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"Project Re-Buc"

1937 Berkeley "Super Buccaneer"
Rebuild Project Session #1

By Tommy Gray
AMA 17063

"Origin of the Bird"

In the year 1956 or so, I was visiting one of our older flying club members and saw over in the back of his shop, a very large plane that was in very bad shape and did not look like much was left.  I asked if I could look at it and he said "Sure".  When I got back to where it was, I noticed a large strange looking engine on it that had a real spark plug on it and not a glow plug like I was used to.  When I asked what kind of an engine it was, he said "That thing is  a "Super Cyclone", and it is pretty old. I said, "Wow that thing is great!!"  At that point I asked him how he flew it and he said "That thing is a free flight plane with no controls.  You just fuel up the engine and let it go. I built it about 8-10 years back".  That was amazing to me having flown at that time only control line planes or what we called "U-control" or "Ukie" for short.  I asked how it got cracked up and he jokingly told me the story.  It seems that he and a friend wanted to fly the thing, but the largest place in town without trees was the fairgrounds parking lot.  (It was about a city block square, with buildings all around it on the perimeter.  We regularly flew U-Control out there, and even used it for a contest or two.)  When the carnival came to town, they would setup in the center open area.  They took the plane out and got off to one side of the property, and fired up the old Super Cyke.  He said it roared to life, and neither one of them having ever flown free flight, they took a chance and turned it loose, not knowing what to expect. It got about 3 feet off the ground and leveled off, not gaining any altitude at all after that. 

By the time it had traveled to the other side of the lot it was moving out at a fair clip, and heading straight for the exhibit building.  The building had two large doors on it, one of which was closed.  The plane headed straight for the open door with them running quickly behind it.  When it reached the door, the wing was promptly and maliciously sheared off and broken into pieces, and with the engine still screaming, the fuselage careened off into the darkness of the building until it struck something stopping the engine and leaving the remains of the plane on the floor.  They quickly ran inside and gathered up the remains and left as fast as they could, as they did not have permission to be there in the first place.  The pieces were dumped into the back of James's shop until I found them there in about 1956.

The plane was in shambles.  The wing was in four or five pieces, the nose was broken off the fuselage, and there was no rudder or fin at all.  A lot of the stabilizer ribs were also missing.  The wheels were large solid rubber jobs with wooden hubs.  The plane was a real mess to say the least.  Even in its condition, I fell in love with it.  I asked him what he was going to do with it and he said, " you want that piece of junk?"  I said "Sure", and he said "Get that garbage out of my shop and it is yours".  Needless to say it never spent another night in his shop.  You should have seen me trying to carry all those parts on my bicycle.  I must have made five trips that day, but got it all!

"Rebuild Number One"

It sat in a prominent place in the back of my dad's shop where I built most of my planes until 1960. I finally out of boredom, having just come from the 1960 AMA NATS and without much to do, decided to rebuild it.  I rounded up every piece of 1/8" balsa I could find, and started cutting ribs.  I managed to get one of the old ones out without breaking it as the old glue was about gone.  I used it for a template and made enough ribs to put it back together again, which I did over the next couple of weeks.  I used most of the old wood, which is still in there until this day.  Once the wing was done, and ready to cover, I started repairing the fuselage.  It was not too bad.  I just had to patch a few stringers, put the nose back on, and replace some sheeting and it too was done, with the Super Cyclone still sitting prominently in the front of the nose.

The stab and rudder were another story.  Every one of the stab ribs was a different size due to the taper of the leading edge, and a ton of then were missing.  I finally by trial and elimination got them made up and glued in.  The rudder had only the bottom rib left, so I had no outline, nor anything else to go by.  I took a large sheet of butcher paper and penciled in an outline of what I thought it should look like.  I built it and put it on the plane and surprisingly enough, it was not too far off, and stayed on the plane until its R/C Conversion in the mid 70's. When I started that rebuild, I found a picture of the old Super Buc and rebuilt the rudder to make it "Legal"   I could not afford silk like I covered most of my other planes with, so I went down to my dad's hobby shop and talked him out of a few sheets of some heavy silkspan, and that is what I covered it with.  I got my dad to let me use his paint gun and I sprayed it with some left over lacquer he had in the shop.  Looked great to me. When I look back at what it really liked in some old pictures my mom had it was pretty rough!!  To me however, it was a thing of beauty.  Oh Well!

Since it was powered by an ignition engine which I had no ignition hardware at all for (most of it went flying into the abyss of the exhibit building the day it was crashed, and was never found), and since there was not enough room to fly free flight in our area, it never flew except when I would take it out and glide it down the hill in front of my house from time to time, running close by so as to catch it and prevent damage. I didn't do anything else with it until I had moved to South Texas in the early 80's and joined an R/C club. 

"Rebuild Number 2"

By that time I was an accomplished R/C pilot and had a lot of planes I had built and flown.  About that time, I started wanting to rebuild the old Super Buc again.  It was back in Louisiana in the shop, and was getting pretty rough.  The covering had rotted, and a lot of the Ambroid glue joints had come apart from the heat and the dry environment in the shop, not to mention the years of neglect.  Undaunted, I took it down cleaned off all the old covering, and glued everything back together.  This time, I added R/C capability to it and stuck a new R/C engine on it with throttle control. I think it was an old O.S. .60 engine of some sort, if I recall correctly.

I covered it this time, with some Super Coverite Fabric and gave it a nice Sig dope paint job. It was white with Dark Red trim.  I flew it for many years like that and when I moved back to Louisiana in the mid 90's it got damaged while transporting it and once again sat in the back of the shop. 

Rebuild Number 3

I took it out in mid 2002 and after a third rebuild, I flew it again and it still flew great.  This time it was painted white with insignia blue trim.  After a couple of years, a visitor at our field, turned his transmitter on, not checking the frequency board, just as I was on final approach and about 100 feet in the air, and since he was closer to the plane than I was, shot me down.  The wing was once again broken and the entire nose was torn off again.  Fortunately it landed off the paved runway as I was still over the grass at then north end of the runway when it happened, or there would not have been anything left.

Here are a couple of pictures after Rebuild #3.  When these pictures were taken, I had temporarily stuck an O.S. FS 40 Four Stroke on it for a test. You can also see the Trexler Balloon wheels I had on it at that time.

"Project Re-Buc"

That beings us to today.  for about 4 years now I have been wanting to rebuild it again and put an original ignition engine back on it and fly it in SAM competition.  That is what I am starting to do now, and I am starting the project calling it "Project Re-Buc".  I will document as much of it as I can for you to see in case you are interested, and I hope you enjoy reading this "Re-Buc" blog.

Click on the link below to start your journey through the world of "Re-Buc"!

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