Monday, July 31, 2006


The Ingram Foster Biplane hanging from the ceiling at ABQ International Airport

The Foster-Ingram biplane with the information board underneath

I was in Albuquerque, New Mexico on the 10th of July. Primarily my job was to visit the Eclipse 500 VLJ (Very Light Jet) design and manufacturing center located there. I did write about the VLJ earlier. Just a quick note again, a VLJ is like a really small personal jet that some companies are also thinking of using as an air taxi service. The entire concept is new and it remains to be seen whether it makes business sense to operate a VLJ as anything other than a personal toy. The Eclipse 500 has some worthy competition in the form of the Cessna Mustang, and Embraer Phenom.

I was on my way out of Albuquerque and was at the ABQ Airport (Sunport as it is called fondly) and proceeding towards security and the gates; I came across a large hall. Hanging from the ceiling is an old biplane. The aviation department of ABQ has set up an information board underneath the hanging biplane. I was early and had plenty of time to hang around and read the stuff, take notes and gaze at the display. Unluckily, I had left the camera in my checked in bag and there’s no way of retrieving it. Luckily I had a camera phone. Saved the day although that’s probably not the best tool for better photography.

The hanging airplane is a real one, constructed in the year 1914, from original materials. The model is a 1914 Ingram-Foster Biplane based on a popular Curtiss Biplane. It is mounted with a Roberts engine rated at 100 HP. The airplane is constructed out of wood, fabric, metal and bamboo.

Jay Ingram, a Ford car dealer those days based at Decatur, Texas, met Charles A. Foster who had been flying a Curtiss Pusher Bi-plane and using the same design, made their own airplane and called it the Ingram-Foster Biplane. The present one was also manufactured by them and kept in a box until it was sold from a private owner to the ABQ Museum and Department of Aviation in 1987. The ABQ Department painstakingly put the Airplane together and has now displayed it.

Glen Curtiss, the original designer of the Curtiss Airplane was the main rival for the Wright Brothers between 1909 and 1911 and his models were copied by many others. Curtiss Airplanes made a lot of historical records in Aviation.

1908 – Glen Curtiss won $2,500 from Scientific American to fly an “officially witnessed” flight of 1 kilometer (0.62 Miles).

1911 – Eugene Ely with a Curtiss Pusher was the first to take off from the deck of a ship. In the same year, with a similar type of Airplane, Lincoln Beachey was the first to fly an airplane upside down. He also set the altitude record of 11,642 feet.

1913 – Again Lincoln Beachey was the first to loop the airplane.

In the year 1911, a Curtiss pusher, delivered from the factory at Hammondsport, New York, costed $4500-$6,000 depending on the size of the engine. Today’s value would approximate $78,000 for the upper end model. The engines were 4, 6 and 8 cylinder ones. The last one was required to fly the Airplane out of hot and high airfields such as ABQ.

All this information can be found beneath the hanging Ingram-Foster biplane. The one thing I found wanting, is that there were no brochures or printed information leaflets, that one could have carried home. The next time one of you go to ABQ Airport, look it up, take some pictures and be nice, pass them to me, for posting!


Quodlibet said...

I always think that I'm glad I fly in modern times and don't have to be the first to do anything in an airplane (ie. the first to loop a particular plane)! I love to fly, however I'm a bit of a chicken and really enjoy all of the 'tried, tested' parts of aviation!! Hats off to those pioneers who made flying comfortable for people like me!

Athul said...

First and foremost , i had always thought that wright brothers were inventors like and made the plane , hearing the name of "Glen Curtiss " for the first time and iam bit surprised that he was the rival for the designs of wright brothers . I think he too indirecly helped the aviation with good competition .

nice piece of history wish if someone had taught history this way i would have scored more ..

Blog-Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Well, Quodlibet, the nearest I came to doing something similar but NOT QUITE, was during my glider pilot training days in the very early 1980's on old, wood and fabric open cockpit gliders that were winch launched. Did 800 launches in them! I have done loops in those. Nothing however compares to those magnificient men (and women) and their flying machines (apologies to the movie of the same name). It's because of what they did and their innovations that made aviation so safe for us.

Athul, there were many sung and un-sung heroes in aviation. However, the Wright Brothers do get the credit for the first powered flight. Subsequently they had plenty of competition and thats what made it so great, kept everyone on their toes and made them innovate.

Balakrishnan said...

Great article on the Curtiss aircraft captain..quite interesting info. I love barnstorming with the Curtiss Jenny in flight simulator 2004 :))

Blog-Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Curtiss Jenny JN4? Nice to know you fly the sim, must be fun. I'm a big fan of vintage aircraft and aviation history as you know and I thought I'd give a link to a website that has more info on the Curtiss Jenny and generally other Curtiss models.

Debasish Sarkar said...

Great to see your prfile sir.I really appriciate that after your busy schedules, you could post all these informations. I liked Indian Tri color at the entrance of your Premier.Hats off to you!!

Anonymous said...

Yes i love what they did to the airport there in Alb.! so much nicer and the plane is terrific!

Terry Bowden said...

Nice Article.. I though I would pass along that my dad, John Bowden is the man who made the donation of this airplane to the city of Albuquerque. There is a story of how he tried for twenty years to buy the plane from descendants of the airplane's original owner, Jay Ingram in Decatur TX. He finally made the purchase in 1986 and we brought the airplane in its original crates to our airstrip home in Central Texas. It took about 60 days to fully assemble the plane. We actually ran the engine after all those years. I plan to add more on this to my weblog soon. See it at

Terry Bowden

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Hi Terry, thanks for visiting my blog. This article was written in 2006 and when your comment came, I was surprised and now I feel wonderful that you have mentioned about your father's contribution to aviation and in particular, this airplane.

I will definitely look up your blog for postings on this and other articles that you have written. I will do a follow up and post this blog piece of mine so that new readers in 2009 can read about the same. My article would have escaped many of my readers who would not have gone and read everything in my archives. In the new post, I will post your comment as well so that my readers can check out your blog for updates on this story and anything else of interest. Thanks again for writing in. I appreciate it.