Flight Journal

Curtiss Robin C-1

- TEXT AND PHOTOS BY GEOFFREY P. JONES

THE LATE 1920S, aviation was working its way out of the carefree barnstormi­ng era into a period where its future as transporta­tion would be guaranteed. In the shadow cast by Lindbergh’s epic adventure, the public view of aircraft was changing rapidly, and many companies were establishe­d to begin building aircraft that would serve a useful function—the Curtiss Robin was one of those. Its original 90hp OX-5 watercoole­d V8, best known as being the powerplant in the Curtiss Jenny of WW I, was rapidly supplanted by a series of more powerful radial engines, including the Challenger­s ranging between 170 and 185hp. A smaller number were powered by the 165hp Wright J-6. The most famous of the Wright-powered Robins was that of “Wrong Way” Corrigan, who in July 1938, flew one from New York to Dublin, Ireland, taking 28 hours and 13 minutes. He claimed he had set his compass wrong but cannily knew he’d grab headlines in a time when transocean­ic flights were banned following the loss of Amelia Earhart and several other pioneer aviators.

Approximat­ely 10 Robins are thought to be still flying, including the C-1 restored by Ron Waldron and a team at McAlpin in Florida and later acquired by Richard Epton. It had last flown in 1942 before being dismantled and stored in a California warehouse. This rare 1920s “aerial sedan” was one of 769 examples built in St. Louis, Missouri, by Curtiss–Robertson between 1928 and 1930.

An ex-pat Englishman, Epton has a passion for old aircraft and owns a number, but his Curtiss Robin, named "Poacher's Pony" after a local folk hero from his home county in England, was his pride and joy. (Epton has since sold the Robin to Christian Buerk of New Hampshire.)

Epton housed it for years at Ron Alexander’s embryo Candler Field museum at Peach State Airfield in Georgia, a replica of the original Atlanta airport. The Curtiss Robin is powered by a 165hp Wright J6-5 engine. It’s a large aircraft, designed as a three-seater (pilot in front and two passengers behind), and with a wingspan of 41 feet and a wing area of 243 square feet. The five-cylinder Wright engine develops considerab­le torque and lots of vibration because it is bolted directly to the main

tubular steel fuselage frame without rubber dampers. All external nuts and bolts have to be regularly checked as they tend to loosen with the airframe vibrations. The engine is designed to consume large quantities of oil and grease, much of which spews out of the rockers on each cylinder head and the exhaust. The rockers have to be greased every five hours and re-packed with grease every 20 hours. Cleaning the airframe is a lengthy chore after each flight.

There are no flaps and the large wing and dangling undercarri­age and struts ensure plenty of drag. At full throttle, the R6-5 engine produces 1800rpm, and the aircraft will levitate into the air at about 50mph until a “best climb” of 70mph and 500fpm is establishe­d. The plane cruises leisurely around 80mph with 1700rpm. Flights are kept to no more than two hours out of deference to the aircraft’s age and the strain on the pilot due to the incessant vibration.

Even something as simple as a turn requires some thought as the pilot has to lead with the rudder and follow with the ailerons to counteract adverse yaw; plus, any control movement requires some physical strength. During landing the pilot has to be ahead of the game—midfield downwind is flown at 75mph, then reducing the revs to 1450 and an indicated descent of 500fpm. Base leg and finals at 60mph is fine followed by cutting the throttle just before touchdown and the gangly undercarri­age settling the aircraft in a three-pointer like a “gentle giant.”

 ??  ?? Now described as a “Gentleman’s Aerial Carriage,” the 1929 Curtiss Robin C-1 is the epitome of drag, with its large, gangly undercarri­age, wing struts and radial engine. It was a robust and reliable design, used by many formative airlines and air taxi companies in the late 1920s and 1930s. Here, it sports the “Candler Field” logo on the fuselage side in celebratio­n of the city of Atlanta’s first airport, named after the Coca-Cola tycoon, Asa Candler.
Now described as a “Gentleman’s Aerial Carriage,” the 1929 Curtiss Robin C-1 is the epitome of drag, with its large, gangly undercarri­age, wing struts and radial engine. It was a robust and reliable design, used by many formative airlines and air taxi companies in the late 1920s and 1930s. Here, it sports the “Candler Field” logo on the fuselage side in celebratio­n of the city of Atlanta’s first airport, named after the Coca-Cola tycoon, Asa Candler.
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 ??  ?? The 5-cylinder 165hp Wright R6-5 engine has external rocker covers. They are exposed to the elements but have to be greased every five hours and completely repacked with grease every 20 hours flying time
The 5-cylinder 165hp Wright R6-5 engine has external rocker covers. They are exposed to the elements but have to be greased every five hours and completely repacked with grease every 20 hours flying time
 ??  ?? The cockpit is largely “stock,” with minimal instrument­ation. The position of the huge rudder pedals mean that the pilot sits a long way back from the panel. He spent more time looking out the windows, rather than gawking at TV screen instrument­s, as was the custom of the day.
The cockpit is largely “stock,” with minimal instrument­ation. The position of the huge rudder pedals mean that the pilot sits a long way back from the panel. He spent more time looking out the windows, rather than gawking at TV screen instrument­s, as was the custom of the day.
 ??  ?? A concession to modernity, located on the lower left-hand side wing strut, a wind-driven generator provides power for the starter, handheld radio and wing lights, the only electrical equipment in the Curtiss Robin C-1.
A concession to modernity, located on the lower left-hand side wing strut, a wind-driven generator provides power for the starter, handheld radio and wing lights, the only electrical equipment in the Curtiss Robin C-1.
 ??  ?? Two wicker seats in the back and the pilot up front on his own; bring a cushion if you intend to fly for a while, as wicker is extremely uncomforta­ble!
Two wicker seats in the back and the pilot up front on his own; bring a cushion if you intend to fly for a while, as wicker is extremely uncomforta­ble!

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