CF-JLW 1929 Travelair 4000/D4D
Last edited by JohnReid; 02-21-2012 at 08:39 AM.
The not so impossible dream!
This is the story of my relationship with a little red airplane.It is also the story of the evolution of a factory fresh airplane in 1929, to a basket case in 1960 ,and then its rise from the ashes to become a showpiece and ultimately a museum hangar queen.I hope you enjoy our story!
First ,a little history.
CF-JLW rolled off the Travel Air factory floor in 1929 as a Model E-4000 c/n 1151.It was registered as a Model BE-4000,N9953 by the Dept. of Commerce.(The BE-4000 only existed in reference to the Group 2 Approval 2-156 which was superseded by the E-4000 ATC #188)
The E-4000 was the most popular of the radial engined Travel Air biplanes.About 85 were manufactured.It had the Wright Whirlwind J6-5 five cylinder 165 h.p. engine,the "A" fuselage with the rubber "bungee" shock cord landing gear,30X5 Bendix wheels,and he new Standard wing which was the replacement for the counter-balanced "elephant ear" aileron.The standard wing was available in two versions:the "B" wing with a fuel tank in the inner bay of each wing panel and in the center section;the "E" wing with a single tank in the center section only.Both versions had an upper wing span of 33 feet....
My dad liked to build things.Not so much the labor type of building but the planning and developing and the seeing through to completion type of building.During my teens I had helped dad build two large houses.The last house we built together I supplied the cheap labor along with various professional carpenters,stone masons,electricians,plumbers etc...Dads projects usually start small but grew over time.What started as a modest home became a very large project indeed.It took years to complete and when we moved in still was not finished.
While I was away at university I began to hear rumblings about a new project that he was thinking about.No not another house but an airplane this time.You see my dad was an aviator who flew in the military with R.C.A.F. and R.A.F.during the war and for Trans Canada Airlines in civilian life.I too by this time had obtained my pilots license.Dad always had big dreams and one of them when he was a teenager was to own his own airline.He had fallen in love with airplanes and used to scrounge 10 or 15 minutes flying time by gassing airplanes at the local flying club.He had even approached a well off uncle of his to help finance his planned business venture.But this was the 30's and he offered him an education instead.Along came the war and the rest is history.The airplane that he wanted to buy? you guessed it a Curtiss-Wright Travel Air!......
Well dad did buy the Travel Air but 30 years later ,a basket case he found in northern New York State.Over the years, many attempts were made by others to restore this aircraft but without much success.(At one time I did have the original log books and if I remember correctly it had about 700 hours on it total time.)
By the time I had returned home from university he had already hauled it home. When I first saw it, it was resting in a hangar on the old hangar line at Dorval Airport(now Trudeau International).A couple of boxes of parts,4 well used wings and a rusty frame with undercarriage legs and wheel hubs ,that was about it.I had never seen or heard of a Travel Air up until this point and being young I was into modern airplanes like my dad flew ,Super Connie's and North Stars and I really didn't understand what he saw in this old wreck.
However it wasn't long before we were back in the old groove, me doing the cheap labor and dad doing the planning.
I worked on the steel tubing fuselage first sanding off the paint and rust which thank goodness was more dirt and years of crud than it was rust.We ran some oil through the tubing and the interior also seemed to be in good shape.Anyway we fooled around like that for some time,not really getting anywhere when we suddenly happened upon some really good luck.I don't remember now how it all came about but dad introduced me to a fellow named Al Pow.It seemed that Al had built Mosquitoes in Toronto during the war and was at the time building gliders and working on old airplanes.He was a glider pilot and held a few records over the years ,for time aloft and altitude.Al had remained solo all his life and was living in a rooming house in Montreal.A quiet unassuming man with a great sense of humor and as I was to learn later, a master craftsman ,designer and engineer and all around good fellow.
As time went by our relationship with Al changed,originally it started that he would come by on weekends to see how we were doing, then as his other work slacked off he spent more and more time helping us out.Dad's airline career was taking off so to speak, and he moved up the ranks to become Chief Pilot and Director of Flight Standards, over at the peoples airline.Eventually,because of his increased workload, he assumed mostly the position of parts finder and financier of the Travel Air project.Al was now working on the airplane full time and I got into flying instructing for a living. On IFR days I resumed my cheap labour and "go for" position with the Travel Air.
This is about where we were when Al joined the team.
Al was a great mentor to me not only for the quality of his work as a craftsman
but as an inspiration for self-imposed quality control.(This would serve me well in later life building 1/16th model aircraft for museums)
In October of 1969 Air Progress magazine did an article on the building of our aircraft.I will put excerpts of that piece by Budd Davisson to include in this thread.
"The Reid approach to airplane rebuilding is simple.They chose not to restore,but to remanufacture. Practically nothing original was retained,except as a template to make a new part.Where the strength of the original design left something to be desired,it was beefed up.The intent was to build a brand new airplane,modernizing where necessary,but still retaining all the original lines.(closest other example is the Pepsi D4D)
When CF-JLW is first sighted,the eyes are automatically drawn to that hulking but exquisitely shaped cowling.It looks like power,and the Wright J-6-7 helps it live up to its appearance.Rated at 230 to 260 horses,depending on whose rating system you use,this particular engine came out of a parts yard in Illinois and its original mission in life was to drag an N3N through the air.Reid had a better future in mind for it,and equipped it with a full inverted fuel and oil system ,as well as a smoke generator.It doesn't look like he plans to bounce around the pattern." to be cont.....