Ralph S. Barnaby
Ralph S. Barnaby
Ralph S. Barnaby
EB Meeting, 1956
Los Angeles, CA
EB Chirp
EB Meeting, 1958
Pittsburgh, PA
EB Chirp

     Captain Ralph S. Barnaby of Philadelphia has been named "an elder statesman of aviation" by the National Aeronautic Association. An Early Bird, Capt. Barnaby is now principal engineer of the Franklin Institute's laboratories for research and developement.
     The citation presented by the association in Indio, California, hailed his significant and enduring contributions over the years to the demonstrated qualities of progress of aeronautics and patriotism, integrity and moral courage.
Captain Barnaby believes every prospective pilot should first learn to operate a glider as valuable training. He points out that even the new X-15 plane becomes a glider once it has burned out its fuel and requires competent operation for a safe landing.
     The new "elder statesman" joined the Navy in 1917 and retired in 1947. His awards include the Legion of Merit, the Air Medal and the Medal of Merit of Columbia University.
     In 1930, Captain Barnaby made aviation history by sailing 3,000 feet to earth in a glider launched from the airship Los Angeles over the Lakehurst Naval Air Station. He was captain of the U. S. team in the first world soaring championship held in Sweden in 1950.
     Only thirty-seven other persons have received "the elder statesman of aviation" honor. Among them are Early Birds Frank Lahm, Glenn L. Martin, Grover Loening, Igor Sikorsky, Carl Spaatz and Luis deFlores. Others so honored include General James H. Doolittle, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker and Admiral Richard E. Byrd.
From The Early Birds of Aviation CHIRP
March, 1961, Number 65
Early Birds Go To Pittsburgh, 1958
     BACK ROW---(left to right) Ernie Hall, C. B. Tibbs, Blanche Stuart Scott, Paul Studenski, E. B. Gaither, Frank Ellis, Harry Graulich, L. L. Walker, E. A. "Pete" Goff, Andy Heermance, B. W. King, and A. O. Heinrich.
     MIDDLE ROW---Rod Wright, Bill Denehie, Nels Nelson, Charles Patterson, Stan Vaughn, Warren Eaton, Ivan Wheaton, Jack Curran, and William Diehl.
     FRONT ROW---George Scragg, Paul Garber, Ralph Barnaby, Russ Holderman, T. C. Macaulay, and Joe Pallissard.
     Ralph also attended the Early Bird Meetings in Los Angeles in 1956 and Washington in 1970. You can access the pages by clicking on the titles.

via email from John O Burris MD, 5-15-08
     My wife and I had the supreme pleasure of attending a cocktail party given by Capt Barnaby in Boothbay Harbor, Maine in the mid to late 60's. As you known they were a lively engaging couple who were a lot of fun to be around. He took me into his study and folded a paper airplane that had been his winning entry in the Scientific American paper airplane competition. It did acrobatics reliably and repeatedly to his and my amusement.
     We went up on the "widow's walk" atop their home, overlooking the harbor, and he told me of his aviation career. As I recall, he said he was one of the very first people the Wright Bros taught to fly, but since he could not pass the Navy aviation physical, he piloted gliders, training the crews that were used on D Day. I had recently left the USAF as a Flight Surgeon and loved flying but decided to proceed with my medical residency in New York. Sadly, I never saw them again. Truly lovely lovable people. I was truly honored to have spent the time with him.
     We recently visited the Wright Museum in Kitty Hawk NC and was surprised and disappointed not to see him recognized among the pioneers of flying.
John O Burris MD

via email from Tony Coulter, 12-8-10
     My Mother was friends with him at NAMU Johnsville during WW2. He held gliders pilot license # 1 signed by one of the Wright Brothers.


