Howard Fink — My Paper Airplanes

July 30, 2010

Ralph S. Barnaby, 1893-1986

Filed under: — admin @ 4:35 pm
Copyright New York Times Company May 22, 1986

Ralph S. Barnaby, a retired Navy captain and glider pilot, died May 14 at his home in Philadelphia. He was 93 years old.

In 1930 he flew a glider carried aboard the dirigible Los Angeles, which was flying at an altitude of 3,000 feet, and landed at the naval air station in Lakehurst, N.J., in a test flight to demonstrate that passengers and mail could be discharged from commercial dirigibles at points where there were no mooring facilities.

In 1929 in Truro, Mass., he stayed aloft in a glider for 15 minutes and 6 seconds, breaking the world soaring record of 9 minutes 45 seconds set by Orville Wright in 1911 at Kitty Hawk, N.C. Wright and his brother Wilbur made the first controlled, sustained flights in a mechanically propelled airplane near Kitty Hawk on Dec. 17, 1903.

Mr. Barnaby joined the Navy in 1917. As an aeronautics engineer in World War II he helped develop gliders, remote-control aircraft and missiles.

In 1943 he was the test pilot for an experimental seaplane glider that was designed by the Navy to be used as a troop transport and cargo carrier. He was awarded the Air Medal in 1946.

After retiring from the Navy in 1947, Captain Barnaby became curator of aeronautics at the Franklin Institute in Philadelpia and was responsible for the Wilbur and Orville Wright papers and memorabilia there. He was curator emeritus at his death.

He was born in Meadville, Pa., and grew up in New York. He was a graduate of Columbia University and studied at the Arts Students League in Manhattan.

He is survived by a nephew, Barnaby Kent, of Berkeley Heights, N.J.

January 9, 1910,  New York Tribune:  “Another model, built by Ralph Barnaby, won the first leg in the race for the silver cup by covering 98 feet 3 inches in short order.”

1910  “Aircraft” Flying Machine Models

1912 “Aeronautics” Contest Flying through two parallel ropes from the hand

1930 “Popular Science” It’s the Nearest Thing to Flying like a Bird

1961 “Flying” Wildcats

2009 “To Fly the Gentle Giants” The Training of WWII Glider Pilots

screen-shot-2013-12-24-at-100536-am

Lieutenant Barnaby at the controls of the glider.

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