Minnesota Flyer - Serving Midwest Aviation Since 1960

By Tom Lymburn
Minnesota Flyer 

Mystery Airplane: August 2015

Bird Model BK


Tom Lymburn

Bird Model BK

Known as the Bird, Brunner-Winkle Bird, and the Perth-Amboy Bird, this 1929 gem has a lot of history behind it. Luminaries such as Wiley Post, Lee Gehlbach, Clarence Chamberlain, and Milo Burcham all had Birds. The best known owner of a Bird Model BK was Charles Lindbergh who purchased one for $3500 in the fall of 1930 for his wife Anne. It was in NC727Y that she earned her pilot's license, passing her flight test on 29 May 1931. NC727Y still flies, now based in Maryland.

Produced under Approved Type Certificate #239 of 26 September 1929, to a design by Russian refugee Michael Gregor, the Bird Model BK with a 100 hp Kinner K-5 radial engine, evolved from the Curtiss OX-5 powered Bird Model A of 1928. The change to the Kinner was a logical development due to the need to find a more reliable engine. The three seat BK (for Bird Kinner) was noted, as Jupiter (Vol. 3) puts it, for "...outstanding slow-speed performance with quick and short takeoffs, good rate of climb-out, and unbelievably short landings ... " The BK had a top speed of 110 mph and a service ceiling of 16,200 feet. The fuselage was steel tube with fabric over wood formers and the wings were fabric covered two spar wood structure. Like many good airplanes of its day, the Bird BK, and its Warner, Wright, and Jacobs powered successors, fell victim to the Great Depression. About 240 Bird biplanes were built, of which over 60 survive.

This month's winner, Debra Wilbright of Le Sueur wrote, "If it was photographed at Oshkosh, it was a long time ago." Indeed it was. I did photograph N894W at Oshkosh in 1987. This Kinner K-5 powered BK is currently owned by Kenneth Starzyk of Poplar Grove, Illinois. Dave Lundgren of Rosemount, also knew the Bird Model BK.

I had a great time again announcing in Rush City on 14 June. Kudos to Ray Pittman, Mark Nelson, and all the good and gracious people of Rush City. After some early morning fog disappeared, there was a great turnout of airplanes, vintage cars, and vintage tractors. Blue skies and fair winds.


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