SHORT, COLD LIFE FOR VIRGINIA
This aircraft was a Fokker Super Universal, S/N U-801 (ATC
# unassigned), manufactured in February 1928 by the Atlantic
Aircraft Corporation, Teterboro Airport, Hasbrouck Heights,
NJ. It left the factory with a Pratt & Whitney
Wasp engine, S/N 248. It weighed 4,000 pounds.
The NASM record does not list a first sale for NC4453. However
it probably went to the east coast somewhere, because the
homebase was cited as New York, NY in the Register.
NC4453 landed once at Tucson on July 8, 1928 flown by Jack
Frye. He carried three passengers identified as G.E.
Haynes, E. Hitchman and George E. Conklin. They were
southbound from Phoenix to Nogales, AZ. Frye noted
in the Remarks column of the Register, “HOT”.
This airplane had a cantilever wing. It was a “one-only” aircraft
that did not conform to ATC #52. It was sent to the
Antarctic with the Byrd expedition (date not specified, but
it was 1928). It
was named "The Virginia", and flown by Bernt Balchen
(see Balchen with another Fokker, NX4204,
Ford"). All totaled, three of Byrd's arctic exploration
aircraft landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield and are cited
in the Register. They are the "Josephine Ford", the "Stars & Stripes", NC8006, and "The Virginia," NC4453. Below, from the Smithsonian and shared with us by site visitor Jean-Pierre DuPont, is a view of NC4453 after it was painted in Byrd's livery and christened "The Virginia," but before it was transported to Antarctica and had skis installed.
Fokker Super Universal NC4453, "The Virginia," Ca. 1928-29 (Source: NASM via DuPont)
This is an interesting photograph because of the people assembled. There are at least three Navy personnel, on in dress whites at the front of the airplane. I doesn't look like Byrd. There are also two people dressed as cowboys: the man under the propeller and a young boy with his back to the camera, replete with chaps and a six-gun on his right hip.
Next, we find the airplane in Antarctica, below. The person is unidentified and appears to be holding a sack in his left hand and a white cylinder in his right. There appears to be a camera at his feet. Another person stands off camera, left, with only his gloved hand and shovel visible. The airplane is submerged in snow up to the bottom of the fuselage.
Fokker Super Universal NC4453 in Antarctica, Ca. 1928-29 (Source: NASM via DuPont)
Below, from Wikipedia Commons via the Library of Congress, is a photograph of NC4453 in Antarctica. Notice the horizontal stabilizer has been removed from the airplane, and the elevator lies in the foreground.
Fokker Super Universal NC4453 in Antarctica, Ca. 1928-29 (Source: Wiki Commons via DuPont)
The description of the photo at Wiki is as follows, "A Fokker 'Super Universal' aircraft (NC 4453, "The Virginia") of the Byrd Antarctic Expedition at the 'Little America' base camp. Pioneer Bernt Balchen is kneeling in front of the plane with a sled dog. On 7 March 1929 Bernt Balchen, Lt. Harold June, and geologist Laurence McKinley Gould landed with this aircraft near the Rockefeller Mountains to conduct a geological survey. However, during the evening of 14 March a huge gust of wind ripped the plane from its moorings and blew it for 700 m before it crashed on the ice. The crew was rescued a few days later."
The NASM record corroborates this discription, stating NC4453 was destroyed
in Antarctica by a storm ca. early March, 1929. You can see images here of
what the airplane looked like in service with Byrd, and the
remains of it as it rests today in Antarctica. Another image
taken after the storm is here.
April 17, 1929 NC4453 was reported as “totally damaged.”
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 07/07/06 REVISED: 07/17/06, 04/21/10, 03/27/12, 09/30/12