The September I most enjoy remembering was in year 1939, just three months before my husband Bud's and my first son was born. Happily, I was well able to be among nationwide Aviation enthusiasts nationwide were converging on Cleveland, Ohio's Airport to take part in, if I remember correctly, their last Fly-In before World War II-- or just attend, a momentous International Air Show.
My husband Bud (Nelson B. Rich) had been invited to demonstrate his self-planned experimental experimental twin-engines, recently test flown, 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 its two seat enclosed cockpit 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.
Although my friend, Nancy Love, had versed me on navigation, Above western Massachusetts' Berkshire Hills, I checked my visual-sightings ground map for our first touch-down, in Albany, N.Y to show the plane off a bit. 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. , some adjustment Bud had to make caused a forced landing in a small, welcoming field. Good landing, the field's longest way; but suddenly the wind changed and after some minor repair it was impossible to simply reverse direction for take-off.
X-Ship was due for an extreme test. The field was narrow but our only way out. Bud positioned the plane as far back on field's edge as possible, revved the experimental engines, dashed forward with high trees ahead. I pulled back as had as I could on my no steering wheel; I stepped hard on imaginary gas pedal...Could X-Ship possibly perform the impossible? Bud kept his foot hard down on the gas, gained maximum speed. Too close to those trees--? Suddenly, he pulled back on the wheel, X-Ship made a near verticle ascent, we cleared the treetops by inches. O.K. We breathed again, and not long after made touchdown 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. Flying above the city, large spaces of lights teased us, but none was the airport. A bit relieved, another airplane not far from us could be followed to the airport-but it became evident we were being followed with that same need.
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. After securing X-Ship, 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. All went well, except that we did make quite a foot run when a neighboring Boston Airport business hangar owner had a minor crash. We reached Mr. and Mrs. Wiggins (their names) in time to put our arms around her and took her with us for needed caring and coffee. 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.
Bud was teaching a course of practical applications to a class of aeronautical students atM.I.T. in Cambridge, MA. Two (it was three) of the students became enthused with Bud's original twin engine plan and worked many hours with engineering skills to give Bud's plan intricate drawings. They were Bill Cook and Jim Kendrick (& Bob Withington)-who later declared that experience to have been vital to their remarkable development for airplanes such as Boeings (& Lockheed). Both (Each) were later V.P.'s of their respective companies as they grew from small in late 1930's to immense.
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. Its short-run, steep vertical take-off are being noted. When its equally short-landing run demonstrates the advantage of its having one of the world's first third landing wheel on its nose (not a "tail-dragger"), Bud's thirty-six foot, beautifully tapered, colorfully yellow, low winged monoplane receives the clapping and deserved acclaim I've been yearning for!
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. They have a professional paint this name on the fuselage including, with Bud's appreciative consent, "Powered by Lycoming."
After a few days of enjoying the Air Show with old and new friends, it's time to fly back to Boston. I enjoy Bud's revving up and heading directly to a charming little white cloud floating in an otherwise clear sky. He has heard me admiring it! So we have fun flying briefly but foggy-blindly through it, and are now turning easterly in a slanting curve for homeward bound flight.
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. All is well. Our flight home is filled with pleasant air show memories and no inkling that ... 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, But BANG-WHANG! We're shaken by a bomb-like explosion shattered one of the engines' rod and casing within its cowling. It scared us! The plane shook madly. I know we have to jump out. I free my parachute; but Bud is between me and the door and he's not preparing to go. 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.
As Rich-Twin heads for earth he manages to close down the ruined engine, although for a few moments he isn't sure which one it is. Gratefully, he pulls the offending lever and we regain level flight. Somehow calm again, we are not surprised to fly on with only one engine operating, regardless of this frightening test of Bud's " two engines" safety design.
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?"
Original Ending with details:
But, is there an element of possible problem occurring to the one engine still powering the airplane so perfectly?
Wisely, he decides we must land without delay. Still over the Berkshires, with no airport in sight, he sees a well groomed golf course. He dares not ignore its offer to produce a landing space. Although hilly, the run to full stop is so short that a group of nearby golfers, geared up to be angry at this intrusion, becomes curious, understanding, and helpful.
In their clubhouse, Bud is making a reverse-charge phone call to my Dad, Albert Pigeon in Winthrop, MA, an Atlantic Ocean town northeast of Boston. My mother answers; short, concerned conversation - then, "is Dad there?" Thankfully, yes. Although we are nearly to the west end of Connecticut, within minutes he is in his car, find us at the airport, and drive us home.
The next morning, while I doze on, he (Ralph Kenyon, who came to help) and Bud drive to the Boston Municipal Airport, load into Bud's van one of the two fifty h.p. engines not yet returned to Lycoming since powering the Rich Twin's test-flight months before. Arriving at the Connecticut golf course, they replace the broken 75 h.p. engine with the fifty h.p. and load the removed engine into Bud's van.
After a friendly talk with a group of golfers, the airport personnel refuse to accept Bud's offer to provide any needed restoration to the field. Ralph drivies off to Boston with the disgraced 75 h.p. engine. Bud takes off with usual short run-- and the mis-mated engines give him no problem on the delayed flight easterly to Boston!
My Dad and I are at the airport to join in the delightful greeting that Airport friends and many others are giving him. As for Bud and me, we are just plain happy to be back again at home base--the airport now known as Logan International. And we'll ever be grateful for the invitation to take part in that fabulous Cleveland Ohio's Air Show!