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Posted by benjamin presten | Feb 25, 2021 @ 04:51 AM | 8,005 Views
An alphabetical stroll through the history of aviation. Day 19

Stearman M-2: Nicknamed the “Bull Stearman”, the M-2 “Speedmail” was by far the largest airplane to be produced by Stearman. It was a competitor in the large mailplane market against the slightly smaller Boeing 40 series biplanes and the Pitcairn Super Mailwing. The M-2 had a daunting 46ft wingspan, weighed in at 3400lbs empty and would carry 1000lbs of mail plus fuel with a gross weight of 5500lbs. (I tried to push this thing around by myself in the grass once and I can tell you it’s a big machine) It was powered by the not-so-reliable Wright R-1750 of 525hp. (part of the reason it saw very limited success) One, sold to a private customer, was powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1690 Hornet of the same power.

The M-2 was first built and flown in 1929 and was a very advanced airplane at the time. It was of course very large and had the pilot seated very far back in a blind cockpit. It proved to be a tricky machine to fly and beyond that the Wright power plants spent as much time quitting as they did running. Varney Airlines, the only company to order M-2s, lost half of their fleet of six airplanes in the first year.

Only 7 M-2s made it out the factory doors, but one has survived. It was sold after Varney Airlines was done with the airplane and crashed in 1939 and sat partially underwater at Teslin Lake until it was collected in 1989 and restored to flying condition by Alan Lopez. The airplane was flown...Continue Reading
Posted by benjamin presten | Feb 24, 2021 @ 10:03 PM | 8,079 Views
An alphabetical stroll through the history of aviation. Day 18

Rearwin Cloudster:

Now a lesser known classic lightplane, the Rearwin Cloudster was once a popular high performer. In the late 1930s, Rearwin was already enjoying two successful designs, the Speedster and the Sportster. With side by side seating seeming to be a more popular seating arrangement, Rearwin wanted to develop a new airplane to accommodate the demand.

The Cloudster first flew in 1939 powered by a 90hp Ken-Royce radial by the name “Rearwin Coupe.” The Coupe was modified to have a 120hp Ken-Royce and was launched into production under the new Cloudster name. The 120hp Cloudster was a typical high wing tail-dragger with control sticks rather than the somewhat typical control wheels in most side by side designs. It sat two in the front row and in the later models featured a very unusual sideways facing rear seat for a third person to tag along.

The Cloudster was a fairly good performer with 120hp and took well in the market. It had a nice total production run of 125 airplanes. It found service in a few different markets as well. Pan American Airlines purchased 25 of them with a modified tandem seating arrangement. The rear seat featured a removable instrument panel and blackout curtains so that the student could fly on instruments while the instructor maintained forward visibility. Iran also used a few Cloudsters in their military with a single 30 caliber machine gun mounted to the right...Continue Reading
Posted by benjamin presten | Feb 24, 2021 @ 02:17 AM | 8,318 Views
An alphabetical stroll through the history of aviation. Day 17

Queen Bee: Meet the Beechcraft Bonanza! Oh, Beecraft, not Beechcraft? Whatever. Close enough. Again.

Okay, seriously. If someone said picture a metal, retractable tricycle gear, opposed engine, four seat, low wing, V-tail airplane, you would think they were talking about a bonanza. And yet, somehow the Queen Bee doesn’t look that much like a Bonanza. It has long constant chord wings on a small fuselage with a bulbous four place canopy and long straight tail feathers and was powered by a 180hp Lycoming O-360.

The Queen Bee was designed and built by Bee Aviation Associates or more commonly called, Beecraft. Beecraft built a grand total of three airplanes. Not three designs, three airplanes total. The three Beecraft designs were the Wee Bee, a tiny single place airplane so small that the pilot didn’t sit inside the airplane, they just laid on top of it. Next was the Honey Bee, a single seat high wing light plane with a V-tail designed by Walter Mooney. The last was the Queen Bee. Their attempt at a private travelling ship. As with all of their designs, it never entered production. It was stored at the San Diego Aerospace Museum and sadly destroyed when the museum burned down in 1978.

