A silver Heath Super Parasol shimmered in the late summer sun as it flew by Antique Airfield. Its 20-year-old owner/pilot, Hayden Newhouse, felt the breeze ruffling through his hair, and couldn’t help but smile as he listened to the Continental A-40 humming happily along and the wind whistling through the Parasol’s wire-braced wing struts.
Gazing over the nose, the burnished cowling and cockpit fairing was gleaming through its time-worn patina, transporting him to another time. His thoughts eddied and swirled with the airflow over his wings, reaching far back through the mists of aviation history.
You see, Hayden is a fourth-generation Newhouse pilot, and lately he’s been feeling a very tangible “seat of the pants” flying connection to famed 1920s aviator and airplane designer/builder Edward B. Heath. Back in 1927, Heath designed and built the Parasol that Hayden is flying today.
The 1927 National Air Races were held Sept. 23-24 at Felts Field in Spokane, Washington, and Ed Heath was there, racing the Super Parasol (N2768) he designed and built. It was powered by a 32-hp Bristol Cherub, had a wingspan of 24 feet, and measured about 17 feet from nose to tail.
Heath won the Aero Digest Trophy Sport Plane race, which consisted of 10 laps around a closed course of six miles, and was awarded $500. Then he won the Dayton Daily News Light Airplane Trophy race, flying five times around a closed course of 6/10ths of a mile long — and received another prize of $500.
“He won both by the simple expedient of being the only entry to fly the entire race course! However, the plane had performed well, was fast for the horsepower available, and received considerable press attention,” according to aviation historian and author Chet Peek in his book, The Heath Story. N2768 became known as the Spokane Parasol.
There is far more to Heath’s lightplane history before and after the 1927 races, but for the sake of brevity, it was Heath who spearheaded the homebuilt kitplane movement.
He provided his growing number of customers with several different options to build or acquire their own Parasol. Plans were made available in 1928, then wing and fuselage kits were offered, and in 1929, Heath started manufacturing the planes in Chicago. Heath also sold parts and supplies.
One unique feature of the Parasol was its “bolted body” steel tube fuselage, which made it easy to build with common hand tools. Heath appealed to his niche market in numerous ads: “Stop Wishing You Could Fly! You Can Fly the Heath Parasol! …it’s easy to build — simple to fly — economical to own…!”
Fourth Generation Aviator
Hayden himself has quite the aviation history, so his decision to transcend today’s popular “virtual reality” and embrace real life adventure is no surprise. Naturally, Hayden soloed on his 16th birthday. He obtained his private certificate in August 2014, and has logged nearly 600 hours.
“My great-grandfather, Richard Newhouse, designed dirigibles in the late 1800s, and then he designed and flew his first powered airplane in 1911. He lived in New Jersey and designed many other airplanes after that, and he established the Newhouse Flying Service at Bolmer’s Field, renamed Princeton Airport. He flew for the airlines, and his four sons also flew for the airlines,” smiles Hayden as he recounts his family history. “My grandfather, Ray, bought a new Aeronca C-3 in 1931, and he got his commercial in that. Then American hired him, and he flew Stinson Tri-motors for them. He made captain in a DC-3 in his early 20s.”
“My father, Robert, flew our Bird — a 1931 Perth Amboy Bird CK biplane — to Antique Airfield this weekend; he works for Lear Jet as a technical representative. And we still have my grandfather’s Aeronca C-3, and when I was 16, I flew it to Blakesburg in 2012 for my first solo cross country!”
A Storied Parasol
Hayden decided he wanted a light airplane of his own. One day this past summer at his home in Phoenix, he was perusing Barnstormers.com and saw a rather intriguing classified.
“Funny enough, it was just a listing for a ‘Heath Parasol, $10,000.’ There was just a phone number, so I contacted the lady who was selling it and she knew nothing else about the airplane, other than it had an A-40. She told me to talk to the man handling the sale for Ed “Skeeter” Carlson in Spokane, since the Heath was part of Skeeter’s collection of many, many airplanes.
