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A history of the Aeronca, Bellanca, American Champion Family of Aircraft

  

By Tom Beamer - tom@theairport.com

 

Page 1 - Aeronca Beginnings

Page 2 - Aeronca/Champion/Bellanca-Champion/American Champion Models

Page 3 - Early Aircraft Designations

Page 4 - The Citabria Era Designations

Page 5 - The 8 Series

Page 6 - And…..

Page 7 - Structure (Fuselage and Wings)

 

Aeronca Beginnings

 

Founded by the Taft family (as in President Taft) in 1928 as the Aeronautical Corporation of America in Cincinnati, Aeronca moved to Middletown in 1940 after their original Lunken airport factory was under water (“Sunken Lunken”) in the flood of 1937. Aeronca is credited with building the first practical light aircraft in America. While eclipsed in the popular media by William T. Piper’s exceptional marketing skills Aeronca was arguably the only light aircraft manufacturer to be truly competitive, it was well managed, well financed, and had excellent engineering. The first production model, the C-2, was quickly developed into the much improved C-3 which while homely was a success. Aeronca was almost unique in that they built both aircraft and engines, the Aeronca C-3 was powered by the Aeronca E-113 36 hp engine. One design trait shared by all Aeronca designs, except the Tandem Trainer and military L-3’s, was a three longeron fuselage. The prototype of all Aeroncas, the C-1, was derived from a training glider developed for the Army Air Service. Jean Roche (designer), John Dohse (assistant designer), and Harold Morehouse (engine designer), were all employed in senior positions at nearby McCook Field, which at that time was the center of Army Air Service R&D, the Edwards AFB of the era. The original test pilot was also from McCook. The Aeroncas had excellent credentials and were quickly accepted.

Aeronca C-3

Aeronca built on the success of the C-3 with a more comfortable and attractive series of high-wing side-by-side models (with multiple and initially confusing designation systems), a very attractive low wing, and the Tandem Trainer from which the 7 series was developed late in WWII. In an era when the typical tandem aircraft was soloed from the rear seat the Tandem Trainer was soloed from the front seat and the rear seat was elevated five inches for instructor visibility, I can attest to the fact that this was a very nice feature. The design goal for the Champion was to build on the success of the Tandem Trainer and provide an attractive trainer that didn’t have the shortcomings of the Cub. Aeronca wanted good visibility, ease of entry, spaciousness, and comfortable seating, go sit in any Cub or Cub derived aircraft such as the Husky and note the obvious success of the Aeronca design team. One design element that was dropped because it was impossible to accommodate within a compact and attractive package was the elevated rear seat, as a result all Aeronca built 7 series aircraft had a 4” lower cushion in the rear seat and a 2” one in the front seat, not sure why today’s aircraft (with taller pilots) are delivered with two 4” cushions.

Truly one of the all time GREAT two place tandem designs.

Concurrent with the design of the 7AC Champion the side-by-side seating 11AC Chief was developed utilizing the wings, landing gear, cowl from the firewall forward, and fuselage structure from the baggage compartment aft. The 7 series was built at the Middletown OH plant and the 11 series in WWII hangars at the Dayton Airport.

Realizing the anticipated post-war light aircraft boom was quickly turning into a bust Aeronca ceased aircraft production in 1951, the last aircraft produced was a 15AC Sedan and total production of all models was 17,408. Aeronca became, and remains to this day as part of a larger corporation, a high tech metals fabricator for the aerospace industry having made subassemblies for many military and airline aircraft. Aeronca also made an excellent cascade style thrust reverser that was widely used on Lear 35’s and Falcon 20’s.

Page 1 - Aeronca Beginnings

Page 2 - Aeronca/Champion/Bellanca-Champion/American Champion Models

Page 3 - Early Aircraft Designations

Page 4 - The Citabria Era Designations

Page 5 - The 8 Series

Page 6 - And…..

Page 7 - Structure (Fuselage and Wings)

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