racer adds a bleu note to AirVenture 2010. Photo by Frederick A.
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,