Friday, 20 May 2011

Matty laird had a sense of humor

Once all the ribs had been glued in place, it was time to pre varnish the wing sections which would receive fittings, wires, etc, and at this point the varnish really brings out the beauty of the spruce and the mahogany plywood.
I imagine the only way that every drag anti drag wire could hit a rib diagonal or upright was by careful pre planning in the design phase.

And they do.

Well that is not exactly correct, as they do miss ribs # 6 and 9, but only barely. And since brushing up against most of the ribs was not good enough, the wires actually go directly through the uprights in ribs
# 3,8, and 13.
Matty must be having a quiet chuckle over this.
Of course the wires contacting the ribs in so many places creates issues. Every location needs to be braced, then the cut out determined and shaped to allow the wires a clear run. The uprights were braced either side, and then the hole drilled directly through the center upright.

I had the wires made up by a company in new Zealand, Vintage Aero, run by Russ Ward. Russ specializes in recreating wires as they made them back in the 30`s and even earlier. The wires are beautiful, and very different from a modern stainless drag wire. Each steel wire has 1 LH and 1 RH rolled thread, a square section for tightening and they have a hot dipped finish. The wires are really nice, and they arrived in the exact lengths as ordered, which was great as there is no room for error.
It is nice to have another source for wires beyond Bruntons. Russ also does streamline wires.

Onward with the lower right hand wing, once all the ribs were glued in place, next step was corner blocking, and putting the spar strips in place top and bottom.

The metal fittings had arrived back from the powder coaters, so I was able to bolt various fitting in with the correct hardware. The Aileron hinges are placed in position at this point, but I do not want to attach them until the ailerons are completed to ensure everything lines up perfectly.
Once all of the wires and fittings were installed, next was the wing tip bow installation, (version 4) which went pretty smoothly, using the measure 50 times, cut once technique. I could not even think about having to make wingtip bows version 5!
Sometimes the biggest challenge is working out effective clamping solutions, and when dealing with tapered and curved surfaces this can be quite entertaining, with clamps on clamps. One can never have enough clamps, either in number or variety.
My main concern was shaping the bow, as it is not a symetrical radius, due the low chord line of the wing. This means the bow is constantly changing radius, from a 2 inch height at the leading edge, to less than 3/4 inch at the trailing edge, but multiple passes with an air angle grinder, and finishing up with a long block sander  produced the desired results.

The Lower right hand wing is now essentially complete, still to be installed are the various plywood sheeting, at the tip, root and along the leading edge, it is all cut to size, but I shall wait until the lower left hand wing is completed to the same stage, as I would like to have this wing as a reference.
The next lower wing will go much quicker, as while I have been building the right hand wing, I have also made all parts for the left hand wing. The spars are shaped, and drilled, the ribs are ready to glue in place, all steel fittings are complete and pre located, the wires are on hand, and the wingtip bow is ready. Below is the left hand wing in kit form, ready to assemble.

Wingtip bows version 1,2,3,4.....

I built the first wingtip bow a few months back, and based the shape on a template I made from the EAA replica.
It turns out a tracing made on a fabric wing, on an aircraft mounted in a museum display, at a 15 degree angle, with the paper taped in place with low tack tape, standing on a ladder, is not the most accurate means of getting an exact shape.
who knew.

I was not happy with the first pair of bows, the laminating and glue up was fine, but the shape just did not look right, so I stared at it for a month or so, hoping it would magically transform into the correct shape,
It did'nt.
but I knew I would end up making another set, so eventually I started version 2.
Only to find out I had reset the jig blocks with an incorrect raduis of about an inch.
another 16 strips of spruce, lots of T88 glue, a few days, and I had a good start on a harp frame.

This was not going well.

Version 3, and by now about 30 board feet of perfect spar grade spruce later, and this one looked really bad, no need to wait a month, I knew this one was way off the desired and rather distinctive Laird shape.
I was getting desperate, they were getting worse.
From left to right Versions 1,2, 3 and the final correct bow. 
OK, it was time to resort to technology, a request made to David, (the computer guy) and in no time a full size template arrived, beautifully printed, and it was the exact shape. David is an incredibly talented fellow, and he tends to work in minute dimensions, and while I try very hard to build the parts to his exacting dimensions, eg; 30.987, I may inadvertently make the part 31.0, seeing as it is wood!
(and David has actually dropped his standards, he used to work to the 5th decimal place).

