100 Year-Old Fokker Takes Flight

Photo via Owls Head Transportation Museum
HF Cub 729

On August 1, the Owls Head Transportation Museum‘s 1923 Fokker C.IVa took to the skies above Owls Head with the help of aircraft volunteers, pilot Brad Carter, and aircraft conservator Dave Carter. This special moment celebrates a century of transportation history in motion. Originally configured as a two-cockpit observation plane, the 1923 Fokker C.IVa has experienced a number of modifications over its long lifetime. In the 1920s it was converted to a passenger carrier in Washington State. One cockpit was removed and four wicker seats were installed in the fuselage, turning it into a passenger compartment. In 1930 it was converted once again, this time to a long-distance competitor with sights set on crossing the Pacific Ocean, traveling from Tacoma, Washington to Tokyo, Japan.
Photo via Maine Momery

When Anthony Fokker designed the C.IV in 1923, he intended for the final product to be adapted to each customer’s needs. For the one fuselage, he designed several different types of wings to be matched to different engines on the market. Over the next two years, almost 200 C.IVs were produced and sold to countries around the world, including the United States, the USSR, Spain, and Norway.

The C.IVa in the museum’s collection has an unusual history. While originally built as a two-cockpit military reconnaissance aircraft, it was converted into a passenger plane with the removal of the rear cockpit to make room for four wicker seats inside the fuselage. Then, throughout the 1920s, it was bought and sold multiple times by adventurers who planned to use it for various endurance flights.

None of these plans came to fruition until 1930 when Bob Wark and Eddie Brown adapted the Fokker to fly from Tacoma, Washington to Tokyo, Japan to win a $25,000 prize. Their primary change was replacing the wicker chairs with a 450-gallon fuel tank. Even with this addition, they planned multiple midair refuelings to cover the 5,400-mile distance.

Photo via Owls Head Transportation Museum

On August 10, 1930, Wark and Brown took off from Tacoma, but encountered trouble less than 200 miles into the flight. A problem with the fuel lines forced them to land at a small airfield near Vancouver, B.C. While Wark was able to land safely, the aircraft had too much fuel to takeoff from the small field. He dumped a majority of the fuel and sent Brown by car to meet him at Ladner Field, which was only a few miles away.

Prepared for a proposed flight from Tacoma, Washington, to Tokyo following the Pacific Rim by pilot Bob Wark and copilot Eddie Brown. 100 miles into the flight engine trouble forced it down at Lansdowne Field, Vancouver. A short hop to nearby Ladner Field resulted in the undercarriage being torn off, ending the whole venture. The aircraft is now preserved at the Owls Head Transportation Museum, Maine. Despite being marked as a Fokker C.5 on the fin, it is a C.IVA. Photo from: Armstrong Spallumcheen Museum and Arts Society via AirHistory.net

Wark managed to safely take off but had more problems at Ladner Field. When trying to land, he overshot the runway, sheared the landing gear off the plane. Instead of repairing the plane there and trying to fly again, the wings were removed and the plane was then driven back to Washington State.

The plane was largely abandoned until the 1970s when Ken Cianchette, a founding trustee at the Owls Head Transportation Museum, discovered it and set about restoring it to flying condition. In 1992, with the restoration nearly complete, Cianchette donated the plane to the Museum and in 1999 made the first flight of the C.IVa in 69 years.

The Owls Head Transportation Museum is a nonprofit educational organization. Its mission is to collect, preserve, exhibit, and operate pre-1940 aircraft, ground vehicles, engines, and related technologies significant to the evolution of transportation for the purpose of education. Home to a world-class operating collection, the Owls Head Transportation Museum (OHTM) features more than 150 antique automobiles, aircraft, motorcycles, bicycles, engines, and more. Located in picturesque Midcoast Maine, the museum offers something for everyone with award-winning exhibits halls, community education programs and a full event season, featuring Wings & Wheels Spectacular and the New England Auto Auction™. For more information, visit www.owlshead.org


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