Last of Their Kind
Airplanes without equal at the National Air and Space Museum.
- By Patricia Trenner
- Air & Space magazine, August 2012
Dane A. Penland
“Perhaps the world’s first strategic bomber,” the NASM records note, the French Caudron G.4 is “a singularly unattractive plane with seemingly endless 56-foot-span wings sandwiching a small nacelle…. A forest of struts connected the wings and engines….” One control stick warped the wings; the other controlled the elevator. One of Manfred von Richthofen’s first kills was a G.4. Arrived at the Smithsonian in 1918, minus propellers and engines, as part of an exhibit on war materiel. The Museum’s first curator, Paul Garber, later bought two engines for $25 each. The G.4 was the second aircraft to join the national collection, after the Langley Aerodrome, which flew only after modifications by Glenn Curtiss. First flight of prototype: March 1915; sole survivor.
Franklin Texaco Eaglet (not shown)
On March 30, 1930, speed/distance record-setter and air racer Frank Hawks left San Diego in a Waco-towed Franklin glider, bound for New York City. Hawks’ mission, sponsored by the Texas Company, better known as Texaco: promote aviation, particularly glider clubs, which could serve those unable to afford instruction in powered aircraft. Texaco saw in glider pilots a generation of future customers who would inevitably graduate to conventional airplanes. Of the eight days the “Air-train” was aloft, the glider, with a 45-foot-wingspan and glide ratio of 15:1, logged seven hours of free flight, giving demonstrations for the crowds at landing sites. Donated by Texaco in 1930; one of a kind. NASM’s Paul Garber persuaded Hawks to donate the Eaglet’s trailer, which the Washington Soaring Club promptly put to good use. In storage, intact.