For a fourth time, I set the 25 or so jig blocks up, planed another 14 strips of spruce, soaked them in hot water and ammonia, and carefully laminated two bows up. (I was getting pretty good at this) I knew right away that the shape was correct, but it is amazing when they are placed beside versions 1,2, and 3 just how far off I was each time.
I apologize to all that beautiful old growth spruce which was needlessly sacrificed in my quest to make the perfect wing tip bow, but as anyone who had played hockey knows, you may play every game in the regular season, but not everyone gets ice time in the playoffs!.
So, once again, it is amazing how much an 80 year old airplane project can benefit from modern computer technology.
now all I had to do was mount and shape them.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Finally... we reach the beginning

I have managed to catch up with the current status of the project, as of May 1, 2011.

The lower RH wing now has the ribs glued in place, and ready to varnish, all plywood doublers glued in place.
The lower LH wing is ready to glue, all parts made and fit, holes drilled, and ribs final fit.
The steel fittings are all powder coated and ready for re-assembly, and the aileron hinges are finish welded and waiting for final assembly.
The wing tip bows are complete and require final shaping, taper and sanding, then will be attached to the now tapered spars.
The new hardware to assemble the lower wings is now all in hand.
The lower wing drag / anti drag wires should be shipped from NZ within a week.
The leading edge spars, for the LH and RH wings are now laminated and await final profiling.
The wing trailing edge material is now in hand.
The aileron rib template material is now in hand and the rib profiles have been determined.

In other news, all fuselage 4130 tubing is in hand and awaiting assembly.
I hope to get a start on the fuselage assembly by late May.

The landing gear, both main gear and tailwheel assembly, are under assembly in Australia with a highly competent and experienced friend.
(more on this later)

The Tail surfaces are also currently underway, in Canada.
(more on this later)

The trim assembly machining is about to start.

The majority of the original instruments have been purchased and are in hand.

I shall be updating this as and when I have new photos and progress to report. This will certainly NOT be  on a daily or even a weekly basis, but it should be fairly regular.

I am happy to respond to comments, or questions, and I am always grateful for advice.

Should anyone have items, parts, or components which they think are relevent to the project, I would enjoy hearing from them.
My email address is shown in my profile.

If you have managed to get this far, thanks, and hopefully you have found it interesting.

Firewall Forward

While most of the subjects so far have been centered around the wings, and they represent most of the racers visual progress to date, I have still been collecting bits behind the scenes.

From my very good friend Mark Blok, I purchased the engine for the Super Solution some time back.
(ignore the colour please)
The engine was removed from a DHC 2 Beaver, having reached its time to OH, and is currently stored with LA Aero, awaiting rebuild. As there are calenderic items on the engine, (and it`s a very expensive process) this will have to wait until it is imminently required, and I think we are still a while away from that!
Mark also included a Hamilton Standard 2D30 Constant Speed propeller, which is in need of a full rebuild but it is a valuable addition to the project. While I intend to run a ground adjustable propeller similar to the one shown below (the hubs are the correct 5406 hubs, but the blades are 4350's. They are beautiful but not rated for the 450HP 985). I think it may be wise to initially run the CS, due the potential adjustment issues with the fixed Hamilton Standard propeller. There would of course also be C of G issues as the CS unit is much heavier than the ground adjustable propeller.

(I am sure the yellow case looked great in the Beaver, but for the Super Solution, we will revert to a more standard and subdued P&W grey)

By the way, should anyone have a set of suitable HS "toothpick" blades, rebuilt or acceptable for OH, please let me know.

Shown above is the Hamilton Standard ground adjustable propeller.This is comprised of a set of 4350 blades and a 5406 30 spline hub. I have also managed to locate a couple of spare hubs.
These hubs are getting very rare these days so a couple of spares are a welcome addition, in particular if the main chosen hub should fail its inspection. ( luckily, they all look perfect )

I have also recently located and purchased a complete set of R985 baffles which are getting very hard to locate, as well as many engine fittings, hoses, and components.
I now have an original engine mount ring, and the engine mount attach brackets.
But, perhaps the luckiest find so far, has been a set of NOS cowling skins, formed rings, and all brackets, which will allow a custom cowl to be built up exactly as the original was, using pre formed cowl sections. These have not been built for 60+ years, and are extremely rare.
I think the project is in good shape FWF, with the major components all on hand.

