The ERCO Ercoupe is a low-wing monoplane aircraft that was designed and built in the United States. It was first manufactured by the Engineering and Research Corporation (ERCO) shortly before World War II; several other manufacturers continued its production after the war. The final model, the Mooney M-10, first flew in 1968 and the last model year was 1970. It was designed to be the safest fixed-wing aircraft that aerospace engineering could provide at the time, and the type continues to enjoy a faithful following.
|1956 model Forney F-1|
|National origin||United States|
|Manufacturer||Engineering and Research Corporation|
($45.4 thousand–158 thousand in 2018 dollars)
|Variants||Alon X-A4 Aircoupe |
Mooney M10 Cadet
In 1931, aeronautical engineer Fred Weick was assistant chief of the aeronautics division of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). In 1934 he asked permission to build an aircraft based on the 1931 Stout Skycar, using fabric instead of aluminum covering, and control modifications based on NACA research. Weick and a group of co-workers designed and assembled the experimental aircraft with a group of his colleagues who worked on the project in their spare time and paid for it themselves. The resulting aircraft, known as the W-1, featured tricycle landing gear, a parasol wing, and a pusher propeller configuration.
Fred Weick listed the W1 design goals that were tested in later seminars:
In 1934, the Bureau of Air Commerce approached Weick's team looking for standards for a competition for a safe and practical $700 aircraft. In 1936 the winner of the competition was the Stearman-Hammond Y-1, incorporating many of the safety features of the W-1. Two other winners were the Waterman Aeroplane and a roadable autogyro, the Autogiro Company of America AC-35. The W-1 was not intended for production to qualify as a competitor, but was purchased by the Bureau for continued experimental tests in spin-control safety. After the prototype W-1 underwent a forced landing, an updated W-1A was built by Fairchild, incorporating leading edge cuffs.
Weick left NACA in 1936 and joined Engineering and Research Corporation's (ERCO) fledgling aircraft team as chief designer, primarily to continue improving his aircraft design. Focusing his efforts on a number of design issues, primarily simplicity and safety, Weick strove to create a reasonably priced aircraft that would not stall or spin. Retaining the tricycle gear for ease of maneuvering on the ground, and limited stall-spin features, Weick switched to a low-wing monoplane configuration in his new model, powered by an engine in tractor configuration.
The ERCO 310, which included a fully cowled engine, made its first flight in October 1937 at College Park Airport and was soon renamed the "Ercoupe". The easy-to-fly design included unique design features, including a large glazed canopy for improved visibility. The prototype 310 featured an ERCO-made inverted four-cylinder engine, the ERCO I-L 116, which was quickly dropped due to its high manufacturing cost compared to the new Continental A-65 horizontal. Lacking rudder pedals, the Ercoupe was flown using only the control wheel. A two-control system linked the rudder and aileron systems, which controlled yaw and roll, with the steerable nosewheel. The control wheel controlled the pitch and the steering of the aircraft, both on the ground and in the air, simplifying control and coordinated turning and eliminating the need for rudder pedals. A completely new category of pilot's license was created by the CAA for Ercoupe pilots who had never used a rudder pedal.
The Ercoupe was the first aircraft certified by the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) as "characteristically incapable of spinning." The high-winged General Skyfarer obtained the second certification by licensing the ERCO technology. The first production Ercoupe, serial no. 1, NC15692 built in 1939 was donated to the National Air and Space Museum. In 1941 that aircraft, designated YO-55, was used in US Army Air Force testing.
The two-seat ERCO Ercoupe 415 went on sale in 1940. LIFE magazine described the aircraft as "nearly foolproof" and showed pictures of a pilot landing with his hands in the air. Only 112 units were delivered before World War II intervened, halting all civil aircraft production. By mid-1941 aluminum supplies were being diverted to war-related production, so ERCO decided to manufacture Ercoupes for military use by using wood as the principal building material. The substitution of wood resulted in a heavier but quieter aircraft, because the wood absorbed vibrations from the engine and airflow. Ercoupes were flown during the war by the Civilian Pilot Training Program for flight instruction, and the Civil Air Patrol used them to patrol for German submarines.
