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Thu, Sep 21, 2023

One-of-a-Kind WWI Aircraft Damaged in Weekend Mishap

American Heritage Museum Vows to Rebuild Nieuport 28 C.1

A Nieuport 28 C.1 biplane went down during a World War I commemorative event staged at Stow, Massachusetts’s American Heritage Museum.

The French biplane reportedly suffered loss of engine-power while on approach to the museum’s airfield, touching down with sufficient vertical-speed to collapse its undercarriage and sending the aircraft flipping empennage-over-engine-cowling, coming to rest, inverted, at the runway’s end.

A museum spokesperson reported the biplane’s pilot, the machine’s sole occupant, escaped the incident without injury and was able to extract himself from the wreckage without assistance. Medical teams nonetheless precautionarily evaluated the pilot.   

Shortly before 11:10 EDT on Sunday, 17 September 2023, the Stow Police and Fire departments received reports of an airplane having gone down near Barton Road in the vicinity of the American Heritage Museum.

No further information pertaining to the event is currently available.

Deriving of a successful line of sesquiplane—biplanes having one wing of less than half the area of the other—fighters that included the Nieuport 17, the Nieuport 28 C.1 was a lightweight, highly-maneuverable French fighter-plane of the First World War. Notwithstanding the model’s relative robustness and capability, its existence and the role it played in the Great War are overshadowed by the SPAD XIII, which was chosen to equip the French escadrilles de chasse of the Aéronautique Militaire (fighter squadrons of the aeronautical military).

A shortage of the aforementioned SPAD aircraft in 1918 occasioned the issuance of Nieuport 28 C.1 fighters to American pursuit squadrons fighting in Europe. Nieuport 28s saw considerable post-war service. Fifty such airplanes built during a late-war production run were shipped to America, where they were put to use by U.S. Army and Naval forces, as well as civilian concerns. The type appeared in numerous early Hollywood films.

Weighing only 1,047-pounds empty, the Nieuport 28 C.1 was powered by a single 160-horsepower, air-cooled, nine-cylinder Gnome Monosoupape 9N rotary engine driving a two-blade, fixed-pitch, wood propeller. The aircraft had a maximum speed of 107-knots and a surprisingly lofty 17,400-foot service-ceiling. By way of armament, the Nieuport 28 C.1 sported a pair of .303 caliber Vickers machine-guns.

Regrettably, the specimen belonging to the American Heritage Museum and lost on 17 September was the only airworthy non-replica Nieuport 28 C.1 in existence. From the 1930s through the 1960s, the aircraft was owned by Frank Tallman and Paul Mantz of Tallmantz Aviation, under whose stewardship it appeared in a bevy of Hollywood films. In 1968, the venerable biplane was sold at auction to famed race-car driver Jim Hall for a then princely $14,500. The aircraft underwent a two-year restoration in Sebbarp, Sweden before passing into the ownership of the American Heritage Museum—officials of which have stated their intention to rebuild the iconic flying-machine.

FMI: www.americanheritagemuseum.org

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