Blog – The latest and greatest & when I get ’round 2 it… Began 25 April 2020…
September 13th, 2020… I’ve been in hiding! Cheryl reminded me that I turn 79 the 30th. I’ve been trying to figure out how to avoid more of this aging process. I’ve not been good at avoiding or aging! But, by gosh I’m still on this side of the grass pluggin’ away. I’m still flying some albeit much less than last year when I was flying paid rides in the Stearman.
If you haven’t checked out the cool airplanes I have for sale be sure to click on the Aircraft and Parts For Sale page!
August 26, 2020… Boy Howdy have I been remiss from checkin’ in! Hopefully, the following “Blast from the Past” will assuage you some…
I’m in the middle of going thru “stuff” with the plan of keeping little and tossin’ out a lot of a half-century accumulation. I came across a note from the late Percival Hopkins “PH” Spencer.
PH or “Spence” was an Early Bird (Membership was limited to those who piloted a glider, gas balloon, or airplane, prior to December 17, 1916). Spence and my father were friends through Billy Parker (an esteemed mentor of mine) also an Early Bird and one who’s story is located within my website.
What brave and extraordinary men these were. PH was a member of the OX-5 Aviation Pioneers as was my father, my mother and me. PH “Spence” Spencer was born April 30, 1897 and died, at age 97, January 16, 1995 in Torrance, CA.
Mom and I were Historian members of OX-5 as we were not qualified under the then requirements of having flown or worked on an OX-5 powered aircraft prior to 1940. Now, with most of the qualified members having Gone West, everyone is classified with the same membership. They are a great bunch of folks. http://ox5.org. I was the president of the Arizona Chapter for a decade along with having co-founded the Silver Wings of Arizona Chapter with the late-great Barry M. Goldwater, RIP! In Arizona, if the OX-5ers met, the Silver Wingers met too. T’gether, but only in Arizona! I was simply too lazy to hold separate meetings. It seemingly worked great that way as both groups had much in common.
In October 1989 Spence was the keynote speaker of the OX-5 National Convention. He bequeathed me his hand written speech. I will share it with you:
“Greetings to all Early Birds and Early Birds associates and OX-5ers. Especially to those fortunate enough to be here tonight.
I have been asked to tell about my early flying experiences; so I will start with my first flight. What I am going to tell you is fully documented by notarized affidavits concerning my initial flights in my glider.
My first solo was on April 2, 1911 and my friend, Pic, would not arrive on scene for a few more months! I was thirteen years old. I flew a Whitteman Type Glider I had built from plans in Popular Mechanics Magazine. It was a bi-plane with wings 4X4X24 with bamboo wing spars and tail booms. Covering was ordinary cotton cloth shrunk with a cornstarch solution. I made this myself at home on Blue Hills Avenue in Hartford Phil I was going to Grammar School. My school-mates helped me carry it to Look Out Hill in Keeney Park on two or three occasions.
I suffered many bruises and skinned knees and elbows since I was unable to run fast enough, with the wings on my back, after landing. Thus, I learned, real quick, that shifting weight for control was not the way to fly; so I went to Stage 2!
This was a much stronger glider built of spruce and had a pair of floats made of oval stove pipe with soldered joints and internal reinforcement. I fitted it with a Curtiss-Type Shoulder Yoke Control system (3 axis).
My brother towed me behind my father’s boat at about 10 MPH using 300 feet of manila rope. With a 5 to 10 MPH wind I could get airborne but only land and take off. I could not make turns since the crag of the glider was great, and the rope so tight, that the glider followed the boat. I made many flights and felt very comfortable with the Curtiss Controls. All flights were on the Connecticut River in Hartford. This was in 1913 when I was between 15 and 16 years old.
My first powered flight was in a Curtiss Type Flying Boat, May 15, 1914. I was 17 years old. This machine was made in Connecticut and had crashed on it’s first flight when the controls pulled out of the floor since they were fastened with short wood screws. The pilot managed to set it down on the water with relatively little damage. The pilot removed his engine and abandoned the plane on a sand bar.
I got my father to buy the plane and, also, another engine, a 4 cylinder – 2 cycle with 50 HP. I repaired the damage, installed the engine, BOLTED IN the controls and was ready for my first Powered Flight.
I told by buddies to go across the river at the foot of State Street in Hartford and I would taxi the plane over to a sand bar where I intended to keep it. As I moved out into the river I was anxious to see if it would get up on the step and plane. It did that so nicely that I added more power and I was airborne! Since I had made so many take-offs in my towed glider I was at ease, but now that I am flying down the river and I didn’t know how to turn around to get back home. I flew about 5 miles down the river to Wethersfield, landed and turned around on the water. Then I took off headed back to Hartford.
As I approached the city, The Hartford to New York Night Boat had just left the dock; so I gave it a buzz job! The deck was alive with about 400 people all waving everything they could get their hands on. That was a sight and thrill I will never forget.
This was really the beginning of my aviation career for I designed and built nine airplanes in 12 years. The one built in 1919 is now in the New England Air Museum at Windsor Locks, CT.
Memorable high lights of my career includes a tour flying a Ford Tri-Motor for the Shell Oil Company and my log book show that I carried twelve thousand passengers in one year!” Later I served as personal pilot for Juan Trippe, founder and president of Pan Am. Many of you are familiar with the Spencer Amphibian Air Car which is in production today for the homebuilder.
On my 80th birthday I made my first flight on a twin-pontoon bi-plane glider towed by a high powered ski boat. I designed it for a company interested in producing it commercially. Thus my life has been full circle referring back to my towed flight behind my father’s boat in 1913.
In addition to conventional aircraft I developed an ornithoper – which is a machine propelled by beating wings. WHAMO of Hula-Hoop & Frisbee Fame built 650,000 of these rubbered powered birds. I continued the development using model airplane gas engines and an 8 ft model with 4/5 HP is in the Smithsonian as the World’s First! These towns instilled the desire to build a man carrying ornithopter. So, I designed – built and flew an 8 ft. scaled model with radios control which is in the EAA museum along with a video of its flights. At a CAL TEC symposium on beating wing propulsion, it was the consensus that if a man carrying ornithopter was successful, my design would be the one to succeed.
I have complete drawings for this machine including the test equipment. At my age and financial status I am unable to construct it but I would be very happy to work with anyone who would be interested in building such a machine.”
PH Spencer would live another six years. He actually kept his FAA certification current and flew until he was NINETY! Just writing this piece, largely his own telling, has been inspirational.