Although World War II had interrupted production of the Ercoupe, general aviation manufacturers were enthusiastic about the prospects of a postwar aviation boom. Thousands of men and women were trained as pilots by the government, and the hope was that they would want to include flying in their civilian life. Production of the model 415-C resumed in 1945, and in 1946 alone 4,311 aircraft were produced and sold at a cost of US$2,665. This was the same price as in 1941. At its peak, ERCO was turning out 34 Ercoupes per day, operating three shifts per day. The aircraft was aggressively marketed through unconventional outlets such as the men's department of the Macy's department store chain.
However, private aircraft sales slumped after the war and the bottom dropped out of the civil aircraft market in late 1946, ending prospects for a boom market for civil aircraft sales. A 30-day layoff at the factory in November resulted in rivets tossed around the factory and some aircraft sides and signs being painted. The year ended with an Ercoupe flown by a test pilot and mechanic breaking up in flight.
Aeronca obtained a licence to produce the Ercoupe 415 as the Aeronca 12AC Chum in 1946 and built two prototypes: NX39637, with the Ercoupe twin-tail, and NX83772 with a larger, single tail, metal wings and trailing-link struts in the main undercarriage. The Chum was powered by a Continental C-85J with a 108 mph (174 km/h) cruise speed. No production ensued.
In 1947 ERCO sold its remaining Ercoupe inventory to Sanders Aviation, which continued to produce the aircraft in the same ERCO-owned factory. A total of 213 aircraft were sold by 1950. During this time, ERCO's chief engineer Fred Wieck moved on to Texas A&M, where he developed the agricultural Piper Pawnee aircraft and eventually the popular Piper Cherokee with John Thorp and Karl Bergey.
Univair Aircraft Corporation of Aurora, Colorado purchased the Ercoupe design from the Engineering and Research Company in 1950. It provided spare parts and customer support to the existing aircraft.
In April 1955, Univair sold the Ercoupe type certificate to the Forney Aircraft Company of Fort Collins, Colorado, which later became the Fornaire Aircraft Company. The aircraft produced differed from the 415-G in its engine/propeller combination they were upgraded to a C-90 engine, revised engine cowling, larger baggage compartment, and aluminum-covered wing panels. The F-1A model had three axis controls and bucket seats. Production began in 1958 and ended in 1959.
A total of 138 aircraft were produced.
Between August 1960 and March 1964, the rights to the Aircoupe aircraft were held by the AirCoupe division of Air Products Company of Carlsbad, New Mexico. The company was started by the city, with the hope of establishing aircraft manufacture as a local industry. It purchased the type certificate from Forney when a potential deal with Beechcraft fell through. Only a few airframes were produced before the type certificate was sold to Alon, Incorporated on March 16, 1964. Twenty-five of the F-1A Forney Trainer were produced for US$7,450 each.
Alon Inc. was founded by John Allen and Lee O. Higdon, two executives who had retired from aircraft manufacturer Beechcraft to found their own company. They had previously negotiated with Forney Aircraft to purchase production of the Aircoupe so that Beechcraft could use the design as an introductory trainer. The deal was canceled by Olive Ann Beech, who decided to concentrate resources on the Beechcraft Musketeer. This decision caused the executives to leave Beechcraft and establish Alon in McPherson, Kansas, which purchased the type certificate for the Aircoupe from the City of Carlsbad, New Mexico on March 16, 1964.
"A new company formed by former Beechcraft executives Allen and Higdon, who have purchased all assets, jigs, tools, and engineering of the program from the city of Carlsbad NM. They expect to deliver the first of 30-50 Aircoupes to be built next year for about $8,000." (-- Aviation Week 3/30/64)
The Alon A-2 and A-2A Aircoupes featured a sliding canopy, a Continental C90 90 hp (67 kW) engine, separate bucket seats and an improved instrument panel. The A-2 also differed from earlier two-control models in having limited-movement rudder pedals. This was done in order to make it a more acceptable training aircraft and to make it easier to counteract increased P-factor yaw during a climb from the more powerful engine. Nosewheel steering was no longer interlinked with the control yoke, and was changed to the more common practice of being interlinked with the rudder pedals( this was the same system that was installed in the Forney F-1A). The older two axes control system was offered as an option. The single control (non-differential) wheel brakes remained. The airplane had a higher rate of climb, a higher speed for best climb rate, and better engine cooling. Its non-spinning characteristics remained unchanged.
