This summer, the interns are hard at work cataloging the collection in addition to working on a special exhibit project with Curator, Pete Haggland. The interns and the Curator have been working to put together a new small exhibit on Joe Crosson, a significant player in early Alaskan aviation. It was brought to their attention that a jacket belonging to Joe Crosson was donated to the museum by Larry Ostnes of Fairbanks in 2012. The envisioned location for the exhibit and jacket is in the section containing the Post and Rogers cross. It is a fitting space considering Joe Crosson was good friends with Wiley Post and was the one to recover the bodies and plane after the 1935 crash. Crosson also played a significant role in the development of aviation in the Fairbanks area from the 1920s through the 1940s. The rest of the exhibit area will also be updated. It will contain four new color and photo panels with informational text regarding early Fairbanks transportation, Post and Rogers, and Joe and Marvel Crosson . In order to exhibit the jacket properly, the museum will need to construct a custom display case using quality archival material to protect the object in perpetuity while allowing visitors to enjoy the object in connection to the story. We believe this will greatly add to the quality and information presented as part of the display.
We’d like to ask our members and other aviation enthusiasts to consider supporting the museum and our exhibit update by donating time in assisting construction or any financial support for this exciting project. We hope to have this exhibit update installed by the end of the season this summer. Any and all assistance will be greatly appreciated as we continue to make improvements to the collection, exhibition, and overall experience at the Pioneer Air Museum. To make donations or inquire about how you can help, please contact our Curator, Pete Haggland at email@example.com or reach us at 907-451-0037.
The interns are cataloging away and have reached the “Lend Lease” section of the museum. The Lend Lease program was established in 1941 to allow the United States to provide material assistance to our allies in World War II. Ladd Field, here in Fairbanks, was the final transfer point for pilots, aircraft, and support personnel going to the Soviet Union beginning in 1942.
The wreckage at our museum is from two P-39s, a mid-flight crash that occurred just 60 miles east of Fairbanks in route to Ladd Field. Both pilots survived the crash, but the aircraft burned. Our wreckage is from aircraft number 43276. The vertical stabilizer, bottom half of the rudder, wing panels, and cockpit doors are on display in the Lend Lease exhibit.
While cataloging, we discovered a rubber-like substance on the wing wreckage. After some research, information shared by our Curator, and a closer look, we discovered the substance was in fact part of the self-sealing technology used on the fuel tanks of the P-39. This technology was first patented in 1921 to George J. Murdock and used in military aircraft. It was revolutionary technology for the time. A conventional fuel tank would leak, ignite, or explode when hit by gunfire.
Many other chemists were working on developing this technology including Ernst Eger of Uniroyal and Goodyear chemist James Merrill. In 1941, Eger’s patent, published after the war in 1946, was for a “Puncture Sealing Gas Tank”. It utilized a two-layer system of rubber compounds that were encased in a metal outer shell over the wing of the aircraft. By 1942, the War Production Board implemented this technology in the Goodyear produced Corsair fighters and other aircraft of the time, including the P-39. The Fireproof Tanks were made of laminated self-sealing layers of rubber, reinforcing fabric, one of vulcanized rubber and one of untreated natural rubber which absorbed the fuel, causing it to swell and expand, sealing the puncture.
Not all aircraft were fitted with the self-sealing tanks because they were heavier than the non-sealed tanks, potentially limiting maneuverability and flight time. However, the craft with the self-sealing tanks were able to take more enemy fire than those without and sustained far more damage, allowing the pilots to safely return to base. This technology is still used today in modern jet fighters however, modifications and newer technologies have been created to accommodate the higher altitude flying.
This week's blog digs deeper into the history of the Peter Pan plane here at the Air Museum. Blog post by Kirsten Olson.
The 1944 Stinson Reliant, N60924 gullwing airplane, is the Navy version of the Civilian SR10 Reliant from the 1930s. The US Air Corps. version was called the AT19. Stinson Reliants had beenthe plane of choice for Alaskan bush pilots for more than a quarter of a century. This Stinson was owned and operated by Captain George C. Clayton.
Clayton began his flying career as a bush pilot and mail carrier for the Kuskokwim and Yukon River areas in the 1940s. In a letter written in 2002 to Merrill Wien, Clayton recounted the first time he saw the plane, “I remember about 1948 when Clyde McLaughlin arrived in Fairbanks with a sparkling new V77 Stinson Reliant. It had been built in August 1944 and shipped to England to be used in wartime instrument training. With US allied victory over the axis, these war birds were not required and were shipped back to the U.S. Navy at Norfolk, Virginia. They were still crated and sold to civilians who were overjoyed to acquire them for personal or airline use. Many found their way to Alaska. Clyde flew his very little before fate stepped in and took his life.” The plane sat vacant at Weeks Field over the winter and had been vandalized; the radio removed, more than seventy holes poked in the fabric from careless shoveling, and the tires had been deflated in an attempt to steal them. In 1949 Clayton had decided to purchase the plane from the McLaughlin estate and with the help of 17-year-old Merrill Wien the plane was airborne.
The plane, now named “Peter Pan” took Clayton and his family to New York. His wife, Virginia Merrill Clayton, acted as copilot and was quite capable as she had been Clayton’s flight instructor. Their trip began in Bethel, Alaska and ended in Boston, Massachusetts. The family took residence with Clayton’s mother while he studied for his Air Transport Rating (ATR) written examination. On weekends, he flew weekends with a Pan American instructor who also arranged for him to acquire more training at the Pan Am facility. Clayton passed his ATR written exam and later received a multi engine type rating on a DC3.
The family and the Peter Pan were bound for Alaska again. The plane was stored while in 1950 George C. Clayton went to work with Wien Air Alaska for 30 years and retired in April 1980 as a captain on the Boeing 737.
Sketches by Clayton of modifications made to the Peter Pan in 1985.
The Peter Pan has less than 300 flying hours logged and became a permanent fixture at the museum in 2003.
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