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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedReplica racer recalls French accomplishment
By Frederick A. Johnsen

French Caudron racer adds a bleu note to AirVenture 2010. Photo by Frederick A. Johnsen

It’s tiny, with a long narrow snout that has been compared to a barracuda, and undersized wings that were made for speed. The glazed canopy looks as if it is too narrow to allow the pilot to shake his head from side to side, so maybe this is an airplane for positive thinkers only.

And it is prominently parked in the Vintage aircraft area at AirVenture 2010.
It’s a time-bending flying replica of the French Avions Caudron C.460 racer that bested the Americans at the National Air Races in Los Angeles in 1936. That was the only year a foreign pilot and plane won the fabulous Thompson Trophy.

EAA member Tom Wathen enlisted Bill Turner, Brian Newman, and Mark Lightsey’s Aerocraftsmen Inc. to build the French flying machine at Flabob Airport in Riverside, California. Some airfields earn a reputation for the kind of aviation they attract. If Chino is home to warbirds, Flabob is the birthplace of a string of golden age racers, of which the Caudron is a recent example.

The replica builders faced daunting challenges because the original Caudron racer was destroyed during World War II, along with the plans and engineering support that created the diminutive French world-beater. With little more than model aircraft drawings to scale up, the builders had to invent all the mechanical systems of the aircraft such as retractable landing gear and the fuel system. The finished product is a tribute to the amazing can-do spirit alive at Flabob and anywhere EAA members meet to dream, and to do.

A Czech inline LOM 337 260-hp engine stands in for the original Caudron’s Renault Bengali, but the effect is time-traveling, pure and simple. The original Caudron posted speeds as high as 268 mph to win the Thompson.

Wathen’s Caudron toured France in 2009, including an appearance at the centennial Paris Air Show. Now it is on view at AirVenture 2010. Just remember when you see the narrow confines, think positive.

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