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Classic Wings Magazine WWII Naval Aviation Research Pacific Luftwaffe Resource Center
When Hollywood Ruled The Skies - Volumes 1 through 4 by Bruce Oriss


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 Post subject: Lindbergh's Bird
PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2020 2:17 pm 
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I don't think I've posted about this airplane before, but for several years I've had the great privilege of being involved in the maintenance and flying of the 1930 Brunner Winkle Bird BK that Charles Lindbergh bought new in August 1930 in order to teach his wife to fly. The machine has quite an interesting history even aside from being owned by the Lindberghs, having been owned by one man from about 1946 until just a few years ago. The Lindberghs owned it for a couple of years, then it went through several owners before being purchased by Joe Fichera in 1946 or 47 (the bill of sale has both dates on it). Joe was in the USAF at the time, and liked old airplanes (not that old then!), but before he had a chance to fly his new acquisition a wind storm blew it over and damaged it. A few years later it was repaired and ready to fly, and Joe got a good month or two out of it, then the engine failed, and he ended up on his back in a field, with more damage. Time passed, and eventually Joe became one of the senior restorers for the Smithsonian NASM at Silver Hill, but the Bird sat in storage. Eventually he realized that he wasn't getting any younger, and better get to work on the Bird. After several years of work the old biplane looked better than ever, and in 2012 it flew again in the hands of a family friend.
https://www.airspacemag.com/history-of- ... d-4133032/
Joe was 92 at the time, got a ride or two in the old Bird, and unfortunately passed away that winter. Ownership passed to his wife Anne, but the airplane was damaged in Ohio on the way out to Blakesburg in 2013, and was sent to Poplar Grove Airmotive in Illinois for repair. In September of the following year it was flying again at the hands of Tina Thomas at Poplar Grove, but needed to get back home to Maryland. Fortunately for me a neighbor of the Ficheras is a friend of mine, and he suggested calling me, as I had a number of flying hours in Birds. I flew it back home, and have been involved with it ever since, doing the annual inspections, and flying it "as necessary" (!). It has a new owner, another friend of the family, who keeps it in the hangar at Anne's house, so she is still a part of its life.
A couple of Saturdays ago my friend Charlie and I flew over there from our home base in Virginia, he in his Stearman, and me in my 1928 Travel Air (http://www.biplanerides1.com), and I finished the annual inspection and did a half hour flight.

It's an attractive biplane
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Looking out at the Chesapeake Bay. The airport is off the lower wingtip
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I brought along some white coveralls and a pith helmet so we could take a "period" looking photo...
Anne is standing on the tire.
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I put the GoPro on Charlie's Stearman and got this photo as we left. The grass runway of the airport is visible below
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 Post subject: Re: Lindbergh's Bird
PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2020 2:56 pm 
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One day I was scrolling through Critical Past and found this clip of Charles and Anne taking off in the Bird on August 11, 1930, two days after they purchased it:
https://www.criticalpast.com/video/6567 ... raft-taxis

Some screen shots from the video
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 Post subject: Re: Lindbergh's Bird
PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2020 3:05 pm 
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A copy of the original Registration Application
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And Registration Certificate. These are from the FAA records. I printed out a copy of the Registration Certificate and mounted it in the cockpit.
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And a few more photos from 1930-31
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 Post subject: Re: Lindbergh's Bird
PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2020 3:09 pm 
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This is the best known photo of the Lindberghs with the Bird
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And Tina Thomas and I recreating it at Poplar Grove in 2014
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A pair of Birds at Poplar Grove, a great stop on the way to Oshkosh by the way-
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 Post subject: Re: Lindbergh's Bird
PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2020 3:44 pm 
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These photos were discovered in a scrapbook purchased on eBay by Tom Polapink

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If you look at the film clip and the various photos you can see a few minor changes in the airplane in the first year of its life. When first delivered the engine was a Kinner K-5 listed at 90 horsepower (most K-5s were 100 hp), and a few months later a new engine was installed, a rare Kinner KB-5, apparently the best of both the K-5 and the later B-5, still listed at 100 hp. This engine is still on the airplane today. The original propeller was a wooden one, but when the KB-5 engine was installed a metal Standard Steel propeller was also installed. In addition the wheels were initially the Goodyear 3 inch airwheels with fat tires, but at some point they were changed to the updated 10 inch type with 8.50x10 tires.



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 Post subject: Re: Lindbergh's Bird
PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2020 3:51 pm 
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Here she is as she looked circa 1952
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Air to air photo by HG Frautschy in 2014 over Brodhead, Wisconsin before the flight home
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And flying up the bay at the end of the flight home to Maryland, September 2014
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 Post subject: Re: Lindbergh's Bird
PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2020 9:47 pm 
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Fantastic stuff...many thanks for sharing!

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 Post subject: Re: Lindbergh's Bird
PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2020 10:08 pm 
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Absolutely brilliant. Thank you for sharing, Andrew! :drink3:

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 Post subject: Re: Lindbergh's Bird
PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2020 10:54 pm 
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Wow! What a history and still in good hands.


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 Post subject: Re: Lindbergh's Bird
PostPosted: Sun Dec 20, 2020 8:25 am 
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What an exciting piece of history. The history, documentation, and photos really make for a great story. Thanks for sharing.

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 Post subject: Re: Lindbergh's Bird
PostPosted: Wed Jan 13, 2021 10:28 pm 
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Great story! Here's a bit of an anecdote about this airplane. My wife's mother trained as a WASP during WWII. A few years before she passed in 2011, I'd asked her about her flying experiences... during the war, she had become engaged to a USAAF fighter pilot, whom she was to marry after his return from service in the European theater (P-38 squadron commander).
'Chal' told me that she had learned to fly in a 'Bird' ... that had belonged to Anne Morrow Lindbergh! As it happened, she completed her training just as the AAF discontinued the WASP program, so she never got to fly for the Army. She showed me a letter, signed by Gen. Arnold, thanking her for her service, that she had kept.
So it's quite possible that she learned to fly in this very aircraft! Amazing that it survives and flies- she'd be happy to know that. Perhaps this story will help fill in a gap or two in the Bird's history. There may be some documentation stored away in my wife's family home; if there's any interest I could go look for it, although I don't know when we'll get back East to do that.


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 Post subject: Re: Lindbergh's Bird
PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2021 10:38 am 
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Yes, definitely when you get a chance see if you can find more info. Everything adds to the story.

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 Post subject: Re: Lindbergh's Bird
PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2021 10:51 am 
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Top post - thanks so much :)


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