The Russell Light Monoplane is a plans-built design dating to 1929, when the plans could be obtained through Flying & Glider Manual, “The Sportplane Authority of America” and other publications. It was designed to have a converted 4-cylinder Henderson motorcycle engine as powerplant.
This particular example was originally built by a gentleman named Mathieu in Fort Worth, Texas, and completed in 1932. It originally had an Anzani engine, which failed in flight with a subsequent owner. It was rebuilt with a Zekeley 3-cylinder engine, which again failed and the aircraft had another forced landing. After going through several owners and several rebuild attempts, it was returned to flight in the early 1980s with a modern 65 hp engine and modern instruments.
Finally acquired by Eric Presten in California, who provides this information:
When I bought it it was flying but it had modern instruments and a 65 hp four-cylinder opposed Franklin engine. I had the 1925 Salmson, the original prop (both of which I had purchased several years before in Detroit, Michigan) and the vintage instruments that it needed, and it had the original history that I wanted. I painted the tail feathers the correct color, made the wheel covers for the spoke wheels, did the firewall forward set up, and redid the cockpit and the instrument panel, but otherwise the airplane was complete when I found it.
I let several people fly it around Northern California and it won the Grand Champion Antique Trophy at the big fly-in that used to be held in Merced, California. It is very easy to fly even with the tailskid and no breaks. I did set up a steerable tailwheel that I could put on it to fly it off of concrete, but it was rarely used. It’s a delightful airplane and the Salmson runs so smoothly that it is hard mounted to the airframe.
Preston sold the Russell to Al Kelch in 2002. It was trucked to Brodhead, reassembled and flown until Al’s death in 2004. It remains in airworthy condition.