PITCAIRN PCA-2 AUTOGIRO NC10780
This aircraft is a Pitcairn PCA-2 autogiro,
S/N B-12 (ATC #410), manufactured in April 1931 by Pitcairn
Aircraft, Inc., Willow Grove, PA. It came from the factory
with a Wright J-6 engine (S/N 12528) of 300HP. It had a Hartzell
steel propeller. It was a three-place craft, weighing
NC10780 was sold to George Palmer Putnam, husband of Amelia Earhart, of New York,
NY on May 7, 1931. This
autogiro is the “older” (by a week) sister ship of NC10781 flown
through Tucson by John M. Miller. The long distance contest between these two
aircraft, in the hands of Miller and Earhart, is summarized at pilot Miller’s
link. More details, and two images of Amelia and NC10780, are here.
Image, below, is of the company order sheet for Earhart's acquisition of his cross-country autogiro. Thanks to David Pitcairn for sharing this historic document with us directly from the Pitcairn corporate archives. Note the colors of the aircraft as delivered from the factory on May 7, 1931. This was a very attractive aircraft.
Order Sheet, NC10780
We find our autogiro landing at Tucson on June 10, 1931
at 10:00AM flown by Amelia carrying one unidentified passenger.
They were inbound from Phoenix, AZ and identified their destination
as "Points east". If you followed and digested the links
above, you'll know this probably wasn't a pleasant flight
for Amelia and her passenger. She had just been edged out
of a transcontinental autogiro record by John Miller.
The Beech-Nut Packing Company, Canajoharie, NY, sponsored
Earhart’s early flights with NC10780. She was
not a very careful pilot with this aircraft, taking delivery
from the factory with a minimum of check-out flying and practice
landings. Her inexperience shows up later in the damage history
Below, from friend of dmairfied.org John Underwood, we see NC10780 on the ground at an unknown location on an unknown date. Earhart stands among a group of six men, perhaps reviewing a navigational chart. Note the people around her aircraft, which was a rare item in 1930s airspace. Others stand off-camera right, as evidenced by their shadows.
NC10780, Unknown Date & Location (Source: Underwood)
Among other products, the Beech-Nut company manufactured
Beech-Nut chewing gum, which was supplied in bulk to Earhart
for distribution to the crowds who gathered to witness her
cross country landings. NC10780
was purchased by Beech-Nut on July 11, 1931, and Earhart
continued to fly it for company promotions. It was
painted green (the cream panel remained), with “BEECH-NUT” painted large
upon its flanks. Below is a model of NC10780 in its display
case at the NASM. You can see nicely the rear pilot cockpit,
and the forward cockpit for two passengers. Photo taken by
NC10780 suffered at least two accidents while under Earhart’s
command in Beech-Nut livery. The NASM record alludes
to repairs being made at the factory at the time Beech-Nut
bought it. It is not clear if the repairs were the
result of an accident. These repairs could account, too, for the change in color scheme from the original red (see factory order sheet, above) to green.
The NASM record (see below) is wrong that the autogiro crashed on "July" 12, 1931.
NC10780 crashed on June 12th at Abilene, TX (a day after Beech-Nut bought it). It landed in a parking
lot on top of cars. Although she and her mechanic passenger
were uninjured, pilot Earhart received a formal reprimand
for carelessness and poor judgment from the Assistant Secretary
of Commerce for Aviation. The
second accident, on September 12, 1931, occurred at Detroit,
rotor blades were damaged beyond repair, and the undercarriage
and spars were damaged. It was repaired with new rotors. Earhart, however, continued her voyage with a new autogiro (NC10788) bought for her by Beechnut.
Below, courtesy of the San Diego Aerospace Museum Flickr Stream (SDAM), is a photograph of one of the accidents. It is not clear which, but it looks like the September one, because of the extreme undercarriage damage and the lack of cars underneath it.
NC10780 Crashed, Probably at Detroit, September 12, 1931 (Source: SDAM)
Between 1932 and 1934 ownership of NC10780 passed between two individuals
and their corporate entity, Gyro-Ads., Inc., Howard Beach,
NY (S.S. Pike, President; Frank Saglimbene, Sec.-Treas.). It
suffered an accident at Valley Stream, NY on May 7, 1933
and was repaired. Sometime in 1934 it was sold to Monard
Flyers, Inc., Woodhaven, NY. There is no NASM record
of Monard’s use of the aircraft.
On May 23, 1936, Monard Flyers sold NC10780 to Morton Ingebritsen,
Oslo, Norway. It was exported to Norway in May 1936
under export certificate #E-1923. No further information. Does
anyone know what happened to NC10780?
Below, a photograph of the aircraft from friend of dmairfield.org, John Underwood.
Pitcairn PCA-2 Autogiro, Date& Location Unknown (Source: Underwood)
The NASM record for Amelia's autogiro is as follows:
Her aircraft in three-view looked like this:
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 07/05/06 REVISED: 07/31/08, 10/05/09, 01/21/10, 03/10/10, 05/16/13, 11/23/14