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Thu, Aug 05, 2004

Steve Wittman's Legacy Lives On

But His Hangar Didn't Fare So Well

By ANN Contributor Christopher Armstrong

Steve Wittman's historic hangar, built in 1927, was demolished last spring after it was determined to be dilapidated beyond repair. Sonex Limited principles John and Jeremy Monett led an effort to save the hanger last fall, but its weakened structure made restoration too costly to attempt.

Fortunately for aviation history, a hanger was built on Pioneer Field that resembles the FBO where Wittman operated during his racing days. Inside are racing and cross country airplanes designed, built and flown by Wittman. Several important airplanes occupy the hangar, including Steve's first homebuilt, the Hardly Ableson. This rough airplane was assembled from parts and materials as they became available. It was powered by a Harley Davidson V-twin motorcycle engine which only produced 12-14 horsepower. At age 19, Wittman taught himself to fly in this just barely flight-worthy aircraft.

The hanger is also home for his Pheasant H10 biplane which he used for transcontinental racing flights in the late 1920s. Also in the hanger are Wittman's Buttercup and the prototype Tailwind. Together they show the evolution of his designs to higher and higher levels of performance. They also show features that though now common place didn't exist until Wittman conceived them. His contributions to aircraft design included the flat spring and tapered rod landing gear designs that are now seen on everything from Cessna 172s to Kolb ultralights and the lifting fuselage as used on the Hiperbipe and notched wing roots.
 
In addition to the aircraft are innumerable memorabilia including pictures, parts and the old tool bench, complete with some of the tools that Wittman used in creating his legacy. Anyone who loves the race planes of the 20's and 30's and his high performance homebuilts will enjoy a visit to this and all the other hangers at Pioneer Airport.

FMI: http://www.airventuremuseum.org/flightops/pioneerairport

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