The only remnant of Beecraft is the Honey Bee which is at the San Diego Aerospace Museum. The end of an era. A weird, not all that practical era.
Posted by benjamin presten | Feb 22, 2021 @ 12:36 AM | 7,005 Views
An alphabetical stroll through the history of aviation. Day 16

Pitcairn Biplanes: An extremely confusing and longwinded history of really cool biplanes compacted into a couple paragraphs.

Pitcairn Aircraft Company was started by Harold Frederick Pitcairn, son of John Pitcairn who founded PPG Paints. His first airplane was the PA-1 Fleetwing. A Curtiss C-6 powered conventional biplane. It’s one unique feature was three cockpits in a row seating a total of five people. Two fleetwings were built and used for testing Pitcairn’s designs.

The following design, the Sesquiwing, was a one off that never achieved production. However the next design, the Orowing, (a two seat training biplane) did see a production run of 35 airplanes which were used at the Pitcairn Flight School for instruction. The fourth design, the Fleetwing II received a small production run of 10 airplanes which were used for sport flying. But Pitcairn didn’t really find their stride until the PA-5 Mailwing.

The Mailwing was a large three seat biplane powered by a Wright J5 radial. The Mailwing was used by the U.S. Postal Service for flying mail all over the US from 1927 until the dedicated air mail routes were shut down in 1934. There were a total of four Mailwing designs (PA-5, PA-6, PA-7 and PA-8) of increasing carrying capacity and engine power with 140 being produced between the four models. After the Mailwing, Pitcairn went into producing autogyros.

Today quite a few Pitcairns survive. One...Continue Reading
Posted by benjamin presten | Feb 19, 2021 @ 09:33 PM | 7,666 Views
An alphabetical stroll through the history of aviation. Day 15

Ogden Osprey: one of the very few entries into the short window where mid-sized tri-motors were relevant.

Ultimately a victim of the great depression, Ogden Aeronautical Co. was started to produce a small tri-motor for commercial use. The Ogden Osprey was a high winged monoplane powered originally by three Cirrus III inline engines. Ultimately the later versions were powered with Menascos of increasing size. The Osprey seated six, two up front with a flip over control columb and four more seats behind with a small bathroom in the back.

Of the six Ospreys built, two found their way into commercial service. One with American company Sky Sign Broadcaster and one with a Guatemalan airline. A third was used for testing Goodyear Airwheels. However, none of the six have survived into these days. And I have to say it seems unlikely that anyone is going to replicate the not exactly famous and not particularly good looking Osprey....Continue Reading
Posted by benjamin presten | Feb 19, 2021 @ 02:52 AM | 9,849 Views
An alphabetical stroll through the history of aviation. Day 14

Northrop Beta: It really was just one of the sexiest things to ever fly.

In March of 1931 Northrop rolled out a new two seat sport design. The Beta was a sleek, monocoque construction, low wing monoplane. It was powered by a 160hp Menasco Buccaneer and had a conventional style landing gear with carefully faired wheel spats. Test pilot Edmund T. Allen flew the Beta from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City and onto Detroit in less than 16 hours. Later in a certification flight, CAA certification pilot Lester J. Holoubek had issues with the ailerons and found the airplane uncontrollable. He made the decision to land. Via a parachute. Left unattended the Beta landed the old fashioned way by plowing itself into a Glendale Hillside.

A second Beta was built with a Pratt & Whitney R-985 on the front and no front cockpit. It was tested even more by Allen and received a group 2 approval which is funny considering that no others were ever produced. With no market found, the single remaining Beta was sold to a private owner. It bounced around a little while until it was damaged in an accident. A subsidiary of Northrop, Stearman, bought the damaged Beta and repaired it. They used it for testing on new flap designs. Unfortunately it suffered a structural failure to the wing which ultimately destroyed the airplane....Continue Reading
Posted by benjamin presten | Feb 16, 2021 @ 08:29 AM | 9,895 Views
An alphabetical stroll through the history of aviation. Day 12

Lockheed Big Dipper: Imagine you’re Lockheed. It’s 1945, you’re just rolling out the new Constellation. The biggest commercial airliner of the day. Even better, you’ve just rolled out the P80 Shooting Star, a 600mph jet fighter. But you think, you know what will be the next big thing for this huge cutting edge aviation company? A weird looking two seat pusher with a fixed landing gear that is miserably underpowered and horrifyingly slow!!!!

