This aircraft is a Pitcairn PCA-2 autogiro, S/N B-13 (ATC
#410), manufactured in May 1931 by Pitcairn Aircraft, Inc.,
Willow Grove, PA. It came from the factory with a Wright J-6
engine (S/N 12529) of 320HP. It was a three-place craft.
It was purchased on May 12, 1931 by John
McDonald Miller (shown above in the cockpit) of Poughkeepsie,
NY. For liability purposes, I suppose, he incorporated and
sold the airplane on May 14 to Giro Flyers, Ltd. of Poughkeepsie,
of which he was president. Other images of this aircraft are on pilot Miller's Web page.
Image, below, is of the company order sheet for John Miller's purchase 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 12, 1931.
Order Sheet, NC10781
He wasted no time and immediately prepared and flew the aircraft
cross-country from Poughkeepsie on the Hudson River in NY
to San Diego, CA. In fact, we find pilot Miller and his autogiro
in Tucson for the first time on May 28 at 10:09AM, just two
weeks after the ink dried on the original bill of sale. He
was westbound, enroute from El Paso, TX to Los Angeles, CA.
He made it to the west coast, being the first pilot to fly
an autogiro over that route. He remained on the west coast
for a few weeks, and on June 21, 1931 he again landed at Tucson
at 11:45AM and signed the Register. He was eastbound to
El Paso, TX.
At the 1932 National Air Races in Cleveland, pilot Miller
and the autogiro were nearing the end of a demonstration program
when the autogiro was struck by the craft of a fellow show performer. The accident is
summarized on John Miller's Web page,
and won't be repeated here. The aircraft was repaired. Image, below, is of the autogiro after it was damaged. Note the bent propeller, missing rotor blade and broken rotor blade.
Pitcairn NC10781 After the 1932 National Air Race Accident
To my knowledge, this, and an accident involving his Bonanza in Wyoming in 1997 at age 93 (see his biography page), are the only mishaps Miller had in nearly 80 years of flying.
Miller sold the aircraft to John R. Hopkins of Stockbridge,
MA on July 20, 1934. Hopkins kept it for about two years, with
Miller hired to fly it. Hopkins sold it on May 16, 1936 to
Newman Brothers Flying Service, Inc., of Pine Brook, NJ. The
registration was changed to "NR", and the aircraft
was used for crop dusting and spraying. It sold twice more,
keeping the NR registration. It suffered a "hard landing"
on July 24, 1939. It was a hard landing, indeed, since repairs
included a new fuselage, new right wing, new rotor blades,
new ailerons, new elevators, new landing gear, new brake cables,
and the propeller was straightened.
It flew for just two more years. A CAA inquiry in 1940 yielded
no answer from the owner. The file on the airplane and the
registration were cancelled June 12, 1941. Does anyone know
what happened to this aircraft? John Miller claimed that the owner left the autogiro outside without the rotor tied down during a hurricane in Florida and it was destroyed. This was in one of the the Bonanza society articles he wrote, cited in his book listed in the left sidebar. However, there’s no record on the NASM data card (below) of it being in Florida. When I sent a copy of the data sheet to John and pointed that out to him, he said he wasn’t really sure of its fate, but that was what he had heard. Below is the paperwork available from the NASM Archives on
Following is a three-view of the PCA-2:
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 01/16/06 REVISED: 07/05/06, 10/05/09