Cecil “Teddy” Kenyon (1905-1985), on the left, and her husband Theodore “Ted” Whitman Kenyon (1899-1978) were a flying family – when they weren’t trick-or-treating, as this 1940s photograph from their collection in the Museum’s Archives Division shows. Teddy learned to fly from Ted, a pilot with Colonial Airlines and inventor, in 1929. She was a charter member of the Ninety-Nines, the preeminent women’s pilot organization, and won the National Sportswomen Flying Championship in 1933. She later flew with the Civil Air Patrol, and was a test pilot for Grumman Aircraft during World War II – flying, among other planes, the F6F Hellcat – which makes the Kenyons’ choice of Halloween costumes fairly appropriate. In 1960, Teddy earned her helicopter pilot’s license and was still flying well into her 70s.
The docents at the Udvar-Hazy Center enjoyed meeting a special visitor on May 16, 2009. His name is Jim Henry, a WWII naval aviator. Henry was one of the pilots that flew the F4U-1D Corsair that is on display at the Center. He and his wife Debra traveled from California with the express purpose of visiting his former aircraft.
He carried with him a small briefcase packed with aircraft identification, photos, and memorabilia of his years in the military. Henry located the craft by reading a publication that identified by bureau number those Corsairs that still survive. He shared a number of photos with us, which verify that the BU numbers match the Museum’s aircraft.
Henry said he first flew the aircraft in 1944 on the East Coast and later in the southeast, although he was never assigned to a squadron that maintained the aircraft. When he was posted to an overseas assignment in the Pacific along the coast of China, he piloted Grumman F4F Wildcats, which he felt was a letdown after flying the Corsair.
He was a delightful and engaging person and it was a pleasure to meet one of the people behind the artifacts we so often talk about during our tours at the Udvar-Hazy Center.
Jim Iannuzzi is a member of the Udvar-Hazy Center docent corps and currently serves as Docent Council chairman.
Early in the morning of July 25th, 1909 – a hundred years ago today - Louis Blériot (1872-1936) crossed the English Channel, a distance of 22 statute miles (36.6 km) from Les Barraques (near Calais) to Dover. There had been longer flights and further flights, but the conquest of the Channel by air was a sensation and brought Blériot instant fame. Blériot had been a successful manufacturer of automobile headlamps who became fascinated by aeronautics in starting in 1901. He brought his latest aircraft to Les Barraques, the Type XI, a little monoplane fitted with a 25-horsepower, 3 cylinder Anzani motor. The London Daily Mail had put up a £1,000 prize for the first airplane flight across the Channel, and Blériot was competing with two other aviators, Hubert Latham and Charles de Lambert. Lambert, who received his training from Wilbur Wright, had been injured in a test flight and was out of the running. Latham had already attempted a Channel flight – he had made it halfway across the Channel in his Antoinette IV monoplane on July 19 when engine failure brought him down in a forced landing in the sea. On the morning of the 25th, Latham was ready for another attempt with a replacement aircraft, but was still fast asleep when Blériot took to the air.
The flight took 36 minutes, 30 seconds, and was not without suspense. Blériot had also been injured in a test flight and was in pain with a badly injured foot. The photograph above, taken just before the flight, shows the strain that Blériot was under. It began to rain, and Blériot feared that the moisture would cause the Anzani to pack it in. The weather became turbulent, and visibility declined; he later recalled thinking – I am alone. I can see nothing at all. At Dover, the wind nearly caused him to crash, and his landing gear and propeller were damaged. But he had made it, and he was declared the winner. It was the first successful flight by an airplane over a large body of water. Hubert Latham was not happy when he finally woke up.
Blériot became a hero, celebrated on both sides of the Channel. And his Type XI became a best seller – many were produced by the Blériot firm, others by foreign licensees, and many were built by enthusiastic amateur builders in Europe and America. The Museum has a Blériot Type XI built by Blériot Aéronautique at Levallois, Perret, France, in 1914 and originally flown by Swiss aviator John Domenjoz, a Blériot company flight instructor and noted daredevil. Blériot’s original Type XI is in the possession of the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris, which has a special exhibit on Blériot’s flight. A replica Type XI built by Pascal Kremer will attempt to repeat the flight today – here’s a video of it in flight.
Allan Janus is a museum specialist in the Museum’s Archives Division.
Looking elegant but a bit bulky, Lieutenant Gilbert L. Meyers of the 35th Pursuit Squadron models his government issued flying ensemble: an A-8 oxygen mask, B-6 goggles, B-3 winter jacket, A-3 trousers, B-5 helmet, A-9 gloves, A-6 shoes, and S-1 harness. He’s standing next to the tail of a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk.
The photograph was taken by one of the great aviation photographers, Rudy Arnold (1902-1966). Arnold took up a specialty in aviation photography while working for the New York Graphic newspaper. In 1928, he began his own business, working out of New York City airports. Arnold’s photographs appeared in both aviation and in mass circulation magazines, and in the house publications of the major aircraft manufacturers; he also made movies for Universal and Paramount. Arnold captured an exciting period of aviation history in his pictures – but it wasn’t easy work, as he later explained:
“All through the early days of flying, I worked as an aerial news photographer, and today I’ve got the gray hair, scars, and shaky nerves to prove it…”
Allan Janus is a museum specialist in the Archives Division of the National Air and Space Museum.