AEHS Convention Highlights 2009 - 2010

2010 Convention
Report from the 7th Annual AEHS Convention
Chantilly, Virginia May 19 - 22, 2010
by Larry Rinek

2010 Convention Attendees in front of the NASM Udvar-Hazy Center
Photo Courtesy of Brian Silcox (click for a larger image)

Your intrepid AEHS reporter enjoyed the 7th annual convention (I have attended all of them) and I have to say this was somewhat different from the previous gatherings. The theme this year was “more walking, less talking.” In other words, less time was spent at the hotel engaged in oral presentations, with more time on our feet at local Smithsonian facilities (Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles airport and the Garber restoration/storage facility in Suitland, Maryland). The collections of the U.S. National Air and Space Museum are truly first class with many original and unique items that are hard to find. Thus, for many of us “motorheads” living long distances from Virginia (as on the west coast), this was a well-justified sacrifice.

The turnout this year at 85 (defined as speakers, paid registered attendees plus spouses) was a record and up sharply from last year’s count of 62 (which was in the depths of an economic recession), including more international participation this year. The events kicked off with an evening gathering on May 19th, after we picked up our convention packets, with appetizers and drinks. Members did some catching up, having been a year for many since they talked about their favorite aero-engine subjects.

The next morning on the 20th, President McCutcheon launched the convention early (0800), with remarks on housekeeping/logistics and introductions all around the room. It struck me that so many attendees were mechanical engineers, and many had deep credentials regarding aero engines. In past conventions, our President restricted introductions to just new attendees, but this year all had an opportunity to talk (which was useful—gave me ideas on who to contact later on special topics of interest).

The first speaker on the program was Jeremy Kinney, an aeronautics curator with the National Air & Space Museum with a Ph.D in the history of technology, who presented “Shifting Gears in the Air: America and the Variable Pitch Propeller, 1918-1938.” The aero community had long sought a means to vary pitch because the preferred take-off configuration (mild pitch) was not good for cruising at speed (need big pitch for more “bite” of the air, and also to curtail “racing” of the engine). Jeremy took us through the evolution from ground-adjustable types to various mechanically variable types (adjusted in flight), culminating with automatic constant-speed (Curtiss electric and Hamilton Standard Hydromatic) props. The most advanced had full-feathering (to eliminate windmilling drag with a dead engine) and had reversible pitch. That feature could help park the aircraft by backing into spaces on the flight line, and presented a great source of drag for shorter landing distance for heavy bombers. It seems that all of the early variable-pitch efforts were failures and it took much time to sort out the bugs.

After the AM break, we moved on to the Sam Ferguson presentation entitled “The Bell XV-15 Tiltrotor Propulsion System.” NASA’s XV-15 was the forerunner to today’s production V-22 Osprey tiltrotor. Sam is a controls engineer for Bell Helicopter Textron, assigned to the civilian BA609 tiltrotor program. The talk began with a video overview of the precursor Bell XV-3 program, which sported a radial P&W R-985 engine. The XV-15, first flown in 1977 and demonstrated at the 1981 Paris air show, had a top speed 2X other rotary wing aircraft (301 KTAS at altitude) and range 2-3X other rotary wing aircraft. Using an off-the-shelf Lycoming turboshaft T-53 engine, the XV-15 had an amazingly long life (25-26 years of test flights), finally retiring in 2003 at the Udvar-Hazy museum with 1,110 flights and 1,296 hours. Technical details plus a lively Q&A session took us up to the lunch buffet.

During lunch, attendees were treated to a photo-essay presentation by Brian Silcox, a United Airlines Captain (B767) and prolific photographer of aircraft, especially from the WW II era. Brian’s theme that day was the Golden Age aircraft of the interwar years. The rest of the afternoon was spent at the Stephen Udvar-Hazy Center. Attendees car-pooled from the hotel, and assembled for group photo(s) by Brian Silcox, before scattering for hours. I captured hundreds of digital photos that afternoon and a selection will be posted at the members-only section of the AEHS website.

I started at the engine section and worked through the hall’s aircraft. Two of the notable air frames on display were the “Enola Gay” B-29 of WW II nuclear bombing fame, and an Air France Concorde supersonic airliner. The complete list of aircraft and engines on display there is found at Regarding indoor photography it was “déjà vu” all over again: same mistake as at the 4th convention in 2007 (National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio); my shots came out too dark. I had to re-shoot most (including all of the engines) in the “night mode” with flash and the shutter held open longer to capture more reflected light.

