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Jun 19, 2021, 06:21 AM
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Obscure Airplane Highlight of the Day : Butler Blackhawk


Butler Blackhawk: Butler Manufacturing was a manufacturer of prefab steel buildings, including hangars, that was founded in 1901. In 1928, Butler decided to venture into aircraft manufacturing. They founded Butler Aircraft Corp to do just that and the first (and only) product was the Blackhawk biplane.

Heading up the design team for the airplane was Waverly Stearman, brother of Lloyd Stearman who founded Stearman Aircraft. Prior to the foundation of either Stearman or Butler Aircraft, both brothers had worked at Swallow Aircraft. This probably explains the incredible similarity between the Blackhawk and Stearman C3 which were designed at almost the same time. While there’s no actual interchangeable parts between the two airplanes, they are very visually similar.

The Blackhawk was a three seat open biplane like so many of its competitors. Up front was a 220hp Wright J-5 radial. It was constructed using the standard steel tube fuselage and wood wings and had a conventional landing gear. The only really odd feature of the Blackhaw is it’s ailerons. Conventional biplanes with a longer top wing almost always have their ailerons on the top wing. The Blackhawk however, ditched the complex control system necessary to do that and simply put the ailerons on the lower wing.

The Blackhawk never really achieved particular fame as the beginning of the depression wasn’t the best time for an airplane like that, but it did manage a little mild fame. Famous race and aerobatic pilot Art Goebel owned a Blackhaw and so did “Hoot” Gibson. (the 1930s actor, not the astronaut) In the end there were only 13 Blackhawks produced before the venture was closed by Butler.

Today there are two survivors. One is on display hanging in Science City in Kansas City. It never ceases to amaze me how a non-aviation museum that has only one airplane always has something really oddly specific and rare. The other Blackhawk, restored to fantastic airworthy condition by Harmon Dickerson, lives at the Kelch Aviation Museum which is soon to be opened at Brodhead airport in Wisconsin. The blackhawk there is parked right next to an early Stearman C3 showing the design work of both Stearman Brothers.
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