Here’s a video of our visit to see the progress of our Roberts engine being built by Steve Littin in Ohio. It’s a six-cylinder 2-cycle water-cooled engine that produces 75 hp.
When people read the story of the first airline flight, they often wonder at the travel time of 23 minutes for a short trip across the bay. Why on earth would people pay for a 23 minute flight?
The reason becomes clear when you understand what travel options were available in 1914. Back then, there was no such thing as a “quick trip across the bay.” With no bridges and brand new automotive technology, a drive was an uncomfortable 20 hours! A somewhat more luxurious rail trip could range anywhere between 4 and 12 hours, and even the direct route across the water by steamboat would take you more than two hours.
The Duluth Aviation Institute is building their own replica of “The Lark of Duluth” which was the genesis of the Benoist Type XIV that we are replicating for the Benoist 2014 project, so we are comparing notes and swapping information with them as both projects progress. Their first flight will be about six months before ours, so we thought it would be good to drop in on them and check on their progress as 2012 draws to a close. Here’s a summary of that visit as Kermit Weeks takes you to visit the Lark:
The Benoist project we’re building to recreate the 100th anniversary of the first scheduled airplane airline flight by Tony Jannus uses a six-cylinder two-cycle 75hp Roberts engine.
We know of only seven in the world and there are none to be purchased. This is one of two 4-cylinder 50hp Roberts engines I found and acquired.
We were able to borrow a six-cylinder engine from Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome that Cole Palen had acquired years ago to reverse-engineer. It had been in a crash and the case had been welded in several places.
Here’s a view of the back end with the gears for the single magneto, water pump and rotary valve induction tube.
The 75hp six-cylinder engine has two more cylinders (12 ½ hp per cylinder) than the 50hp four-cylinder and uses two of the same carburetors.
Here’s a rough cylinder liner casting on the left. The one on the right has been machined and the top partially cut out to check for proper thickness. It was actually too thin in one spot and the casting pattern had to be adjusted to compensate. Any bad parts and pieces can be melted back into the pot and used in a future attempt.
Here are steps from left to right in casting and machining the cast iron pistons.
Here are six connecting rods for one engine. The big end connects to the crankshaft with two bolts and another curved piece and the little end connects to a piston with a piston pin. Each assembly will go up and down in the cast iron cylinder liner twenty times a second!.
Here are lower crankcase halves. They were easier to make than the upper halves and were made first. The one on the right is from the borrowed original engine and the one on the left is newly made. The square tab at the lower left of each is where the magneto bolts on.
Here, the crankshaft is set up on a lathe for final machining. This started life as a 900 lb. solid billet. After much whittling down, and two sessions of annealing, it will end up weighing about 48 lbs.!
So what do you think of the progress so far?!
People are starting to take notice of our project to recreate the world’s first schedule airline service on January 1, 2014. Local Tampa Fox News affiliate WTVT recently aired a segment on the Benoist project featuring our fearless leader, Kermit Weeks.
Are you making plans to be there when we fly?