The September I most enjoy remembering was in year 1939. Aviation enthusiasts nationwide were converging on Cleveland, Ohio's Airport to take part in, or just attend, a momentous International Air Show.
My husband Bud (Nelson B. Rich) had been invited to demonstrate his self-planned experimental twin-engine airplane. So, on Boston Municipal Airport's cinder field, at 7:10 a.m, the second day of that September, with parachutes strapped on, we stepped into the cab of his twin-engine, 3rd wheel on its nose experimental "X-Ship" and flew off with hand held compass guiding us westerly. The ship had no radio, and few indicators on the instrument panel - but Cleveland was out there, and we'd find it.
Above western Massachusetts' Berkshire Hills, I checked my visual-sightings ground map for our first touch-down, in Albany, N.Y. Next stop was Syracuse, N.Y. for an overnight with friends. Early morning compass now guiding us southwest, we touched down in Dunkirk, N.Y.
Continuing from there, we soon were thrilled to see the vastness of Lake Erie a little off to our northern right. By following its shoreline,we were even more delighted to see lights of the city of Cleveland emerging at the horizon. But it was now after 8 p.m., nightfall had come, and gas was low. Beneath us, many spaces outlined by lights clamored to be considered airports. Finally, tremendous Cleveland Airport stopped blending itself in with other lights. Great! Bud, with a short-run landing, taxied up to the nearest hangar. It proved to be the right one, where, happily, friends and others greeted us with relieved hugs. Soon they took us to dinner, and to a private home for overnights.
What a great two days followed for us! All size aircraft were on exhibition; there were instructive seminars; incredible stunt flying; and air races... Small "fly-in"airplanes covered acres of the field. But"X-Ship" was the only two-seater, private plane with the kind of two engine safety Bud had visualized in its development. With some design input, and welcome engineering by friends at M.I.T., Bud had been its sole builder, financier (we really scraped the bottom financially) and test pilot.
Management followed through with their invitation for him to exhibit its advanced qualities by giving Bud special, announced time in the air. I could have cried, its sleek yellow contours were so beautiful against the light blue sky. Having proved its short-run, near vertical take-off and short-landing capabilities,with a third wheel on the nose (one of the world's first nose-landing airplanes,) and beautifully tapered thirty-six foot long monoplane wing, it received deserved acclaim.
Back near the hangar, men who had been involved with lending Bud its two 75 h.p. experimental Lycoming Engines, were so pleased with their performance that they gave the airplane a real name - "RICH-TWIN!" They had it painted on the fuselage, and though we'd probably never have given it that name, I like it.
Reluctantly, when September 5th came, it was time for us to lift off and head back to Boston. The flight went smoothly, with stops similar to those on the way west. However, there remained to be one more test of the ship's prowess; one that showed the value of having two engines aboard.
Suddenly, when again flying over the Berkshire Hills, and just as I was taking a snapshot of the magnificent view, a bomb-like explosion shattered one of the engines' rod and casing within its cowling. It scared us! The plane shook madly. I expected to jump out by parachute, but the one door was on Bud's side, and he was busy assessing the problem and getting that one engine shut down.
Wonderfully, he soon got the ship leveled off, gained altitude, and with a flip of its tail, Rich-Twin sailed smoothly on with only the one engine and propeller working. Airport personnel gave us delightful greetings when we gratefully landed back on home base, Boston Municipal Airport (now Logan International).
The only thing I can think of to say now, seventy plus years later, is: "Well, who wouldn't have accepted an invitation to take part in that fabulous (for 1939) Cleveland Air Show?"