Changes Made To EAA’s Travel Air E-4000
EAA’s Travel Air E-4000 is an authentic aircraft, not a replica. As such, it has been modified many times over the years as it was used for different purposes and as technology improved.
When the plane left the Travel Air factory, it had a tailskid and no wheel brakes. Over time, the tailskid was replaced with a steerable tailwheel and mechanical brakes were added to the main wheels. The tall and narrow 28x4 wheels were replaced with wider and shorter 7.50x10 wheels to provide better flotation on soft turf. The wooden axle was replaced with steel, although the bungee shock absorption system was retained.
In 1929, the plane had no electrical system or starter, so it had to be “hand propped” for starting. An inertial starter was added later to make hand starting easier and that was eventually replaced with a battery and an electric starter.
In 1992, EAA staff installed a more powerful and reliable engine. The original engine on NC648H was a Wright J-6-5, similar to an earlier Wright engine used on Charles Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis.” The Travel Air’s Wright engine was rated at 165 hp. It was replaced with a Continental R-670-4 rated at 220 hp, along with an aluminum, ground-adjustable Hamilton Standard propeller. This engine/propeller combination was common on Stearman WW II trainers. A new engine mount was fabricated using the original engine mounting points such that the original engine could be replaced. The old Wright engine is now on display in the Vette hangar at the EAA AirVenture Museum’s Pioneer Airport.
Two Schweizer glider tow hooks were installed on the plane to allow banner towing. Separate releases for the hooks were mounted in the pilot’s cockpit.
Over the sixty-year life of NC648H, improved technology has allowed many safety improvements to be incorporated in the airplane without compromising its authentic feel for passengers. The original fabric used on the plane was Grade “A” cotton. That covering has since been replaced with a more durable synthetic fabric, Stits D-103. A communication radio was installed in the pilot’s cockpit, along with an intercom allowing communication with the front cockpit passenger.