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July 2010 Newsletter

by John M. White |

Jimmy Wedell and the Wedell-Williams Model 44
Since the early days of the Wright Brothers aviation has fascinated all of us. Today a lot of the talk is about space, but how we got here is every bit as interesting. Aviation quickly took hold after the first manned, powered aircraft flight by the Wright Brothers, and has never looked back. Those early, golden days of aviation produced fascinating aircraft, fascinating people and a continuous assault on records which were always meant to be broken. And by fascinating people, I mean characters. What would kids think today about someone who quit school in the 9th grade, lost sight in one eye, could not read a blueprint - but yet designed built and flew the fastest airplanes in the world at the time?Born on March 31st, 1900, James (Jimmy) R. Wedell of Texas City, Texas, started life taking care of himself and his siblings when his mother died and while his father worked long hours at a waterfront bar tending bar. While a boy he lost sight in his right eye in a motorcycle accident, and then being mechanically inclined, ran a small garage. Jimmy soon saved enough money to fulfill his dream of owning an airplane, and after 1 hour of learning to fly launched his career of barnstorming around the greater Southwest. He eventually became a salesman for the Ryan Aircraft Company, which led to his introduction to a future partner in 1928 - Harry P. Williams - a lumber magnate in Louisiana. Williams purchased a Ryan airplane from Jimmy Wedell in late 1928, and in 1929 they formed a partnership called the Wedell-Williams Flying Service, in Patterson, LA. The operation prospered flying passengers, teaching students to fly and repairing aircraft, but it quickly became apparent that Jimmy Wedell had a gift for designing fast airplanes. Of the aircraft he designed, the famous "Wedell-Williams Model 44" was flown to victory in 48 major national air race events. For 10 years Wedell-Williams designed aircraft dominated the air race circuit, setting many records along the way. While unable to read a blueprint, Jimmy Wedell designed his aircraft "by ear", learned about aircraft design from experience, and one of his aircraft designs set the world's land speed record of 304.98 mph in 1929. Fate then took over, and Jimmy Wedell met Roscoe Turner, who quickly commissioned Jimmy to build a racer for him. Actually, Roscoe Turner owned 2 Wedell-Williams Model 44 racers, the first one, NR54Y, was flown on its test flight by Jimmy Wedell and seemed to perform very well. When he took it up again later that day for a high-speed low pass, aileron buzz caused a wing to flutter, then snap the flying wires and fold the wing. Wedell had designed the plane to have independent aileron control, so he held full aileron against the roll while pitching up for altitude and bleeding off speed, then pushed himself out of the cockpit. His 'chute opened fully just as he touched down at the end of the field! As with so many aviators of the times Jimmy Wedell died doing what he loved - flying an airplane. But much to the surprise of everyone, not in a racer going 300+ mph, but in a slow, doggy Tiger Moth when a student pilot froze on the controls causing the aircraft to crash. At the young age of 34 Jimmy Wedell was gone, and along with him some great aircraft design abilities. The Wedell-Williams Model 44 had a gross takeoff weight of 3,892 pounds, and empty weight of 2,492 pounds, a 26'2" wingspan and a 21'3" fuesalage length. The original powerplant was a Pratt & Whitney 500hp Wasp, followed by a Pratt & Whitney 800hp Wasp engine. Only 4 were ever built, but the aircraft ruled the air race circuit for 10 years. Here are the major air race wins for the aircraft:
  • 1931 - Thompson Air Race: 2nd place by Jimmy Wedell at 227.992 mph
  • 1932 - Thompson Air Race: 2nd place by Jimmy Wedell at 242.496 mph
  • 1932 - Bendix Trophy Race: 2nd place by Jimmy Wedell in 8:47:31, 28 minutes and 14 seconds behind James Hazlip, also flying a Wedell-Williams Model 44
  • 1933 - Thompson Air Race: 1st place by Jimmy Wedell at 237.952 mph
  • 1933 - Bendix Trophy Race: 2nd place by Jimmy Wedell in 11:58:18, 18 minutes and 18 seconds behind Roscoe Turner, also flying a Wedell-Williams Model 44
  • 1934 - Thompson Air Race: 1st place by Roscoe Turner in a Wedell-Williams Model 44
  • 1934 - Bendix Trophy Race: 1st place by Doug Davis in a Wedell-Williams Model 44
  • 1935 - Thompson Air Race: 6th place by Roscoe Turner at 188.859 in a Wedell-Williams Model 44
  • 1935 - Bendix Trophy Race: 2nd place by Roscoe Turner in 8:33:39
  • 1936 - Bendix Trophy Race: Roscoe Turner crashed his Wedell-Williams Model 44
  • 1937 - Thompson Air Race: Joe Mackey failed to finish in his Wedell-Williams Model 44
  • 1937 - Bendix Trophy Race: 6th place by Joe Mackey
  • 1938 - Thompson Air Race: 5th place by Joe Mackey at 249.628 mph
  • 1939 - Thompson Air Race: 6th place by Joe Mackey at 232.926 mph
By any standards, an outstanding aircraft by a talented designer and aviation pioneer, Jimmy Wedell.
Great Poems: "Death is a Matter of Mathematics"
Death is a matter of mathematics, It screeches down at you from dirty white nothingness, And your life is a question of velocity and altitude, With allowances for wind and the quick, relentless pull, Of gravity Or else it lies concealed, In that fleecy, peaceful puff of cloud ahead, A streamlined, muttering vulture, waiting, To swoop upon you with a rush of steel, And then your chances vary as the curves, Of your parabolas, your banks, your dives, The scientific soundness of your choice, Of what to push or pull, and how, and when. by Barry Conrad Amiel
