Sunday, September 09, 2007

Spirit of Carnauba


I've been trying hard lately to make sure I get up in the air at least once a month to keep the rust off, so this morning I headed to Racine, Wisconsin for a pancake breakfast sponsored by the local Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter. What I did not expect was this gorgeous airplane.




In 1935, Herbert F. Johnson Jr. and a crew embarked on an expedition to northeast Brazil. The purpose of this trip was to discover new stands of carnauba palms and whether existing growths could sustain the demand for raw material for Johnson Wax. The model S-38 aircraft was remarkable in its day, flying a number of history-making flights in the 1920s and early 1930s. One of which was Lindberg's 1929 inaugural airmail flight for Pan American Airways from Miami to the Panama Canal. Of the original 100 Sikorsky S-38 planes built, none still exist. This prompted Sam Johnson to have a replica built using the plane's original blueprints. The construction of the replica was done at Born Again Restorations in Owatonna, Minnesota. It took over three and a half years to complete, requiring more than 35,000 man-hours. Upon its its completion, it was christened the Spirit of Carnauba. The S-38 replica has a range of 550 nautical miles. Cruising speed averages 100 miles an hour. The aircraft is powered by two 450 horsepower Pratt & Whitney Wasp Jr. engines. The upper wing spans 72 feet. In fall 1998, Sam Johnson and his sons, Curt and Fisk, embarked on a journey to replicate the original 7,500 mile trip flown in 1935. Their trip took 27 days and concluded successfully in Forteleza, Brazil.




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3 astute observations :

  1. jeffox said...

    Hiya Rich!

    She is gorgeous! Great post, great photos.

    Say, have you ever been up to Superior to see Bong's "Marge"? She's gorgeous, too. Anyway, my 2c.

  2. richmanwisco said...

    I was camping up in Superior and had no idea about that plane. Gives me another reason to go camping up there again real soon. Thx for the comment.

  3. Dominik Strobel said...

    The original plane owned by Johnson was sold and crashed shortly thereafter on a takeoff in stormy weather a bay I don't know where. The builders of the replica actually hired divers to search for the plane so that they could rebuild it. If only they had found the original manufacturer's plate they could have rebuilt the plane around it as the original plane. But as they didn't find it, they had to build the plane as an experimental, meaning, among other things, it cannot be used commercially. I know because I met the guy who did the documentary on the entire project.