• Gallatins, Corbens and Baby Aces

    Posted on January 3rd, 2013 John Dorcey No comments

    After publishing its first book, Forward in Flight, the History of Aviation in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame (WAHF) had a dilemma. Like many of us, the organization found it had too much stuff. That is, too much history to fit into one book. The solution was straight forward, publish an annual newsletter and share more of Wisconsin’s aviation history. While searching for early documents of the organization we became reacquainted with the five issues of Forward in Flight, the Newsletter of Aviation History in Wisconsin. Michael Goc wrote the following story for the Fall 2001 issue of the newsletter.

    Gallatin brothers Baby Ace under construction

    Gallatin brothers Baby Ace under construction

    Oscar and Harold Gallatin were students at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) in 1930 when the decided to build an airplane. They obtained plans for a Corben Baby Ace along with a set of landing gear struts from the factory in Madison and, according to Corben’s instructions, modified a Model A Ford motor to power their plane. With no workshop of their own, the young men used a shop at MSOE and the basement of the Sommerfield Methodist Church on North Case Street as assembly points. The Methodist pastor had decided that home-building was an act of love not labor, so the Galatian’s were not violating the Sabbath when they kept at it on Sunday afternoons and evenings. As a bonus, the boys could partake of the weekly Sunday dinner prepared by the ladies of the Epworth League, “at low cost.”

     

    After completing the tube framing and fabric covering, the Gallatins moved their Baby Ace to a hay loft on North Marshall Street to mount the wings and install the motor. When they completed assembling the plane, the brothers wanted to fire up the engine, but had no gasoline. Harold stuck the tip of the acetylene welder in the carburetor intake, Oscar propped the motor, “and it started on the second pull.” The brothers started flying the plane in 1932 at the Waukesha Airport. Harold later recalled that it was “the first and last Baby Ace built in Milwaukee until the EAA began in 1951.”

     

    The Gallatins built at least three airplanes in the 1930s and 40s, including an original design logically called the Gallatin. The low-wing, single-place, monoplane was powered by a two-cylinder Aeronca engine. On a test flight out of Waukesha, a wind spar bracket failed, and Oscar died when the plane crashed.

     

    Waukesha Airport, ca 1934

    Waukesha Airport, ca 1934

    After World War II Harold had a hangar where he kept building airplanes and became known for his use of the Wankel engine. He hung onto the plans for his 1930s Baby Ace and, a few years before the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) was organized, shared them with EAA founder Paul Poberezny. His well-publicized adaptation of the Corben Super Ace gave Poberezny and the EAA a boost in its early days. Gallatin himself signed on as EAA #20, an appropriate gesture for the man known as the “father of homebuilding in Milwaukee.”

    Source materials for this story include materials from the WAHF archives and the Harold Gallatin papers.

    Harold Gallatin served on EAA’s board of directors for three years. He died in Waukesha, Wisconsin on November 28, 2002. On hearing of his passing EAA President Tom Poberezny said, “Harold was a true representative of the grassroots aspect of the organization, he was there back in the beginning.”