Message #263

Date: Wed, 11 Nov 1998 22:40:00
Subject: Bulletin 25 - Evaluating and Documenting Aviation Properties

[ AzTeC / SWA SASIG ] :

From: Craig Fuller 

The latest journalism discussing aviation archaeology
[ Wall Street Journal, November 11, 1998 ] does not paint
a good picture of the hobby. I know two of the individuals
mentioned and they are not the treasure hunters the
article makes them sound like. But there are a number of
those types out there. Doug Scroggins, one of the people
named, is pulling the strings together to set up the first
museum dedicated to the history of aircraft mishaps:

If you will visit my web site and go to the "Crash of the
Month" you will see information on my trip to Fort Irwin.
We located a crash site for a (indirect) relative of the
pilot. We went out to the site with the base archaeologist
who is going to register the site with the CA SHPO.

I have yet to see Bulletin 25, but below is a review that
I was forwarded today.

Craig Fuller
Aviation Archaeological Investigation & Research (AAIR)

The United States Department of the Interior's National
Park Service has published a National Register Bulletin
entitled "Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting
Historic Aviation Properties." You can order your very
own copy for free by calling the National Register
reference desk at (202) 343-8012 or via e-mail at

This fifty-four page booklet has a history only slightly
less tortured than that of the 1781 Articles of
Confederation and is about as useful. The first draft,
released for comment in early 1995, brought a storm of
criticism from virtually every corner of the aviation
historical community - including TIGHAR. In "Your Tax
Dollars At Work" (TIGHAR Tracks Vol. 11, No. 3) we
expressed our misgivings about the draft but vowed to do
our best to help correct the problems. After many hours of
donated work and face-to-face meetings in Washington, we
ultimately concluded that the National Register of
Historic Places was simply not an appropriate tool for
protecting historic airplanes (see "Great Hammer, Lousy
Screwdriver" Vol. 11, No. 4). No revised draft was ever
circulated and the issue seemed to be mercifully dead. But
a federally funded project is the only example of true
immortality known to science and, three years later,
"Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Historic Aviation
Properties" appeared unheralded in the mailbox.

In all fairness, it's not as bad as the initial draft and
where it discusses conventional properties - buildings,
structures, archaeological sites, etc. - its advice is
unremarkable. A superfluous section purporting to tell the
story of "Aviation In American History" is merely shallow
and poorly proofed rather than being biased and inaccurate.
For example: "Goddard (Robert H., that is) undertook
research during WWI that led to the development of a solid-
projectile, which was used during WWII as the bazooka." Make
that "solid- propellant."  Some of the errors are pretty
basic. Throughout the booklet "hangar" is rarely spelled

But it is in attempting to explain what airplanes are
eligible for nomination to the National Register of
Historic Places that the bulletin wanders from the obtuse
to the hilarious. In a section entitled "Evaluating the
Integrity of Historic Aviation Properties" it carefully
states that "a property must retain the key materials from
its period of its significance" (sic) and that "a property
whose historic features and materials have been lost and
then reconstructed is usually not eligible." So far so good,
but then the bulletin goes on to explain that, because
airplanes have various parts replaced during their service
life, "As long as an aircraft retains the majority of its
structural members, it should be considered the authentic
aircraft." So it looks like your J-3 Cub, re-engined and
re-covered in 1998 and equipped with the latest avionics,
is eligible for the National Register so long as most of its
steel tube skeleton dates from the old days.

But wait. "Setting" - defined as "the physical environment
of a historic property" - is a crucial factor in eligibility.
The aircraft must be "in a setting which is appropriate
to an aircraft and allows it to convey its significance
as an aircraft. An example of an appropriate setting would
be an air-related facility where the aircraft is maintained."
That means your historic 1998 J-3 Cub with the 1938 skeleton
may be eligible for the National Register if you keep it
down at the airport and not someplace weird like a museum.
"The National Register generally excludes museum objects
from being listed" because "museum objects do not have
integrity of location and setting.." even though all six
(that's right, six) of the intact aircraft now on the
Register are in museums.

But - but sometimes a museum is not a museum. For example:
the bulletin points out that the Hughes Hercules flying boat,
although protected in a museum-like setting, still qualifies
for the Register because it is "located in Long Beach,
California, the site of its successful air tests." The fact
that the Spruce Goose was sold and removed to Oregon years
ago seems to have escaped the National Park Service.

In the end, "Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting
Historic Aviation Properties" could well serve as a bible for
those who want the distinction of having an airplane listed
on the National Register because, as with Holy Scripture, in
its pages one can find justification for almost anything.

From: Bill Butler

I offer the following "lessons learned" that may be of help
to anyone that may have an old aircraft crash site on their
land, or know where one is. Last year we removed the last few
pieces of an F4U Corsair that crashed in Rocky Mountain
National Park in 1948. One thing we learned was that all
military aircraft, regardless of condition or location (on
federal, state, or private land, underwater, etc), still
remain the property of the US Government and the Government
(in our case the US Navy) makes final disposition of those
remains. In other words, remains can't be just give away
except by the military, and aircraft remains are not really
available for "treasure hunters". For more information, and/or
who you should contact, call Richard Walbauer or David Tarler
at the NPS WASO (202) 523-1547.

[ SASIG Ed. Note - Not Quite Yet A Crash Site ]