450 Stearman Acro History

Discussion in 'Aerobatics' started by whifferdill, Jul 3, 2013.

  1. whifferdill

    whifferdill Line Up and Wait

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2010
    Messages:
    915
    Location:
    NC
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    whifferdill
    These videos document a bit of interesting and unfortunate acro history regarding the 450 Stearman. Interesting to watch the airplane flown this way, which nobody does these days - for good reason. Not hard to see how problems resulted. Below are some excerpted posts by others on this subject from another forum:

    Marion Cole used to do a triple vertical snap in his [450] Stearman. Yep, triple vertical snap....I asked him what speed did he use and he kind of chuckled and said ''real fast''!! Of course, back then all those guys were in their late 20's/early 30's............. Stearmans and R 985's were plentiful and new. Marion did say they tweaked the prop and governors and sometimes could get 3,000 rpm out of a 450. The blower section is a 10 to 1 drive ratio.

    Of course this did raise problems with the prop/engine combo r.e. gyroscopic loads on the propeller, case, and crankshaft. Rolly Cole's accident was either a blade sep or a rapid destruction of the engine causing it to come off and take part of the upper wing with it. Bill Adams later owned Marion's Stearman and died in a similar manner as Rolly Cole. I doubt Adams had the same engine as was originally in Marion's plane but it started to promote the idea that these things weren't break proof. Almost the same attitude was prevalent when the Pitts was king of the contests. Now the composite monoplane crowd thinks the same with their airplanes and so far airframe problems seem to be few and far between.

    Bill Adams crashed at Valpariaso IN after the prop came off during an airshow flight. Again the prop came off and went through the upper wing. There is a still photo of the airplane with the wing folded and the prop in one corner of the photo. Very poor quality but you can see the prop. I was told the crankshaft failed but don't know if this is correct. The 985 crank is pretty fragile looking considering the size and weight of the prop.




     
  2. dell30rb

    dell30rb Final Approach

    Joined:
    May 18, 2011
    Messages:
    6,483
    Location:
    Raleigh NC
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Ren
    Sounds like they coulda used a composite prop. Seems like the sheer weight of that prop getting thrown around like that was causing a lot of the problems.

    It sure is different to see a big ol biplane get thrown around like that. More impressive to me than seeing an extra perform.
     
  3. flhrci

    flhrci En-Route

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2007
    Messages:
    3,249
    Location:
    Ashville, OH
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    David
    Thank you for posting these videos. Very interesting to see.

    I love the sound of that engine on that plane.

    Cool to see this.

    David
     
  4. flymach2

    flymach2 Filing Flight Plan

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2013
    Messages:
    4
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    flymach2
    Very interesting thread. I just recently bought the aviation memorabilia of Duane and Judy Cole and am going through it now with the long term goal of putting some material on-line and some in a museum.

    Duane and Judy were friends of the family and I remember Duane speaking often of Rolly and his accident. Sure enough, there is a great deal of material about the accident in the memorabilia. Accident investigation technology has come a long way since 1963, but the investigation strongly suggested a crankshaft failure caused by excessive RPM, excessive gyroscopic stress imparted by high-G aerobatics, and other factors. It also appears likely that Duane bought the engine from a less than reputable shop - Rolly's previous engine failed after less than 50 hours in service and Duane obtained the accident engine at a greatly reduced price as part of a warranty claim settlement with the overhaul shop.

    Just curious what other folks on this thread would think of an on-line Rolly Cole memorial? Duane wrote "To A Pilot" in memory of Rolly and it has some great stories and pictures, but there's more to Rolly's life than what Duane penned all those years ago. Your comments and suggestions would be most welcome.
     
  5. ebetancourt

    ebetancourt Pre-takeoff checklist

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2010
    Messages:
    388
    Location:
    Middle Tennessee
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Ernie
    I can't see anything wrong with an online Rolly memorial, but I don't personally have any but vague recollections of the time period; I wasn't really involved in GA at the time. I will say that Duane's Taylorcraft act is embedded in my brain as the kind of show I would like to see more of, so anything you shared about that would certainly be of interest to me.

