Last of Their Kind

Airplanes without equal at the National Air and Space Museum

(Library of Congress)

Caudron G.4

(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.


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