Well that is apparently what someone at Lockheed was thinking in the early 1940s. The Big Dipper was designed for them by designer John Thorp. (designed too many airplanes to list, but the highlights are Thorp Sky Skooter, Fletcher Defender, Fletcher Duster, Piper Cherokee and Thorp T-18) The Big Dipper sat two in a side by side configuration and had a 100hp Continental placed right behind the cabin. A long drive shaft turned a propellor all the way in the tail.

The one and Only Big Dipper was test flown in 1946 and apparently didn’t prove to be totally unsatisfactory. It was shipped back to the factory for some slight wing modifications that were never done. It was still undergoing test flights in 1946 when it was crashed and destroyed. Finally someone realized maybe the Big Dipper wasn’t exactly a winner and the project was abandoned before a replacement was built.

But at least the Little Dipper was a screaming success. Or maybe not....Continue Reading
Posted by benjamin presten | Feb 15, 2021 @ 02:16 PM | 7,351 Views
An alphabetical stroll through the history of aviation. Day 11

Kadiak KC-1/KC-2 Speedster: Designed in 1931 by Everett E. David.

In 1931 David designed a small sport flying biplane powered by a Velie 5 cylinder radial and taught himself how to fly it. Named after the inuit spelling for the Kodiak Bear, it was called the Kadiak KC-1 Speedster. It was a diminutive little biplane with a welded steel tube fuselage and wooden wings. Shortly after it’s construction, the Kadiak’s Velie was replaced with a Lambert and redesignated the KC-2.

The Kadiak never made much of a name for itself, but it did make its way into a small niche of history. It was used by race pilot Lowell Bayles to scout the course he would use to attempt the speed record in the Gee Bee model Z. Bayles was killed during the attempt when the Gee Bee’s fuel cap came off and went through the windshield causing a fatal crash. In 1932, the Kadiak was entered into the Cleveland air races and scored a finish so impressive, nobody seems to have remembered to record what it was.

Before the War, the Speedster was sold off and has been through AT LEAST sixteen owners since then. It seems that each of them has added a little more modification to it along the way as it now has a spring steel landing gear and a 4 cylinder Lycoming housed in a mock radial cowling. However it is still flying in Vacaville California.
Posted by benjamin presten | Feb 14, 2021 @ 03:48 PM | 7,748 Views
An alphabetical stroll through the history of aviation. Day 10

Johnson Rocket: Meet……... the Bonanza! No wait that’s not right. Well, close enough.

The Johnson Rocket actually started its life as a two seat taildragger powered by a lycoming O-290 but it evolved into a two, sometimes three seat high speed ship with a nosewheel and powered by a 185hp Lycoming O-435. Ruffus Summerfield “Doc” Johnson (yep, that was his real name) was the original builder of the “Rocket 125” as the prototype was called. Eventually, he established Johnson Aircraft Corp to produce the new Rocket 185.

The Rocket 185 was given a type certificate by the FAA in late 1946 and a sales tour was launched. The rocket was pitched with the phrase “Get a super performing airplane for only $5000. Buy your Rocket now!” It did boast super performance with a cruise speed of 185mph and a 900 mile range. However the seating for a max of 3 proved to slim down the market a lot. Sadly only 18 were produced, however several including the prototype survive today.

