Porterfield Airplane Club

Keep the Skinny Birds Flying Safely

Sport Flying - 1975, Vol 1, Iss 2 - Porterfield Article


I was cleaning some shelves in a closet and found an issue of Sport Flying that my dad saved. It has an article on the Porterfield Aircraft Company in it.

I remember there being much discussion around the article at our house. I think that the author of the article, Don Pratt, may have contacted my dad about the history of Porterfield. I cannot be sure however as at this time I was just graduating from college and getting my first job.


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Comment by Brett Lovett on June 9, 2024 at 7:02pm

I'm a year late seeing and commenting on this, since I wasn't in the group when it was posted.  It's a very interesting article.  Based on my own research it contains very interesting factual details, and also quite a bit of misinformation.  

A few examples of facts that the article appears to have wrong:  

Wyandotte High School's Aviation Club had 44 members during the school year when the Pup was built.  Aircraft repair and rebuilding, as well as introductory flight instruction, had been a part of the club activities since it was founded in 1928.  

John Fletcher "J. F." Wellemeyer was principal at Wyandotte throughout the existence of the Aviation Club.  Ralph C. Johnson was not principal of Wyandotte until he succeeded Wellemeyer in 1946. 

The Pup was first flown on August 25, 1932, by Ralph Hall.  It was painted white with a darker trim color (probably red, as red and white were/are the school colors).  The license number was X12546, and it was powered with an Aeromarine AR-3 engine rated at 50 hp.  (I've found no record of the Poyer being used on the Pup.  It was however tested on a Rearwin Junior from August to October 1931, and reportedly set a light plane world altitude record of 17,907 feet while powering a Heath Parasol in July of that year.)  The Pup was never owned by Porterfield.  There's no record of a "Bert Ruf" having owned it either.  

Porterfield's prototype was registered X14400, manufactured July 4, 1934, and powered with a 65 hp LeBlond 5D.

There's no such thing as the Porterfield C-90, as Continental wasn't building a horizontally opposed 90 hp model while Porterfield was in business.  I also can find no evidence of an LP-75 model.  

Of course research of printed period information such as newspapers and the CAA/FAA files has in some ways become considerably easier in the computer age, and history from memory and word of mouth ia prone to errors.  

An interview with the author of this article, Don Pratt,  was included in the book "Aviation History in Greater Kansas City," one of my earliest introductions to the subject.  I had assumed him to have been an older gentleman who lived through and personally experienced much of Kansas City's aviation history, who was no longer around when my start in aviation began in the mid 1980s.  However in looking for more information about him, I found that he was only 45 when he passed away in June 1976, not long after this article was written.  

I'm very interested in the Wyandotte Aviation Club and the Pup.  The club appears to only have continued for an additional year after the Pup was complete. There are multiple possibilities as to what may have contributed to its demise, but it seems to have simply ended without explanation.  The Pup was indeed owned by Edwin Jackson (the 4th and final registered owner).  The Aeromarine AR-3 had been replaced by a 45 hp Szekely before he bought it.  The Aeronautics Branch (of the Department of Commerce) authorized him to operate it with an "unlicensed identification mark"* until July 1, 1936 (about 1 1/2 months after he bought it).  The paperwork shows he requested it be recorded with a Restricted License, but he failed to provide the required information of the purpose for which it was to be used.  There's also no record that he ever had the aircraft inspected for the restricted category license.  Because of this the authority to operate the aircraft expired and the registration was cancelled on August 6.  What actually became of the aircraft seems to be a mystery.  I've heard rumors over the years of it somehow ending back up at Wyandotte High School and being stored there for many years, which seems unlikely.  Perhaps Jackson did wreck it as Pratt wrote, but because of all the other errors in the article I'm skeptical without additional evidence.  Jackson was later the manager of the area's Heart of America airport and died of a heart attack in 1974.  

*From what I can find, at the time the Aeronautics Branch allowed operation under an "unlicensed identification mark" (number only on the aircraft with no leading "N" or "X").  As such it was not to be flown interstate commercially, nor by a licensed pilot carrying persons or property for hire.  It appears that individual states could also prohibit flight of unlicensed aircraft. 

Comment by Tom Porterfield on April 18, 2023 at 12:25pm

Thanks Bill

Comment by Steve Ahrens on March 12, 2023 at 7:35am

Awesome! Thank you so much for Sharing Bill!

Comment by Andy Gelston on March 7, 2023 at 12:14pm

Great article on the history of the Porterfields, Bill! Thank you!

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