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dot_clear.gifExploring the Aviation Adventure

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During the January 25, 1986, meeting at "Hangar 21," Angelo "Mike" Cartabiano (left), retired R&D and flight safety engineer for Sikorsky and Arling "Pud" Schmidt (right), mass properties engineer for Boeing and McDonnell Douglas, discuss the design of the tail for Whitehead's 1901 powered monoplane reproduction. Pud Schmidt created the metric scale plans in 1992 so Germany could build and test the next copy of Whitehead's 1901 airframe.
f.gif - 160 Bytesrom the beginning, our squadron decided that one way to prove Whitehead was not a fraud or a hoaxter would be to build and flight-test a reproduction of his 1901 high-wing monoplane. To do that, we needed reliable plans.
dot_clear.gif - 43 BytesTo create the plans, original Whitehead photos were found and studied. We were informed that Herb Kelley's geometry—fading angles process—used by the Pentagon in WW II, was reported to be very reliable. It required at least one known vertical measurement in any photo for any accurate plans to result.
dot_clear.gif - 43 BytesWe employed the volunteered services of an engineer at Sikorsky's helicopter firm, Irving Burger, to draw the first set of plans along with a three-view drawing. Those plans were completed and approved as being substantially accurate by Whitehead's surviving toolmaker/machinist assistant Anton Pruckner. Pruckner was interviewed in depth by Lippincott and the Smithsonian's Paul Edward Garber. Garber was greatly impressed with Pruckner's testimony and valuable memory. In all, four sets of plans were evolved to hone the accuracy of the finite details.
dot_clear.gif - 43 BytesDuring 1985 and '86, we found a serious sponsor, Kaye Williams, who provided us with a building in which we could gather a team to build the Whitehead 1901 monoplane reproduction. Earlier, in 1966, it had become an international project involving volunteers in Germany, for Whitehead was born on January 1, 1874, in Leutershausen, Germany, where he was baptized "Gustav Albin Weisskopf."
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On January 15, 1986, Ken Terry (left), an R&D industrial engineer who studied nuclear submarines under Admiral Rickover, and Pratt & Whitney's Wes Gordeuk (right), discuss the design of Whitehead's engines and propellers. Gordeuk carved the first copy of Whitehead's 1901 props using Whitehead's technique, which included the use of animal hide glue for the rough block laminations. Wes also drew the first set of plans for study of the Whitehead engines. Out of that initial effort, further studies by engineers in Germany resulted in working reproductions that are now being tested.
dot_clear.gif - 43 BytesIn 1992, at the request of the Gustav Weisskopf Museum research team, Boeing Vertol mass properties engineer Arling "Pud" Schmidt created metric scale plans and details for the construction of a reproduction of the 1901 Whitehead airframe. Fritz Brüder, a mechanical engineer on that team, built the airframe and assisted throughout the construction and flight testing. The bamboo poles used for the ribs were purchased at the Bamboo and Rattan Works in Lakewood, New Jersey. They originally furnished the bamboo, as wholesalers, in 1900, where Whitehead bought his—the Ryder and Hayes ship chandler's store on Railroad Avenue in Bridgeport. The silk to cover the wings was made by Kanebo Silk in Osaka, Japan, but the cost was borne by the entire Japanese Silk Manufacturers Association because Whitehead used Japanese silk in 1900 to 1908 on his wings. (The Bridgeport Silk Co. was two blocks behind where Whitehead lived on Pine Street.)
dot_clear.gif - 43 BytesThe only purpose of building and testing the airframes here in 1985 to '86 and over in Germany was to study their design and determine their aerodynamic merits. We used modern engines, since no surviving photos show us any details of the design of the generator used by Whitehead for his calcium carbide (acetylene) gas-powered engine.
dot_clear.gif - 43 BytesHad his critics who labored so hard denouncing him devoted time to visiting his shop and learning about his generator and engines, a reproduction might have been possible. A working, full-scale model of his 1901 20hp engine is being tested using compressed air. A working, full-scale model of the ground engine is on exhibit at the Gustav Weisskopf Museum.
dot_clear.gif - 43 BytesWe cannot definitely say that Whitehead flew in 1901. We can, however, definitely state that an accurate reproduction of his airframe flew (with modern engines) in 1997. That, in itself, says something important.
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