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World's Oldest Flying Cessna

1928 Cessna AW moves to Pennsylvania museum

By Fareed Guyot, Manager – Electronic Publications, EAA 388642

Cessna AW
The Cessna AW at the Poplar Grove airport in northern Illinois.

Cessna AW
Gar Williams repainted the original registration number that was issued when it came from the factory. According to Wikipedia, 48 AW variants were produced.

Cessna AW
A "modern" instrument panel in 1928, the aircraft's compass was mounted on a panel behind the pilotís head and was viewed through a mirror. All photos courtesy Andrew King.

View more photos in Andrew King's
post on the EAA Forums

August 18, 2011 – The world’s oldest flying Cessna aircraft made a trip to its new home in Pennsylvania earlier this month after a long stay at the Poplar Grove Airport in northern Illinois. The beautiful red 1928 Cessna AW NC4725 was restored by Gar Williams and won Grand Champion at Oshkosh and the Antique Aircraft Association fly-in at Galesburg, Illinois, in 1981.

Later the AW would cast a shadow in EAA’s museum for more than a decade before Williams moved it to Poplar Grove, where he could fly it some more before putting it on display in the Poplar Grove Vintage Wings & Wheels Museum in 2005. The Eagles Mere Air Museum near Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania, is the next logical stop for the antique Cessna since the facility only deals in aircraft from the golden age of aviation that can also take to the air.

Andrew King, who was asked to ferry the aircraft, thought it was a privilege to fly the AW to its new home. He first met Gar Williams when he was 19 years old.

“Thirty years later I never dreamed I’d have a chance to fly it,” King said of the airplane. Andrew is one of the top pilots of early aviation aircraft and was often seen flying during AirVenture 2009 in the Pitcairn Autogyro, which was featured on the cover of the January 2010 issue of Sport Aviation.

The AW was a variant of the Cessna A model, a high-wing monoplane that is actually cantilevered, which was new for that age, when many aircraft designs still featured the perceived safety of two wings, struts, and wires. NC4725 houses a 110-hp open rocker Warner engine, which King said out-performed the modern chase plane used for the trip.

“We had a 2000 C-172 with a 160-hp engine and the AW out-climbed the 172. It’s amazing that this aircraft, carrying four people, was flying around in 1928 and our chase plane is a 2000 and is only 30 mph faster, he said.”

The AW was a natural on the grass runway at Poplar Grove, which maintains two immaculate strips. According to King that is where the magic ended once they headed east as they needed to use airports that had both grass runways and fuel services along the way to Pennsylvania. This requirement at one point caused a nearly 2.5-hour detour.

The trip to Pennsylvania took two days and 9.5 hours of flight time. In a recent EAA Forums posting Andrew shared some additional thoughts and observations: 

On Cruise was about 90 mph running the Warner at an easy 1675 rpm. Brakes are from a 1925 Ford Model T and just barely work, which is OK. The tailskid does most of the slowing, and the brakes are mostly used only to help turn around at the end of the landing roll. Ailerons are frise type and work well, while the rudder is too small and needs to use quite a bit of travel to be effective. Quite a fascinating trip and thanks to Gar Williams and George Jenkins (OwnerEaglesMereAirMuseum) for making my part in it possible

Read: Oldest Cessna Wins at Oshkosh 81 from Sport Aviation

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