SI Vault
October 20, 1958
Eastward, Ho!
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October 20, 1958

Events & Discoveries

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They said it couldn't be done, couldn't be done, couldn't be done. They were talking, you see, about the Custer Channel Wing-5, an airplane. And they meant it couldn't fly. Well, never mind about them. The Custer Channel Wing-5 can fly, and Mr. Willard R. Custer was showing us movies the other day that proved it.

Not only can the CCW-5 fly, Mr. Custer was spieling, but it can fly 11 miles an hour or 200 miles an hour, depending. And it will take off in a span of 90 feet. Just the thing, said Mr. Custer, an energetic man of 59, for contract-jumping football coaches who would be off and away at the 30-yard line. Mr. Custer slowed down to 11 mph to introduce his partner in Channel Wing airplanes, Mr. Joe W. Frazer. Mr. Custer, who quit school at 13 and formulated the channel-wing principle in 1939, has never made anything before this except horseshoes for his father, a blacksmith in Hagerstown, Md. Mr. Frazer has made all manner of things, including Jeeps and Kaiser-Frazer cars.

Mr. Custer was showing his movies in Mr. Frazer's East Side Manhattan apartment. Mr. Frazer's walls are heavy with sconces and paintings, and his bookshelves contain Wines of France and the poems and plays of W. B. Yeats. "Mr. Custer told me his organizational problems and I decided to help," said Mr. Frazer, easing himself into a brocade chair.

Certainly, Mr. Custer's problems were manifold. "They've been calling me a darned fool for 19 years," he said with feeling. "When I was a young man, I saw the wind one day blow the roof off a barn. The good Lord never built a runway for a barn roof, I told myself, and for 14 years I scratched my head trying to figure out how He got that roof to fly. Then one day I realized He had shot the wind over the roof rather than shooting the barn down a runway. That's what the channel wing does. Brings the wind to the wing instead of the other way around. So I mortgaged the house and started designing."

The channel wing Mr. Custer invented looks like a U, or like one of the horseshoes he used to make. The engines face the rear and draw "tornadoes" of air over the barn roof—over the wing, rather. Up goes the CCW-5. "The Civil Aeronautics Administration told me it wouldn't fly," said Mr. Custer, "and when it did they said I had to put more wing on it. I did but it's just for looks. The CCW-5 is the greatest advance in aviation since the Wright Brothers," said Mr. Custer, and he pounded his fist in his palm. "You'll see."

Whatever it is, early next year everybody will see, for the CCW-5 will go into production in Canada. The custom Custer wings will be attached to the conventional fuselage of a Bauman Brigadier, and fitted with two 160-hp Continental engines. "The whole thing will sell for $55,000," said Mr. Frazer, returning from a long long-distance telephone call. "But it will outperform comparably priced private planes, I'll tell you. Why just imagine," continued Mr. Frazer with growing enthusiasm, "a fisherman can put pontoons on his CCW-5 and set her down on any little lake. Just think, a hunter can put skis on his CCW-5 and bag himself a timberwolf. This thing," said Mr. Frazer as Mr. Custer nodded vigorous assent, "will be the Jeep of the Air!"

Green Ace

A golf ball Tex had never seen;
He thought it looked like fun.
He wiped his favorite iron clean
And shot a hole in one.

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