Which one of six past champions would have gotten your vote?
- By Linda Shiner
- Air & Space magazine, August 2007
(Page 3 of 4)“The thing that most impressed me is the courage of the pilots who flew [liaison craft] in World War II,” says Powers. During the war, pilot-observer pairs in L-4s and Stinson L-5s would scout frontlines in order to direct Army artillery fire and report enemy movements. “No armor, no arms. I came to respect those people,” says Powers. (Spotter aircraft were frequently shot up by German fighters and ground fire, and if you’ve ever flown in the 75-mph Cub, you can imagine being out there in the breeze with a couple of Messerschmitts bearing down on you.) Powers was especially respectful of one pilot, Major Charles Carpenter, who bucked regulations to equip his L-4H with bazookas and took out half a dozen German tanks. “Bazooka Charlie” won an air medal, became famous, got promoted to lieutenant colonel, survived the war, and returned to teaching in Urbana, Illinois. He died in 1966.
His daughter, Carol Carpenter Apacki, had seen photos of the airplane her dad had loaded for bear, but had never seen the real thing — until she sat in the cockpit of June and Colin Powers’ L-4. “It just seemed like a toy. I thought, How could somebody be flying this in a war? Before I never really got what all the fuss was about, how vulnerable he was.”
Fun - 1927 Waco 10T
My favorite story about the Weaver Aircraft Company, which gave the name “Waco” to its 1920s biplanes, takes place in 1927, after the company had become the Advance Aircraft Company and moved to Troy, Ohio. The Air Commerce Department had issued the first structural standards that aircraft were required to meet in order to gain an Airplane Type Certificate. By that time, the Waco 9 had won several cross-country races, carried hundreds of passengers, and made some money for its designers, Clayton Bruckner and Elwood Junkin. But Bruckner and Junkin weren’t trained as engineers, and when the government required that an aircraft withstand stress equal to 6.5 times its own weight, they got worried. What if their airplane could not? As it turns out, the Waco 9 tested by the U.S. Army in 1927 stood up to loads 7.5 times its weight, and subsequently the good old common sense of Bruckner and Junkin brought forth such hearty designs as the Waco UPF-7, which the Army bought as a basic trainer, and the estimable Waco 10T.
“It’s very responsive, very quick on the controls because of the taper[ed] wing,” says owner Alan Hoeweler, who runs a business with his father and brother in their hometown, Cincinnati, Ohio. Hoeweler likes Wacos because he likes history, especially local history, and the fact that his Wacos (he also owns a UPF-7) are homegrown, so to speak, suits him. They represent a transition in American aviation, he says, between the delicate, wire-braced oddities of the Wright brothers and the mass produced monoplanes of the 1940s. And Hoeweler is just the customer that Wacos were designed for: He flies not for a profession but for fun.
Elegance - 1939 Spartan Executive
Kent and Sandy Blankenburg admit right away that they bought their airplane because of its looks. “It has the best Art Deco lines of any airplane flying,” Kent says. The Spartan Executive is a luxury model, a 200-mph sedan manufactured in 1939 by a company begun by an oil tycoon with a product targeted at a niche market: other oil tycoons. Blankenburg’s Spartan spent part of its career in the corporate fleet of the Texas Fuel Company, known today as Texaco.
The Spartan Aircraft Company, founded in Tulsa, Oklahoma, amid the wealth from oil reserves that created Gulf, Standard, and Sinclair oil companies among others, was acquired in 1935 by oilman J. Paul Getty. Six years later, when the United States entered the war, Getty tried to enlist in the Navy but was asked to instead manage production at his new airplane factory, which he steered toward the manufacture of parts for the warplanes built by other companies.