The confusing part of the Johnson Rocket’s history starts after the company's assets were seized and auctioned by the IRS. The first offshoot was the Regent Rocket 185 which was identical in every way to the Johnson Rocket 185 and two were produced. Next was the Regent Rocket 260 which was all metal, four seat and powered by a 260hp Continental of which either 5 or 1 were built, depending on who’s version of history you read. Lastly was the Texas...Continue Reading
Posted by benjamin presten | Feb 13, 2021 @ 02:30 PM | 7,729 Views
An alphabetical stroll through the history of aviation. Day 9

Israel Redhead: Another gull winged racer like the Bulldog but upside down. And totally different. It was however once again built and piloted by someone who had their roots in all kinds of other aviation history.

Gordon Israel was one of the designers of the Howard “Pete”, “Ike”, “Mike” and “Mr. Mulligan”. He also flew Co-pilot on the 1935 Bendix race victory of the “Mr. Mulligan”. Later on he went to work as a designer for Curtiss-Robertson, Buhl, Stinson, Grumman and Lear Jet.

Israel’s own entry into the racing world was the Israel Redhead. Conceived in 1932 the Redhead was a low wing conventional gear racer powered by a supercharged Menasco Buccaneer making 230hp. On it’s first flight, a friend of Israel ignored some wise advice from Jimmy Doolittle and wrecked the airplane on landing, bending the prop and crankshaft. Doolittle took Israel aside and convinced him to not try and replace the prop without tearing down the engine. Instead Doolittle secured Shell as a partial sponsor for the project and they replaced the crankshaft for Israel.

The Redhead was entered into the 1932 National Air Races as the “Gordon Israel Special'' at the hands of pilot Lou Bowen and was quickly out in front of the field as the only supercharged Menasco entered. However by lap 3 the front bearing of the engine started seizing and causing power loss. This issue persisted and the Readhead won nothing.

However in 1932...Continue Reading
Posted by benjamin presten | Feb 12, 2021 @ 04:19 AM | 9,494 Views
An alphabetical stroll through the history of aviation. Day 8

Hall Bulldog: Not an unknown airplane, but I’d still call it obscure.

Robert Hall was well known during and after WWII as being the chief engineer and vice president of Grumman. He was responsible for the design and even did the test flying on many of grummans airplanes including the Wildcat, Hellcat, Bearcat, Tigercat, Goose, XP-50, Panther, Cougar, F10F Jaguar, F11F Tiger and the Gulfstream 1. But long before any of that, he was in the racing game. His first racer design was actually the Gee Bee model Z which he flew to a race victory at the General Rubber and Tire Race in 1931.

In 1931 he left the Granville Brothers to start his own company, Hall Aircraft. The first airplane he built was the Bulldog racer. It was powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1340 and had a high, gull wing with a very unique shape. It had a long forward swept landing gear with a very wide stance and large wheel pants and fairings. It was entered into the 1932 National Air Races but only finished sixth with a top speed of 215mph. Hall was so disappointed with its performance that it was disassembled and never raced again. It seems that the airplanes fame and somewhat well know existence are mostly due to its looks, not its success as a racer.

A replica of the Hall Bulldog has been started and is now housed at the WAAAM Museum where it’s completion is scheduled to start soon....Continue Reading
Posted by benjamin presten | Feb 11, 2021 @ 02:29 PM | 9,947 Views
An alphabetical stroll through the history of aviation. Day 7

Golden Eagle Chief: With a flood of parasols in the 20s and 30s, each one had their own little slice of lineage and history. The Golden Eagle Chief is no exception.

The Golden Eagle Chief was initially known as the Bone Golden Eagle, designed by Mark Campbell. It’s first few iterations were single seat sport flyers powered by a 3 cylinder Anzani radial, a 6 cylinder Anzani and a 60hp Le Blond. However over time it evolved into a two seat tandem, conventional gear parasol powered by a Le Blond 90hp. A project of R.O. Bone, the Chief was re-designed by several engineers from Douglas most notably one of the early designs of Ed Heinemann when he was in his 20s. (Ed Heinemann was the designer of the Dauntless, A-20, A-26, Skyraider, A-4 Skyhawk and F4D Skyray)

With initial flight test work done by airmail pilot Eddie Martin, the airplane proved to have a very nasty spin. Martin was forced to bail out of one of the early prototypes resulting in a redesign of the tailfeathers. After the redesign, the Golden Eagle was given a group 2 type certificate by the CAA (now FAA) in 1929. A grand total of 14 Golden Eagle Chief’s made it out the factory door. One of them being used by Evelyn “Bobbi” Trout to set a female endurance record of over 17 hours.

