Monday, September 8, 2003

The 2003 National Air Tour Comes to Kalamazoo

The original National Air Tours were flown from 1925 to 1931.  Sponsored by the Ford Motor Company, the events were intended to demonstrate the safety of air travel.  The aircraft would depart Dearborn Michigan and fly a 4000 mile circuit through the Midwest, the South, and back along the eastern seaboard before returning to Dearborn.  In 1926, the Kalamazoo Airport became Michigan's first municipal airport and established itself as the second stop on the tour.  Unfortunately, the 1932 National Air Tour was canceled as the economy bottomed-out during the Great Depression.

The National Air Tour flew again on September 8, 2003 -- just in time for the Centennial of Flight.  As before, Kalamazoo was the second stop for the tour of roughly 25 vintage aircraft.  Kent, Dave, Daniel, and I played hooky from work to walk amongst these magnificent travelers from another age.

The Ryan M-1 was an open cockpit aircraft test flown by Charles Lindbergh during his search for an aircraft to carry him across the Atlantic.  The Spirit of St Louis was a modified version of the M-1 with an enclosed cockpit and significantly augmented fuel capacity.

The instrument panel of the Ryan M-1 is reminiscent of (though more elegantly appointed than) the one in the Spirit of St Louis.

A 1929 Fokker Super Universal.  The Fokker puns have been done to death, so I won't push my luck here..

Osa's Ark, a rare 1929 Sikorsky S-38 flying boat.  Not long after I took this photo, this same airplane made the cover of AOPA Pilot (a good choice).

"The Spirit of Igor" was painted in a giraffe motif to match "The Spirit of Africa", a Sikorsky S-39 companion to "Osa's Ark" flown by Martin and Osa Johnson throughout Afica in the 1930's.

I was quite intrigued by the unusual coloration of the exhaust manifold on this 1930 Stinson SM-8A radial engine.

A spectacular biplane, the 1931 Stearman 4E Speedmail.

The National Air Tour logo adorns the nose of the Speedmail biplane.

A 1931 Stinson Trimotor, an elegant example of early commercial aviation.

Here's Kent with a 1928 Travel Air biplane.

Kent checks out a 1929 Buhl Sport Air Sedan.

This beautiful 1932 WACO UEC was flawless on the outside...

 ...and strikingly luxurious on the inside.  I'm pretty sure that the GPS is not original equipment.