Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum
Off-white, black trim; Wright J-6, 150 hp single-engine, 3-place biplane.
Amron Kreider and Lewis Reisner of Hagerstown, Maryland, built the Kreider-Reisner C-4C Challenger, a light and efficient biplane, as a replacement for aging Curtiss Jennys and Standards. Beginning in 1926, Kreider-Reisner built a series of three-place, open-cockpit aircraft that flew exceptionally well. The addition of a Wright J-6 engine made the design especially reliable.
In April 1929, Kreider-Reisner became a subsidiary of the Fairchild Airplane Manufacturing Company, which redesignated the C-4C Challenger line as the Fairchild KR-34. C-4s and KR-34s flew as sport aircraft, air taxis, and press planes, and in the 1929 National Air Tour. This C-4C was built during the parent company transition period and carries the Challenger designation. It flew with many owners and is restored to reflect its association with North Penn Airways.
The Kreider-Reisner C-4C Challenger was part of a family of biplanes developed by the Kreider-Reisner Aircraft Company of Hagerstown, Maryland, to satisfy the need for a lighter and more efficient all-around aircraft that would replace the aging Jennies and Standards of the immediate post World War I era. Contemporary competition for Challenger series included the Waco 9/10s and Alexander Eaglerock.
Amron Kreider and Lewis Resiner co-founded Reisner Aero Service Inc., in 1925, as a fixed base operation (FBO) that operated a flying service and repaired and rebuilt airplanes. Their desire to have a better airplane resulted in the formation of the Kreider-Reisner Aircraft Company, in 1926, and the development of the Challenger series of three-place, open-cockpit biplanes starting with the C-1 and culminating with the C-4C. The principal differences between the various airplanes of the Challenger C series were the engines used in them. The C-1 and C-2 had 90 hp inline Curtiss OX-5 engines. The C-3 had a 110 hp 7-cylinder Warner Scarab radial, the C-4A had a 130 hp 7-cylinder Comet radial and the C-4C had a 165 hp, 5 cylinder Wright J-6 radial. As the series progressed there were other refinements such as split axle landing gear, and better aileron balance.
In April 1929, the Kreider-Reisner Company became a subsidiary of the Fairchild Airplane Company, which then re-designated the C-4C Challenger design as the Fairchild KR-34C. The airplane established a solid reputation as an efficient and reliable performer that flew exceptionally well and had no bad habits. Mrs. Keith Miller, a noted woman pilot of the era, entered one in the 1929 National Air Tour and placed 8th in a heavily competitive field of entries. Another C-4C/KR-34C was used as the official press plane for the Air Tour. The C-4C was popular as an air taxi and as a sport aircraft, too. The recently expanded plant in Hagerstown produced a number of the C-4Cs before sales were severely curtailed by the stock market crash in late 1929. To sell off the existing inventory, the company resorted to various sales ploys and modifications such as seaplane conversions and adding guns for military applications. Approximately 60 examples of this versatile airplane were built.
The C-4C airplane configuration was a conventional strut- and wire-braced three-place open-cockpit biplane. The fuselage was built of welded steel tubing and faired to shape with wood fairing strips. The wings were constructed with solid spruce spars and built-up plywood ribs with the ailerons located only on the lower wings. The tail was made up of welded steel tubing and included an in-flight adjustable horizontal stabilizer trim and a ground-adjustable vertical fin. The entire airframe was fabric covered with the exception of the removable metal engine access panels. The front cockpit was equipped with a door for ease of passenger entry and egress and was also equipped with removable dual controls. The landing gear comprised a conventional main gear and a tailskid. The engine was a five-cylinder 165 hp Wright radial that was equipped with a Hamilton Standard ground adjustable fixed pitch aluminum propeller and a hand-cranked inertia starter.
The C-4C airplane in the museum's collection is manufacturer's serial number 384 and registration number N30M. It was manufactured in August 1929 which was several months after Fairchild acquired the Kreider-Reisner Company, however the data plate reflects the Kreider-Reisner C-4C Challenger designation, rather than the subsequent Fairchild KR-34 label. The airplane had 15 registered owners prior to its acquisition by NASM. Interstate Flying Corporation of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania owned the aircraft until 1933. Rising Sun Aircraft School of Philadelphia bought it and sold it in 1934 to what was to become the first of a long string of owners, including North Penn Airways, that ranged from Florida to Maine. Two of the previous registered owners were women, Katherine Markwell of Washington, D.C. (1938-1942) and Joan A. Kulp of Spotsylvania, Virginia (1963-1964). Records show that while under the ownership of William R. Carter of Anacostia Station, D.C., the airplane made a forced landing on January 26, 1944 due to engine failure damaging the left lower wing, the engine mount, and the propeller.
A retired Air Force officer, Bud Williams of Madison, Indiana, acquired the aircraft in 1977 and meticulously restored the airplane to its original configuration. He decided to finish it in the off white with black trim and block lettering colors of North Penn Airways where it had been used it for an air taxi and charter service. Williams offered the airplane to NASM in 1983, based on a barter arrangement, but before the transaction could be consummated, he decided to sell it to Albert Redick of Reno, Nevada in 1984. Redick subsequently offered it to museum and on December 5, 1985, and John Slack flew it to Washington. D.C. With him was Linda Reisner Bracey, the daughter of Lewis Reisner, the co-founder of the Kreider-Reisner company. The airplane is presently located at the Museum's Paul E. Garber Restoration and Storage Facility in Suitland, Maryland.