Friday, June 1, 2012

75 Years of Silvaires

There isn't a story of major historic significance behind today's photo, but I found it intriguing anyway. NC45449 is a Luscombe Silvaire, and the fact that it is on floats caught my eye when I was going through a stack of photos at an antique store recently. Luscombe began building the Model 8 in 1937, and with the introduction of the deluxe model 8C in 1940 came the name "Silvaire".

Luscombe went out of business in 1949, but the tough little two seat aircraft had developed an extremely devoted following, and additional airframes have been produced by successor companies over the years, and even today, 75 years later, there are still efforts to build more, the most recent being Renaissance Aircraft, who are aiming at the FAA's Light Sport Aircraft category. As a means of personal transportation, the Silvaire is appealing: at 6,000 feet and 75% power, the Silvaire turns a respectable 128 mph while burning a mere five gallons an hour. Add a 44 mph stall speed and a 600 foot takeoff roll, and you have a whole lot of fun!

As for the plane in our photo, there's no trace of the registration number that I can find (that number is currently held by a CE150). There is, however, an intriguing reference to the Orlando Aviation Country Club, which appears to have been in existence from about 1945 through 1950, in the April 9, 1985 edition of the Orlando Sentinel. In an article about adventurer/photographer Tom Turner  IV and his participation in a polar expedition long with Sir Edmund Hillary and Neil Armstrong, the paper gives a bit a background on Turner's father, Tom Jr.: "After the war, Tom Turner Jr. launched the Orlando Aviation Country Club on Winter Park's Lake Killarney. 'We had a lot of fun out there until about 1950 -- people water-skiing behind airplanes, that sort of thing,' he said. 'Fox Movietone came in to shoot a 20-minute film. Paramount, too.'"

It's not at all clear from the photo if it was taken on Lake Killarney or at one of the other many lakes in the region, but one thing is certain: the Google Earth view of Lake Killarney shows a very different landscape, a lake completely surrounded by urban sprawl. Oh for those simpler days when you could get away from it all and waterski behind a Silvaire!

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