Wright Aeronautical – Paterson, NJ – in the 1927/1928 time period
No reproduction or copying of any image without the direct permission of the estate of Tom Rutledge.Photos from the estate of Tom Rutledge, who is credited with building Lindbergh’s J5. Tom worked at Wright Aeronautical in Paterson starting in 1926 as an engine builder. In the thirties he moved on the larger Curtis Wright facility in Fairfield NJ, and later progressed into management at the Lockland/Curtis Wright facility in Cincinnati during WWII. Included is a letter dated 25-May-1927 congratulating him on his involvement with the Lindbergh engine. Note the creases in the letter, it apparently resided in his billfold for a period of time before finally being framed (in true mechanic fashion). Tom came into possession of several important photos of the time period, including a view of the engine assembly line showing J-5C’s being assembled – Tom is pictured second from the right in one picture. Additional photos of the sub-assembly and parts areas give an idea of the overall operation at the Wright facility at the time. These are the pictures that were shared with the PBS History Detectives episode.
Additional tidbits related to Clarence Chamberlin
Tom (and sometimes our father) were volunteer groundmen at fields Chamberlin flew near northern NJ in the early 20’s. One of the planes he flew was a surplus Sopwith Camel. The most interesting story our father retold (later confirmed by our uncle) is he would take aerial photographs over NYC, including pictures at night of fires for newspapers. He would do so by strapping a camera to his lap, take off at dusk (from about where Newark Airport is today) and fly over NYC in search of a suitable fire. Once there he would flip the Camel over, take the shot, and then right the plane. No explanation is required to what would happen to the engine if the plane remained inverted very long. Upon return, being dark, he would navigate by moonlight (not many lights in northern NJ in the early 20’s). When the brothers would hear the distinctive sound of the engine they would hurry to my uncles Model ”T”’ start it up, turn on the lights, and line up alongside a drainage ditch in the field. Clarence would site this as his landing area and come in. He loved to cut the engine early and glide in, getting as close to one of his “helpers” in the quiet of the night as he could.
Source: Reprinted with permission from the estate of Tom Rutledge
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