Suzy came back from a conference in Albuquerque, NM and said she had seen an old aircraft on display in the airport there. She took a couple of pictures with her mobile phone, and I was very interested to see (yet again) a piece of American aviation history about which I knew nothing.
The story itself doesn’t seem to involve Albuquerque or New Mexico except as the final resting place of this historic machine. Apparently a Texan car dealer called Ingram met a flyer called Foster and they set up a partnership known as the Pioneer Aeroplane Exhibition Company.
Foster essentially built a copy of a Curtiss pusher biplane. Some of the components came from mail order supply houses, and some were custom built. The machine was sufficiently robust to warrant building four more. However business in the form of exhibition flights dried up and soon Ingram was left with one serviceable machine. He packed it up in 1916 and put it into storage. It would stay there for more than 50 years.
In the sixties an aircraft restorer from Texas named john Bowden heard of the machine and bought it from Ingram’s family. The machine was apparently in surprisingly good condition – only the tires had perished – apparently Bowden was even able to start the two-stroke engine. In 1987, Bowden sold the machine to The Albuquerque Museum and City of Albuquerque Aviation Department, where it remains to this day in the Albuquerque International Airport.
Obviously the striking thing for me is the fact that the machine is largely in its original condition. The City of Albuquerque website doesn’t mention how much (if any ) conservation work has been done, but it’s a fascinating piece of history and lovely to see a real relic from the early days displayed anywhere. If anyone can tell me what the New Mexico connection is, please let me know. What we seem to have is a slice of Texas aviation history displayed in Albuquerque. I can live with that.