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Feb 22, 2021, 12:36 AM
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Obscure Airplane Highlight of the Day : Pitcairn Biplanes


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. Itís one unique feature was three cockpits in a row seating a total of five people. Two fleetwings were built and used for testing Pitcairnís 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 didnít 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 Fleetwing II has survived until it was restored a while ago but it was badly damaged in a wreck and has yet to be restored again. There are several of the different Mailwings flying in various Air Mail and civilian paint schemes in and out of museums.
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