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Photograph Sources

The Vintage Aircraft Photo Library contains photographs I've gathered primarily from attending fly-ins, and secondarily from museums.  There is a smattering of photos picked up from other locations such as interesting web sites.

Recently a friend has contributed a collection of slides taken in the late 60s and early 70s at various fly-ins.  I am gradually scanning and cataloging this collection.  It is very interesting because there are examples of the same aircraft in both modern times (post 1995) and in the 60s.

Collection Biases

I prefer vintage aircraft of the "Golden Age" of aviation, the 1930s.  I find this to be an underserved group of airplanes in terms of attention and in particular photo resources on the Internet. My definition of vintage is flexible, so while a large portion is of aircraft of the 30s, there are also a significant number of 40s and 50s designs.

You won't find many warbirds and military aircraft.  There are many other resources and much press attention devoted to these aircraft.  Although I enjoy a P-51 flyby as much as the next aviation enthusiast, I don't feel a need to document what has already been covered in detail.  I prefer to focus on Golden Age aircraft, which I incidentally collect, restore, and fly.  You will find a few examples of military aircraft that were put to civilian uses, and of course there's WWII trainers like the Stearman and Ryan PT-22 that I can't help but include.

Vintage homebuilt designs I tend to include, but recent homebuilts I omit.  So you'll find Pietenpols and some interesting Pitts Specials, but not RV-4s.  Of course there are always exceptions if something strikes my fancy.

My collection is biased towards American manufacturers since that's what I have access to, although someday I hope to get some more British coverage by visiting the Shuttleworth Collection and other worthy British museums.

Categorization Rules

Aircraft are categorized as follows:

Manufacturer.  I try to use the official naming of the company at the time the aircraft was produced.  Many of these companies don't exist anymore or have been absorbed and renamed.  I use the original name.  If the aircraft was produced under several different manufacturer names, e.g. a Globe Swift vs. a Temco Swift, I use the name by which the model is most popularly known, e.g. a Globe Swift.  There are two special manufacturers, one for "Engine", where the Model field designates the manufacturer and engine model, and another for "Experimental", where the Model field is the type of experimental if it is reasonably standardized, e.g. Pietenpol, Flybaby, etc.

Model.  I try to categorize using the model number if possible, sticking to the manufacturer's original conventions for spaces and dashes.  This of course varies so try different variations when searching or use the lookup lists.  If the type number/code is obscure and the aircraft is more commonly known by a name, e.g. Cessna C-38 Airmaster, I include both number/code and common name.  If there are two different type codes, one military and one civilian, I will use the one that's most common, e.g. Ryan PT-22 instead of Ryan ST3KR.  These distinctions can be somewhat arbitrary.

Location.  The location where the aircraft was photographed including city and state.  Museums are generally noted by name.  Locations that are airports and are well-known leave off the city, e.g. O'Hare Airport.

Date.  Date of photograph, if available.

Registration.  National registration number, if available.  Includes the prefix code to account for our Canadian friends.  American N-numbers are listed as a link to www.landings.com which will supply details about the current FAA registration.  Note that the current registration info and the registration on the airplane at the time of the photograph (or time period of the restoration) do not always match, and in some of the older photographs the aircraft is no longer on the registry.

I used to index by color and view description (e.g. right front quarter, left front quarter) but no longer do so because the information wasn't very useful and was quite repetitive, thus providing little search value (e.g. Almost all Aeronca Champs are painted yellow and orange).  This is a visual site, so you can use the light table view to get a comparison of all the aircraft matching your search criteria, then narrow your search to particular N-numbers.

Photograph Quality

Most of the photographs that I have taken were done with either an Olympus D-600L digital camera, or more recently an Olympus C3030-Z digital camera.  Both are quite good, and their pixel sizes readily exceed my standard online photograph browsing size of 800x600 pixels.  There are a few very early photographs taken with a Kodak DC50 at 640x480, which many years ago used to be the coolest thing around.  Ah, Progress.

Most images have been cropped from the original photograph, and then are reduced in size and the JPG compression jacked up for ease of downloading and to conserve disk space, since my ISP bills by the byte.  In some cases, particularly indoor museum photographs where light was lacking, you will see artifacts in the images.  I have the original images and somebody maybe will make the full-size resolution available, but in the near term if you have a need for the fullsize image just send me some email.

For scanning slides I've been using the HP Photosmart S20 film scanner, which has yielded very satisfactory results.  Unfortunately the slides themselves are scratched and sometimes faded.  I try to fix the scratches, but if you find colors that look like badly printed coffee table books from the 50s, that's because the slides are probably that old too.


If you disagree with categorization, or with my biases in general, please drop me an email at rw_flyer@hotmail.com.

I'm always open to contributions.  There's an online contribution form if you just want to send in a photograph of your airplane.  For larger-scale contributions please send me some email.