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Tom Rutledge and Wright Aeronautical

 
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jkinney



Joined: 13 Jul 2003
Posts: 11
Location: Washington, DC

PostPosted: Mon Feb 07, 2005 15:35    Post subject: Tom Rutledge and Wright Aeronautical Reply with quote

Here is a wonderful story for all AEHS members.

The PBS series History Detectives is preparing a story on Tom Rutledge, the Wright mechanic who assembled the Wright J-5 Whirlwind on Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis. You rarely see a television feature focusing on mechanics and the everyday people in aviation. Unfortunately, they are having a hard time finding archival records about him and his role in Lindergh's flight. Wright Aeronautical records, as far as I know, have not survived. Does anyone out there have any information about Tom Rutledge or know of a secret cache of Wright Aeronautical Corporation documents, drawings, and correspondence, that may be out there?

The museums/archives they have tried are:

National Air and Space Museum
Seattle Museum of Flight
National Aviation Hall of Fame, Teterboro
Wright State University
New York Public Library

Any responses would be a great help.

Thanks.
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Dr. Jeremy R. Kinney
Curator, Aeronautics Division
National Air and Space Museum
Smithsonian Institution
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hfriedman



Joined: 21 Jun 2004
Posts: 26

PostPosted: Sun Mar 06, 2005 09:40    Post subject: Reply with quote

What became of the tradition that Heron himself super inspected #7331?
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jkinney



Joined: 13 Jul 2003
Posts: 11
Location: Washington, DC

PostPosted: Sun Mar 06, 2005 15:34    Post subject: Sam Heron and Lindbergh's J-5 Reply with quote

Kim McCutcheon would be able to weigh in on this better than I could. He mentions that anecdote in his excellent Whirlwind article on the AEHS website.
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Dr. Jeremy R. Kinney
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National Air and Space Museum
Smithsonian Institution
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kmccutcheon



Joined: 13 Jul 2003
Posts: 191
Location: Huntsville, Alabama USA

PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2005 09:54    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
What became of the tradition that Heron himself super inspected #7331?


It is my understanding that the "History Detectives" episode seeks to discover whether Tom Rutledge was the person who assembled the engine. In my view, there is no conflict between Mr. Rutledge doing the “assembling” and Mr. Heron doing the “inspecting”.
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Kimble D. McCutcheon
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hfriedman



Joined: 21 Jun 2004
Posts: 26

PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2005 17:20    Post subject: Reply with quote

The logic sounds right but does it take a bit of the gloss off the Rutledge legend as recited on the web:

"On May 31, 1927, Charles Lindbergh wrote a new chapter in aviation history by completing the first-ever solo, nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. He became famous--headlines all over the world hailed his feat. "Lindy" was a great aviator, but his success was due in part to the remarkable dependability of the Wright-Cyclone engine that powered his plane, the Spirit of St. Louis.
That is only part of the story. Tom Rutledge was the man who built the airplane's engine. Actually, he built it twice. After the initial assembly, the engine was checked for oil and air leaks, then powered up for a grueling ten-hour test run, the last three hours at full throttle.
Then came the "tear-down." The engine was taken apart and carefully inspected, piece by piece. If any part showed the slightest defect, it was replaced. The engine was then assembled again and put through another test run. Rutledge did everything possible to produce the best plane he could.
So that's the story. It is a story of how Tom Rutledge went beyond good, and achieved the best."

if you add " of course under the supevision of the world's foremost engine expert, the designer of the cylinders and the inventor of the exhaust valves.?

Herb
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hfriedman



Joined: 21 Jun 2004
Posts: 26

PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2005 18:34    Post subject: Reply with quote

I suppose that you have long since thought of this but The Rutledge Family web page is:
http://www.rootsweb.com/~rutledge/
The email address given for the webmaster is usrutledge@attbi.com
Perhaps, if the site is still active, he might put out an APB on this.
The memory of particpation in a so famous an event is the sort of thing that is cherished from generation to generation, with luck along with an envelope full of yellowing clippings and autographed photos.

Herb
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jkinney



Joined: 13 Jul 2003
Posts: 11
Location: Washington, DC

PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2005 08:41    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, I'll pass that information along, but the Rutledge family has been involved in the project.

I posted a reply to your second mesage yesterday, but the server may have timed out.

Heron more than likely personally inspected all of the Atlantic engines (Davis, Byrd, Chamberlin, etc.) because those were high-profile flights and any engine-related problems would look bad for the company. Lindbergh was an unknown airmail pilot and considered to be a long shot in the race. Heron either assisted or downright replaced the regular factory inspector who would have normally worked with the engine builder, in this case Rutledge, to go through the procedural initial assembly, timed run, disassembly for inspection, and then reassembly for a short second run, and shipment to the customer. I would assert that Heron and Rutledge had mutually complementary (as well as mutually exclusive) roles.

The documentary focuses on Rutledge, but it takes into account the other individuals involved in the development of the Whirlwind. Nevertheless, the story is about Rutledge and emphasizes his role as one of those unknown, everyday people who played a major part in a famous event. Great stuff.
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Dr. Jeremy R. Kinney
Curator, Aeronautics Division
National Air and Space Museum
Smithsonian Institution
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