Michigan Alumni honored
Two high-flying California alumni, Lyle Maxey ’48 of Laguna Niguel and Bruce Carmichael ’46 of Capistrano Beach, have been named to the Soaring Society of America’s Hall of Fame.
Maxey, originally from Detroit, took to soaring in his youth and began to make his mark in the field from high school on. His high-altitude flight of July 1, 1941, at Elmira, New York, when he was 22 years old, was featured in the Jan/Feb 1943 issue of Soaring magazine. At the induction ceremonies hosted by the National Soaring Museum in Dayton, Ohio, Maxey reminisced about that early flight.
“I really hadn’t thought things through as to how far out I was on a limb,” he said, “and a pretty chilly one!”
At one point all of the instruments started spinning wildly and then quit operating. “It was what happens when all the connections between the mass of fluid in a closed instrument, like a variometer, freeze from one side to the other,” he said.
Set high-altitude record in 1955.
The variometer reading reported that he had quit climbing suddenly, but he knew he had not altered his ascent, yet instinctively he tried to bring the readings back to zero. That put him into a steep turn and he was lucky that it was sending him only to the side of a cloud rather than deep into it, which would have made it difficult for him to get his bearings visually.
Maxey was still unable to see in front of him because his windshield had iced up and also the leading edge of his wings. “Now I realize that you gotta be lucky to fly like I do,” Maxey said.
|Maxey (l) got aviation bug as a youth in Detroit.|
Today’s competition sailplanes still use many design elements from Maxey’s 1954 breakthrough design, the Jenny Mae,” which featured a crashworthy cockpit, laminar flow wings and high wing-loading.
In 1955, Maxey and Jenny Mae set the national record of 310.7 miles in a roundtrip flight from El Mirage, California, to Independence, California, and back.
Maxey set many national records in Jenny Mae and won the 1956 Nationals by one of the largest percentage margins ever. Soaring magazine dubbed the Jenny Mae the “finest sailplane in the world.”
“It is his passion in airframe designs that led him to the forefront of sailplane design activity in the early post WWII years,” the society said in honoring Maxey. “The Jenny Mae, quite modern in her day, was the culmination of his creativity and design.”
|Maxey's feat was heralded across the country.|
Carmichael entered the Navy after graduating from U-M. He married upon his return and moved to Texas to work for the Chance Vought company.
At the 1949 Southwest Soaring Contest, Carmichael met Alexander M. Lippisch, a German soaring expert, and the American aerodynamicist August Raspet. They loaded Carmichael with technical publications and performance data, he caught the soaring bug and later wrote “The Future of Sailplane Performance.”
In introducing Carmichael at the Hall of Fame awards, August Raspet’s son David said that Carmichael’s research had “predicted pretty much where we are now.”
Carmichael joined the faculty of Mississippi State University in 1949 and became one of the world’s foremost experts in drag reduction on aerodynamic and underwater vehicles. He was also an accomplished soarer, himself, and twice served as president of the Sailplane Homebuilders Assn.
History of Gliding at Michigan
It was Robert Beverly Evans (Michigan ’30), the “Father of College Gliding,” who instigated the second and largest wave of college soaring in the USA, during the Golden Age of Flying of the 1930s.
In this period, one-quarter of all glider clubs known to SSA were affiliated with colleges, and many future aerospace leaders first got their wings in campus-built gliders. Michigan alum Ed Replogle estimates that a fifth of all American glider pilots were trained at Michigan and MIT alone, and both schools won the “best team” trophy at the National Gliding Contest in Elmira.
The Glider Section of the Aeronautical Society of the University of Michigan was not only the prototype of college clubs that Bob Evans hoped to franchise, it was the first chapter of the National Glider Association, founded in June 1928 by Bob’s father, Col. Edward S. Evans. Aviation was poised for big things in 1928 following Lindbergh’s famous flight, and especially among “air-minded youth.”