Tony Coulter

     If you search for "Ralph Barnaby" +aviation using the Google search engine, (12-8-10), you will find about 1,180 links.Among the more useful are the following.
1893  1986

by Shirley Sliwa
of the National Soaring Museum.
     "Ralph Stanton Barnaby was a multi-talented and multi-faceted personality. He was a pioneer glider pilot, naval aviator, author and lecturer, historian, artist and sculptor, "raconteur extraordinaire," musician, and one of the founding fathers of the Soaring Society of America (SSA). He was SSA President on three different occasions, was Director a number of times, and held many other SSA positions during his lifetime -- the last being as Honorary Vice President.
     Among his many responsibilities for SSA, in 1950 he was Team Captain at the First International Soaring Competition in Sweden. His last SSA contribution was developing the SSA Awards Manual. His numerable $100 "SSA Life Memberships" during 1934 through 1939 helped keep the SSA solvent. He was honorary Vice president of the National Soaring Museum (NSM) from 1973 until his death in 1986. He endowed the Barnaby Archivist Chair at the NSM and upon his death, his will established a generous endowment. There is no question that as diversified as his interests were, his most rewarding activities involved gliding, the SSA and the NSM.
     In 1909, at 16 years of age, Ralph designed, built and flew a "hang-type" glider in Roxbury, CT at the summer home his family visited. The glider design was based on Otto Lilienthal's pictures and plans. Although Ralph later became an authority on the Wright Brothers, their concepts were not popularly known at this time. There is a plaque in Roxbury commemorating his first flight; or as Ralph once said, "Throwing myself off the backyard hill."
     Ralph resigned as Assistant Chief Engineer of the Standard Aero Corp., Plainfield NY, in 1917 to enlist in the U.S. Naval Reserve Flying Corps. The story goes that he was under weight and height limits and couldn't read 20/20, so he was shown the door. Since he had also sent in an application to the Army Air Corps, he was back home and hoped that the Army wouldn't be so particular. Two weeks later he received a letter notifying him that his "request for waiver for his physical defects" had been approved, and he was to report to the Medical Officer. When asked what his medical defects were, he claimed "I'm sure I don't knows;" whereupon the Medical Officer said there was no need to reexamine him since whatever they were, they'd been waived. So he was sworn in to the Navy and told to go home to await orders. His orders came, sending him to MIT for ground school. Several months later he received a reply from the Army Aviation Corps directing him to report for a physical. It gave him great pleasure to inform them that it was too late. HE WAS IN THE NAVY!!! However, he spent the WW I years as a naval aircraft inspector, rather than as a naval aviator."

     These paragraphs were excerpted from a longer article by Shirley Sliwa of the National Soaring Museum. To read the entire story, click on the title above.
     To visit the museum homepage, click on:
National Soaring Museum

     You will find a delightful anecdote written by Ralph on the AEROFILES website. It is one of a collection of remembrances which come from the July 1953 Aero Digest. You can read his story, and those of several other Early Birds by clicking onthe title above. You will find his story, Horsing Around, right at the top of the page.

Rallph Barnaby Medal
Photo courtesy of Howard Fink
from his website
Howard wrote:

"I have a website, howardfink.com that is devoted to paper airplanes inspired by Barnaby's win in Aerobatics Professional category at 1967 International Paper Airplane Contest.

Here's a few articles I found, mentioning, or about, Ralph Barnaby.

Howard Fink"

Editor's Note:Howard included three PDF files with the email message. You will find those articles and others on his website, each one of very much interest to a fan of Barnaby or of paper airplanes. Be sure to checkout the video of Howard flying a paper airplane in circules which is available on YouTube by clicking on "FLYING."

Rallph Barnaby Medal
Early Birds Pins and Medals
Gift of the Estate of Ralph S. Barnaby
Displayed at Steven Udvar-Hazy Center
Photo courtesy of Ross Levin,
Owner of the Aviation Art Hangar.

No photo available
Gliders and Gliding, Design Principles, Structural features, and Operation of Gliders and Soaring Planes
by Ralph S. Barnaby
Product Details
Monograph: 170 pages
Used Price: Variable
Publisher: The Ronald Press, New York

     This book is only occasionally available on the net. It can be found in a few libraries.

Ralph Barnaby died in 1986.
Editor's Note:
If you have any information on this pioneer aviator
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper

Editor's Note:
If you have any more information on this Early Bird,
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper

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