Mr. Evans’ Biplane

Although it isn’t clear how William Evans met Dr. William Greene, Evans was one of Greene’s first customers and was on site in Rochester when his plane was packed for transport.

Evans’ plane was described by the Rochester Post Express as the “first locally built flying machine.” [1. “Rochester’s First Plane,” Post Express (Rochester, NY), 9 August 1910, p. 8]  “The machine was built from first to last in Rochester,” the paper reported, “every part of the superstructure and motor being a Rochester product except the rough castings and the rough lumber and covering.  The work was done by Rochester men who have already completed the parts for two other machines which are to follow the first in short order.  Dr. William Greene built the biplane from his own designs at his Belmont street shops and the motor was supplied by the Elbridge Engine company.  Most of the carpentry work was done by former students of the Western New York Institute for Deaf-mutes under the guidance of Dr. Greene and Mr. Stafford, a University of Pennsylvania student, who is assisting the designer this summer.”

The paper described the plane as being similar in design to a Curtiss aeroplane, “but with a different style of front and rear control, with Dr. Greene’s own inventions for maintaining lateral stability in the air.”  The plane was similar in size to Eugene Ely’s machine, “but designed to have greater lifting capacity and to carry greater supplies of gasoline and water.”

Evans, said the paper, was anxious to get the plane home and would have tested it in Rochester, but “when Whipple Hall, one of the aviators who was here at Crittenden park, expressed his admiration for the biplane and its construction, Evans decided to take no risks around here in his experiments, but to seek wider spaces where there are fewer chances of hitting obstacles before he had learned the full control.”

I have not found evidence of a patent for the Greene biplane, and I have only seen one or two other photographs of the plane aside from the Skidmore Punkin Show pictures.  This report from the April 1910 Philadelphia Inquirer [2. “Greene’s Biplane a Success,” Philadelphia Inquirer, 10 April 1910, p. 4] described Greene’s first aeroplane like this:

MAIN PLANES – These measure 29 feet spread by 4 feet 7 1/2 inches fore and aft, spaced 4 feet 7 inches apart.  This big cell divides into five sections by simply unfastening wires and strut sockets.  At each lateral extremity there is a vertical surface, as in the Voisin machine, with two others at the next inner struts, respectively.  Each lateral beam is in 5 pieces, the logest of which are 6 feet.  These are of solid spruce.  All the struts are laminated, as are also all ribs.  The struts are very small, fish-shaped, measuring but 3/4 inch by 1 5/8 inches.  There are four layers of wood, stained mahogany and varnished.  The ribs have each three lammae, except those which come at the five sectional divisions, which are somewhat heavier.  Single layer cloth is used underneath the ribs.  At the section points the cloth is laced to the big ribs.

OTHER SURFACES – About 10 feet to the rear of the main cell is the tail.  This has two vertical surfaces about 18 inches fore and aft by 36 inches high, spaced 6 feet apart.  At a central point between these is a fixed horizontal surface 6 feet wide by 3 feet fore and aft.  On top of this is a vertical rudder 18 inches fore and aft by 42 inches high.  About 11 feet in front of the main cell is the horizontal rudder, 9 feet spread by 28 inches fore and aft.

POWER PLANT – A rebuilt Curtiss 8 cycle air-cooled engine, rated at 40 horsepower and similar to that used in the June Bug, drives direct a 6 foot Greene two-bladed propeller.  Instead of 8 carburetors, manifolds have been attached to the motor so that but two carburetors are used.  The weight with-out any accessories, except timer, showed on the scales 165 pounds.  The propeller gave 230 pounds push at 1260 revolutions per minute.  Ignition is by battery and coil.  The upper and lower surfaces are cut away at the rear to make room for the revolution of the propeller.

MOUNTING – The whole machine rests on two 20-inch wire wheels in combination with two skids, fitted with spring shock absorbers.

CONTROLS – The front rudder is operated by pushing forward or pulling back on a rod, the rear vertical by turning the steering wheel in the generally accepted way.  On the wheel are gas throttle and spark cut-out.

STABILITY – This is inherent in the surfacing, it is claimed, the ‘side curtains’ adding thereto and preventing too much skidding.

William Evans purchased the next generation model, which was equipped with an Elbridge Featherweight four-cylinder engine, in August 1910.  That aircraft’s engine, also made locally in Rochester, was described as weighing “about 167 pounds and developing between 40 and 60 horsepower.” [3. “Rochester’s First Plane,” Post Express (Rochester, NY), 9 August 1910, p. 8]  Evans’ later flights in Overland Park, Skidmore, Kansas City, Larned, and the southeast were all made with the Greene biplane and Elbridge engine.