In 1919, the H.& M. Farman Aeroplane Company of France produced the Farman Sport two-place sport and light commercial biplane. In 1922, C.T. Ludington and Wallace Kellett of Philadephia, Pennsylvania, formed the Ludington Exhibition Company as agents for Farman aircraft, and in 1923, they imported their first two Sports. Their pilot flew this aircraft, serial number 15, C-72, in the 1924 "On to Dayton Race," which included flying over the treacherous Allegheny Mountains.
After suffering severe damage in 1928, NC-72's airworthiness certificate was revoked and it languished for years in Pennsylvania and New Jersey until Ken Hyde of Warrenton, Virginia, restored it. C.T. Ludington himself identified the aircraft, allowing Hyde to reclaim the NC-72 registration. This is the last remaining Farman Sport.
Gift of Ken Hyde
Single-engine light biplane
In 1919, the H. & M. Farman Aeroplane Company of France produced the Farman Sport two-place biplane as a safe to fly civilian aircraft. The inexpensive Farman Sport was designed for sport and light commercial use and was intended to replace the obsolescent and inefficient war surplus military airplanes. It displayed excellent performance with the 50 to 60 hp engines.
The fuselage was a wire-braced all-wood structure covered with a thin wood veneer. The wing and tail assemblies were also of wood and were fabric covered. The biplane configuration was a wire braced single bay arrangement in which the top wing was attached to the fuselage with four vertical center section struts. The fuselage mounted lower wing was heavily staggered and was connected to the top wing with outboard "N" type interplane struts. The ailerons were located on the top wing. The available engine options were either the 50 hp Anzani radial or the 60 hp Le Rhone radial. The conventional main landing gear had the main wheels displaced forward of the normal axle center and had shock absorbing wooden skids placed aft of the main axle location. The purpose of this arrangement was to prevent nose-overs and to also provide a measure of braking during landings. These skids were an advantage for the skilled pilots during precision landing competitions in the days before brakes were installed on airplanes.
The Sport had one set of controls located in the front cockpit. In the interest of maintaining a favorable center of gravity position in both the solo and passenger carrying condition, the rear cockpit passenger seat was positioned so forward that the passenger's legs were straddling the sides of the pilot's front seat. This effectively eliminated the space where the rudder pedals would have normally been located. The few flight instruments consisted of tachometer, airspeed indicator, altimeter and inclinometer.
In 1922, C. T. Ludington and Wallace Kellett of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania formed the Ludington Exhibition Company to be the agents for the sale of the Farman airplanes in this country. In the spring of 1923, they imported their first two Farman Sport from France and hired Robert Hewitt to pilot then at various demonstrations and cross-country racing events in 1923 and 1924, including "On to St. Louis" national air race in 1923 and "On to Dayton" national race in 1924. Unfortunately, the selling price for the Sport was $4,850, a fairly hefty price for that era. While the supply of war surplus Standards and Curtiss Jennies was well past its peak by that time, they were still likely to be considerably lower in price than the asking price for the Farman Sport. In terms of performance, by 1926, Ludington was flying the Waco 9 in races instead of the Farman. Lack of Farman sales did not faze Ludington too badly however, because his real intent was to get involved in the emerging airline business. The Exhibition Company became Ludington Philadelphia Flying Service, Inc. and in 1929, Ludington Line airline service before it was sold to Eastern Air Transport.
The Farman Sport in the NASM collection was one of the two that the Ludington Company used for demonstration purposes. The aircraft was manufactured in 1923 with factory serial number 15 and imported to the United States, where it was later assigned registration number NC-72. This particular aircraft is powered by the 50 hp Anzani engine. The NC-72 flew from Philadelphia to Dayton in the "On To Dayton Race" in 1924, successfully negotiating fog and low ceilings over the Allegheny Mountains while sturdier aircraft waited out the weather. It was also entered in the National Cash Register Trophy Race in Dayton, however the landing gear collapsed and could not be repaired. By 1928, the airplane had been damaged by water and was dismantled; license NC-72 was cancelled.
Ludington sold the aircraft to Harry Newcomb with the admonition that the aircraft must be restored before any attempted flight. During World War II, Newcomb's son showed an interest in flying it and the elder Newcomb cut the aircraft into three pieces to prevent a flight. The Farman Sport remained in pieces near Washington's Crossing in southeastern Pennsylvania and then in New Jersey until 1966 when Ken Hyde, an antique airplane restorer, bought it. C.T. Ludington himself verified the two-seat fuselage as NC-72 and the FAA restored that number to the aircraft. Hyde began restoration on the aircraft and then sold it to R.W. Terhune and R.A. Stewart for further work. In 1978, Hyde bought the aircraft back and finished the restoration work. Hyde donated it to the Smithsonian in November 1982.