Close is easy, Identical takes longer

Next were the aileron hinges, 3 of which are required on each lower wing.
I was not looking forward to making these, as I knew that there could be no allowance for error, and they would have to be identical.
The ailerons are mounted on the lower wings only, and they are attached via a round tube spar to 3 hinges bolted to the rear spar.
The ailerons are of a mixed construction, with a steel tube front spar, steel plate and tube hinges, steel rib attach fittings, and aluminum ribs, rear spar, leading and trailing edges.
They are almost full span on the lower wings.
And they seem to have be very suseptible to potential binding, maybe that is why the original never fluttered. :)
The hinged section seemed like the natural place to start, and as they must all be identical, another assembly fixture was required.

This is the first fixture I built, it allows the first part of the aileron hinge to be welded up. Shown behind are the tubes all cut and shaped to size to fit inthe fixture and mate to the larger spar hinge tube.
I then made a separate fixture to sand the forward tube ends to mate to the U shaped bracket accurately.
Once the first part is welded and match sanded, I then needed to make the U shaped sections which fit over the spars, and there is NO room for error with these. each must be an exact press fit, which is harder than it sounds when you are working with wood to metal, but in the end (after about 15 which did not work as well) I ended up with 6 exact U shaped sections, bent to the correct dimensions and drilled.
The lower wing spars have a 7 degree upper taper and a 3 degree lower taper, which must be bent correctly in the fittings, then they are bent to flat after the spar to match the attach block. (otherwise the bolt head and nut would not be parallel to the fitting)
I then built this fixture to weld the U brackets to the spar attach tubes accurately. After I tried to weld the first one, I had to change this, and substitute a steel spar section for the wooden one shown due to the wood burning. It took almost a week to have the steel spar section machined up by a shop to the finish spar dimensions.
It is now a completely useless block of rather expensive spar shaped steel.

The final hinges are all indentical, and once attached to the real lower spars should hopefully line up accurately with the front aileron spar.
To build the 6 hinges three separate fixtures had to be built. It took much longer to make the fixtures than the actual hinges.

Making wood do un-natural things

I knew at some point soon, I would need a set of lower wing tip bows, as these set the final spar lengths, so I took a break from metal fittings to build the two lower wing bows.

I started by ripping 14 strips of spruce, 2 inch by 1/8th" by 7 feet.
I wanted the finish bow width to be 1" which would match the leading edge spar, and also matched the amount I had left off the ribs to the leading edge point.
So 7 strips inclusive of the glue would make up 1" in width.

I next needed a fixture to laminate the bows, and I knew from experience you cannot have enough clamps or clamping points when making a bow.
Shown above is the jig blocks screwed in place, around the wing tip bow shape. I made a template of the EAA replica lower wing tip, and then matched this to my pre measured spar locations, so I knew all would (should) match up.

Also shown are the spruce strips. They have already been soaked in a bathtub of boiling water with ammonia added.
(ammonia softens the fibers of the wood and allows it to easily be clamped in place)
The thoroughly soaked strips are then clamped onto the bow fixture with NO glue and allowed to dry.
Once they dry the clamps are removed and the various strips will have taken on the required final shape.
Next glue is applied to all the strips, and they are re assembled and clamped in place. The more glue wiped away when wet will make the final clean up much easier. Care must be taken to not glue the strips to the fixture!
and the finished laminated wing tip bow. Once the bow is dry, it is removed from the fixture and cleaned up by running it through the table saw. The LH and RH bows are the same at this point, as they still will need to be cut down and trimmed to final shape, then tapered and rounded.
and with the wing tip bow shapes determined, the spars can then be trimmed and tapered to final shape.

The fittings are in there somewhere

I had the various thickness 4130 steel sheets, and I had a pretty good idea what the fittings should look like.
But turning the sheets into this:
is not so easy, and takes an amazing amount of time.

The main reference for the fittings was photographs and the actual wing structure. I knew kind of what they should look like, but turning photos into practical fittings is an altogether different exercise.
There were no dimensioned drawings of the various fittings.

The above fitting is the RH I strut attach point, landing wire, and drag wire attach fitting. This assembly is comprised of 5 separate steel fittings.
there is an opposite assembly on the LH lower wing.