“He knew that it was an original Heath, so I started doing more research on it,” elaborates Hayden, “and it turns out that this airplane won the 1927 Spokane National Air Races with Ed Heath at the controls. Skeeter Carlson was at that race when he was 4 years old, and saw this airplane.”
In The Heath Story (published in 2003), Chet Peek writes that Skeeter Carlson “acquired his Heath from Ed Marquart of Flabob Airport, San Diego, California…When he first found it more than 20 years ago, it was hanging over a workbench, obviously neglected for many years. Ed was intrigued by the little homebuilt with its Henderson engine, and decided it should join his collection. Ed knew nothing of the plane’s history, except it was the same design that won an endurance flight at one of the Spokane Air Derbys. That Spokane connection cinched the deal…The plane was less fabric, but had all its fittings and tiny turnbuckles. Sometime in the past it had flown in the San Diego area using the Henderson engine and had sustained minor damage.”
Skeeter was a bit larger than Ed Heath was in 1927 (about 5 feet tall and 110 pounds), so he modified the Parasol by cutting the fuselage aft of the seat and welding a new front section, widening the cockpit by 2 inches. He added a hinged door for easier entry, and “the steel tube tail section was scaled up slightly larger and 4 feet was added to the wingspan…”
Skeeter also installed a Continental A-40, which had its own interesting provenance, excerpted here from The Heath Story: “Clyde Pangborn and his brother from Wenatchee used the A-40 on the fuselage of a Taylor E-2 Cub with skis. They skidded around frozen lakes until one day the engine was stolen. A chase ensued and as a result the little engine was thrown in a ditch but recovered. There were a few broken fins which show this rough treatment but it runs like a top.”
After test flying his modified Spokane Parasol in 1982, Skeeter reportedly found it “delightful to fly.”
Hayden’s research revealed that “the original N-number, N2768, had been used for a Fly Baby, so Skeeter used N2768P. The Fly Baby was deregistered, so I’ve already reserved that N-number. Now I’ll just paint silver over the “P” and it will be back to the original number.”
Piloting the Parasol
Billed as “America’s Most Popular Sport Plane” back in the day, Hayden found it easy to transition to the Parasol with its rudder bar (as opposed to pedals) and tailskid.
“I bought it a couple months’ ago, and then I went to Spokane and slept in the hangar at Skeeter’s place. I took the airplane apart the next day, and then hauled it to Iowa,” he recalled. “I had it together and running over at Ottumwa airport, and then I flew it here to Antique Airfield. I have a lot of tailwheel antique airplane time, and I’ve flown a lot of Pietenpols with tailskids. On takeoff, I just give it full power and get the tail up, which takes a little longer than you’d think.
“Then you can start getting some speed up and it gets off the ground pretty good, but it doesn’t climb out that well,” Hayden continues, elaborating, “so you kind of have to ride the wing, not the prop. When you get ready to land, it comes out of the sky pretty good, so you have to bring it in with power. I do three-point landings; that tailskid slows you down almost right away. Each wing tank holds 5 gallons, and the A-40 burns about 3-½ gallons an hour. It can cruise about 80 mph at 2,300 rpm. It has a Fahlin wood propeller, and the engine has a single ignition, Bosch magneto on it.”
Joseph Juptner, when describing the Parasol’s popularity with pilots in his U.S. Civil Aircraft series (Vol. 5), writes, “As one owner put it: ‘The only thing wrong with the “Heath” was that the cockpit was too narrow to contain the big grins of pilots who flew it for the first time’!”
Hayden has happily joined that elite roster of Heath pilots.
“Flying it feels awesome!” he proclaims, “especially because it’s my own airplane and to have it here at the Antique fly-in is a really cool experience.”
Hayden’s Heath received the R. L. Taylor Award for the Best Aircraft Under 50 hp at this year’s fly-in at Blacksburg, Iowa.