Issue 9-28-14Website - page 11

What We Found InRhinebeck
When I was planning our
recent bus trip to Hyde Park,
TerryHeadley suggested thatwe
stopat theRhinebeckAerodrome.
I hadnever been there, and Iwas
interested inseeing theWACO10
in their collection. It is probably
the only surviving plane from
theDonaldWoodwardAirport in
LeRoy. (I wrote about the plane
in theMay2, 2010,
Durante Holderman published
her uncle Russ Holderman’s
memoirs, “Between Kittyhawk
and theMoon,* “ shementioned
that shehadbeen toRhinebeck to
see if theywouldcarryher book,
and was dismayed to find her
uncle’splanestuck in thebackof
didn’t evenmention her uncle, a
true pioneer in aviation.
BrianDuddy, inhisbookabout
theWoodwardAirport, compiled
a list of the planes from the
Woodward Airport. There were
fourWACO10s. TheWACO10
that isRhinebeckwas registered
asNC940.Thiswas theplane that
RussellHoldermanflew inanair
show inPerry in the fall of 1929.
Itwas no ordinary plane.
He had sent the engine to
Kirkham, theCurtissCompany’s
engineering genius. “If anyman
knew how to soup up a motor,
give it extra ginger, more power
and consequently greater speed,
hewas theman. “Here is Russ’s
account ofwhat happened: ”Ken
Hebner came to me before the
Perry race and said, “You’vehad
good luck with that motor all
winter and summer, but I think
you’d better let me take it down
and check it over thoroughly
before you racewith it again.” I
told him he was probably right
but that I onlywanted onemore
race and then he could do what
he wanted about overhauling
the thing.
... The race required five laps
in all and at the third lap, I felt
Bennett gaining perceptibly, so
I pushed the motor until was
nearlywide open. ... my souped
upOX5 turnedup2,400RPM’s,
1,200more than it was designed
for. I knew itwas toomuch, but
I wanted to beat Dick Bennett.
We were only about 50 feet off
the ground and I began to gain,
and nose ahead of him. Then
suddenly I felt as if the whole
world had exploded inmy face.
than the 2,400RPM’s turned up
by my motor. That should have
been enough. Thewhole front of
the plane flew in all directions.
A wave of oil from the outside
and inside,dashingdirtandmuck
and hot grease, was flung inmy
coatingmy goggles.
All this happened at 50 feet, at
more than 100 miles an hour. I
think itwas instinct that itmademe
reach formygoggles and rip them
off. Iwas still in theair, skimming
a farm at 20 feet. The shattered
plane was tail heavy. One side
cowlingwasflat against theflying
and landing wires on the left and
threatened to put me in a spin. A
spin at 20 feet is as surely fatal as
being hit by a train. I jiggled the
plane and the cowling fell off. I
slipped to the left. Straight ahead,
almost closeenough to touch,was
agroveof trees,much tooclose to
miss hitting, I was sure. I booted
the rudder first to one side then to
the other with frantic kicks. This
gave the plane’s tail a wagging
motion like a whale’s tail in the
water. It killedmy speedpronto. I
pulled thestickbackandpancaked
toaperfect landingascant few feet
from the trees.
Itallhappenedsoquickly ... the
explosionof themotor, thedeluge
ofoil, the threatenedspin, cutting
the speed and landing suddenly
and flat tomiss those trees that I
wasoutof theshipand inspecting
thedamagebefore I realizedwhat
perhaps subconsciously thinking
of what to do in just such an
emergency had pulledme out of
it, nothing else ... the crankshaft
had broken just back of the first
two cylinders. The front of the
motor, the propeller and all the
cowling had ripped off. Seven of
the eight bolts holding themotor
to the plane had broken, leaving
one to keep it from falling out.
My good fortune had been in
not losing all of the motor, for
without it, the ship would have
been too heavy in the tail to
control andwould certainly have
me from such a fate ... Amos
McGuire, the parachutist, went
up for an exhibition jump and
left the planewith an improperly
packedparachute. It failed toopen
completelyandhe fell from1,500
feet to his death. Thus our 1929
season bowed out with a coffin
on its back.”
It’snotcertainwhathappened to
NC940after thecrash. According
to the handwritten sign in front
of the plane inRhinebeck it says
that it was rebuilt by Honkey
Reese of Naples. Cole Palen
who established the Rhinebeck
Aerodrome purchased NC940,
but had been told it was a plane
from World War I. He knew
that was impossible, since the
WACO 10s were built after
the war. Never the less, today,
NC940 is under a dry roof, and
Russell Holderman’s niece and
I are planning to have a better
sign made for it, with the story
of her uncle.
*We have copies of this book
in themuseum shop. It is agreat
story and fun to read.”
Handwritten sign in front ofNC940.
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