Nelson B. Rich Airplane Co.
East Boston Airport (Logan) MA. - 1939

Test Flight - 1939
By Alberta (Mrs. Nelson B.) Louise Rich
September, 2008

Fluttering and yawing like a string-tethered kite caught in cross-winds, Bud's experimental TWIN ENGINE AIRPLANE (later named the "Rich-Twin" by Lycoming) frighteningly appears to be failing its first test flight.

The Rich-Twin experimental aircrft Conceived and designed by Bud (Nelson B. Rich) to make available the safety of two engines for flying enthusiasts, he had in the mid 1930's enlisted the engineering knowledge of M.I.T. friends to further insure flying perfection. After years of professional construction, mostly in his Government Approved Aircraft Repair Station #266 at Boston Airport, he and his experimental X-Ship are now airborne.

BUT-while I, and many others, watch, intense dismay grips me. I hold fiercely onto Boston Airport's perimeter fence for support. Its iron rail bites sharp and cold into my hands...Bud's beautiful low wing monoplane is twisting and summersaulting and appears inescapably doomed to crash into the hungry, choppy waves of Boston Harbor!

Bud is being tossed around. Is he unconscious? No - not my husband! Typically. He is concentrating on how possibly to correct the inexplicable within seconds of an apparently imminent disaster. Somehow, his hands manage to neutralize all of the plane's controls and a degree of straightline flight is achieved. Close to harbor's surface, he tensely begs - "Altitude! Give me enough height to bail out!" While checking his parachute ripcord, he somehow pulls the steering wheel back a little. As though wanting to, X-Ship responds with more accurate straightline flight. Gratefully, he now knows the elevator's central location on the twin tail is not at fault. Ailerons also perform well.

His newly found hope includes fear for the rudders. Glancing back left and right out the cockpit windows, he can see over the leading edge of the wing, that EACH sturdily mounted, cowling encased, Lycoming engine's pusher-propeller is faultlessly whirling its slipstream directly into a perfectly upright rudder.

Great! But now, how to quit the straightline course that has carried him too far Easterly? Daringly, he presses RIGHT rudder pedal. The ship's response begins another twisting summersault. This time Bud makes an immediate correction. He is aware that the airplane had tried to fall to the left. Close to laughing, he knows an answer is being revealed to him.

By pressing LEFT rudder pedal very lightly he is not surprised that his previously recalcitrant X-Ship responds immediately to correction of an attempted tumble to the right. No further tests are needed. It's evident that the near fatal lack of control had occurred because during final checkup before the test flight, a trusted mechanic had too smartly thought that the fuselage interior's carefully engineered CROSS-LINED control cables, should be more normally straight-lined. So, he changed - from correct to incorrect! Although now knowing that control cables are at fault, Bud faces the need to use right pedal for left turns, and left pedal for right turns. He manages an approach to landing, but is dismayed to have to abort it ... a learning experience.

Far from easy, he again circles the airport, and is delighted with a short landing run due to its design incorporating one of the world's first landing wheel on the nose. He taxies carefully back to the hangar. Many well wishers and reporters rush to greet him, but, scarcely noticing them, he immediately goes into the fuselage and returns the rudder cables to proper cross-line position.

Gasping surprise ripples through the onlookers as he re-enters the cockpit, starts the engines, taxies out on a runway and with notably short take-off run is again airborne.

I, and others, breathe again as Bud resumes his experimental airplane's test flight. Comfortably circling the field twice, he lands with ease and taxies back to the relieved group of onlookers. This time he talks good-naturedly with them, expressing appreciation for their interest. Meanwhile, I manage to unclench my hands from the iron fence. As I manage to walk, Bud sees me and frees himself from the crowd.

Grasping hands, we look deeply into each other's eyes. Then simultaneously fall into each other's arms - in the embrace that had come so closely NEVER TO BE...


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