Intro Lesson– Aviation
John Curran came back to lead another trip, this time threading together a history of aviation technology as pertains to Rochester. From lighter-than-air travel to propellor-driven biplanes to Rochester’s very own Tuskegee Airman, John provided hands-on demonstrations to convey the importance of these events in a memorable fashion.Word of the Day epaulette
(Fr. epaule = shoulder; epaulette = little shoulder)
General Fitz-John Porter, pioneer of balloon reconnaissance, wore epaulettes on his military uniform.Trip
At the club John first asked the riders to inflate a surgical glove with their breath—would it float or fall to the floor? Of course, it fell because it was heavier than air. Early balloonists used lighter-than-air gas (like sulfuric acid mixed with iron filings to produce hydrogen). General Fitz-John Porter used this technology during the Civil War for reconnaissance since it’s easier to see where the enemy is from a high vantage point. At Camp Fitz-John Porter along the Genesee the riders worked together as the ground crew to control our own helium balloon model.
Next we stopped by the western side of the U of R pedestrian bridge where John demonstrated a propellor and wind tunnel such as the Wright brothers developed to perfect their first heavier-than-air flying machine. The propellor was modeled on the windlass, familiar to the Wright brothers because of their bicycle shop!
Rochester’s former airfield is on the site of the current Strong Hospital. We put on our own airshow with balsa wood planes to see who could go the farthest—tricky in a strong wind.
The last stop was the Mount Hope Cemetery where John had discovered the unmarked grave of Theodore Lancaster, Rochester native and Tuskegee Airman. Lt. Lancaster’s body was returned to Rochester at the time of his death in Alaska, but he had no remaining family to pay for a headstone. We planted flowers at the site.
We kept the remnants of one of our balsa wood planes for our trophy case.
Many thanks to John and his sister Pat who put together a fantastic ride, replete with much-appreciated popsicles on a sweltering day.
John’s supplemental photos for the ride are seen here.
This trip was on July 23, 2011
Trip distance: 5.8 miles
Programming time: 4 hours
Participants: Robert “Nick” Heard, Momoh Kamara, Johnathan Shellman, Malik Sturgis, Brandon McClary
Leaders: Shawn Brown, Cappy Collins, John Curran, Pat Curran
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