Kinner engines were great engines in their day. Early versions – we call them “Beta Versions” today - began flying on Kinner airplanes in the early 1920s (Amelia Earhart’s first airplane was a Kinner). The company folded in the 1930s but the engines enjoyed a rebirth and served well during World War II, primarily on training airplanes. Alas, age is catching up with them. Parts and mechanics who work on Kinners are dwindling. The relative few still flying inspire an increasingly exclusive cadre of aficionados, much like Edsel owners. The main difference between Kinner and Edsel is the size of the story in the papers when one of them stops running.
The subject line in one of Bill’s emails caught my eye:
“first a vibration, then an explosion, then a forced landing, and then a big smile when i saw my cylinder head and exhaust pipe hanging from my shielded ignition wire”
Having pulled this particular prop through a few times during an “Armstrong” start, I was somewhat interested in what might follow in the email.
That’s the #5 (I think) cylinder hanging below the engine in the middle of a farmer’s field somewhere in eastern Pennsylvania.
Bill again: “This is the third time I had to bring this aeroplane home in a truck....this makes forced landing # 7 mAYBE i SHOULD TAKE UP A NEW HOBBY LIKE WATCHING TELEVISION.....Then when they find me dead they'll say at least he was bored to death.” Bill got a little excited there and started shouting … after a few of these I’d shout too.
Oh my. Should I snitch on Bill about the time his prop caught on fire or the time he landed on the only reasonable clearing to be had (a golf course)?? I dare not. When the Bird is back in the air, I want to be in it with him. I expect there will be some engine work on the calendar before that happens. Hopefully, it'll look more like this:
There are other Kinner stories to be told by those who fret behind them as they go across the clear blue with the distinctive sound of their exhaust. The engine turns relatively slowly in comparison to today’s piston aircraft engines … This video link is of a Kinner mounted on a test stand ... I just like the sound of it:
I have my preferences when starting the engine on Bill’s Bird … set the prop at the desired position (about the 8 o’clock position when facing toward the engine from the front), call for brakes and “contact” (switches on), then steadily pull the prop through while walking away and to the right from the engine … the magneto ignition is equipped with an “impulse” coupling that produces a snap of spark that starts the engine and the ignition will take the prop right out of your hand. I read that from a Richard Bach book and it works for me every time. Of course it helps to have an experienced hand like Bill at the throttle – he likes to keep his idle speed slow. Too fast an idle can get really exciting for the fellow who is hand-propping the engine.
I miss being around Bayport. Old airplanes and old engines fascinate me but those things can be bought and sold. What I really miss is the people who fly them and work on them and bring smiles to passengers and passers-by, young and old. That can’t be bought for any money.
Fly safe ….
For more about Bert Kinner, his airplanes and engines, take a look at: