John needed to verify a few more details before moving forward with his definitive reproduction Spirit of St. Louis by JNE, so we made one more trip back to Washington DC earlier this month.
This time it was necessary for John to go up in a JLG Lift in order to get “up close and personal” with the NYP.
John Norman with the original Spirit of St. Louis on 21 Oct. 2016
John had made several “templates” off his own Spirit by JNE before we traveled back to Washington DC.
John placing his “template” for the trailing edge on the original NYP
John checking the “arc” of his wingtip with a “template” on the original.
What a wonderful surprise to place the templates on the original and find they fit perfectly!
Take a peek into the cockpit of the original Spirit of St. Louis in 1927 …
Spirit of St. Louis cockpit ~ 1927
Now, take a peek into the cockpit of John’s Spirit of St. Louis by JNE in 2016 …
The cockpit of The Spirit by JNE ~ 2016
We have had many discussions with many different aircraft enthusiasts over the few short years John has been building his Spirit of St. Louis replica.
In those discussions the topic of just what “time frame” John wants his replica to represent has come up over and over again.
We have heard a lot of different ideas why he should build it to represent a certain time frame over another time frame and the differences that would entail in the actual construction of the aircraft.
Each time frame has minor differences in the overall appearance of the aircraft.
There are those who wanted to see it built to resemble what it looked like when it left the Ryan factory in San Diego …
- with a “jeweled” nose spinner
- and balsa-wood fairing on the tail skid
The completed Spirit of St. Louis in 1927 in San Diego, CA
While others wanted to see it built to resemble what it looked like when it left Roosevelt Field in New York the day it commenced its flight across the Atlantic …
- During Charles Lindbergh’s flight from San Diego to St. Louis and then on to New York, the original “jeweled” nose spinner cracked. It was removed and replaced with another one in New York prior to departing for his famous flight across the Atlantic.
- The balsa-wood fairing on the tail skid also failed and was removed.
Some wanted to see it built to resemble what it looked like when it flew around the United States after returning from Europe …
- By the time it returned from Europe, the fabric on the aft section of the aircraft had been replaced with Linen after the crowds in Paris had cut and/or torn pieces of the original cotton fabric off the airplane when it landed at Le Bourget field.
- Lindbergh also made the decision to change the size of the tires he had on the aircraft during the USA tour.
Then there were others who wanted to see it built to resemble what it looked like during the Central and South American Goodwill tour.
- Before leaving on the southern Goodwill tour, flare tubes were added just aft of the pilot seat that extend below the belly fabric in order that Lindbergh could release parachute flares to light the area below if he had to make a nighttime landing at any time along the tour.
By Raul654 ~ Washington DC, May 7, 2005, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=134836
- Flags were painted on the cowling in each country Lindbergh stopped at during that tour.
John has always wanted his Spirit of St. Louis replica to look JUST LIKE the one the public is able to view today as it hangs in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC
- John has cut the Grade A cotton fabric at the same position the French cut in Paris, and he has stitched Irish Linen to the remaining cotton and covered the aft section of the aircraft with Linen.
- He has the same 30 x 5″ tires on his replica that are on the original today.
- He has added flare tubes to his Spirit replica.
- John will be painting all the different flags on his cowlings that we see on the original Spirit of St. Louis cowlings.
- Over time, the cowlings on the original Spirit of St. Louis have changed from the silver that we see in photographs taken in 1927 to a sort of gold color that we see on her today. Close inspection of the cowling makes it clear that some sort of finish was put on the cowlings when they were new, before anything was painted on them. To date, the conservationists at the Smithsonian at Udvar-Hazy have still not determined exactly WHAT that finish was composed of.
So John has been experimenting with different substances to try to find just the right combination to obtain the “golden” effect we see on the original Spirit of St. Louis cowlings.
I think he has succeeded ~
On 21 May 1927 after Charles Lindbergh landed at Le Bourget field in Paris, France, he and the Spirit of St. Louis were overrun by the throngs of spectators who had come to the field to watch history being made.
Unfortunately, some among the spectators took it upon themselves to rip, tear, or cut out pieces of the fabric off the Spirit of St. Louis to keep as souvenirs of the historic event.
This vandalism needed to be repaired before Lindbergh could fly the Spirit of St. Louis again.
The French government moved the Spirit into a hangar and kept it under armed guard to protect it from any other souvenir hunters while they replaced the fabric from the cockpit, aft, with Irish linen.
This photo is of the cockpit area once the damaged original cotton fabric was removed in 1927.
This photo is of the cockpit area of the Spirit of St. Louis by JNE in 2016.
On June 28, 2016 the Washington Post published an article about finding the pliers beneath the main fuel tank in the original Spirit of St. Louis.
It was very disappointing to see that the head conservator of the National Air and Space Museum was taking credit for the discovery that John had made while we were there in March 2015 during the time the original Spirit was on the floor.
In speaking with the conservator after the article was published, he explained that the author of the article did not write what he had described.
In speaking with the author of the article in the Washington Post, he explained that he had written what the conservator had said.
So, there you go!
Each individual pointing the finger at the other one in an effort to place blame on the “OTHER” guy.
After having conversations with both entities and asking for a correction to be made … leaving it up to both of them to do the “right” thing … we were soon contacted by Heather Goss from the Smithsonian Air & Space magazine.
She asked John for details about his discovery of the pliers, and although she was on a limited time frame (due to publishing deadlines) she wanted to get the REAL story out there.
We appreciate the conscientious attention paid by the National Air and Space Museum in their capacity to preserve American History in an authentic and accurate manner.
For those who might be interested in reading the article written by Heather Goss for the August 2016 edition, you can follow this link ( click here ).
To date, we have not been contacted by the Washington Post in any manner in order to make the corrections to their article. I guess that just shows us who is the more honorable reporting agency between the two!
The June 28th article by the Washington Post can be found here ( click here ).
Summer has come to an end, and Autumn has made her way in.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are experiencing wonderfully warm and dry days though the nights are certainly feeling more like typical Fall weather here.
With the higher humidity in the air, it makes the covering process a bit trickier than it would be if we had been able to start the covering job this past summer.
However, we do not want to put the “cart before the horse” with our project, so even though we had gorgeous weather this past summer … it simply was not the TIME to begin the covering.
John has decided it IS time now to go ahead and begin covering some of the smaller parts of the “Spirit by JNE”.
The rudder was his first choice.
We will be able to put it into one of the smaller rooms in the shop where we can turn the heat on, keep the heat at a steady temperature and reduce the humidity to an acceptable level as it dries.
Above: John is covering the rudder with Grade A cotton and sealing the overlapping fabric with butyrate dope in preparation for the first stage of “shrinking” the fabric.