I recently did a research trip for the Benoist Flying Boat we are building for the 100th Anniversary of Flight on January 1st, 2014. Since there are no original drawings of the airframe or existing aircraft in exixtence, employee Ken Kellet and I took off to see what we could find. As mentioned before, the Benoist uses a rare and unavailable 6-cylinder two-cycle Roberts engine of 75hp, which we hope to also recreate.
We first arrived in Washington D.C to visit the National Air and Space Museum and the Hazy Center to look at similar aircraft. We were allowed to go through their historical archives, finding pictures and other bits of information that will help us. They was very accomodating and allowed us to arrive before they opened and inspect a similar Hugo Eckner Flying Boat hanging in one of their galleries with a lift. This aircraft also used the same engine as the Benoist. I took lot’s of pictures.
We then took off by car to head up to Hammondsport, NY to visit the Glenn Curtiss Museum where there were two other similar period aircraft. Continuing on we stopped to check the progress of the Fokker D-7 Fred Murrin is building for me. The main structure is basically complete and it’s coming along slowly but nicely.
1913 reproduction Curtiss "E" Model Flying Boat at Curtiss Museum
1919 Curtiss "Seagull" at Curtiss Museum
After a day at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidental Library taking pictures of Roberts engine drawings we visited with Steve Littin of Vintage and Auto Rebuilds just outside of Cleveland, OH. He builds early Rolls Royce Silver Ghost car engines from scratch and is willing to help our desire to build a new Roberts engine for the Benoist Flying Boat. Steve recently visited Fantasy of Flight and, after discussing the project, took my 4-cylinder Roberts back to Ohio with him as well as all the drawings and manuals we took pictures of to begin the process of figuring out how we’re going to build a new one.
Kermit and Steve Littin with 4-cylinder Roberts engine
I was fortunate to recently acquire a second 4-cylinder Roberts from an auction in England, which just might end up in our 1910 Curtiss Pusher reproduction. I figured since we’re going to be Roberts engine experts at some point, why not? I also made an agreement with Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome to borrow their 6-cylinder Roberts, which is currently on display in the St. Pete Museum. It will be sent to Steve for disassembly for reverse engineering purposes and we all look forward to learning about, building, and running this fascinating engine! I can only imagine that it’s got to sound like a Harley on steroids!
On a side note, I got a chance to see the original Curtiss Seaplane Schneider Cup winner at the Smithsonian. The land plane version of this with wheels (R3C-1) was the basis for the “Curtiss” character in my illustrated children’s book All of Life is a School.
"Curtiss" R3C-2 Schneider Cup Racer at NASM
I also got a chance to see the original “Roscoe” at the Crawford Museum in Cleveland, OH, which is also a character in my book. I was somewhat surprised when I saw it to find it painted gold! When I wrote the book, I must have got it confused with one of Roscoe Turner’s later racers, which was silver. Since I was just about to put in the order for another 5000 books, I went to the trouble of changing the color. I guess that makes the next batch the “Gold Edition!”
Original "Roscoe" Turner Racer at the Crawford Museum
I’ll post updates on the Benoist and Roberts project as we progress. Once we get this research part done the fun part begins: building!