Registration Number NC8006
Aerial Photography Platform nee: Byrd South Pole Airplane
This aircraft is a Fairchild FC-2W2, serial number 140. It
was manufactured in August 1928 by Fairchild Airplane Manufacturing
Corp., Farmingdale, NY. It came from the factory equipped
with a 400 HP Pratt & Whitney Wasp B engine, S/N 817.
It weighed 5,500 pounds.
The airplane sold in August 1928 to Richard Evelyn Byrd,
9 Brimmer St. Boston, MA: an unusual airplane for an unusual
owner. It was otherwise a standard FC-2W2, except with passenger
seats removed and an extra 40-gallon gas tank in each wing,
and a 72-gallon tank in the cabin. I was constructed especially
for a ski undercarriage with 10-foot landing gear spread.
It was to be used, “for scientific Antarctic exploration.”
It was named: “Stars & Stripes.” All totaled,
three of Byrd's arctic exploration aircraft landed at the
Davis-Monthan Airfield and are cited in the Register. They
are NX4204, the "Josephine Ford", NC8006, the "Stars & Stripes" and
NC4453, the "Virginia".
Many books, including Byrd’s, have been written about
his arctic exploits. Some allude to his mendacity, and cast
doubts on his navigation and explorer skills, and whether
he ever did make it to the Poles. But, that’s not a
subject for this page, which belongs to the airplane and not
the man. This airplane did fly on the Antarctic continent.
The next record we see about the airplane is an August 2, 1935 affidavit
by Byrd stating, “All papers pertaining to this ship
have unfortunately been lost or have disappeared.” Regardless,
as of August 8, 1935 the airplane was sold to Alton H. Walker of Kansas
City, MO. Please direct your browser to the page for Ford NC3041 to learn about another Register airplane owned by Alton Walker and his wife.
That same month, Walker had the plane at the Fairchild factory
in Hagerstown, MD, where it was, “modified to comply
with ATC 61.” Part of the record is an affidavit dated
September 28, 1935 from the Kreider-Reisner Division of the Fairchild
Aviation Corp. on the work performed. It states new fuselage,
fuselage doors, windows and fairings were installed, along
with a new set of wing and stabilizer struts. New landing
gear, wheels, brakes, tires and tubes, fairing, tail skid
and wheel, and rubber shock rings were installed.
The factory also repaired wings, ailerons, wing flaps and
tail surfaces in accordance with recommendations made by Fairchild
inspectors. The entire airplane was re-covered and refinished,
including all cowlings and metal fairings. A new engine (P&W
9-cylinder 420 HP Wasp B) and three-bladed propeller, battery,
starter, flares and landing lights were installed as provided
by the new owner. It was assembled, rigged, inspected, test-flown
and the extra gas tanks in the wings were disconnected and
sealed off. It was approved for an “NC” registration
as a seven-place airplane (six passengers plus pilot). This
was an extensive and professionally done refurbishment.
The airplane landed at Tucson, after the refurbishment, at
an unspecified date in 1936, but it was probably mid-February.
Robert L. Myrick was the pilot carrying Mr. & Mrs. Alton
H. Walker as passengers. Their homebase was cited as Kansas
City, MO, but their field of origin and destination were unspecified.
Even with its new configuration, it was recognized, and a marginal
note in the Register identifies the airplane as, "Byrd
South Pole Plane ‘Stars & Stripes’".
Walker sold the airplane on June 11, 1937 to Fairchild Aerial Surveys,
Inc. (FAS) of Los Angeles, CA. It was modified as a camera plane
with the extra wing fuel tanks reconnected. A Pratt &
Whitney Wasp SC-1 450 HP engine was installed (S/N 1616).
It was designated a three-place airplane because of the weight
of extra fuel and camera equipment. Below, shared with us by Steve Binger (cited, right sidebar), are two aerial views of NC8006.
NC8006 Aloft, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Binger)
Mr. Binger says about his photographs, "My father, Frederick William Binger, was a pilot/aerial photographer for FAS from the mid-30s to the mid-50s with time out for the war. I do not know if he piloted this plane, or took these pictures, only that they are in our collection along with pictures of other planes he flew." This second photograph shows the Fairchild Aerial Surveys banner on the fuselage (readable on the original photograph), therefore we know it was taken after June, 1937.
