The FAA record for this airplane identifies it as a four-place aircraft manufactured February 25, 1928, with an empty weight of 1,870, and a gross weight of 3,300 pounds. It left the factory with a Wright J-5 AB engine (S/N 8252) of 220HP. It carried a wooden propeller, a Hamilton #821. It was originally registered March 6, 1928 by the B.F. Mahoney Aircraft Corporation.
According to the bill of sale, Mahoney sold NC4398 to P.De C. Ball of St. Louis, MO on March 1, 1928. Ball's expressed purpose for his use of the airplane included, "Business trips in furtherance of the business of ice cold storage and refrigerating machinery, baseball and for recreation."
Ryan NC4398 landed at Tucson
twice, on February 19, 1929 and March
1, 1929. Both times it was piloted by Frank T. Dunn carrying
passengers Capt. H. Young and Phil De C. Ball (the registered owner). Dunn's home
base was given as St. Louis, MO (the address where the airplane was registered). From the maintenance records, Mr. Ball owned, operated and maintained the airplane for a number of years. The inspection report for 1930 specifies that he had installed new Aerol struts, new shock absorbers, new control cables, and new fabric and dope on the fuselage, wings and flight control surfaces. As of May 2, 1932, the Ryan had accumulated 623 hours and 15 minutes of flight time. It wasn't used much during the next six months, because the total flight time recorded as of November 9, 1932 was 624 hours. A Hamilton steel adjustable propeller was installed as of May 19, 1933. On August 5, 1933 Mr. Ball transferred the airplane to Harry E. Homeyer of St. Louis, MO.
The inspection report of May 17, 1934 records 703 hours and 45 minutes of accumulated flight time; on May 13, 1935, 871 hours and ten minutes. Homeyer was using the airplane well. As of March 30, 1936, the airplane had accumulated 1,140 hours and ten minutes. Homeyer replaced the original terneplate right fuel tank with one fabricated from aluminum (saving about 15 pounds in weight), and replaced the vertical stabilizer, rudder and elevators with used ones from Ryan B-1 NC5551 (not a Register airplane). The fuel tank construction was documented neatly in the record as below. Note that the design and work were signed off by Department of Commerce (DOC) inspector "W. Faulkner" (right, center).
NC4398, Fuel Tank Construction, March 30, 1935 (Source: FAA)
On March 1, 1937, Homeyer sold NC4398 to the Brayton Flying Service, Inc. at Lambert-St. Louis Municipal Airport, Robertson, MO. When Brayton had it inspected on May 21, 1937, it had accumulated 1,622 hours of flight time. Brayton turned the airplane around and sold it for $1,395 to Arthur M. and Kenneth Soper of East Alton, IL on June 17, 1937. The Sopers paid $600 in cash and provided a note for $795.
The Sopers didn't fly it much, accumulating 1,694 flight hours as of their June 8, 1938 inspection. They sold the airplane to Paul Howell, Jr. of St. Joseph, MO on June 11, 1938. Howell, in turn, suffered an accident with it on July 10, 1938. The left wing spars, fore and aft, required extensive splice repairs. The left lift strut and landing gear required repairs and the left wheel assembly was replaced (ground loop accident?). These repairs were well-documented and diagrammed in the record.
Howell sold NC4398 to Hugh O. Middaugh of St. Joseph, MO on March 21, 1939. Middaugh communicated the sale to the DOC and requested, "... a complete set of Air Commerce Regulations covering Aircraft and Pilot. I would also like to have regulations on how to become a pilot."
Details are in the record. NC4398 suffered another accident on May 20, 1939 at Tarkio, MO. Tommy Ogle (commercial license #9686; not a Register pilot) was flying the airplane. Neither Ogle nor his two paying passengers were injured. The accident report states, "Oleo strut on left side of landing gear came apart immediately after take off. Upon making a one wheel landing aircraft settled to the left side adn on the nose."
Damage to the airplane was described as, "The left landing gear; fittings pulled and also strut separated due to lock nut unscrewing. Damage to fuselage unknown. Induction housing broken, carb. heater broken off, prop. bent at both tips." Pilot Ogle had his license suspended. Probably because he should have noticed the faulty locknut as part of his routine pre-flight inspection. If, in fact, he performed that inspection.
Fast forward now ten years. The airplane record is blank for a decade. On March 15, 1949, the DOC sent a letter to previous owner Howell regarding a lien (for $185) still outstanding on NC4398. The letter was unclaimed and returned to the DOC. No further information.
UPLOADED: 03/25/10 REVISED: 10/06/11, 04/05/12