The first issue with the various fittings is deteriming the actual dimensions. I started by making them all in cardboard, then dry fitting the ribs where fittings would be attached, and then by using dummy wires, and measuring angles, I could determine whether the specific fitting would work as drawn.
The next step is to determine the fitting material thickness, some of which were shown in various documentation, some not, but there were enough shown in various laird drawings to allow the rest to be accurately determined.
The original fittings were 1025 mild steel, but 4130 carbon steel is used instead as it has superior strength  for the same thickness.
If the original thickness was no longer available, the next larger size was used, ie; if the original was .059, .063 would be used.
All fittings requiring welding are TIG welded.
For some assemblies, fixtures were required, as below, the lower wing root attach fitting weld fixture.

Each of these assemblies is made up of three parts, a bent U section made of .063, and two plates made of .100 4130 sheet.
They are match drilled and then edge welded on the assembly fixture. The front spar assembly is about 15% larger than the rear spar assembly.

 and this is where the two assemblies will end up, at the spar roots.

Some of the other wing fittings include the rear spar I strut attach point
and the various drag / anti drag wire attach fittings. Each lower wing has 19 separate metal fittings

this set does not include the aileron fittings, which are a separate assembly all together.
Once all the lower wing fittings had been cut, drilled, bent, filed and welded, they were placed in the relative positions on the spars, and dry fit. Once it was determined they were in the correct locations, and did what they were supposed to, the spars were marked and drilled.
Before the spars could be drilled the plywood had to be cut and dry fit to the spars, both to determine the exact thickness of the fittings, and also to assure the holes would all line up.
*also shown are the fittings I welded up to attach the spars securely to a fixed root point for future assembly.
Once all spar holes were final drilled, and it was determined all fittings would work, they were taken off, cleaned up, and powder coated a gloss black.
(It appears you could have wing fittings in any colour in the 1930`s as long as it was black)

With all wing fittings in place, and the ribs in position, the various drag / anti drag wire lengths were measured and the wires ordered.
The wires are being produced with each a LH and RH rolled thread. The inner and mid bays will have 1/4" diameter wires, and the outer bays are 3/16th wires. All wires are 4130 steel, with a hot dipped finish to replicate the original finish 1025 of mild steel wires.
The wires are being produced in New Zealand, and should be delivered by mid May 2011.

The LH and RH lower wing fittings took a total of 5 months to build from initial cardboard mockups to finish power coat, and all were ready for final assembly by the beginning of April 2011.
Unfortunately there would have been no time savings by drawing the fittings in CAD and having them laser cut, as each fitting went through many versions before the final dimensions were determined.
During the fitting build process, the wings were dry assembled and taken apart at least 8 times.

Which drawing is the correct drawing?

With the lower ribs all complete, and the basic spars completed, but not cut to length, it was time to do an initial assembly of the lower wings, to work out where the fittings would go, as well the drag / anti drag wires, and the general assembly.
Right Hand lower wing trail assembly
While this was a very encouraging photo, it would be another 6 months before this wing would be glued together! If someone had told me that when I did this trail assembly in October 2010, I would never have believed them.
next step was to work out where the ribs would go, and mark for the various fittings, plywood doublers, wires, and hardware.

and this is when I found out nothing really measured up...

I had been using a general arrangement drawing apparently based on the EAA replica wings, and approved by Matty Laird back in the late 70`s.

Unfortunately on examination, the rib spacing dimensions on this drawing did not match either the EAA rib spacing as measured on the airplane, or the Rib spacing on the Paul Matt drawings, (previously assumed to be the most accurate of the Super Solution drawings)
so which one was correct?
Well, I decided that as the EAA drawings had more details than any other, they would be the "correct" drawings, but the various reference differences were quite significant
I have also found each potential change has a snowball effect, and predicting just how much it changes the follow on process is not very easy.
Well, with a rib spacing determined, and the general assembly worked out, it was time to take the ribs back off, and start on the fittings, and doublers.

Starting with the easy parts

I spent the Spring, and Summer of 2010 collecting the raw materials required, spar grade Sitka Spruce, mahogany aircraft plywood, 4130 steel tubing, as well as various hardware, and components.

By late July I had the materials ready to begin the lower wings, as well as the required tools, incuding a new table saw, planer, sanders, bandsaw, drill press, router, and bench grinder all on hand.
I had also built the benches and tool stands.

By August I had run out of excuses.

I started the lower wing ribs August 25, 2010, and made good progress for a week, until I realised I was building them completely incorrectly.

Great, so that was a waste of a week, 2 sheets of really expensive plywood, multiple now useless fixtures and lots of spruce. 

