Summer is a great time to visit the Finger Lakes Region of New York. There’s plenty to do and certainly an ample number of world class wineries to visit. If the menfolk get bored with visiting the wineries, there’s the Glenn Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, NY which holds a lot of history for those of us who are interested in machines from bicycles, to dirigibles, to motorcycles, and then to airplanes. Glenn Curtiss was involved in all of these things and because of him, our modern aviation industry had it birth right here in Hammondsport, NY.
I can never pass up looking at Glenn Curtiss’s V8 powered motorcycle in which he set a speed record of 136 mph in 1907 – the year that my father was born. When I was growing up on a farm in Ohio in the late forties and early fifties, a single speed bicycle was my only means of transportation and I used to dream about having a Whizzer Motorbike so I didn’t have to work so hard peddling my bicycle on the gravel country roads in Ohio. But in Hammondsport, NY, Glenn Curtiss had already established himself as the fastest man on earth some fifty years earlier on his V8 powered motorcycle.
The Glenn Curtiss Museum has been newly remodeled with extra space devoted to expanded bathrooms, a larger gift shop, and executive offices on the second floor. But the real attention getter which caught my eye is housed in another building outback: the restoration project of a P40 Warhawk. There were some 13, 700 P40’s produced between 1940 and 1944. They were powered by a 1,150 hp Allison V-1710 – 39 engine. Cruising speed was 308 mph and they were armed with six .50 calbre machine guns mounted in the wings. The aircraft was capable of carrying one 500 pound bomb or six 20 pound bombs, depending upon the mission.
The P40 Warhawk under restoration was purchased in Aug. 2011 by the Museum. In 1943 two P-40’s collided in midair over the Everglades in Florida. The tail of one of the aircraft was completely severed in the collision. The Curtiss Museum paid to have the aircraft excavated from their watery grave in hopes that there would be enough pieces left to make one restored P-40 museum piece. It’s a project that will take many years to complete. The P-40 is a total sheet metal aircraft with tail surfaces and belly tanks made by locally based Mercury Aircraft.
The P-40 wasn’t the fastest or the most maneuverable fighter aircraft of the WWII, but it was well loved by the pilots who flew it.