Alon produced 245 A-2s from 1964 to 1967, with peak production of 137 in 1966. The last 25 A-2s produced by Alon had spring-steel landing gear in place of the original main gear struts, light alloy castings and trailing links. The base price in 1967 was up to $7975. Production of the A-2 ceased in September 1967, and on October 9, 1967, Alon was purchased by, and became a division of the Mooney Airplane Company of Kerrville, Texas.
Mooney began producing the aircraft in 1968 as the Mooney A2-A. Next the company redesigned the fuselage from the cockpit back, with square windows behind the sliding canopy. Even as it produced the A2-A Cadet, Mooney was busy re-designing the aircraft. On February 23, 1968, the first Mooney Cadet M-10 flew. The aircraft has a single fin, with a vertical leading edge, as most Mooneys do.
The type certificate was sold to Univair Aircraft Corporation of Aurora, Colorado in October, 1974 and remains with Univair. The company has not produced any new aircraft but continues to produce replacement parts and provide technical assistance to Ercoupe owners.
Three model 415-C aircraft were procured by the United States Army Air Forces for use during World War II.
|Army Air Force
|Army Air Force
|39||1941||NC28944||January 4, 1941||YO-55||41-18875||February 26, 1941|
|110||1941||NC37143||August 19, 1941||PQ-13||41-39099||December 8, 1941|
On 12 August 1941, the first USAAF rocket-assist takeoff was made by a Wright Field test pilot, Capt. Homer Boushey, using a small civilian-type Ercoupe aircraft. Subsequent refinements of this technique were made for assisting heavily loaded aircraft in taking off from limited space. The tests were conducted between 6 August and 23 August 1941, at March Field, California, using various combinations of rocket units mounted under the wings of NC28655.
An additional Ercoupe was evaluated by the Royal Air Force in 1947. This aircraft was serial number 4784, carried Royal Air Force markings VX 147 and was polished metal all over with RAF roundels.
The Ercoupe is a type certified aircraft. However, some Univair Ercoupe 415-C and 415-CD models meet the FAA requirements to be flown by sport pilots as light-sport aircraft. The characteristics of the Ercoupe helped Jessica Cox (who was born without arms) to become a qualified pilot.
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
The Aeronca 12AC Chum was a 2-seat cabin monoplane designed and produced by Aeronca in the United States in 1946. The design was a licence-built version of the ERCO Ercoupe.
Aeronca built two examples, the first with the standard twin-tail and a second with a single tail, modified landing gear and all-metal wings.Alon A-4
The Alon A-4 is a prototype American light aircraft of the 1960s. Alon INC. of McPherson, Kansas was formed by two former executives of Beechcraft in 1963 and had initially built an improved version of the ERCO Ercoupe as the Alon A-2. In 1964, Alon started design of an all-new four-seat light aircraft, the Alon Four (or Alon A-4). It was a conventional, singled-engined low-winged monoplane of all-metal construction with a fixed (non retractable) tricycle landing gear undercarriage. Alon produced one prototype, this first flying on February 25, 1966. The aircraft was never put into full production before the company was sold to Mooney aircraft.Bryan Autoplane
The Bryan Autoplanes were a series of three experimental roadable aircraft.Continental O-190
The Continental O-190 (Company designations C75 and C85) is a series of engines made by Continental Motors beginning in the 1940s. Of flat-four configuration, the engines produced 75 hp (56 kW) or 85 hp (63 kW) respectively.The two variants shared the same bore, stroke and compression ratio. The C85 produced ten extra horsepower by virtue of having a maximum permissible rpm of 2575 versus the 2275 of the C75.The C75 was in production from 1943 to 1952 and the C85 from 1944 to 1970.Continental O-200
The Continental C90 and O-200 are a family of air-cooled, horizontally opposed, four-cylinder, direct-drive aircraft engines of 201 in³ (3.29 L) displacement, producing between 90 and 100 horsepower (67 and 75 kW).Built by Continental Motors these engines are used in many light aircraft designs of the United States, including the early Piper PA-18 Super Cub, the Champion 7EC, the Alon Aircoupe, and the Cessna 150.Though the C90 was superseded by the O-200, and many of the designs utilizing the O-200 had gone out of production by 1980, with the 2004 publication of the United States Federal Aviation Administration light-sport aircraft regulations came a resurgence in demand for the O-200. The light-sport aircraft standard is for small, simple single- and two-seat aircraft for which the O-200 is well-suited.ERCO IL-116
The ERCO IL-116 was an American inline aircraft engine designed and built in the late 1930s. The type was not placed into series production due to competition from cheaper engines.Engineering and Research Corporation
Engineering and Research Corporation (ERCO) was started by Henry Berliner in 1930. Berliner was the son of Emile Berliner, who had patented numerous inventions relating to sound and acoustics, and pioneer of helicopter development with the experimental Berliner Helicopter.
