Monday, July 7, 2008

Air Power

Wright R-1820 radial engine. (Source:
Whale! As Y’all may have figured out by now… The wunderkind economy has sucked the lifeblood out of Air travel, as the romance of traveling by Aeroplane is simply a thing of the past, as we’ve all now become nothing more then lemmings in a tin can…

Thus, while in New York this past September, I had the good fortune to visit a wonderful museum in upstate New York while staying at Sadie Manor, as my wonderful hosts Robert & Cili took me up to Hammondsport to visit the Curtiss Aviation museum that I was totally unaware of.

Perhaps you’re wondering just who is this Curtiss chap, eh? His name is Glenn H. Curtiss and he was one of our early aviation pioneers, who got his start by first producing bicycles and motorcycles. The Hammondsport native would go on to one day be considered "The Father of Naval Aviation" along with being the “Founder of the American Aircraft Industry.” Instead of trying to re-invent the wheel, or in this case the aeroplane, I’ll refer you to an excellent article titled: Glenn H. Curtiss – 100 years ago for a full description of his amazing accomplishments.

As I’ve previously mentioned in the post titled Attractions, This is a gem of a museum tucked away in upstate New York.

As the father of naval aviation, there’s an example of one of Curtiss’s early flying boats on display, as the museum is filled with examples of early motorcycles, aeroplane’s and aircraft engines, with the “Corncob”” engine being my favorite.

Howard Hughes utilized eight of these massive 28 cylinder air cooled behemoths as the power plants to lift the Spruce Goose off of the Long Beach harbor! The Pratt & Whitney R4360 Wasp Major air cooled engine was made up of four rows of seven cylinders fashioned in a helical arrangement to provide better cooling and equipped with a mechanical supercharger. This engine was the end of the line for piston engines designed during World War II, although they never saw service.

However, these monsters did find work as the motive power for the Boeing B-50 Super fortresses, although they were very problematic and the complicated engine start-up/shut down procedures could last for more than six hours! The initial R4360 engine weighed in at 3,482lbs and was rated at 3,000 horsepower. Final R4360 versions weighed 3,870lbs, rated at 4,300hp, as the additional weight and horsepower was due to the addition of two turbochargers.

If you’re an aviation buff, gearhead or fan of American nostalgia, then I highly recommend you visit this true gem if you’re ever in upstate New York… And while the thrill of modern air travel leaves something MORE to be desired, I’m certainly pleased to think that at least we’re not having to be exposed to the sub-freezing temperatures the countless persons had to endure in the exposed confines of the World War II Bombers!

Glenn H. Curtiss museum