NC8006 Aloft, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Binger)
In December 1938 NC8006 was set up for a proposed flight from
the U.S. to Guatemala and return, via Mexico, for the purpose
of engaging in an aerial survey operation. I received the following information from the curator of the Thomas Air Photo Archives in the UCLA Department of Geography. The information does not confirm NC8006 in Guatemala, but it's the best I have.
|"I have the original ledger books for the oblique air photos taken by FAS [Fairchild Aerial Surveys]. I found that FAS was in Guatemala 12-5-1937 thru 1-13-1938 and again on 8-20-1938 and later during October and November 1941. There is no mention of the aircraft type and I can only assume that NC8006 was there during that time. I do have photos of a FAS Ford Tri-Motor in Ecuador from 11-1-1937 thru 5-5-1940. FAS was also in Peru during 9-1941 and Honduras during January and August 1938. Aircraft type unknown."
In February, 1940 a request was submitted for a flight from
Cleveland, OH to Ottawa, Canada to demonstrate solar navigation
to the Canadian Institute of Surveyors meeting in Ottawa 2/7-8/40,
and possible demonstration to Canadian officials, which might
require approximately 30-days in Canada. Permission was granted,
but no official record of the flight appears in the airplane records.
Through WWII and after there is a 14-year gap in the record,
but on September 9, 1954 the airplane was sold to Nevapair, Tonopah Municipal
Airport, Tonopah, NV. Then, on June 12, 1965, there is record of
transfer to the Fairchild Corporation, Long Island, NY. In
1990 it was reported owned by the National Air & Space
Museum, but on indefinite loan to the Virginia
Aviation Museum, Richmond, VA, where it can be seen today. The link delivers a PDF with a history of the airplane.
The airplane, although owned by the Smithsonian, was restored at the Cradle of Aviation Museum. This link shows the airplane during restoration. This information is provided to us by site visitor John Zale, one of the restorers of the airplane. He says that it, "...was restored by the volunteers of the Cradle of Aviation Museum, Garden City, Long Island, New York. The restoration was done in one of the old Mitchel AFB hangers in the early 1980's. The skis where completely manufactured by the volunteers, This aircraft was stripped, painted, recovered and completely painted with all its markings. ... I am a volunteer at the Cradle for the past 29 years and did some work on this aircraft." Thanks to John for filling this gap for us.
As of April 1, 2009, the Virginia Aviation Museum changed its hyperlink to the airplane. It is corrected in the link above. The Museum also rewrote the description of the airplane as follows:
"1927 Fairchild FC-2W2, Antarctic Research Aircraft. Virginia's Adm. Richard E. Byrd used this airplane on his legendary expeditions to the Antarctic. On Jan. 15, 1929, the Stars and Stripes became the first American aircraft to fly over the Antarctic. In 1930 the Stars and Stripes was stored in a hangar of snow blocks until, in late 1934, she was dug out and resumed service during Byrd’s second expedition. After returning to the United States in 1935, the Stars and Stripes was used for barnstorming, crop dusting and aerial photography. In 1957 Fairchild Aircraft Co. re-acquired the Stars and Stripes and, in 1961, donated the plane to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum where it was restored to its original condition.
"The FC-2W2 was a larger version of the standard Fairchild FC-2W and was powered by a 450-horsepower Pratt & Whitney Wasp radial engine. The FC-2W2 was a rugged work plane with excellent short field and climb characteristics and a large cargo capacity. FC-2W2s were used to transport people and cargo in the world's most rugged terrain. The FC-2W2 has Fairchild's unique fold-back wings, and was available with skis or metal pontoons.
"The fuselage is built of welded steel tubing and wooden fairing strips. The wings are made of spruce spars, and spruce and plywood ribs. The tail-group is a welded steel tube structure, and the horizontal stabilizer is adjustable in flight. The aircraft is fabric-covered.
"On loan from the National Air and Space Museum
Serial No. 140"
I'm leaving the Museum's original description cited in the left sidebar.
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 07/26/05 REVISED: 04/01/09, 08/29/12
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