The younger Berliner founded ERCO to produce tools for the manufacture of metal aircraft and propellers. He founded the company in a shed at 2014 5th street NW Washington D.C. Berliner met Fred Weick, an aeronautical engineer, who worked with National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in cowlings and propellers on a 1926 while developing the propellers for the USS Akron. Weick also worked on an experimental aircraft that incorporated the up-to-date safety features.
In 1935, the company moved to 6100 Sligo Blvd.In 1936, Weick left NACA to work for ERCO on his "safety airplane". In 1937, Berliner purchased 50 acres of land in Riverdale, Maryland near the College Park Airport and built the large ERCO factory and airstrip. One of ERCO's most significant achievements was the development of the Ercoupe aircraft.
The first experimental model of the Ercoupe was test-flown at College Park airport in 1937. It had a single tail (unlike the eventual production Ercoupes, with their characteristic twin tails) and was known as the "Jeep". In late 1938, ERCO searched unsuccessfully for a suitable engine for its new airplane. ERCO hired Harold Morehouse, former engineer in charge of small engine design at Continental Motors, to design a new engine. He came up with the inverted, in-line I-L 116, which provided good pilot visibility and enhanced aircraft streamlining. ERCO installed the I-L 116 in the prototype Ercoupe Model 310 in 1939. The engine performed well, but ERCO discontinued it when Continental introduced the A-65 engine in 1940, which generated comparable horsepower at half the cost. Construction of the production prototype was completed in 1939, and certification by the CAA was completed in 1940. The first Ercoupe, serial No. 1, was owned by George Brinckerhoff, the operator of the College Park Airport, and flown there. It now is at the National Air and Space Museum.
During World War II, the ERCO factory made several products under contract with the U.S. government, including gun turrets. ERCO earned an "E" award for excellence in meeting manufacturing goals in its war contracts.
In 1947, Berliner decided to leave the aviation industry and sold the drawings, tools, parts, materials and distribution rights for the Ercoupe to Sanders Aviation, although the small aircraft market had fallen into decline.
In all, ERCO and Sanders Aviation sold just over 5,000 Ercoupes.
In 1948, ERCO started producing aircraft simulators, becoming its main line of business. In November 1954, ERCO became part of ACF.Henry Berliner
Henry Adler Berliner (December 13, 1895 – May 1, 1970) was a United States aircraft and helicopter pioneer.
Sixth son of inventor Emile Berliner, he was born in Washington, D.C.. After a short time as aerial photographer with the Army Air Service, in 1919 Henry moved back to Washington to help his father with the helicopter research that had been underway for many years (since 1903 New International Encyclopedia).
Using a Le Rhône engine of 80 hp mounted on a test stand, Henry was able to hover and move forward, but only with assistants holding on to stabilize the contraption. In 1922, he bought a surplus Nieuport 23 fighter's fuselage, added a Bentley 220 hp engine on the front, and connected it by geared shafts to two horizontal rotors mounted on a truss extending sideways from the fuselage. A third horizontal rotor at the rear provided pitch control.