On Friday the 21st, attendees departed the hotel aboard chartered buses at 7 AM to explore the Paul Garber facility in Suitland, Maryland (arriving around 8 AM). This outpost of the NASM is not open to the public. Our group was to be the last to tour there for some time, as many items in the collection are getting ready to be shipped to Udvar-Hazy. We spent hours going through collections in various buildings I got plenty of photos. The official inventory of these collections is already posted on the AEHS website. One unusual engine really caught my eye: the cutaway of an experimental Continental XR-794S air-cooled sleeve-valve radial engine (picture provided in members section).

As this NASM repository is not intended to accommodate the public, we had little or no access to restroom facilities, liquid refreshments (morning coffee, anyone?), and seating for the weary. So, we soldiered on until early afternoon, taking pictures and soaking it all in. I marveled at the rarely seen unrestored (original dirty condition) engines stacked 3-high to the ceiling and stacked 3-deep on steel racks. That was challenging for photography. It seems this was an aero motorhead’s candy store.

Upon departure from the Garber facility, we bused over to a local shopping center with various restaurants and the group split up for a late lunch. My group of several went for Chinese food. Returning to the hotel later in the afternoon, we rested up for the annual banquet at our Holiday Inn hotel, which commenced at 6 PM and wrapped up shortly after 9 PM. The featured dinner speaker was Dave Birch of the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust in the UK. He covered the first 29 years of activities at the trust. Attendees of the last AEHS convention in Indianapolis became well-acquainted with the Trust’s Allison branch museum. On the evening of the banquet, besides learning about R-R Trust history, we were shown a movie on the Wright R-1820 and R-2600 engines (Cyclone 9 and Cyclone 14), circa 1940. A special treat was viewing the computer animation of a running Bentley V-8 car engine (with moving internals), a taste of things to come as R-RHT prepares a Griffon animation based on 3D scans of actual engine parts.

The final day of the convention (May 22) began with an early presentation on the Boulevard aero engine by Bouvard Hosticka, Research Scientist at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. The largely unknown Boulevard make, started with a SOHC over-square I-4 155 in³ 20-25 hp engine in 1910 (same era as Rinek aero engines). Some internal parts were on display, such as a crankshaft “hogged out” of thick steel plate. Mechanic Charles Taylor used the same fabrication method for the crank in the first Wright Brothers engine that flew in December 1903. A larger and more refined 1911 Boulevard I-4 engine offered 30-35 hp. Mr. Hosticka then did a tutorial on concentric engine valves (which are supposed to offer better volumetric efficiency [breathing]), followed by a DVD clip of him driving his rare 1904 Franklin car, sporting an I-4 engine with concentric valves. One early use of concentric valves in aero engines, was the water-cooled Curtiss V-8 in the Silver Dart biplane built by the Aerial Experiment Association (AEA), and first flown in December 1908 at Hammondsport, NY. My research on Curtiss engines (motorcycle and aviation) was published as an SAE technical paper (1994), and in the Journal of the American Aviation Historical Society (Summer 1996).

Next up was the interesting presentation by AEHS member Paul Lagasse, freelance writer and student of the history of Westinghouse turbine aircraft engines. Based on an MS thesis written 15 years ago, Paul focused on the business and cultural aspects more than technical details (as he is not an engineer). The USN put Westinghouse, a producer of steam turbines, into the aero gas turbine business with contracts dating back to 1941. The earliest U.S. Navy jet fighters installed Westinghouse engines. The history unfolded from the earliest days of the company, through such turbojet engine programs as the J30, J32, J34, J40, and the last-throw J54, until its well-deserved exit as an aero engine producer in January 1961. Westinghouse aero gas turbine operations suffered for many years from underinvestment, understaffing, a time-consuming style of small incremental improvements (by contrast, P&W worked on many advances in parallel), plus indifferent management, among other maladies. As a practicing business & technology consultant for decades, I could relate to the Westinghouse case study: lessons learned on how not to run a viable business.

After the annual silent auction was conducted (all proceeds going to the AEHS), President Kim McCutcheon updated attendees on the state of the society. Attendance is climbing again. As of late 2009, membership hit 845, up 52 from late 2008. The website is very active with around 1,000 visits/day and 1.5 million page hits/month. To continue to attract new members, fresh content is needed from members and the society seeks additional webmasters. There was much discussion on how to attract younger members, and what was tried previously. All aviation history organizations appear to be graying and need younger members to carry on. Kim asked how Seattle would be received as the venue for the 2011 AEHS convention: vigorous applause followed. The Boeing Museum of Flight (which I visited before the famous Champlin fighter collection was acquired), among other attractions, await AEHS attendees in the Seattle area. I hope to see you there.