At least two Golden Eagle Chief’s survive today, interestingly they are the first and last production Chiefs. One is privately owned by Bill Rasmussen of Mattoon...Continue Reading
Posted by benjamin presten | Feb 10, 2021 @ 12:17 PM | 10,561 Views
An alphabetical stroll through the history of aviation. Day 6

Fairchild XNQ-1: Post war, the search was on for a new trainer for the jet age. And for some reason they wanted it to be piston powered. And Fairchild had the answer. Almost.

Just after WWII the US Navy and Air Force were still using North American SNJ/AT-6s for their training platform and they wanted something new. Fiarchild’s answer was the all metal XNQ-1. The first prototype was initially powered by a 320hp Lycoming radial. It was first flown in 1946 and delivered to the navy in 1947. However it was found that the cockpit would fill with exhaust fumes and a series of engine changes were in order. Eventually it ended up with an opposed Lycoming GSO-580 8 cylinder of 400hp. Sadly the airplane was destroyed in a crash in 1950.

The second prototype had a bigger vertical surface and housed the original radial engine. It was delivered to the USAF in 1949 and was selected as the new trainer to teach pilots aerobatic maneuvers. It had a cockpit designed to resemble newer jet fighters and it was a maneuverable design thanks to its clean, low wing, retractable gear, tail dragger design. An order for 100 aircraft was placed however it was cancelled with the contract instead going to the Beechcraft T-34 Mentor. Unfortunately. Oops. Didn’t mean to say that.

The Second prototype still survives under private ownership and is occasionally seen at air shows in the US....Continue Reading
Posted by benjamin presten | Feb 09, 2021 @ 03:47 PM | 11,252 Views
An alphabetical stroll through the history of aviation. Day 5

Eastman Sea Rover: In the late 1920s, the light seaplane was all the rage. A neat entry into the market was the Eastman Sea Rover.

Jim Eastman, who founded Eastman Kodak (yes that Kodak) wanted to venture into the aviation industry, hired Ford engineer Thomas Towle who was in the process of starting his own aircraft company. Towle’s initial design was a floating hull biplane with the tail strut braced from the back of the upper wing like a Sikorsky S-29. Eventually it was redesigned with a more conventional floating hull fuselage. However the unconventional wing design was a parasol style, strut braced upper wings with independently structured lower wings. However, the most unusual part of the Sea Rover was that it was a wooden structured fuselage with aluminum skins instead of fabric covering.

The two seat Sea Rover was initially powered by a 90hp 6 cylinder two row Anzani Radial however they were eventually powered by Warners, Kinners, Curtiss Challengers and even one Packard diesel radial. By 1929 the Eastman Aircraft Corporation had been merged into the Detroit Aircraft Corporation however in 1930 a type certificate was still acquired for the design and 18 of them made it through production. Today a single Sea Rover survives in the British Columbia Aviation Museum.

Although it seems the Sea Rover was a good performer, it never found major production. A bummer really for such a neat unique design.
Posted by benjamin presten | Feb 08, 2021 @ 09:46 PM | 9,770 Views
An alphabetical stroll through the history of aviation. Day 4

The Delgado Racers: Imagine being a student at a trade school and as a project you get to build a racerr to enter the National Air racers. In the mid 1930s, that’s exactly what the students and staff at the Delgado trade school did.