This was demonstrated at College Park, Maryland to the U.S. Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics on June 16, 1922, and is often given (though disputed) as the debut of the helicopter.In 1923, Henry added a triple set of wings to his prototype, as a backup in case of engine failure. This machine could both hover, and reach forward speeds of 40 mph, but did not have the power to gain much altitude; its best performance, on February 23, 1924, reached an elevation of just 15 feet.A 1925 biplane-like design was lighter and more efficient, but performed little better and was the Berliners' last experiment. In the following year, Henry founded the Berliner Aircraft Company and went on develop various fixed-wing aircraft. The company merged to form Berliner-Joyce Aircraft in 1929 and was acquired by North American Aviation a few months later; in 1930 Berliner founded Engineering and Research Corporation (ERCO). ERCO built the ERCO Ercoupe
The triplane helicopter was donated to the Smithsonian Institution. A part of the collection at the National Air and Space Museum, it presently is on loan to the College Park Aviation Museum.Lockheed Big Dipper
The Lockheed Model 34 Big Dipper was an American two-seat monoplane, designed and built by Lockheed at Burbank for research into the company's potential entry into the civil lightplane and military light utility aircraft marked. Only one was built, and following its loss in an accident the program was abandoned.Mackinac Island Airport
Mackinac Island Airport (IATA: MCD, ICAO: KMCD, FAA LID: MCD) is a public use airport in Mackinac County, Michigan, United States. It is located one nautical mile (1.9 km) northwest of downtown Mackinac Island, Michigan in the center of Mackinac Island. The airport is owned by Mackinac Island State Park Commission. It is included in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2017–2021, in which it is categorized as a basic general aviation facility.Mackinac Island Airport started as a grass strip in 1934. It got a paved runway in 1963 and a terminal building in 1969. A $4.6 million project in 2012 moved the runway 65 feet east to a flatter location.Mini Coupe
The Mini Coupe is a single engine, single place, aluminum construction, low-wing aircraft with a twin rudder layout. The aircraft shares the same basic configuration as the larger Erco Ercoupe, providing the basis for the name Mini Coupe. The complete parts kit for the aircraft is no longer sold. Plans are available for scratch building the aircraft.Mooney M10 Cadet
The Mooney M10 Cadet is a light airplane manufactured by the Mooney Aircraft Company in 1969 and 1970. The M10 is derived from the ERCO Ercoupe, the type certificates for which Mooney purchased from the Alon Corporation in 1967.Navarro Chief
The Navarro Chief is a British trimotor aircraft that was designed and built by Navarro Safety Aircraft.Stout Skycar
The Stout Skycar was a series of four one-off American-built light aircraft of the 1930s.Suburban Airport
Suburban Airport (FAA LID: W18) was a public-use airport located in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, United States, two miles (3 km) southeast of the central business district of Laurel. This airport was privately owned by Suburban Air Park LLC. The airport was closed in 2017.Tom Gastall
Thomas Everett Gastall (June 13, 1932 – September 20, 1956) was an American baseball player who appeared in two seasons as a catcher for the Baltimore Orioles. A right-handed batter and thrower, he stood 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 m) tall and weighed 187 pounds (85 kg).
Gastall was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, where he starred in basketball, football and baseball at B.M.C. Durfee High School. Then Gastall attended Boston University; he served as captain of the baseball and basketball teams, and quarterbacked the Terriers to the most successful season in their history to that point. The university named him athlete-of-the-year, and was selected by the Detroit Lions in the 1955 NFL draft.
After graduation, Gastall signed with Baltimore for $40,000 as a bonus baby. Gastall appeared in 52 games and had less than one hundred plate appearances over two seasons with Baltimore.
He died when the ERCO Ercoupe aircraft he piloted experienced engine problems and crashed into the Chesapeake Bay. His body was recovered from the bay five days later. He was survived by his wife, Rosemary, and a son, Thomas.Twin tail
A twin tail is a specific type of vertical stabilizer arrangement found on the empennage of some aircraft. Two vertical stabilizers—often smaller on their own than a single conventional tail would be—are mounted at the outside of the aircraft's horizontal stabilizer. This arrangement is also known as an H-tail, as it resembles a capital "H" when viewed from rear - these were used on a wide variety of World War II multi-engine designs that saw mass production, especially on the American B-24 Liberator and B-25 Mitchell bombers, the British Avro Lancaster and Handley-Page Halifax heavy bombers, and on the Soviet Union's Petlyakov Pe-2 attack bomber.
A special case of twin tail is twin boom tail or double tail where the aft airframe consists of two separate fuselages, "tail booms", which each have a rudder but are usually connected by a single horizontal stabilizer. Examples of this construction are the twin-engined Lockheed P-38 Lightning; Northrop P-61 Black Widow; Focke-Wulf Fw 189; the single jet-engined de Havilland Vampire; cargo-carrying Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar and the little known Transavia PL-12 Airtruk.Yakovlev Yak-20
The Yakovlev Yak-20 (Russian: Яковлев Як-20) was an experimental piston-engined trainer developed in the Soviet Union in 1949. It did not go into production.
|Built under licence|