Nice start.

I then worked out the correct rib construction method by re-studying photos of the EAA replica ribs, but it was an expensive lesson to thoroughly study every detail before cutting wood. 
EAA lower wing ribs, also showing a solid spruce
compression rib
New correct lower wing ribs
Then I realised just how hard the actual ribs were to build! I can only assume that E.M. Matty Laird had lots of very dedicated and inexpensive employees making what are the most time intensive ribs I have ever seen.
Each rib requires an inner spine of 1/16th mahogany plywood, which is routed in a three step process. Each process requires a separate router fixture. Pre-shaped upper and lower spruce capstrip, both also slotted to take the plywood spine, each inner spruce capstrip must be pre cut to length and angles, then notched to slot over the plywood spine, and all is then assembled in two special assembly fixtures.
No nails are used in the rib construction, only epoxy, and I reached a point where I could build 2 ribs per day, one to the finished assembled point, and one to the first fixture point. There are 28 ribs in the lower wings, some truss, some compression, and some with different spar slot widths.
Slotted spruce capstrip 
Fixture to pre-bend capstrip leading edges
The lower wing ribs were completed by October 2010, they were quite a steep learning curve, as they taught me the value of checking details again and again befiore commiting to the parts.
I realised I was not building another Pitts, and this would be a very different experience to my previous building projects.

An exact replica???

Not as easy as the title suggests,
this has been an argument since the first Tower of London Axe was replicated.

Sorry "restored".
A small issue is the restored axe has had 5 new heads, and 9 new handles, but it is still the original Tower of London Axe, right?
An 80 year old airplane, be it restoration, reproduction, or replica, is not going to be as it was the day it left the factory. It cannot be, as methods and materials have changed, so while it can be pretty close, if the intent is an airworthy aircraft, it must be built to operate in a world of Aviation which has moved on 80 years as well.

Back in 1931 the crosswind had yet to be invented. The first crosswind coincided by cooincidence with the invention of the first directional runway, but in 1931 airports were still mostly square fields, so landing into wind was standard practice, and the runway surface was grass, bumpy and sometimes pretty short.
All of the above lent itself well to tailskids, and three point landings.
In our modern aviation world, crosswinds are well and truly a regular occurence, paved runways make a tailskid the equivelant of an ice skate, and try landing your skid equipped aircraft on a grass strip... you will be asked to replace your 200 yard divot.
So, what can we conclude from the above? well we are not going to be able to build an exact replica, no matter how pure our intentions, and we will have to consider the environment we hope to operate the aircraft in, and build it accordingly.

The original Laird Super Solution had a tailskid, poor brakes, no radio, an extremely early version of the P&W wasp Jr engine, a non sensitive altimeter, linen fabric, no means of inspection, a mixed material wire braced fuselage construction, and who knows what type of assembly glue.
So, there will some minor changes in the interest of aircraft and pilot longevity, the replica will have a tailwheel, hydraulic brakes, a small portable radio and transponder (hidden if possible) a more modern and therefore more reliable R985 engine, dacron fabric, nutplates and inspection panels where appropriate, an all 4130 steel non wire braced welded fuselage, and all wings assembled with epoxy glue.
(I am still searching for a non sensitive altimeter)

The items which will not change include the original airfoil, or relative chord (M12) the overall dimensions, the propeller, the wing rib and wing construction method, the ailerons, fuel and oil tanks, tail construction, trim, controls, the colour scheme, and the balance of the instruments.

I shall also add a couple features not found on the original in any form, an extra set of crossed wires between the gear legs, as without them the full landing and flight loads are transfered to the wing spars.
Engine to cowl isolation mounts, as the original had none, and I can only imagine the vibration, not to mention the inevitable cracking of components.

So, while I intend to replicate the Laird Super Solution as faithfully as possible, and the final result should look exactly like the original internally and externally, there will be a certain number of small concessions to the modern world of safety, and operation.

None of the changes will in any way take away from the aircraft visually, nor will they change the flight characteristics one bit. The Super Solution of today will fly exactly as the Super Solution of 1931, and is that not the best possible result for a modern replica?

