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The SPIRIT of ST. LOUIS

John immediately got to work measuring, cutting and fitting the tubing into the jigs he had built.

By early June he had the fuselage tubing welded together and the single door on the starboard side of the fuselage in place.

In just two more weeks, John had built and installed rudder pedals, the control stick, the throttle quadrant and the trim control along with the beginning of what would be the instrument panel.

Now John was ready to move on to building the motor mount.  He needed to make a round "ring" to weld onto the front of the mount onto which the aircraft engine would one day be mounted.  That "ring" had to be a specific size and John wasn't sure just what he could use for a template to ensure the ring came out perfectly round and exactly the right diameter.

As he pondered that question, he looked around his shop and his gaze came to rest on the pre-World War I lathe that sat against the wall near the door to his shop.  He grabbed a tape measure and measured the diameter of the chuck on that lathe ... sure enough, he could use the chuck as a template.

John filled a length of tubing with sand and then welded each end so the sand would not fall out.  The sand would ensure that the tubing would retain its shape while being bent into a circle.  

John heated the sand-filled tubing with his torch, as his son Mike, slowly pulled the red-hot tube around the lathe chuck until the tube was all the way around the chuck ... and then some.

Once the tubing cooled, John  removed it from the lathe chuck "template" and placed it on the floor in order to remove the sand from within the tube.

He then "fine tuned" the ring, trimming it to length and welding the ends together to end up with a perfectly round "Nose Ring" for his motor mount.

Next, John gathered up some bits and pieces of materials he had lying around and built himself another plywood "jig" with which he could build the motor mount.  Placing the "Nose Ring" on the pedestal  of the jig, he was then able to bend the tubing "legs" that would attach to the ring on one end, and attach to the fuselage on the other end.

By the end of July, John had completed the motor mount and had it in place on the fuselage of the airplane.

It was just about this time that John had stumbled upon a photograph of the Lunkenheimer fuel manifold when he was looking for parts online.  John emailed the individual who had posted the photograph to ask more about it and when the gentleman replied, an ongoing email "conversation" ensued. 

The gentleman introduced himself as Ty Sundstrom who had coincidentally already built 3-replica Ryan NYP's and had a wealth of knowledge that he was willing to share with John.  The very first piece of advice Ty gave John was, "Throw those Morrow drawings away!  They are not accurate!"

As it turned out, Ty had been researching the original Spirit of St. Louis for more than 2-decades at this point.  He had been given the unique opportunity to go back to Washington DC and get up close to the original in a basket lift.  This gave him a chance to take hundreds of photographs of the aircraft while "up close and personal", giving him information that was otherwise unavailable.

Ty informed John that the tubing called for in the Morrow drawings was too thick.  In addition, he told John that the Morrow drawings have the fuselage 2-inches too tall at the tail end of the fuselage (at the rudder post).  

That meant that John had to cut his fuselage down from the aft side of the door, all the way back to the rudder post (on both sides) in order to get the correct height at the tail of the fuselage.  This made a dramatic difference in the angle of the slope from the cockpit to the tail, and when compared to the original, it was clear to see Ty was correct.

Ty was kind enough to send John numerous photographs of the original aircraft as it was being built in 1927... and he pointed out details that he felt were important for John to take note of as he was building the Spirit of St. Louis by JNE so that it would be as accurate as possible.  

This was when John decided he would go "all out" and build his aircraft to be the most authentically accurate reproduction of the original Ryan NYP ever built.  The only problem he encountered with that decision was trying to determine what point in history he wanted his aircraft to be accurate to?

.................. Would he build it to be like the original was when it left New York on its historic flight to Paris? 

...................... Would he build it to be like the original was when it left New York on its USA Goodwill Tour?

............ Would he build it to be like the original was when it left Washington DC on its Latin America Tour?

John decided he wanted his aircraft to exactly resemble the original aircraft as it appears to visitors today when they see it hanging in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Gallery in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.

As John studied all the photographs he could get his hands on, and all the written information he could find on the Spirit of St. Louis and Lindbergh's flights, he noted the differences in the appearance of the aircraft in the photographs based on the timeline of when they were taken.

As he studied the original build of the fuselage, he suddenly noticed that the diagonal brace tubes in the original were positioned exactly the opposite of the diagonal brace tubes he had welded into his fuselage according to the Morrow drawings!   That was one more error in those drawings.

So John removed each of the diagonal brace tubes in his airplane and re-welded them in the proper direction.

> Continue to Chapter II

 

BACKGROUND


John has long been interested in the story surrounding the iconic flight of the Ryan NYP commonly referred to as "The Spirit of St. Louis."

 

In the early 1990's John thought he'd like to build a replica NYP but had no idea where to find plans for the airplane.  After a bit of research ... prior to the advent of the "world wide web" and the internet as we now know it ... he contacted the San Diego Air and Space Museum in California to see if they might be able to steer him in the right direction.

 

Sure enough, they had copies of what were known as the "Ed Morrow" drawings, and John could have a set of these drawings for $1000.00 ... however, he would need to provide them with a written statement that he would NOT build an airworthy aircraft using those plans.

 

What good were those plans if he couldn't build the plane to fly?  He passed on their offer and did more research.

 

Eventually he found the phone number for Ed Morrow himself and gave him a call.  Ed was the "metal-fitting" foreman... aka "Welder" ...and part of the 52-person crew who built the original Spirit of St. Louis in 1927.  Ed had drawn a set of plans from memory several years after the original aircraft flew and those plans were used to build the replica aircraft for the movie "The Spirit of St. Louis" starring Jimmy Stewart in 1957.  

 

When John told Ed what the folks at the museum had said, Ed told John he would send him a set of plans himself if the museum wouldn't send them without a waiver.

 

Unfortunately, "life" got in the way and with a young family to raise, John put his plans to build the replica "on hold" and moved on.  He failed to get those plans before Ed passed away in 1994.  

 

Nevertheless after the kids were grown and on their own John found himself once again thinking about that famous aircraft and wondering what it would take to build one.  He knew he wasn't getting any younger and figured if he was going to build one in THIS lifetime, he had better get started.

 

In late 2011 John once again contacted the San Diego Air and Space Museum to see about ordering a set of those plans.  This time he was pleasantly surprised when they asked for his address and told him they would send out a CD with the plans on them the next morning.  No request for any amount of money and no request for any kind of a statement about NOT building an airworthy replica!  

 

Thus began the next "project" on John's agenda... a replica "Ryan NYP".  At this point John wasn't thinking about making his project an exact replica.  He planned to use a Lycoming 680 engine on it since he didn't think he'd be able to find a Wright J-5 Whirlwind like the original had, and he didn't know how many errors there are on the Ed Morrow drawings when compared to the original.  

 

John had a lot to learn about his newest project and we will share some of those discoveries with you as we take you along on the journey we experienced during the construction of his Definitive Reproduction Ryan NYP!!!

CONSTRUCTION


Once the CD with the "Morrow" drawings arrived in the mail, John got right to work building a plywood and block "jig" into which he would put the tubing to keep it all in place as he welded the joints together.

In late April 2012, John ordered the tubing he would need to build the fuselage for the Ryan NYP he was planning to build.  

It arrived in one, 20' long, 8" wide by 8" tall crate ... seen lying on the floor in the photo below.  

Who could imagine that a box that size could hold what was needed to build the fuselage of an airplane the size of the "Spirit of St. Louis"?