THE PYOA CONTEST 2ND PLACE STORY
By: Dewey Davenport
On June 28, 2016, I became the caretaker of one of the most important aircraft in the American barnstorming era. In 1927, Ivan Gates, general manager and co-owner of the Gates Flying Circus, the largest flying circus in the world, partnered with Charles Day, one of the best aircraft designers of his day. Charles Day designed the famous Standard J-1 during World War I. Their partnership goal was to build a certified four-passenger open-cockpit biplane for the most popular barnstormers across the country, especially for the Gates Flying Circus. Carrying four passengers at a time would allow the operators to make twice the revenue over the smaller Travel Airs and Wacos of the day. To this day, the New Standard is the only four-passenger open-cockpit biplane ever produced. The New Standard is considered the king of the barnstormers simply because of the job it can do. The lightweight but rugged construction allowed barnstormers to land and take off in rough fields with ease.
Barnstormers introduced America to aviation by the millions during the 1920s and ’30s. Just to experience a short hop around the pattern gave people bragging rights and put them in a status above those around them. Telling the history of my aircraft and barnstorming is like telling a story about your great-grandma or great-grandpa. You’ll have plenty of stories to tell, and they never get old. I tell everyone that NC928V (Full House) was born June 26, 1930, in Paterson, New Jersey. The old red brick factory building is still standing in a now congested inner-city neighborhood. Today, part of the building is a car wash and a used appliance store, and upstairs is a mattress store. During one of my longer overnights in Teterboro, New Jersey, I took a cab over to the old factory building to see where my aircraft was built. I walked around the building looking for any signs of the Standard Aircraft Corp. I could not see anything that would give me the impression of an old aircraft factory, so I walked into the used appliance store and told the gentleman that my aircraft was built in this building in 1930. He looked at me with a blank face and asked if I wanted to buy anything. I told him no thanks and proceeded on my way.
Full House has a 92-year-old past that is hard to ignore when it comes to being a servant to the people. In the early 1930s, Richard Johnson from the Johnson Flying Service out of Missoula, Montana, owned the aircraft for a couple of years. The Johnson family made their mark in aviation out on the West Coast and in the Rocky Mountains. They were the first to start smoke jumping, which are fire fighters who would parachute into areas that would be consumed by fire. In the summer of 1935, National Geographic was doing an exploration along the River of No Return (Salmon River) in Idaho. One of the explorers became deathly sick and needed immediate medical attention. Richard was contacted about the individual, so he proceeded to fly NC928V out to their location to pick up the sick explorer. This was one of the first air rescues ever documented. In the July 1936 issue of National Geographic magazine, you can see a couple of folks loading the sick National Geographic explorer into the front cockpit so Richard Johnson could fly him for medical treatment.
Once Richard sold the aircraft it went through a number of owners and jobs over the many years of service. The barnstorming era started dying off in the 1930s with the onset of regulation and faster and more modern aircraft. In the early ’40s, NC928V was converted into a crop duster for a few decades. Most big barnstorming biplanes of that era lost their job of barnstorming and became hard-working crop dusters throughout the United States from the 1940s through the 1970s. NC928V was no different. In 1983, Mike and Cheryl Hart from Hampton, New Hampshire, purchased the aircraft. In the late 1980s, the aircraft was restored and brought back to its original passenger-carrying configuration. The Harts flew the aircraft out of Hampton Airfield for many years, from the 1990s until I purchased it in June 2016.
I own and operate Goodfolk & O’Tymes Biplane Rides near the Dayton, Ohio, area. I have a historical 1929 Travel Air 4000 (NC455N) that is named Ace and the 1930 D-25 New Standard (NC928V) that I named Full House because it can carry an entire family at once. Full House was designed and built to be a barnstormer biplane, so 92 years later, that is exactly what it is doing. Since I have owned the aircraft, I have flown nearly 5,000 people in the front cockpit. It has brought smiles to thousands of people of all ages. We have flown folks who have only dreamed about getting in an open-cockpit biplane due to their disabilities. Full House has barnstormed in Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, and other surrounding states, sharing the love of flight and freedom in a piece of history. We have flown to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh twice, and even flew in the EAA air show in 2019 to highlight the antique vintage portion of the show. We have hopped rides out of farmers’ cornfields in Ohio; we have chased county fairs across states; and we have stopped at tractor shows, balloon festivals, and so many other events. Today, Full House and I work together to be one of the most popular modern-day barnstormers in the world. With only eight New Standards existing today, it is our obligation to continue with the tradition of barnstorming. I know Charles Day and Ivan Gates would be proud