    Maybe a Duane Cole site with a section on Rolly?
     
  6. stearmann4

    stearmann4 Pre-Flight

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2012
    Messages:
    63
    Location:
    Olympia, WA
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    stearmann4
    FlyMach,

    Wish I would've known any of the Cole memorabilia was for sale. I'm a huge Cole family fan. My father helped co-found the National Stearman fly-in at Galesburg, IL in 1972 with the Stearman I now own, so of course the Coles' had a big impact on those of us fortunate enough to grow up in the Midwest. http://www.stearmanflyin.com/news-Posted-Sept-8-2013-Rutledge.php

    A few years ago, I reserved N9783H which was the registration on Rolly's 450 Stearman. My hope is to acquire another 450 Stearman at some point and either build a replica of Rolly's to properly honor him, or at least just et the number on anther Stearman to keep it from ending up on a jet or spam-can somewhere.

    The attached photo is my Stearman on the show line with Duane Cole's T-Craft at Galesburg in the late 70s. In any case, I would love to see a memorial page to Rolly and the Cole Family.

    Mike-
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Sep 30, 2013
  7. flymach2

    flymach2 Filing Flight Plan

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2013
    Messages:
    4
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    flymach2
    I posted to this thread a while back and thought I'd post a long, but hopefully informative post script.

    I finally found one envelope in the mountain of Cole memorabilia that contained the entire copy of the accident investigation of Rolly Cole's fatal accident. It is a very large file, so I won't scan / post it in its entirety, but here's the summary:

    The accident engine was overhauled at a disreputable shop in Fort Worth, TX - it was the second R-985 Duane had bought from this shop for Rolly's airplane. The first R-985 was the cause of two forced landings during the airplane's first 50 hours of service with the Cole family. Duane initiated a warranty claim on the first engine and the second engine was delivered as settlement of the claim.

    In the accident event, engine #2 came apart at the nose case. The investigation did not specify a cause for the failure, but identified high RPM, high G aerobatics, and questionable workmanship at the overhaul shop as contributing factors. When the engine failed, it and the prop departed the aircraft as a unit and were found a few hundred feet from the aircraft wreckage.

    The top right wing was compromised by impact forces of the oil cooler and other components, which are not identified in the report, which separated from the airframe when the engine did, but did not fall to the ground with the engine. The structural damage / failure of the top right wing caused it to partially cover the forward cockpit, which was occupied by Rolly's buddy Mel Stickney (Pan Am pilot who had also done some air racing). Mel was unable to effect his own egress. Rolly apparently attempted to free Mel - witnesses estimated the engine failure occurred at 3000' AGL, Rolly had a reputation for practicing at relatively high altitudes. Unable to free Mel, Rolly jumped, but it was too late, his parachute did not fully deploy and he was killed by massive concussion when he hit the ground. Mel was killed on impact, his body was still strapped to the front cockpit seat and he was wearing a parachute. His autopsy report identified the possibility that he was knocked unconscious by debris when the engine left the airplane.

    Some other interesting notes about Rolly that aren't related to the accident. He joined the National Guard in 1961 and maintained a good correspondence with his family and friends while going through training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio. The letters from them (family & friends) to Rolly are among his personal effects and are a fascinating read. His friends from the airport and high school all called him "George" (his middle name). He smoked on rare occasions and enjoyed playing ping pong. A straight "B" student in high school, he did extremely well in his academic classes in the Guard and was looking forward to placement in a good technical program. He drew airplane pictures on the backs of his notepads, some of which are incredibly detailed.

    It's rare that I have time to go through the Cole memorabilia, but I'll eventually get through all of it and look forward to putting together a web site or some other on-line remembrance about this iconic aviation family.
     
