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Aviation for Dummies: 1946

Aviation for Dummies: 1946

January 16, 1946. "Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy." 4x5 acetate negative by Hollywood Pictorial Photos, 1558 N. Vine Street, phone Hillside 4121, and now part of the Shorpy Publicity Department archive. View full size.


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But where ...

can we locate the airport in question? Or is that a silly question?

[My guess is Burbank. -tterrace]

Thanks TTerrace, so then it must have been the Lockheed Air Terminal, as it seems to have been named at the time (1940–1967).

Family trauma??

Charlie's probably wondering if he's related to the propeller.

N3N and a hand crank

First, the biplane in the background is an Ex USN N3N-3. The engine is cut off by the edge of the photo, but the fairing on the front of the fuselage does give it a 504 looking aspect. The N3N-3 was a primary trainer designed to be easily convertible from wheels to floats to skis at need. There are quite a few left in the world.
It's obviously a staged shot. Edgar is holding the prop inboard enough not to risk actually turning it (safer for long technical reasons relating to magnetos and wiring). Had there been a real need to start it without the benefit of battery, there is a hand cranked inertia starter (heavy flywheel with lots of gearing and a clutch) onboard. The crank hole is on the other side of the cowling

The Brace

Actually it's a rollover pylon, meant to protect the head and neck in case of nosing over on the ground. Many a life has been saved by that simple steel cage. They're standard fittings especially on trainers of that era - Texans/Harvard and the PT-19/Cornell series pictured here.

That PT-19 wasn't Bergen's only aircraft. His earlier Fairchild 24 is on display at Seattle's Museum of Flight.

The Thing

That's a bracket to hold the front end of the radio antenna. That airplane is pretty much up to date. Only HF, though. VHF took some time to get into the civilian world.

Addendum: Looks like that thing has several uses. Nice engineering! ;-)

That Bracket

What is that brace-like device behind the front cockpit for? Sure there's a Shorpy follower that can answer that.

Thanks for those quick replies! My off-the-wall guess was a bracket for suspending the aircraft from a dirigible, an idea that I think was considered then quickly forgotten

I'm trying to figure out

the biplane in the background. The nose looks something like an Avro 504, but the fuselage shape doesn't line up with that so well.

Say again your last transmission

In later years, Bergen would get on the radio with the tower, first as Bergen, then as Charlie McCarthy, then as Mortimer Snerd, then back as Bergen.

My favorite story, as Bergen told Tom Snyder was the conversation that went:

"You hired a ventriloquist? For the radio? He better be good!"

I'm not moving

until you put a parachute on me too!

Unsafety First

He's doing a propping (to start) the airplane pose, with the leg swing, but you don't hook fingers over the back edge of the prop lest you lose them on a backfire, and you use both hands, particularly with that horsepower.

He is, however, unlike the famous Shorpy photo, turning the engine the right direction.

You'd normally also untie the wing ropes but leave the tailwheel rope on, to keep the plane from moving in case the throttle linkage has broken. The power defaults to full power if the linkage breaks.

Without Irony

I'll note that it took a special talent and personality to be a ventriloquist with a successful radio career.

You can listen Bergan here:

Eisenhower's Men

Having survived a nasty fight with Mein Fuehrer and his Nazi thugs, my dad and his buddies left Europe and sailed for America. Back in the States after the war, they pooled their money, acquired a surplus PT-19, and barnstormed through the Missouri Ozarks flying in and out of farm fields and county fairs.

By the mid-1950s, they had become family men. The
well-used plane, hangared in a very old leaky barn, was slowly being reclaimed by Mother Nature. By 1960, it had made a last flight into the dustbin of history.

"Eisenhower's Men" lived on through the 20th century,
with both tragic and wonderful stories and smiling faces.

Fairchild PT-19

The plane was likely purchased from war surplus.

AOPA is a must

I never knew that Bergen was a pilot. So this must be his plane.

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