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Nobody builds an airplane alone

Well, that may not be exactly correct, but for the most part, it would be pretty hard to lock yourself away in your garage, and emerge weeks, months, years, (more probably) decades with the finished product.
When it is a replica of an aircraft built over 80 years ago, it would be almost impossible without help.
I was lucky enough during my search for documentation, to be connected with some highly experienced experts on the aircraft and the Golden Age in general.
Ed Escallon, Ed managed the original Florida and EAA replica project, and took it from a basic collection of parts up to the completed aircraft now displayed in the EAA museum.
Ed in front of the EAA replica, holding a "new" Super Solution lower wing rib
Ed is a walking encylopedia of the Golden age racing era, and in particular the Super Solution. he has met and corresponded with almost every designer and pilot of the Era, most of who are no longer with us. Ed has been an incredible resource, supplying details such as drawings, photos, expertise, and even coming on road trips with me to examine the EAA version in the museum.  In the process, Ed has become a friend and advisor. His enthusiasm even after 30+ years of involvement in the Super Solution is amazing. This project could not have gotten off the ground without Ed`s help and encouragement.

Jim Moss has also been a great resource, with photos and documents, as well as some really good insight into flying the Super Solution. As Jim is the only pilot alive, who has flown a Super Solution in the last 80 years, he is a rather unique fellow to speak with. Jim and his wife Judy, have been very accomodating  hosts for my visits, and I look forward to the trips.
Jim and Judy, with their Super Solution
Not resting on his accomplishments, Jim has been hard at work on an incredible new Golden Age replica, the Gee Bee QED, which he hopes to have flying by the end of 2011. It is a stunning project.
The Jim Moss QED, a stunning project!
Tom Jensen who did all of the welding on the Moss Super Solution replica, and is also a retired Boeing 777 engineer. Tom is able to advise on both the original construction methods as well as safe current practice, bridging 80 years of aircraft design and development. Tom has been a wonderful source of documentation and advice, he is also a heck of a good welder!

Tom Poberezny, EAA Chairman of the Board, Alan Westby, EAA Airventure Museum Director, Baulken Noack, Director of Museum exibits, and the rest of the EAA museum staff. Tom, Alan and Baulken were kind enough to allow me to measure, photograph, and make templates of the Museum replica over a number of days. They are enthusiasts first and foremost, and they prove that the EAA is unique in Aviation, as it is still all about the members. They are a great source of advice and encouragment.

Kermit Weeks, founder of the Weeks Fantasy of Flight Air Museum, and current owner of the Moss Super Solution. Kermit has been very kind with access to the documentation held in the museum, as well as offering some great advice.
Kermit is unique in that he could hold a Thompson Trophy race by himself with the various Golden Age racers he owns, a true Golden Age enthusiast, Kermit is a great source of encouragement.
(If you need a volunteer to fly in the Thomson recreation Kermit, I am not fussy, Super Solution, Gee Bee R2, Z, ) :)

I am not quite sure how David Oviatt became involved with this project, but the poor fellow through no real choice of his own, has become the project "computer guy" and is now constantly in demand to produce more drawings and dimensions. David has an amazing ability to create an exact 3D CAD drawing, using only low quality photos and my crude pencil sketches. 
Super Solution aileron hinge
He is also building a unique racing aircraft of his own, a Knight Twister COED, of which none currently exist.

Larry Harmacinski who is an expert Waco pilot and restorer, has also been a secret Super Solution racer enthusiast for many many years. Larry knows everyone in the Antique aircraft world, and has been an invaluable source of advice and contacts. he is the go to guy for just about any hard to find part and service,

My 7 year old Daughter, Jamie, who is my constant companion in the shop, she is an expert tool collecter, and holder, as well as a whiz with a micrometer. She loves woodwork, and knows more about racing biplanes than any other 7 year old girl I know. She enjoys the wing building process, although she does keep a Nintendo DS handy for the more boring bits!
Jamie working on the wingtip bows
note the steel toe fuzzy bunny slippers
There are so many other people who have either directly or offered help on this project, so I shall try to include them as we go along. One of the real benefits of building a Golden Age racer replica is all the great people you meet in the process. There is so much enthusiasm for this project, and a genuine passion still exhibited for the racers of the 30`s. It fun to be working on the airplane.

The Super Solution, features and details

The original Super Solution was built by 15 men in about 45 days, and was completed in August 1931.
They slept in bunks at the factory, and did not take too many coffee breaks.
(It took me longer to build just the lower wing rib jigs, so it does not look like I will match their building results)
The aircraft had a steel tube and aluminum fuselage, welded steel gear legs, welded steel tail surfaces, and wooden wings The wings, tail and rear fuselage were fabric covered, and sheeted in aluminum from the seat forward. The engine was a very early direct drive Pratt and Whitney R985 "Yellow Jacket" wasp JR radial engine.

