There are many things special about the Cavanaugh Flight Museum. Not only is it one of less than a handful that gives visitors the opportunity to experience airplanes from different eras in their intended environment—the sky—it also cares about the nucleolus of Valentine’s Day, the bond that unites couples.
Last year the museum added a 1928 Travel Air 4000 to its collection of airworthy aircraft. At first, it seemed an odd choice. While it does have a couple of civilian airplanes, the majority of CFM’s collection are military veterans. Curious, we asked Museum Director Doug Jeanes about it. His unexpected answer? “We wanted to have a plane that we could take two riders up at the same time. It’s great for couples.”
Unlike the museum’s two-seat Piper J-3 Cub and the PT-13, aka the Stearman biplane, the Travel Air seats three, with the pilot behind the couple up front. Reminding us that this classic design was created for the humans of aviation’s golden era, he noted that the combined weight of a couple is limited to 340 pounds.
Powered by a 300-hp radial engine, the Travel Air cruises at 100 mph, Jeanes said, and it’s fun to fly. He should know, as he flew to Addison from its previous home in Florida. The 4000 is the fourth iteration of the inaugural design of the Travel Air Manufacturing Company. Founded in 1925 by Walter Beech, Clyde Cessna, and Lloyd Stearman, it was based in Wichita, Kansas. It did not survive the Depression, and its founders later rose as the heads of their own eponymously names companies.
Numbers vary, but during its short life Travel Air produced 1,200 to 1,800 biplanes of all models. According to the FAA aircraft registry, 121 of them are airworthy survivors. Of that number, 63 are Model 4000s, further identified by a prefix letter that designated design differences like the engine used. On the registry, there is only one other Travel Air 4000 in Texas, and its flights are restricted to agricultural spraying, which makes the newest member of the museum’s flying family even more special.