  8. badams@crownscrew.com

    badams@crownscrew.com Filing Flight Plan

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2013
    Messages:
    2
    Location:
    Indianapolis IN
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Bill Adams Jr.
    Rolly Cole's engine mount broke off of his Stearman while he was practicing Lomcevaks, Aug. 2, 1963.
     
  9. Henning

    Henning Ejection Handle Pulled

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2005
    Messages:
    39,482
    Location:
    Ft Lauderdale FL
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    iHenning
    Nice videos. It's easy to understand how people broke them, they were so fun and capable with the 985, a real joy to fly. The 1340 OTOH, that turned it into the most miserable plane on the planet.
     
  10. jesse

    jesse Administrator Management Council Member

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2005
    Messages:
    15,347
    Location:
    Lincoln, NE
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Jesse
    My great uncle pioneered airshows with the 450 Stearman, Johnny Vasey, I had the pleasure of knowing him as a kid before he passed away. His signature was doing absolutely insane snap rolls. He finally gave up airshows completely when the FAA wouldn't approve his 450 Stearman engine mount modifications. He knew it wasn't safe and wasn't interested in getting killed as a result.

    The rest of his life was spent building and flying model aircraft. He lived alone on his farm, his door was always unlocked, and nobody knocked. You just went in. He finally injured himself in his 90s trying to buy a microwave and ended up in a nursing home, which didn't last long. My very last memory of him was him telling us that the nursing home took away his pocket knife and he couldn't widdle things out of wood anymore. He said he was glad he was at the end of his life because of the sad state our country was becoming. He took great entertainment in donating money to both the Democrats and the Republicans just to see what would happen.

    He was also big into photography and developing his own photos. I remember one photo where he was sitting in two chairs across a table playing chess against himself. He did get to see Photoshop before he died which he found pretty damn amazing.

    He was an army flight instructor before the war (teaching hundreds how to fly the Stearman), a B-29 pilot during the war, a barnstormer after the war, and a model airplane builder and pilot once the FAA ****ed him off. He had absolutely no interest in doing anything other than perfect and if he couldn't modify his 450 Stearman as he saw fit he was done. He had no interest in flying in airplanes after that. He was always sore about the FAA and the 450 Stearman. A fan built an absolutely perfect model airplane replica of his Stearman and shipped it to him. He gave it to my dad and told my dad to go try to fly it and smash it up. My dad of course treasures that model and still has it today.

    Absolute perfect craftsman - it was amazing the stuff he was always building in his house no matter how old he was. Constantly coming up with new rubber band powered planes that would fly for seemingly forever around his living room, etc.

    He built Duane Cole's Taylorcraft as well. You could ask him any question about what happened in the past. He would think very carefully for awhile and then tell you in extreme detail the absolute truth as accurately as he could remember. He took great pride in making sure you understood he was telling the absolute truth and had no tolerance for those that didn't. Sure wish he were still around...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2015
  11. Seanaldinho

    Seanaldinho Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2012
    Messages:
    1,546
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Pop Yankee
  12. Jim Rosenow

    Jim Rosenow Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2014
    Messages:
    445
    Location:
    Smithville, Ohio
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Jim Rosenow
    Great pics Jesse! Do you know which of Duanes' Taylorcrafts he built? I think he had two...one had an 85 in it, and then he went to 100hp and more wing mods. There are actually plans out there for that one.

    My little connection to that world was my first mechanic. Clarence Witt taught me how to restore a Champ (out of corn crib) in the early '70's, and told stories about welding up wing-walking stands for the Cole Brothers Air Circus. I found a pic with Clarence in in it, in Duane's book To A Pilot.

    Awesome video Sean....and John Mohr did all that with just 220 hp.

    Very cool stuff indeed!

    Jim
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2015
  13. jesse

    jesse Administrator Management Council Member

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2005
    Messages:
    15,347
    Location:
    Lincoln, NE
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Jesse
    According to EAA:
    Reference: https://www.eaa.org/en/eaa-museum/m...-taylorcraft-cole-bf-50-clipped-wing---n21292
    It is in EAA's museum today.
     
