia, for a distance of 2,221 miles, nearly 500 miles further than the original record Arnold had planned to beat.

Click here for pictures and more information about the Vari-Eze.

Another World Record?

Nearly a year ago, on October 5, 2012, Arnold attempted to set another world record in the E-1. Some of you may have read about this in the EAA news. This record was for fuel efficiency.

When Arnold set the world distance record in the E-1 in 2010, his engine wasn’t really optimized for the job. At the time, his engine didn’t have a manual mixture control on it, so the engine consumed more fuel than it really needed. His fuel efficiency was around 36 nautical miles per gallon, which was enough to set the world record (I’ll talk more in later posts about how he achieved the efficiency he needed for the world record).

After setting the record, Arnold decided to tinker some more with the engine to see if he could make it better. He had optimized just about everything else on the airplane, such as fairings and the exhaust system, but other than swapping out carburetors, he had left the engine untouched. He bought an after-market mixture control for the engine and, after installing it, found that he should be able to exceed the old record of 42.68 nautical miles per gallon.

This flight didn’t require anywhere near the length of the distance flight — he only had to fly for about six hours, compared to more than eighteen, and he completed the entire flight within Washington State. When he landed, he had set an unofficial record of 48.95 nautical miles per gallon, which he submitted to FAI for verification. Unfortunately, the GPS portion failed in both of the barographs he carried to verify his altitude and location, and the FAI didn’t accept the record.

Arnold would like to make the record official, so he’s planning to try again. He bought another barograph that he hopes will be more reliable (it was also cheaper). Here’s a picture:

barograph

It’s hard to believe that this tiny thing (about 1-1/2 by 2 inches) holds a complete barograph for both altitude and position. The barographs that Arnold used in his ballooning days were about the size of a suitcase, and the only thing they measured was altitude; there was no provision for position.

Arnold has been busy the past couple of weeks installing the new barograph on the E-1 and making sure it’s working right. I’ll let you know when he tries again for the record!

Why Set Aviation Records?

I’m going to muse from time to time about why people set aviation records (or any records, for that matter) in the first place. For the first post on this topic, I’m going to refer you to a post I just made on my sister blog, “Competitive Aviation.” It’s at http://www.competitiveaviation.com. Once I discuss some basics about record-setting, I’ll have some later discussions about Arnold’s record specifically.

By the way, I have also been having problems with my subscriber settings, so the email notifications have not been going out for about a month now. I think I have that problem fixed or am close to fixing it. I this current notification doesn’t go out, I have a couple of more things to try, like perhaps hiring a webmaster!