Some Ercoupe History:
was designed between 1936 and 1940, with the first flight of the prototype in 1937. Before
WW2, 112 were built and approximately 5,000 were made immediately after the war. About 400
more were built between 1958 and 1969.
original name was derived from the name of the company, ERCO, which stood for Engineering
and Research Corporation. When later companies manufactured the plane, it was called the
Designed by Fred Weick and a small team, the Ercoupe was the first plane to
incorporate much of the original research that Weick performed as the assistant chief of
the NACA aerodynamics division. These new features include the inability to be held
spin, the tricycle landing gear to improve landing and take-off safety, the
engine, and a control system in which the rudders are linked to the ailerons to simplify
controlling the airplane. All these features were invented by Fred Weick and his team.
Fred Weick's design goals for this
aircraft were simplicity of control and safety. He built in great visibility
and ground handling. For safety, the elevator deflection of 13 degrees made
stalls nearly impossible. Turning the control wheel operated nose wheel
steering, ailerons and proportional rudder for coordinated turns.
In February 1946, Fred Weick received
the Fawcett Aviation Award for the greatest contribution to the scientific
advancement of private flying.
In addition to service as unmanned
radio controlled target drones, and test aircraft for rocket assisted takeoff
(see below) this photo shows a "twincoupe"
made from two Ercoupes which flew airshows in the late 40s.
Forney Aircoupes were made from 1958-1959, Alon
made planes from 1965-1967, Mooney made the A-2-A (Alon style) Cadet in 1968 and the
Mooney M-1.0 Cadet (with a "Mooney" tail) was made from 1969-1970.
For FUN FLYING, nothing else is better!
footnote: The first successful U.S. rocket-assisted takeoff was
accomplished in an Ercoupe at March Field by Captain Homer A. Boushey Jr.
AAF (later to become Brigadier General),
with pressed-powder propellant JATO rockets developed by Cal Tech. He also
made the first American manned flight of an aircraft propelled by rocket
Boushey, a Stanford
graduate and former airmail pilot, had been so interested in rocketry that
in 1939 he'd written to Robert Goddard at his Roswell, New Mexico testing
location and later traveled to the site to visit the pioneering rocket
scientist. While he was stationed at Wright Field in Ohio, Boushey was
assigned to the aircraft lab to investigate rocket propulsion. Meanwhile,
at the California Institute of Technology, Theodor von Karman and his
staff had, after several failures, managed to produce small rockets
reliable enough to be attached to a light aircraft. Boushey came up with
the idea of putting them on the Ercoupe.
"The idea was we wanted to get as
light a plane as we could," Boushey remembers. "The Ercoupe belonged
to the Army Air Corps. I flew it out from Wright Field to March Field in
California, where we made the test."
Eighteen rocket motors
were delivered every other day for the first tests at March Field, about
an hour's drive from the project. During the first phase of the flight
tests one motor failed explosively in a static test and one while the
Ercoupe was in level flight. Thereafter, 152 motors were used in
succession without explosive failure.
The tests were highly successful: three
solid-propellant rockets were strapped under each wing of the airplane, and
the Ercoupe took off in about half the length of runway it normally used. On August 16, 1941, Boushey made the
first take-off of the Ercoupe with six JATOs firing. Boushey ignited the blend of
perchlorate, asphalt, and special oils with an
instrument panel switch, and in a blinding flash of light and dense smoke,
launched himself in only 300 feet and 7.5 seconds instead of the Ercoupe's
usual 581 feet and 13.1 seconds!
At the end of the tests, Boushey
recalls, "von Karman said, 'Just for history, let's unscrew the propeller
and be the first to fly an airplane with rocket power alone.' "
The first American manned flight of an
aircraft propelled by rocket thrust alone was made by Boushey on August 23,
1941. The propeller of the Ercoupe was removed, and to be sure of getting off
the ground, they doubled the number of rockets and started the airplane
rolling by towing it with a rope attached to a truck. Boushey left the cockpit
canopy open and held the end of the rope in one hand. Thus was born the
little-known and short-lived concept of Rocket-'n'-Rope-Assist.
"I guess I must have gotten 30 or
40 miles an hour before the tension got too great for me to hold onto,"
Boushey said. "Then we lit the rockets - we put 12 on instead of six -
and it took off in a hurry."
The airplane left the ground
and reached an altitude of about 20 ft.
The Navy Department regarded the
successful Ercoupe tests with much interest from the point of view of
application of rockets for assisted take-off of aircraft from aircraft
carriers. Upon the urging of Lt. C.F. Fischer of the Bureau of Aeronautics,
who had witnessed the tests, a contract was placed by the Navy with the
Project in early 1942 for the development of a 200 lb. thrust, 8 second unit.
The unit was designated by the acronym JATO for Jet Assisted Take-Off
(sometime RATO), and this designation is still used.
In 1943 General Boushey became the Air
Corps' first commander of a jet organization when the 412th Fighter Group was
organized on a confidential status at Muroc, Calif. In 1947 General Boushey
led the first over-water flight of jet fighter aircraft when one squadron of
P-80 aircraft was transferred from the Philippines to Okinawa. His decorations
included the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying
Cross, the Air Medal and the Guided Missile Insignia. He retired in 1961, and
passed away Dec. 25, 2000 at age 91. There is more information on his life here.
Dr. Theodore von Kármán
sketches a plan on the Ercoupe wing. From left: Dr. Clark Millikan,
Dr. Martin Summerfield, Dr. von Kárm´n, Frank Malina, and Gen.
Ercoupe variations were
built under patents of Fred Weick. There was the General Skyfarer, another
two control (no rudders) twin tail, non-spinnable tricycle landing gear
airplane, and the Aeronca "Chum", which had nearly the same
spec's as the Ercoupe. See them here.