1946 ERCO Ercoupe

ERCO is a contraction for "Engineering Research Corporation" whose first product was the Ercoupe. This was the first production General Aviation tricycle geared aircraft and was designed by the brilliant aircraft designer Fred Weick. Fred is famous for many things, including the "takeoff/landing over a 50-foot obstacle" specification and the design of the Piper PA-28 Cherokee, among others. The Ercoupe, first manufactured in 1939, goes 115 miles per hour, carries two people, and burns four and a quarter gallons of gas per hour. In 1978, more than 40 years later, Cessna came out with the 152. It goes 105 mph, carries two people, and burns six gallons per hour! How's that for progress?

The Ercoupe, with its distinctive twin-tail design, was originally provided with "coordinated controls", i.e. the rudder was connected to the yoke and yaw correction was automatic - NO RUDDER PEDALS. The nose wheel was connected directly to the yoke - you taxied exactly like you drive your car. This, and limited elevator travel, contributed to the result that the Ercoupe is "characteristically incapable of spinning"! You can try, but the plane will fly out of an incipient spin. An entirely new category of pilot license was created for the thousands of new pilots who had never seen a rudder pedal.

The design is pre-World War II and didn't get into real production till 1945 when thousands were sold through such esteemed aviation outlets as the Men's Department at Macy's!!

"Rudder Kits" were available to convert the plane from 2-control ("coordinated") to 3-control ("conventional").

Landing a 2-control 'Coupe is an "interesting" experience!! You crab it into the wind and land that way!! The nose wheel will caster and straighten out ON THE RUNWAY. The Ercoupe's gear does not swivel, a common misconception, but the geometry causes the airplane to turn in the direction of forward motion. If you fight this tendency you can ground loop.

One historical fact: all original Boeing 707 pilots were taught to land in the Ercoupe. The 707 had a similar problem - the low hanging engines meant that you couldn't drop a wing into a crosswind - you had to land them crabbed!!

Numbers

The manufacture of the Ercoupe had an interesting history. The first real production Ercoupe was the 415C model and 112 were built and sold during 1940 and 1941. World War II stopped production until 1945, at which time production of the "C" model was resumed. From 1945 through 1952 ("C" through "H" models) ERCO turned out a total of 5,028 Ercoupes.

Most of these were "C" and "D" models, and many of the Cs were converted to become CDs (the major difference was in the fact that the C had a 65 or 75 hp Continental engine, while the D had the great big 85. The big boom in General Aviation that occurred right after the war suddenly dried up in 1949 or 1950, and production fell way off, drying up completely by 1952.

The Forney Company of Colorado bought the rights and tooling and started production of the F1 Aircoupe and between 1956 and 1960 built and sold 157 of them. The next outfit to produce the Coupe was the City of Carlsbad, New Mexico, which incorporated a company called Air Products, and between 1960 and 1962 it turned out a grand total of 25 airplanes. These were produced as the F1A model

In 1964, Alon of McPherson, Kansas bought the rights and produced the airplane as the A2 Aircoupe. Between 1964 and 1967 that company produced 245 of the little flying machines. By then, all the new production had rudder pedals. "Alon" was an interesting bit of history: While Forney was building the Aircoupe, one company which came mighty close to buying the type certificate was Beech!! John Allen (Beech plant manager) and Lee Higdon (Beech accounting manager) felt strongly that Beech should take it on, but Olive Beech got cold feet and said no. So they quit and setup the Allen-Higdon (ALON) company to do it. They were so impressed with the plane that they bought the company!!

Finally, in 1967, Mooney acquired the rights and once again put it back into production as the A2A model and called the Cadet. A total of 59 of these were produced and sold. In 1968 Mooney redesigned the tail section, doing away with the twin rudders and replacing them with the distinctive Mooney vertical stabilizer and rudder, and 59 were produced as the Mooney M10.

Fifty-nine of these were built and sold between 1969 and 1970. This, and other changes, created an airplane that could stall and spin with the best but also lost a lot of performance. It was their intention that the M10 Cadet be their "trainer".

Virginia Air Museum Ercoupe

The museum's Ercoupe is a model 415-D, serial number 1766, with a Continental C85-12F 85 H.P. engine and was graciously donated by Charles Drummond of Poquoson, Virginia.

Ercoupe's World War II Experiences

Ercoupe's had an interesting wartime career for a non-combatant aircraft. First, it was used as a man-carrying aerial target. Although this work was essential to the war effort, it had to be quite unnerving to the Ercoupe pilots.

Second, the first successful United States rocket-assisted takeoff was accomplished in an Ercoupe at March Field by Lt. Homer A. Boushey (Army Air Force), with pressed-powder propellant Rocket Assisted Take Off (RATO) rockets developed by Cal Tech. On August 12, 1941, California researchers attached six rockets to the wings of an Ercoupe. The pilot, no doubt a brave one, ignited a blend of perchlorate, asphalt, and special oils with an instrument panel switch. In a blinding flash of light and dense smoke, Lt. Boushey launched himself in only 300 feet and 7.5 seconds instead of the Ercoupe's usual 581 feet and 13.1 seconds!

Naturally, takeoff distance was much less than the normal distance of other light aircraft due to the firing of the rockets attached under its wing. For comparison, the light plane in the foreground although equipped with an engine of approximately the same horsepower as the Ercoupe, had just lifted off the ground at the instant the photograph was taken.





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