 At board member Dan Whitney’s urging, attendees gave Kim McCutcheon a hearty round of applause for his ongoing efforts, and then we adjourned just before noon. Several members were to stay on for another week, to work on a local aero archiving project.

2010 Convention Sights

National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center



More Udvar-Hazy Images in the Members' Section

National Air and Space Museum Paul E. Garber Facility Images in the Members' Section

Lists of Artifacts in Buildings Visited by 2010 Convention Attendees


2010 Convention Presentations

NOTICE: Due to abusive robotic downloading of AEHS 2010 Convention presentations by non-members,
the following presentations have all been moved to the Members Section

The 1910 Boulevard Aero Engine with Bonus Material on Curtiss and Franklin Concentric Valves
The Westinghouse Aviation Gas Turbine Division, a Brief History, complemented by The Westinghouse Aviation Gas Turbine Division 1950-1960
XV-15 Propulsion
Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust: The First 29 Years
Shifting Gears in the Air: America and the Variable-Pitch Propeller, 1918 - 1938



2009 Convention
Report from the 6th Annual AEHS Convention
Indianapolis, Indiana (July 15-18, 2009)
by Larry Rinek

2009 Convention
Photo Courtesy of Richard E. Loftis (click for a larger image)

The convention this year was a familiar venue for me, as I have had many consulting business trips to Indianapolis over the years, including official visits to Allison (when it was part of GM). Have to say that the Indy airport has radically transformed, with all new and more distant terminals (the main terminal used to be just minutes west of Allison plant, very close to our Days Hotel (former Days Inn), right across I-465. The turnout this year was respectable at around 62, down from the 5th convention's 75 (yes, recessionary economy) and included just 1 international visitor this year, John Brand of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The events kicked off with an evening gathering (after we picked up our convention packets) on July 15 with appetizers and drinks. I saw lots of back slapping and hearty hellos as members encountered familiar faces again. Lively discussions and aero engine war stories ensued for hours. That point outs a major benefit of attending AEHS conventions, the networking and learning opportunities—among each other. At each meal and break, small groups formed/re-formed and aero motorheads did their thing. We are a persecuted and misunderstood minority, so we seek solace among each other. It was notable that convention regular Pete Law (Reno air racing pit legend, ex-Lockheed Skunk Works thermodynamics engineer) always drew a crowd.

The next morning on 16th, President McCutcheon kicked off things early (0800), after complimentary continental breakfast, with housekeeping/logistics remarks and introductions all around the room. The first official speaker was John Leonard, retired from Rolls-Royce (R-R) Allison in June 2009, and a respected company historian/author. He worked in controls/instrumentation engineering. I was furiously taking notes but missed some content. Fortunately, I later bought John's hard-bound autographed book entitled The Allison Engine Catalog, 1915-2007 (Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust – Allison Branch, Technical Series No. 9, 2008), with all the details. John walked us through from the beginning of Jim Allison's machine shop work and co-founding the Indianapolis motor speedway (back in 1909) up to the present. Allison's first aero engine work involved modifications and upgrades to the Liberty V-12 engines, including novel steel shell-backed main bearings that extended Liberty TBO intervals from something like 50 hours to 300+ hours. The bearings were so good that many aero engine builders, such as R-R, licensed the Allison designs: a preview of future collaborations between the companies, leading to the R-R acquisition of Allison aero engines from GM in 1995.

After Liberty work, Allison's own aero piston engine designs followed—culminating in the mighty V-1710 and related V-3420 [for Fisher P-75A] of WW II (see Dan Whitney's landmark book Vee's for Victory). Allison's first aero engine of its own design was the X-4520 (1,300 hp, roller mains, air-cooled, 2,800 lb), which seized on the test stand and was abandoned. Members saw this very engine (un-restored) in the back shop of the New England Air Museum during the convention in 2007. The Allison piston work was followed by a series of notable gas turbine engines—some remaining in production today:

In the Allison history are sprinkled a number of unusual developmental projects, including ramjets, coal-burning engines, pulse-detonation jets, Roots blowers, gearboxes, rocket motor cases, and oddities like Apollo Lunar Excursion Module spacecraft propellant tanks, plus the baggage loading system installed in the President's Air Force 1 Boeing 747.

