Original World War I Nieuport Severely Damaged In Landing Accident

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This past Sunday (Sept. 17) the Collings Foundation’s Nieuport 28 World War I-vintage fighter crashed on landing at the foundation’s home airport in Stow, Massachusetts. The aircraft reportedly suffered a landing gear failure, perhaps after a loss of engine power. It flipped onto its back and was seriously damaged, but the pilot suffered only minor injuries. The accident occurred shortly before 11:10 a.m. local time during the museum’s World War I Aviation Weekend at the American Heritage Museum, according to reports from the Stow Police and Fire Departments.

The Nieuport is not a replica, but a factory-built example that was constructed at a factory outside Paris in 1918. After the Armistice in November of that year, the U.S. government imported about 50 Nieuport 28s to help launch its Army Air Service.

The aircraft later flew in Hollywood during the 1930s in films such as Hell’s Angels and The Dawn Patrol. It was among the collection of movie aircraft operated by legendary film pilots Paul Mantz and Frank Tallman. After being sold at auction in 1968, the aircraft “largely disappeared from public view until 2019, when the American Heritage Museum started the restoration,” according to the museum’s website.

The restoration was completed by Mikael Carlson in Sweden, who found that “much of the original structure was in excellent condition,” according to the website. Likewise, the original nine-cylinder Gnome Monosoupape 9N rotary engine from 1918 was also well preserved and readily overhauled.

The Nieuport was returned to the Collings Foundation and flew in last year’s World War I Weekend. While the damage from the accident is substantial, the largely wood construction of the aircraft lends itself to rebuilding more readily than later, mostly metal aircraft.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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16 COMMENTS

  1. Serious question: Is there a point where these antique aircraft are worth more preserved as original as possible rather than wind up as wrecks or rebuilt from a data plate up?

    • This type of question is similar to another quesiton. “What is something worth? ans: It’s worth what someone is willing to pay”. To an organisation that is dedicated to restoring these museum pieces to fly them, there is no such point ever reached. Contrast that to say, the Smithsonian, which spares no expense to preserve originality in their restorations. They use public money so it would be unethical to risk flying them. Note that this has nothing to do with flying new military aircraft, which is also risky and uses public money. The intent, going in, is different.

    • Their plane, their choice. Honestly I prefer to see living planes rather than unflyable gutted dead ones hung on a wall in a museum.

  2. Collings Foundation’s B-17, Collings Foundation’s Nieuport 28… are they catching pilots on the street? Relics destroyed by great pilots! What a shame. Allan F. Winslow must be rolling on his grave…

  3. Publicly flying these planes makes sense for the same reason one doesn’t just keep a picture of them. You should experience them. Looking at a pickled example in a museum doesn’t acheive that.

    Would you rather see an live animal at a zoo, or a stuffed one?

    • I think the same though every time I see the Jenny hanging in Denver Intl airport. That thing should be flying not hanging

  4. Example: No one would fly a Wright Flyer. When we are down to our last B-17 and finding parts or the skill to make critical parts diminishes at what point does it get parked?

    More of a practical question rather than a property rights or dollar value question. Some of these planes we are down to 1 or 2 flying examples like the Japanese Oscar in Oregon.

    • B-17’s and Wright flyers were “disposable” and made to only last one year at most.
      Why get upset when people decide to preserve and fly them beyond just one season?

      • Nobody’s upset. Just asking the question.

        I had a good discussion from the maintenance chief at Collins for the B-17 at an event before it was lost. He was telling me about the ever increasing difficulty to keep these planes flying. The once rich pool of retired experienced mechanics has dried up along with parts. The expertise was rapidly flying West, and he shared the tipping point is near when it would be a rare sight to see these planes flying.

        Keep’em flying! Doubtful if we see Doc or other WWII birds flying 100 years from now, and probably less.

        • B-17’s were built and maintained by farm hands and housewives. Today, parts (even cylinders) are being refurbished by additive manufacturing. Only hold back is money since, as originally, only a government had enough money to make and fly these things!

  5. I was just watching the movie, The Great Waldo Pepper. The flying in that movie was coordinated by Talmantz. I wonder if this airplane was the one being flown in the movie?

  6. I actually knew someone who owned (and flew once…) a Curtiss model E headless pusher.

    I also know people who own prewar JN4s. They take excellent care of them and fly them to air shows.

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