Progress continues to be made on the Benoist airplane we are building at Fantasy of Flight for the 100th Anniversary of the first scheduled commercial airplane flight on 1/1/2014.
Restoration specialist, Ken Kellett, is heading up the construction of the airframe and has begun making jigs for the fuselage sides, ribs, and a mock-up of the center-section to get an idea of where everything will go.
Most people that reproduce old airplanes only go half the distance to do it right and end up installing a modern engine and don’t get near the same performace as the original. This is because of the rpm the engine delivers it’s horsepower and turns the propellor. Most modern engines turn at a higher rpm for use with smaller propellors at higher speeds. At the speed realm of the older airplanes, modern engines cannot create the thrust needed like a slow moving large diameter propellor.
That’s not the way we like to do things. However, there was a problem . . . we couldn’t find an engine to purchase ANYWHERE!
I hired Steve Littin of Vintage Auto and Rebuilds in Ohio to scratch build the six-cylinder Roberts engine that we’ll need for the project.
His company currently builds Rolls Royce Silver Ghost car engines from scratch of the same period and is well-qualified to do the job. I was able to purchase two four-cylinder Roberts engines but only know of about six original engines that were in museums and unavailable for purchase.
We were able to borrow a six-cylinder Roberts that had been in a crash from Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome to reverse-engineer. The four-cylinder engines that I have put out 50 hp. The Benoist uses a six-cylinder Roberts that is basically a stretched four-cylinder to produce 75 hp. The cylinders and carburetors are identical and the plan is to build the case molds for both the four and six-cylinder engines.
It’s an exciting project for everyone. We’re living our product by pushing our boundaries. It will be great to see how all this unfolds!