How the only surviving Hamilton Metalplane just happened to float by…

Mid-Summer 2013 #9 by rdonovan
Mid-Summer 2013 #9, a photo by rdonovan on Flickr.

Back in July, in between meetings, I just happened to note a rather curious site. A plane. But rather than flying past, it was sailing north on Lake Washington on barge. Luckily I had my 400m lens on the camera and was able to capture it as it floated past. I then started some research…and quite an interesting story developed!

I found the plane from its registration number NC-879H. It turns out it is a 1929 Hamilton H-47 Metalplane (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamilton_H-47). It was one of the first all metal aircraft ever made. These aircraft helped Northwest Airlines start commercial air service as well as pioneered air mail delivery within North America. This particular example is the only flyable H-47 still around. This particular aircraft was originally sold to the Ontario Provincial Air Service as a floatplane as CF-OAJ. After cycling through several owners, it was lying unused in Alaksa by 1947. In 1951, Northwest Airlines Captain Harry McKee and a band of volunteers backed by the airline itself acquired the aircraft, took it to Minneapolis, and began restoring it – a process which was never completed. Jack Lysdale bought the aircraft in 1972 and restored it to fully airworthy condition, where it flew until 1978 and was subsequently placed in storage again. The aircraft was sold at the Barrett-Jackson collector car auction in early 2010 to Pole Pass Airways and is flown by Seattle property developer Howard S. Wright. During recent years, it has made several airshow appearances including Oshkosh in 2010. Now, under Pole Pass’s ownership – the aircraft is being restored to its original floatplane status and being matched with a pair of vintage Edo floats at Kenmore Air (which explained its journey up Lake Washington by barge).

It will be exciting to see this aircraft back in its original form gracing the skies of the Pacific Northwest.

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