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EAAer’s Curtiss-Ely Pusher Replica Makes First Flights

Curtiss-Ely Pusher Replica
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Curtiss-Ely Pusher Replica
Larger view

Photo credit: Steve Roth

October 14, 2010 — At 8 a.m. Friday, October 8, Bob Coolbaugh’s 1911 Curtiss-Ely Pusher replica successfully flew for the first time on a grass strip adjacent to Runway 6/24 at the New Market Airport (8W2) in Virginia. The airplane was made to celebrate the one in which Eugene Ely made the first-ever carrier landing, on January 11, 1911, on the deck of the United States Navy’s USS Pennsylvania in the San Francisco Bay - beginning the era of naval aviation. The U.S. Navy will celebrate the Centennial of Naval Aviation (CONA) throughout next year and has designated EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2011 as a Tier 1 Event.

Coolbaugh said he plans to participate in as many as eight designated CONA events in 2011, including AirVenture. He’ll fly the aircraft, which took a little less than two years to build, to each event, and said Oshkosh was the farthest west he would travel. It’s powered by a 125-hp Continental engine turning a Sterba 74 x 40 propeller.

“Andrew King (EAA 275985/Vintage 10739) and I decided it was time, so we took turns flying the airplane,” said Coolbaugh, EAA 307903/Vintage 15150. By October 14, they made 17 flights, averaging 20-45 minutes in duration. With some major flight control modifications, they now have a plane that is safe to fly, he said, albeit not predictable and controllable.

Coolbaugh, a former airline pilot with 24,000 flight hours, said he and King, an antique and vintage aircraft restorer with nearly 3,000 flight hours logged, agree that this plane is “a totally different animal from anything either of us has flown - the strangest airplane I have flown since getting my first pilot’s license in 1969.”

The biggest concern before first flights was the unknown. “We didn’t know what we didn’t know,” Coolbaugh said. “There was no stability, and to complicate things, no feedback, either. Pitch instability - attitude - was all over the map in turbulence.”

Coolbaugh penned a detailed and entertaining flight report that takes you through the various discoveries and flight control modifications made to make the airplane more controllable. Read it here.

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