In search of the $700 airplane

Image 3 : Funk Model  B

Caption:

The Funk Model B certified in 1939 was the last of the Ford powered production aircraft to be produced and the most popular.

Source: Dennis Parks

Obtaining an engine for a lightplane was the greatest challenge facing amateur builders in the 1930s.

The prices for light airplane engines were prohibitive for most builders. The powerplant of the average small plane amounted to 60% of the cost of the complete plane.

That led builders to look to other sources of power. Auto engines, being cheap and plentiful compared to certified aircraft engines, proved tempting — so tempting, in fact, that in the 1930s there were 200 aircraft registered using Ford engines. [Read more…]

The great migration of 1940

In the winter of 1940 over 600 light planes flew from around the United States to Florida. This image from the June 1938 cover of Air Trails shows the variety of new aircraft being offered for sale. (Source: Air Trails June 1938)

January 1940 saw a mass migration of light planes from throughout the United States to Florida. Held in conjunction with the Miami All-American Air Maneuver Air Races, the group flights of personal planes was known as the Light Airplane Cavalcade. [Read more…]

1929’s record-setting endurance flights

Caption:
The Curtiss-Robertson St. Louis Robin being refueled during its flight to a new
world’s endurance record of 420 hours greatly surpassing the
record of 150 hours set by the Army’s Question Mark at the beginning of the year.
 
Source:
Aircraft Yearbook for 1930

The 1920s saw many records set for altitude, speed, endurance and range, but they were destined to be only fleeting. The records fell quickly due to the development of better aircraft and engines.

January 1929 began the year with an achievement that many thought would never be exceeded anytime in the near future — the epic six day flight of the Question Mark.

The Question Mark was a modified Fokker transport aircraft that was flown to a refueled endurance record by US Army aviators. The flight established new world records for sustained flight, refueled flight, and distance. [Read more…]

The beginning of the light airplane movement

Moth2 copy

In the 1920s Great Britain saw a great growth in civil aviation, which was an outgrowth of its light aircraft movement.

This movement originated with light plane trials held in Lympne, England. These competitions led to the development of new light aircraft for private ownership and flying clubs. The flying clubs saw thousands of pilots learn to fly in the light planes, creating a market for these aircraft. This, in turn, led to the development of one of the most iconic of light planes, the de Havilland Moth. [Read more…]

Flight training the Wright way

The Wright Flyer

The Wright brothers are well known as scientists, inventors, builders and flyers — and they became international celebrities in 1909 with record-setting flights in Europe and America.

Less well known were their efforts as flight instructors and flight school creators. They began flight instruction in Europe. Later back home, they trained aviators for their exhibition team, for the military and, as interest in aviation grew, they opened flight schools for civilian pilots. [Read more…]

Rules of the road

Figure 1

At the close of 1927, 1,572 pilots had been licensed and 2,573 others had applied for licenses. Additionally, 681 aircraft had been licensed for interstate commerce, and 908 aircraft had been assigned identification numbers. There were also 2,218 applications for license and identification of aircraft awaiting action.

It was at this time that the Department of Commerce issued its first Air Traffic Rules, as required under the Air Commerce Act of 1926. [Read more…]

Pilot reports: The beginnings

the 1938 Luscombe 8 (N22013) is courtesy of Ty Sundstrom and was taken at Tehachapi, CA.

“After running the motor a few minutes to heat it up, I released the wire that held the machine to the track, and the machine started forward into the wind,” reported Orville Wright in the December 1913 issue of Flying magazine.

Though possibly not the first pilot report in an aviation journal, it sure is a pilot report about the oldest aircraft.

Though flight test articles became a common feature of general aviation magazines in the 1960s and on, these pilot reports on performance and handling of aircraft were rare before World War II. The emergence of flight test articles on new private aircraft owe their origins to two magazines: The Sportsman Pilot and Air Facts. [Read more…]

The advent of the light twin

Photos by Meg Godlewski

With the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, the prohibition on the production of civil aircraft was rescinded. Many articles published that year were harbingers of the post-war boom expected for the general aviation industry. Indeed there was a huge boom in production — general aircraft production went from 1,946 in 1945 to an unbelievable 33,254 in 1946.

This was truly the golden era of light aircraft production. But it was a short-lived one as the market rapidly went sour as returning GIs and the public were struggling with other demands. Sales in 1947 fell to around 15,515 airplanes, and by 1949 had plunged to 3,500.

But out of this post-war bust would come a boom in a new category of general aviation aircraft — the light twin. [Read more…]

Air boating

AirBoat

Many non-aviation magazines were swept up in the growing interest in aviation that was accented by the exploits of World War l military aviation. These included COUNTRY LIFE, LITERARY DIGEST and MOTOR BOATING.

In fact, Motor Boating took aviation as its own and christened it “Air Boating” in a monthly series starting in February 1918.

“Air Boating has passed the experimental stage,” the magazine’s editors stated. [Read more…]

Max Conrad: The early years

Conrad with his Piper Aztec prior to takeoff
from Winona, Minnesota on November 30, 1969 on his historic
34,000 mile Round-the-World, over both poles flight.

When he died in 1979, Max Conrad was known the world over as the “Flying Grandfather.”

A long-distance record breaker in light aircraft, most notably the Piper Comanche, Max was generally credited with more flying time than any other pilot — more than 50,000 hours. In 1954 he flew solo, non-stop from New York to Paris to deliver a Piper Apache, the first such flight since before World War II.

[Read more…]