In 1933 they started construction on a racer called The Delgado Flash. However, for some unknown reason they put the Flash on the shelf the next year and started a new racer instead, The Delgado Maid. They managed to complete the maid in only a year and shipped it to the 1935 National Air Races. However the 600hp Curtiss Conqueror that powered it wouldn’t cool properly and they didn’t get to enter it in the races. The bright red Maid was brought back home for an update. They eventually wound up replacing the Conqueror with a lower power (443hp) Curtiss D-12 and returned the airplane to the 1936 Races. The airplane was also scheduled to make an attempt at the world speed record at Bonneville with a different wing and a droppable landing gear. However, when the airplane started smoking during a race at the Nationals, pilot Art Davis bailed out and the airplane was destroyed.

After the Maid was destroyed, the Flash was brought back into construction. Plans to put a retractable gear on it were abandoned in order to make it to the 1937 National Air Races. Instead the airplane was built with a conventional fixed gear with spats covering the gear and wheels. The Flash was powered by...Continue Reading
Posted by benjamin presten | Feb 07, 2021 @ 11:20 AM | 7,676 Views
An alphabetical stroll through the history of aviation. Day 3

Crosby CR-4: A very unlucky racer, Harry Crosby certainly made up for his luck with good looking designs.

After Crosby’s crash of his CR-3 Crosby had a broken back and a fractured skull and was understandably not out and about. While he was bedridden however, construction was underway on his new racer thanks to funding of his fellow racer Keith Rider. The CR-4 was an all new design, metal stressed skin design with stubby little wings mounted low on a long elegant fuselage. Housed in the wings was it’s retractable conventional landing gear. It was designed to use the new Ranger V-12 but financial troubles resulted in the re-use of the Menasco that had caused his prior crash.

The CR-4 burst onto the scene in 1938 at the Greve Trophy. And I mean burst. Literally. Into flames. On lap 14 thanks to the intake manifold falling off in flight. The airplane was hastily repaired and entered enthusiastically into the 1938 Thompson Trophy. Once again the CR-4 found itself in a nice fire hazard with fuel leaks forcing it out of the races. Not easily discouraged, Crosby repaired it again and entered it into the Greve Races once again in 1939. Crosby finally secured a finish! However it was third place thanks to the landing gear refusing to retract. Later that year, he finished again! But once again engine troubles left him in fourth place.

Sadly with the start of the war racing came to an end. Crosby was killed in 1945 trying to jump out of a jet powered Northrop Flying Wing. His wife sold the CR-4 to someone who had plans to restore it. Those plans never came to fruition and it sat until it was bought by Morton Lester who donated it to the EAA who finally restored it for it’s current resting place in their museum in Oshkosh Wisconsin.
Posted by benjamin presten | Feb 06, 2021 @ 07:36 AM | 9,989 Views
An alphabetical stroll through the history of aviation. Day 2

Brown B-2: Brown Aircraft was a company that’s most famous racer gave no credit to them, the Turner Meteor. However the racers of their own design were not unsuccessful.

After the crash of their unsuccessful B-1 Racer, Brown aircraft returned to the drawing board and made a few changes to their design. The Brown B-2, exchanged the 4 cylinder Menasco for a 6 cylinder. It had a long sleek, low profile fuselage with a wire braced, low wing and a tail skid landing gear.

In 1934, the Brown B-2 showed up at the National Air races in a bright red paint job with gold lettering and dominated the field of the Greve Trophy competition. She recorded a speed of 213mph at the hands of Roy Minor. The B-2 made another impression at the Thompson Trophy later that year with a second place finish. In 1936 and 37 however she presented no real competition at the National Air Races and suffered damage during the 1937 season.

The B-2 was absent during the 1938 season and reappeared in 1939 looking very different. Brown had built an all new cantilever, tapered wing with a retractable gear. Somehow these mods proved ineffective and the B-2 shortly thereafter became what has to be just about the only airplane ever to be converted from cantilever wing and retractable gear to wire braced and fixed gear. However after undoing the modifications, the airplane was re-entered into the Greve race and after an engine failure turning...Continue Reading
Posted by benjamin presten | Feb 05, 2021 @ 10:23 PM | 11,038 Views
An alphabetical stroll through the history of aviation. Day 1

Art Chester Jeep: Although not his most famous design, (he designed the nose and cowling of the P-51) Art Chester made his bid into air racing with the Jeep or the Art Chester Special.