  14. Jim Rosenow

    Jim Rosenow Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2014
    Messages:
    445
    Location:
    Smithville, Ohio
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Jim Rosenow
  15. badams@crownscrew.com

    badams@crownscrew.com Filing Flight Plan

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2013
    Messages:
    2
    Location:
    Indianapolis IN
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Bill Adams Jr.
    My Dad did change replace his engine every 350-400 hrs. In my Dad's case the Crank Shaft sheared off, probably from the high RPM and the Snap Rolls. His last R985 had the smaller Twin Beech Crank Shaft.
     
  16. Bill Green

    Bill Green Filing Flight Plan

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Bill Green
     
  17. James331

    James331 Touchdown! Greaser!

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2014
    Messages:
    12,147
    Location:
    Behind you!
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    James331
    Well do you want your name to live on, or your airframe to live on throughout history

    I was born half a century too late
     
  18. Bill Green

    Bill Green Filing Flight Plan

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Bill Green
    I am a fan of the Cole family, as my dad and Dune Cole were friends. They met because Rolly ran away from home at the approximate age of 15, and showed up at Combs Aviation in Denver, CO. My day was flying a Twin Bonanza for Midwest Oil Co at the time, hangered the plane there. Rolly was hanging around looking hungry, and my dad took him home. He lived with my parents and my sisters ( I came along in 1958, this was 1954 or 55) for about 3 months, during which time my dad got him to write his parents and let them know he was ok. Rolly finally called his dad one night, Duane told him he could come home, so my father paid him $50 to polish his airplane so he would have some cash, got him a ride within 15 miles of home with another corpor ate pilot going east, and Roll returned to his folks. Duane Cole was in Denver about 2 months later and looked my dad up, took my folks out to dinner, and they were fast friends from then on. I read their Christmas letter every year with fascination, as they seemed to be the enchanted aviation family, always having adventures even after Rolly was killed. I still have an autographed copy of "To A Pilot" that Duane delivered in person to my father in Denver after the book was published in 1964. I would be happy to be a part of any research that would go into a website about the Cole family. I don't have a lot more to add about them from personal experience, as our connection was as previously stated, but my dad always spoke admiringly of all the Cole Brothers and the fact that they never had an accident during one of their shows.
    My dad died in his bed in 1995, with about 22,000 hours and a near perfect safety record, and like Marion Cole, was most proud of the fact that he never scratched a passenger during his 40 years of commercial flying.
    Bill Green
     
  19. Bill Green

    Bill Green Filing Flight Plan

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Bill Green
     
  20. Hiperbiper

    Hiperbiper Line Up and Wait

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2007
    Messages:
    566
    Location:
    Shreveport La.
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Chris Carlson
    Bill;
    Though I didn't know Duane I was friends with Marion until he passed away. I never did get him into the Hiperbipe (Charlene had put a moratorium on flying in homebuilts!) he was always great to be around, ask advise of and hangar talk with. He even got me hooked on Diet Dr. Pepper... A few of my friends were really close to Marion and Charlene, one has put all the family airshow VHS tapes on DVD to preserve them and another, Dr. Gary Boucher, flew airshows with Marion and wrote and published Marion's Autobiography "The Performer" shortly before Marion passed away. If you PM me your contact info I'll pass it on to them.
    Chris in Shreveport
     
  21. Jimmy cooper

    Jimmy cooper En-Route

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2013
    Messages:
    4,293
    Location:
    Baltimore md.
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Jim cooper
    The 450 stearman was very impressive doing just loops and a few rolls. People loved the noise! the sound of that 450 hp radial was just grand. Like the difference between a Honda four banger and a ford 5.0!
     
  22. Bill Green

    Bill Green Filing Flight Plan

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Bill Green