What's New
"Pilot's Tip of the Week" featuring Bob Martens As pilots we recognize the value of recurrent training, and are always looking for ways to upgrade our aircraft and improve our aeronautical knowledge. "Pilot's Tip of the Week" has been created to do just that - provide useful, informative and educational tips emailed to you each week. The subscription is free, and you can opt-out of the program any time you want. But, odds are, you will find them at the very least interesting and thought provoking, and at most a great way to refresh your knowledge about aviation and flying, keeping you up to date and current with information you need to safely fly. These tips are written by expert flight instructors, aviation safety experts, retired airline pilots and air traffic controllers, bringing you the lastest and greatest tips you'll want to know. Here is a list of each author, along with a brief summary of their experience and qualifications:
  • Doug Stewart: was the "National Certificated Flight Instructor of the Year” in 2004. A Master Certified Flight Instructor, Gold Seal Instructor and Designated Pilot Examiner - he is based at the Columbia County Airport (1B1) in Hudson, NY. He owns and operates his own flight school specializing in instrument training and has logged over 8000 hours of dual instruction given, with over 2000 hours of that being instrument instruction. He regularly gives instruction in aircraft as simple as the J-3 Cub, and as complex as the Piper Malibu / Mirage.;
  • Rod Machado: has been flying since 1970, instructing since 1973 and has over 8,000 hours of flight time earned the hard way--one CFI hour at a time. Since 1977 he has taught hundreds of flight instructor revalidation clinics and safety seminars and he was named the 1991 "Western Region Flight Instructor of the Year". Rod is the author of some of the most popular books, DVDs and CDs in aviation. You can read his monthly column in AOPA Pilot magazine as well as in Flight Training Magazine;
  • Bob Nardiello: was the "Flight Instructor of the Year" in 2004 and "FAA Safety Counselor of the Year" in 2006 for the Windsor Locks Flight Standards District Office. He has over 10,000 hours of total flight experience, with more than 7,000 hours as a Flight Instructor. He currently holds CFI, CFII, MEI, and ATP ratings and serves as a Designated Pilot Examiner. Bob is the Assistant Chief Flight Instructor at a Part 141 Flight School and is also a seasoned charter pilot flying a Cessna 421 and Citation Ultra;
  • Scott Dennstaedt : is a nationally known aviation weather expert, having the unique qualifications of being a meteorologist and a CFII. In addition to teaching aviation weather, Scott is a flight instructor in technically advanced aircraft including the Cessna 400/350 and Cirrus SR20 and SR22. He co-developed a recurrent training program for the Cessna Advanced Aircraft Club (CAAC) and the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association (COPA). Scott is also a contributing editor for IFR magazine and has been a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot, Pilot Journal, Aviation Consumer and Twin & Turbine;
  • Bob Martens: is a nationally known speaker, consultant and aviation safety expert. He retired from the FAA after spending 17 years as a Safety Program Manager. In this role, he delivered hundreds of live seminars devoted to General Aviation safety. Bob retired from the USAF (rank of Colonel) in 2000 after 30 years of active and reserve duty. He was an Aircraft Commander in a C-5A and also served as Flying Safety Officer and Chief of Safety with the 439th AirWing. Bob has logged thousands of flight hours in both military and GA aircraft;
  • Wally Moran: is a retired airline captain and spent much of his career as a training instructor and check airman on aircraft including the Boeing 747 and 767. He has held a flight instructor certificate for over 47 years. Wally is a designated pilot examiner for single and multiengine aircraft and gliders. He is authorized to issue certificates all the way up to ATP and has given over 3400 hours of flight instruction in single engine, multiengine, tailwheel, gliders, seaplanes and instruments;
  • John Krug's 27 years experience as an Air Traffic Controller combined with his experience as an active flight instructor, allow him to assist pilots in gaining a better understanding of the ATC system and how to best operate in it. While with the FAA, he was an On-the-Job-Training Instructor for new controllers and worked as a Quality Assurance Specialist, responsible for conducting in-flight evaluations of the Air Traffic System and investigating accidents and incidents;
  • Bob Adelizzi: has been a controller at Boston TRACON for twenty five years and affiliated with the FAA safety program for over twenty. Over the years he has briefed countless pilots at corporate flight departments and aviation colleges, and was recently asked to speak at the ACONE Crash Course 2007 and the AOPA Communication Seminar which had a combined attendance of over 600 pilots.
I encourage you to sign up for these FREE "Pilot's Tip of the Week" weekly emails.
Photo of the Month
Jimmmy E. Wedell, Aircraft Designer and Air Racer
Wedell-Williams Model 44 Aircraft Aircraft Designer and Air Racer Jimmy Wedell
John M. White, Editor Each month we bring you informative, educational and entertaining articles about all things aviation. You can find more timely and current articles here at our blog: All Things Aviation Check Out Our Newsletter Archives

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