Boeing Model 203

The Boeing Model 203 was a three-seat biplane trainer build by Boeing in the late 1920s and used in the company training school.

Model 203
Role biplane trainer
National origin United States
Manufacturer Boeing
First flight 1 July 1929
Primary user Boeing School of Aeronautics
Number built 7

Development and design

The 203 was a low power biplane designed to compete with other standard training aircraft. Its front cockpit accommodated 2 passengers side-by-side, or 1 student with a second set of controls. Its fuselage was welded steel tubing (the last Boeing aircraft to be built this way) and its wings were made of solid wood spars and plywood ribs. Physically it resembled a combination of the Boeing Model 95 and Boeing Model 100.[1]

Initially five 203s were built. The first had a 145 hp engine, and first flew on 1 July 1929. The second aircraft was fitted with a 165 hp 5-cylinder Wright J-6-5 engine. It first flew on 29 August 1929 and was designated Model 203A. The final 3 aircraft had the original Axelson engine, upgraded to 165 hp. All aircraft were delivered to the Boeing School of Aeronautics in Oakland, California, and all were eventually converted into 203As.[2]

After years of service, the vertical tails of the 203As were redesigned to align with those on the Boeing Model 218. Two more aircraft were built at the Boeing School, 1 in 1935 and 1 in 1936.[3]

By 1941 the two new 203s and an original aircraft were converted to 203Bs. A larger 220 hp 9-cylinder Lycoming R-680 radial engine was installed, and more advanced training equipment was fitted for use by more advanced students.

When the Boeing School was closed due to the Second World War, the 4 203As were transferred to United Air Lines at Cheyenne, Wyoming, two 203Bs were sold to a private owner, and the fate of the final 203B is unknown.[4]


 United States

Specifications (203)

Data from Bowers, 1989, pg. 150

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Capacity: 3
  • Length: 24 ft 4 in ( m)
  • Wingspan: 34 ft in ( m)
  • Empty weight: 1,896 lb ( kg)
  • Gross weight: 2,625 lb ( kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × 7-cylinder Axelson radial engine, 165 hp ( kW)


  • Maximum speed: 108 mph ( km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 92 mph ( km/h)
  • Range: 400 miles ( km)


  1. ^ Bowers, 1989, pg. 149
  2. ^ Bowers, 1989, pg. 150-151
  3. ^ Bowers, 1989, pg. 150
  4. ^ Bowers, 1989, pg. 152
  • Bowers, Peter M. Boeing aircraft since 1916. London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1989. ISBN 0-85177-804-6.
Boeing School of Aeronautics

The Boeing School of Aeronautics was started by Boeing to compete against the Wright brothers' Wright Flying School and Curtiss Flying School in San Diego, California. Founded in 1929 at Oakland Municipal airport, the school started with a staff of 19 and 100 students. It was licensed by the Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce, who had taken over the licensing of aviation schools.By 1937 the school had expanded operations to 41 staff and 500 students. In October 1938 General Arnold brought in the top three aviation school representatives to request they establish an unfunded startup of Civilian Pilot Training Program schools at their own risk. These were Oliver Parks of Parks Air College, C. C. Moseley of the Curtiss-Wright Technical Institute, and Theophilus Lee, Jr., of the Boeing School of Aeronautics; all agreed to start work. This expanded in 1940 to include training of 5000 U.S. Army Mechanics. The school expanded to 14 buildings and 1000 students at its peak in 1942. Commercial pilot training was suspended to customer United Airlines to meet wartime demand in August that year. By 1943 the CPTP contract had expired and Boeing absorbed the school operations into the parent company. The facilities remained under the new name United Air Lines Training Center which continued to train mechanics under a Navy contract until 1945, before closing.

The school operated early Boeing aircraft. These included the Boeing Model 81 and Model 100 pursuit fighter 1928, Boeing Model 203 in 1929. Students would help design, develop, test fly and maintain Boeing aircraft, providing the parent company sales and engineering feedback. Several original aircraft were designed by students and teachers, such as the 1939 Thorp T-5, and T-6.

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