Friday, December 23, 2016

Aviation Museum of New Hampshire welcomes new home-built biplane to its collection

LONDONDERRY — They are the planes that home builders dream of — a unique style often built behind the scenes in an aviation fan's garage, basement or hangar.

The Aviation Museum of New Hampshire recently received a donation of a home-built biplane, now on display at the museum.

The biplane was donated and built by James Jackson of Brookline, New Hampshire, a man fascinated by airplanes and flight since he was a child.

"My lifelong dream was to build my own aircraft," Jackson said. "I built this biplane when I was a young man with a wife and child, living on a shoestring in a mobile home. This labor of love took five years, 10 months and 14 days to complete."

The plane was built back in the 1960s, and was in Jackson's garage for the past 40 years, according to museum operations manager Wendell Berthelsen.

"It hung from the rafters so he could park his car beneath it," Berthelsen said.

Jackson called the museum, Berthelsen said, and wanted to donate his plane.

Volunteer crews went to the 88-year-old pilot's home and took the plane down, dismantled the wings and delivered it to the museum near the airport.

"We took it down very carefully," Berthelsen said.

The plane was flown a total of about 145 hours and also was featured in air shows.

It was a dream of Jackson's since he was a little boy, Berthelsen said, to build a plane.

Models of "home-built" aircraft have existed as long as powered flight and instead of relying on a factory for construction, this type of craft relied on superior craftsmanship and handwork by individuals who love flight and love to build, often constructed in those basements and garages like the Wright Brothers did in 1903.

According to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), this is the fastest growing segment of new, general aviation aircraft in the United States, with tens of thousands flying throughout the world. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certifies these aircraft as "Experimental Amateur-Built Aircraft" and each year the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire hosts a fly-in of these aircraft to demonstrate the high quality and variety of aircraft produced in this category.

According to museum Executive Director Jessica Pappathan, the museum has two other general aviation aircraft within its collection, including a WT-9 Dynamic light-sport and an Aeronca aircraft. However, due to space limitations, this will be the first complete aircraft on display at the museum.

"This biplane is a wonderful addition to the museum's collection and we are grateful to Mr. Jackson and his family for this donation," Pappathan said. "It will allow us to share with visitors the skill and techniques it takes to build these aircraft, and we hope that it inspires others, especially the next generation, to take an interest in aviation."

This is also the first time, Pappathan noted, that the museum has a complete aircraft on display. Its more compact size makes the new plane a good fit for the small museum.

"It also fits in with the historic aspect of the museum," she said.

The biplane was awarded "Best Appearing Home Built" at several fly-ins including the Reading Air show in Pennsylvania. Jackson also won an "Outstanding Individual Achievement Award" from the Experimental Aircraft Association.

Jackson was a lead designer for Piper Aircraft for many years.

Pappathan said having the new donation will hopefully engage aviation fans of all ages.

"We're hoping people enjoy it and it inspires the next generation to be pilots," she said.


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