The propeller was a Hamilton Standard ground adjustable 9 foot unit.
The engine produced around 450 HP but they turned them high enough to get upwards of 510 Hp from the engine.
(Not a good idea these days)
The reason for the mixed fuselage construction was initially thought to be weight, but the real reason was almost certainly the lack of suitable thin wall welding expertise in the day.
Overall the aircraft was quite simply built, with small overall dimensions.
The wingspan was 21' feet, it was 17.9" long, and it had an all up weight of 2675 pounds.
The original had a tailskid, and marginal brakes, which were acceptable for the airfields of the day, but would no longer be suitable.
The aircraft was fit with basic instruments, no radios, and minimal navigation equipment, (a compass) yet Jimmy Doolittle was able to navigate the aircraft in record times across the United States, up to Canada, and down to Mexico, an incredible acheivement.

So, why a Super Solution??

fair question.

I have had a real passion for Biplanes since I could recognise one, something about the bridge like structure, the obvious strength, the evocative look, the romance, the small dimensions, all of which make them incredibly attractive to me.
I was drawn to the Pitts designs at an early age, and I have always loved the look, sounds and performance of radial engines, so the most attractive Pitts was always Samson, a one off airshow design by Curtis Pitts back in the late 50`s, and first replicated by Steve Wolf in the mid 80`s, and then recreated a number of times by various builders.
Of the various Samson replica`s built I think this was the most beautiful, built by Barry Manktelow, for Pip Boorman.
This was the one for me, but at 19 years  of age, it seemed a bit more than I could imagine building, so instead, I built a single seat Pitts. Then I got a Christen Eagle II, then built another Pitts S1S.
But I always wanted a Samson.
Over the years I collected everything on Samson, I started a fuselage, and a complete set of wing ribs. I also realised that the airplane had some limitations, and there were certain things I wanted to change.
But the main negative for me was that it was not a real racing aircraft, it just looked like one.
Everytime I thought of the ultimate racing biplane, I kept coming back to the Laird Super Solution, and eventually there really was no other choice.
To me, there is no bad angle to the Super Solution, it looks fantastic from any view. From the front it has a Bulldog like appearance, all engine and gear, the wings are short, but still in proportion, the fuselage tapers drastically, yet the tail still looks great, from the side it looks like it is going 200 miles an hour, and from the back it looks powerful. In my opinion there is not a bad line on the aircraft.
(Would anyone be interested in a set of really nice Samson ribs?)

The Super Solution Replica`s

As I began the process of collecting drawings, as well as photos, documents, and dimensions, I also began to meet and hear of people involved in previous Super Solution projects.
I was aware that the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) had completed a replica of the Super Solution in the early 1980`s, from a project started by the Florida Antique aircraft association in the mid 70`s.
Florida Antique Aircraft Association/ EAA replica under construction
The EAA replica was completed to a high level of accuracy, and built to an airworthy standard, owing to the input and cooperation of the original designer, E.M. Matty Laird, and the pilot, General James Doolittle, but the decision was taken to place the aircraft directly on display in the museum, and not fly it.
The EAA museum replica, mounted in a dramatic air racing pose, but forever grounded
10 years later, Jim Moss, a prolific builder of Golden Age style biplanes, as well as being a long time airshow and antique pilot, decided it was time a Super Solution once again flew, and along with a dedicated group of friends he did just that.
Jim Moss Super Solution under construction
Jim and friends built the aircraft over a 4 year span, starting in 1996 and Jim made the first flight December 6, 2000. Jim then flew the aircraft to the annual Oshkosh Convention in 2002,
Jim Moss Super Solution on display at Oshkosh 2002
and soon afterwards the aircraft was sold to Kermit Weeks Fantasy of Flight museum, where it is displayed today.
The aircraft has not flown since arrival at the museum in 2002.
Jim Moss Super Solution on display in the Kermit Weeks Fantasy of Flight museum in Polk City, Florida
There are no other Super Solution projects underway, (that I know of)
There is no possibility of the EAA replica ever being flown, and it seems quite unlikely the Fantasy of Flight replica will fly again.
So, it is time another one had a chance to show just what an amazing aircraft the Super Solution was.