Dr. Louis Hanson, a family physician in Durham, Maine, and his 1946 Stinson Voyager will be featured in an upcoming documentary film about Aviation Safety Resources (ASR), a Long Island-based company founded by Dario Manfredi, the son of the Stinson’s original owner. The mini-documentary, being produced by veteran New York filmmaker Kai Simonsen, will highlight the history of ASR’s patented technology and serve as the foundation of a larger feature in the future.
Manfredi’s father, also Dario, and his partner, Angelo Raiti, began a quest in the early 1960s to devise a system that would safely land a plane and its passengers in the event of a catastrophic in-flight emergency. They purchased the Stinson Model 108 Voyager 9 (Serial Number 13, Registration N39443). With the help of a parachute company and field engineers, they equipped it with special wing attachment pins, three parachutes and explosive devices that the pilot could activate to separate the fuel-bearing wings from the fuselage and bring each piece safely to earth under its own parachute.
They tested their system in an FAA-sanctioned test flight on Nov. 9, 1967, at Lakehurst Navel Air Station in New Jersey. The system worked as planned, separating the wings and bringing the fuselage down safely with little or no damage.
Shortly after the test flight, Manfredi’s father was forced to sell his Stinson. He was in the process of retrofitting a second Stinson for further FAA tests and certification when a stroke took his life in 1984.
After many years in storage, the original Stinson was reassembled, reconditioned and purchased by Hanson in 2002. A passionate recreational pilot, Hanson houses his plane in a small hanger at Twitchell’s Airport and Seaplane Base in Turner, where his flight instructor told him of the plane’s history.
“When I Iearned about the plane’s history, I did some research and contacted Dario Manfredi to get acquainted and share my experience with the aircraft that inspired his father’s invention,” said Hanson. “I feel very fortunate to own this piece of aviation history and welcomed the opportunity to participate in the filming of the documentary.”
Manfredi and his sister Savia Giarraffa have been on a 10-year mission to update their father’s original concept and have assembled a team of test pilots, parachute and ballistics experts, and avionics engineers to bring their father’s invention to market. ASR currently has two patents pending with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office – one for the TriChute Safe Landing System and another for a complementary sensor-based Smart Recovery System (SRS).
Applying sensor systems currently available in commercial and military aircraft to GA, the SRS 1.0 brings all systems in GA aircraft into one black box that constantly monitors flight, alerts the pilot to problems with any device or system, and outlines corrective action. The company’s more advanced SRS 2.0 alerts the pilot, but if the pilot does not respond, it also takes action to rectify the situation by automatically deploying the appropriate safety system or device available on the aircraft.
“There is little affordable in the general aviation market today that does anything more sophisticated than instructing a pilot to pull a handle, press a button or pray,” said Manfredi. “Today’s commercial airlines are the safest mode of transportation but general aviation remains a serious safety concern. Our Safe Recovery System will save lives by bringing a whole new level of automation, sophistication and systems integration to general aviation aircraft.”
“Hearing from Dr. Hanson out of the blue and reconnecting with our father’s airplane has been significant on many levels,” Manfredi said. “First, the very fact that the original airframe is structurally sound and being flown safely 40 years after it was disassembled in flight proves the validity of our company’s underlying technology. Second, is the emotional impact of reconnecting with our father through the plane that was the love of his life. It’s hard to explain the emotions we felt when we first laid eyes on it and recalled time we spent with our father as he worked day and night to make his dream of safer general aviation a reality.”
Hanson calls the elder Manfredi’s efforts “inspired” and “courageous.”
“ASR’s system would add a layer of safety that’s hard to measure,” he said. “It would provide pilots like me with a new sense of confidence and calm knowing that, in the face of unanticipated weather or mechanical failures, the system would ensure that pilots and passengers can be brought down safely and unharmed. I will certainly consider retrofitting my Stinson with this system once it is commercially available.”
ASR screened a preview of the documentary for aircraft owners, pilots and aviation enthusiasts gathered at the AOPA Aviation Summit in Long Beach, Calif., earlier this month. The preview, produced by Simonsen and his production company Millennium HD, is posted here and on the history page of the company’s website, where video of the Stinson’s original 1967 test flight also is available.