Originally Posted by seward747
... and antiques (including the VERY authentic Spirt of St. Louis replica) and ...
Regarding that Spirit of St. Louis replica you saw at the Arlington Fly-In. I had a chance to look at it closely in its hangar at Arlington as it was being prepared for its first flight. Here are some pics I took:
And some comments I noted from talking to the builder and his wife:
At the hangar, we met John Norman and his wife, Heather. John is an Airframe and Powerplant mechanic with Inspection Authorization. They were extremely gracious, and let us look at the Spirit, ask them a hundred questions, and take pictures. John has spent approximately 9,000 hours building this replica of the Spirit.
His website has many details of the research he did and the build itself. The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum let him have hands-on access to the original Spirit, where he took measurements and photos, made patterns, and used a borescope to look at the internal structure of the original Spirit. On his site he has comparison pictures of some of the original Spirit’s components and his replica’s components.
The replica is amazing, to say the least. He did not want his replica to look like the Spirit did when it came out of the Ryan shop brand new, but rather he wanted it to look used, and aged, as the real Spirit does in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
For example, the cowl was shiny burnished aluminum when new, but the cowl of the real Spirit has yellowed with age, and the replica matches that patina. The cockpit interior looks used, like the real Spirit does. The floorboard is scuffed. The instrument panel looks exactly like the panel in the real Spirit looks as it now hangs in the Smithsonian. You can see the wear on the panel, down to the small area of wood delamination at the bottom left portion, exactly as the real Spirit has. And you can see that in the pictures I took in the link above.
Another mind-boggling example: The original Spirit was covered in Cotton fabric. But after landing at Le Bourget Field in Paris, the crowd damaged and tore away some of the fabric. The French patched and recovered part of the fuselage with what they used on their airplanes, namely, Irish Linen. This replica is covered in a combination of Cotton and Irish Linen as the real Spirit has been! In one of the pictures looking at the left sidewall of the cockpit, you can see where the Cotton and Irish Linen meet and are sewn together.
He has made this replica as near the original as possible to an amazing degree. Here are some examples:
- The replica has an original Wright J-5 Whirlwind engine. The standard J-5 engine had to have the rockers greased every 30 hours. Since Lindbergh knew his flight might be as long as 40 hours, the Wright Company added greaser modules to each rocker box. John Norman had a machine shop make working replica greasers! You can see them on the rocker boxes in the pictures.
- The replica has all of the separate fuel tanks like the real Spirit. All the fuel plumbing and fuel valves in the cockpit work exactly like the original.
- The replica has a periscope, like the original, and it works.
- The replica’s structure is honest to the original (not sure about all the materials though).
- The markings are the same, hand drawn in many cases like the original.
- There is a generator mounted in the upper rear fuselage, driven by the external anemometer to power the Earth Inductor compass.
- The original Spirit had some instrument panel lights powered by dry cell batteries. But before the NYP flight, Lindbergh took them out to save weight. During the NYP flight, Lindbergh used a flashlight at night when he had to see something on the panel. After the NYP flight they were put back in for his flying tour, and the replica has them.
- It has a tailskid. But it does have a removable tailwheel for flying.
- At the time I saw it, the propeller was not finished yet. The propeller is true to the original, but the decal was incorrect (the original was a "Standard Steel Propeller Company” propeller, the precursor to Hamilton Standard which is on the existing decal), and it did not have red tips. These were on John's list of things to fix.
The replica was issued a Special Airworthiness Certificate, and it is licensed in the Experimental - Exhibition Category.
One concession for while the replica flies: the replica has a small video camera mounted between the lower two cylinders. It provides a forward-facing view on a video screen in the cockpit for taxiing and while flying. You can see the video screen mounted high in one of the photos I took.
After flying it for awhile, John plans to sell it! He says he has a Ryan M-2 mail plane he plans to restore. The Spirit was based on the Ryan M-2.
Here is a good article on the replica Spirit from the Everett Herald published on August 11th, shortly after its first flight:
Several days ago I saw the Spirit flying around the airport with a spotter chase. Not only was it cool to see it fly, but the staccato bark of those very short exhaust stacks was really sweet, and unique nowadays.
BTW, if you haven't read the book “The Spirit of St. Louis” by Lindbergh himself, I heartily recommend it. It’s a great read. The movie, with Jimmy Stewart, isn't bad either.