After John's fine overview of Allison history, we broke for buffet lunch (courtesy of the AEHS), and enjoyed a presentation by Rousch Engineering (Paul Draper) on rebuilding the Merlin V-12 (keep 'em flying). Rousch operates an FAA-certified repair station, which repairs components (such as welding/machining/laminating of cast aluminum cracks) and manufactures new PMA-spec parts (such as cam roller finger followers—like Allison's, cams, valve springs, pistons/rings). Bit by bit, Rousch is adding components (such as forged Inconel X751 exhaust valves) as the inventory of new old stock (NOS) parts dwindles down due to age and overstress of Merlins (R-R and Packard). Jack Rousch would prefer these parts and services be used on stock P-51 Mustangs, and hates to see perfectly good Merlin engines flown to destruction in air races (such as Reno). That said, Rousch produces some racing parts. There are only so many flyable Merlin cast aluminum crankcases left on earth and the tooling/manufacturing costs to produce identical new replica parts in limited volume would be unacceptably high for aircraft owners. For example, a pair of new/complete Al heads would cost operators $50,000. Around five useable Merlin engines (plus parts/spares exist for each flying P-51, so things are not critical yet, except for some specialties like gears/shafts (New-Old-Stock gone).

The rest of Thursday included a self-guided tour of the Allison museum, containing most of the aero engines from the Liberty beginning to today's most modern gas turbine products. As a defense plant, security was tight and members needed an escort from/to the lobby. I captured digital photos (dozens) of most everything in the collection, noting what was what along the way. Kim McCutcheon has included a few of my pics with this report (see below). Behind a curtain, restoration work could be seen under way. Heritage Trust members and AEHS guests had access to the workspace. R-R Heritage Trust books were on sale in the museum (cash or check). The day culminated with a dutch-treat gathering at a country family buffet restaurant in a town southwest of Indy (Mooresville, IN), hometown of the famous bank-robbing outlaw John Dillinger of the 1930s (FBI's public enemy #1).

The program got under way early the following morning (17th) with a few words by Kim, and then such programs as:

After a Mexican buffet lunch hosted by the AEHS, our attendees spent the afternoon touring the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. A fine collection of Indy race cars, components (such as turbochargers) and complete engines were on view, from the earliest Indy races (Marmon won in 1911) to recent times. The museum contained some other specialties such as motorcycles, NASCAR racers, exotic sports cars, Indy pace cars and more (see images below). The track is usually open to paid bus tours of the 2.5 mile oval, but closed that day for mini-racer rides for sale (reportedly over $100 per lap).

The evening culminated in the annual AEHS banquet (pre-selected menus, not a buffet) back at the hotel, accompanied by a presentation from R-R Allison's Dave Newill (Sr. Executive, Marketing & Strategy, Helicopter Group. His day job concerns the small helicopter engine programs such as the 250/300 series (around 250+ shp). As the President of the R-R Heritage Trust, Allison Branch (e.g., CEO of the museum), Dave is deep into Allison history.

On the morning of July 18, we started later and Tom Fey (AEHS member, engine & propeller enthusiast, and main organizer of this convention) presented his well-informed talk on Allison's Aeroproducts Division contra-rotating propellers. Such props were plagued with poor reliability (10 hour TBO?) and extreme complexity. I pointed out to the group that the contra-props on the Soviet Tu-95 Bear heavy turboprop bomber moved that aircraft to a world record speed for propeller planes, around 610 mph (quite impressive). Bear crews reportedly object to the extreme noise produced by the engines/props, especially inside the fuselage at the prop line. The audience noted that unducted fans have been quite buzzy/noisy.

The convention ended with:

All together, it was another memorable gathering this year, and convenient for many members in the Midwest as well as those attending the annual EAA Oshkosh event in Wisconsin later in July.

Readers, please note that detailed presentation slides (with some sanitizing) are now posted to the AEHS website for your review.


2009 Convention Sights

Meeting Highlights — by Larry Rinek


Meeting Highlights — by Richard E. Loftis


Allison Museum (Courtesy of Larry Rinek)

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum (Courtesy of Larry Rinek)


2009 Convention Presentations

NOTICE: Due to abusive robotic downloading of AEHS 2009 Convention presentations by non-members,
the following presentations have all been moved to the Members Section

A Summary of Allison History - by John M. Leonard
 John Leonard's Background
 Jim Allison and the Early Years
 The Liberty and Other Engines Leading to the V-1710
 WWII and the V-1710
 Transition to Gas Turbines, Turboprops, Regenerated and Recuperated Turboprops
 Strange and Interesting Projects
 Automotive Gas Turbines
 Flight Test Facility, Today
Rolls-Royce Merlin and Packard V-1650 Engines for the Next 65 Years - by Paul Draper
A Look Back at Development of the Model 250 Turbine Engine - by Dan Jensen
Supercharging the Allison - by Daniel D. Whitney
The Short but Interesting Life of the Aeroproducts Dual-Rotation Propeller - by Tom Fey
 Reciprocating-Engine Applications
 Turbopropeller Applications