His father hauled the remains of the plane home before he was born, towing it behind a '55 Chevy and stowing it in the garage.

“It was literally in pieces,” said Todd Rhode. “The wings were in the rafters, the fuselage was on the floor in the garage, there was a crate of parts. It was essentially a basket case.”

But it still had the power to take him places. He and his friends and their imaginations would climb into the cockpit and fly all over the world without leaving his garage in Boca Raton, Florida.

Rhode grew up but the plane remained in storage for more than 40 years. Then, a little more than a decade ago, he and his father finally pulled all of the pieces out of the garage and began putting them back together.

The restoration was a painstaking process, he said. But when it was done, the 1929 Arrow Sport looked as new and original as the day it was wheeled out of a factory 1,500 miles away, in Havelock.

* * *

Arrow Sport

The Arrow Aircraft company operated in what later became Havelock’s Goodyear factory.

Before it became Goodyear, the factory on North 56th Street was the home of Arrow Aircraft and Motors, started in 1926 by the Wood Bros. Company.

By 1929, the company was producing four planes a day — and had more than 270 orders to fill — making it the world’s busiest aircraft factory at the time, according to a local historian.

The Sport model was popular with flight instructors because of its side-by-side seating and controls for two; most planes had front-and-back seating. The plane could reach 100 mph, cruised at 85 and had a range of 200 miles.

One of the Arrow Sports produced that year hangs in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia.

A few days after that plane was built, Rhode's Arrow Sport came off the assembly line in northeast Lincoln.

Rhode knows little about its early history, but he knows it didn’t stay in Nebraska. The $3,000 biplane was headed to Roosevelt Field on Long Island, New York. And it didn’t spend much time in the air, suffering a crash landing in 1937 in Rhode Island that would keep it grounded.

“That was the last day that aircraft lived,” Rhode said. “It pretty much laid in disrepair and was never flown again.”

When Rhode’s father — a flight engineer with 35,000 hours in the air — found it in South Carolina in 1960, he paid $675 for the Arrow and carried the pieces home to Florida.

Where they sat for more than 40 years.

* * *

The restoration took two years. A professional rebuilder did most of the work, but Rhode and his family helped when they could.

The makeover was later chronicled by Air and Space magazine, the from-scratch rebuilding of the tapered wings, the refreshing of the horsehair seat cushion, the blasting and sanding and fabric-covering of the fuselage, the life returned to the 90-horse Le Blond engine.

They finished in 2007, pulling the plane out of the hangar.

“For the first time in his life, Todd swung the propeller,” the magazine wrote. “The little radial engine emitted puffs of white smoke and settled into a steady idle.”

A month later, with the plane dialed-in and cleared by the FAA, Rhode watched it leave the ground for the first time since its crash landing seven decades earlier.

* * *

The Nebraska-born biplane has flown just three times since its restoration — the last time landing at an air museum in Kissimmee, Florida, where it’s been on display since.

Arrow Sport

The view from the Arrow after it returned to the air in 2007. It hadn't left the ground since a crash in 1937.

It’s rare, one of about 100 of that model made and only one of about 10 still around, Rhode said.

And now it’s his. His father gave him the plane last year for his birthday. But he isn’t a pilot, and he started thinking about the Arrow Sport’s next chapter.

“We’ve had it for so long. I feel like it’s time to turn the page on it and give someone else the opportunity to have it,” he said.

He advertised on Barnstormers, an aviation website. He put it on eBay. He had a few nibbles — including interest from Australia and Germany — but no hard offers yet.

His market is narrow. “When you’re talking about airplanes that old, it’s a certain niche that are looking,” he said.

Recently, he advertised the plane on Lincoln’s Craigslist. Bring a piece of history home, he wrote. $89,900.

“The best-case scenario would be to put it in a museum but also in a location where it could be flown once in a while,” he said.

He didn’t know Lincoln already has one on display — a 1929 Arrow Sport hanging from the ceiling at the Lincoln Airport. But he still hopes to find a history-minded buyer here.

“I think it would be so neat if somehow we could find a buyer that would bring that airplane back to Lincoln.”

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7254 or psalter@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSPeterSalter.



Peter Salter is a reporter.

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