A handsome mid-wing, strut braced, tail dragger powered by a 185hp Menasco C4-S, the Jeep had a quite successful career. Completed in 1932, the Jeep made it’s Race debut at the 1933 National Air Races in Los Angeles and respectively won its class once and took fourth four times. Later that year in Chicago, it won its class four times and took podiums multiple times in the two classes above it.

The Jeep continued to take victories at many races through 1938, even holding the airplane speed record at one point at 237mph. The airplane was sold in 1938 as Art Chester wanted to take on his new design, the Goon. It was intended to race at the 1939 National Air races but the new owner didn’t have the legal paperwork to fly it. It wasn’t until 1947 that the airplane was raced again after it was, shall we say, not so tastefully modified with a Continental engine for formula one racing. It saw no success in the goodyear race in 1947 or the 1948 Cleveland races.

In 1977 the airplane was donated to the EAA and underwent a restoration back to its original Menasco engine in it’s 1937-38 livery. It is now housed in the EAA museum in Oshkosh Wisconsin. And in 2010 a perfect replica built by Lon Dienst burst onto the scene with an appearance at Airventure.
Posted by benjamin presten | Feb 04, 2021 @ 01:37 PM | 11,363 Views
Comper Swift: The Comper Swift started out as a homebuilt but eventually made its way into a successful production sport flyer.

In 1915 Nicholas Comper joined the Royal Flying Corps and was trained as a reconnaissance pilot flying B.E.2Cs. After WWI he remained in service with what was eventually renamed the RAF and worked as an engineer. While he was still in service, Comper was also designing and building lightplanes with the Cranwell Light Aeroplane Club.

In 1929 he resigned from the RAF and decided to start a company to produce his latest design. The first airplane out of the Comper Aircraft Company’s factory door was the Comper Swift. Initially powered by a 40hp 2 cylinder ABC Scorpion, the Swift was powered by a lot of different power plants throughout its design span.

The Swift was a sleek design with its strut braced wing mounted flush with the top of the fuselage and the single seat cockpit placed just behind the wing. It was of all wood construction covered with fabric and had a, traditional of the times in England, tail skid style landing gear. The prototype first flew at its home in Hooton Park in 1930.

Shortly after the flight of the first one, seven more were constructed powered by 9 Cylinder Salmson AD9 radials of 45hp. However with testing of the 85hp Pobjoy Niagara radial showing promise in racing tests, the following production airplanes housed Pobjoys. Production continued this way until the last three of the 45 production airplanes which were...Continue Reading
Posted by benjamin presten | Feb 03, 2021 @ 10:53 PM | 11,964 Views
Bellanca Bomber: A very unique evolution of a successful single engined airliner into a twin engined bomber.

In the early 1930s Bellanca had found success with their Aircruiser and Airbus series aircraft. Due to it’s sleek design and lifting struts, it was an extremely efficient airplane. To boot, it had a useful load equal to its own weight. One of very few airplanes at the time to boast such a claim. However Bellanca had his eyes set on a military contract.

In an attempt to gain the eyes of the US military, Bellanca heavily modified an Aircruiser into a bomber named the 77-140. The wingspan was increased from 65’ to 77’ and the fuselage and belly were modified, presumably to house bombs. The single center engine was removed and replaced with a rotating open turret with two 30 caliber machine guns. The two Wright R-1820s were instead mounted forward facing on the wings above the landing gear.

The US military was not interested in the airplane however Bellanca did find a customer for a few of them. The Columbian Air Force ordered four modified bombers to be named the 77-320. The new version swapped the open turret on the nose for a closed turret and they exchanged the spatted fixed tail dragger landing gear for a set of pylon mounted floats. Reportedly the pilots of the Columbian Air Force were intimidated by the airplane and were afraid to fly them. At least one of them was destroyed in a fire accident, and it seems that none of the others have survived either.

...Continue Reading