1930 Fleet Model #1

The Fleet Model #1 was designed to be a robust primary trainer. Major Reuben Fleet, an Army aviator and guiding light at Consolidated Aircraft Corporation, hoped to sell the aircraft to civilian flight schools and the military. Fleet believed a need existed for a primary trainer that possessed excellent flying characteristics and the sturdiness to endure a fledgling aviator's first attempts at flight. The U.S. Navy purchased some of the airplanes under the military designation N2Y-1 for experimentation with "hooking up" techniques with the dirigibles U.S.S. Akron and U.S.S. Macon. The Fleet Model #1 proved to be a popular aircraft during the years before World War II. It was a versatile sport aircraft capable of a complete retinue of aerobatic maneuvers. It was light, quick on the controls, and built so strongly that its only real limitations were the abilities of the pilot. The flying school at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg used Fleets for training pilots. The Fleet at the Virginia Air Museum (VAM) is painted in pre-World War II Army colors and was donated by Lennie Ellis, Ashland, Va. (Serial #347)

The History Of The 1930 Fleet
By Frederic Howard
(Published in the June 1967 Issue of the American Aviation Society Journal)

The Fleet Biplane was named for Maj. Reuben Fleet who was the guiding hand at Consolidated Aircraft at the time. Fleet Aircraft Inc. was set up as a subsidiary of Consolidated and was headed by Larry Bell, later famous for the line of aircraft bearing his name, to perform the manufacturing functions.

Consolidated Aircraft of Buffalo N. Y. developed the Fleet in 1928 to supplement the company's successful PT and "Husky" series of training aircraft. The Fleet was not a derivation of the PT series but a brand new design throughout and, whereas the PT and "Husky" airplanes had been primarily slanted to meet the requirements of the military, the Fleet series of aircraft targeted the civilian market.

This desire to attract the civilian buyer accounted for the machine being designed around the Warner "Scarab" engine of 110 hp. The commercial operators of the day, having been conditioned by the inexpensive OX-5 engine, could hardly be expected to eagerly welcome the cost and the expense of supporting over 200 hp (as used in the PT-3) in an airplane built only to teach flying. The engine initially chosen for the Fleet series, the Warner "Scarab", was probably the best of the new engines then appearing on the market in the 90-120 hp range and the Fleet Model 1 found widespread acceptance very quickly as a civilian training machine.

There was little carry-over from the "Husky" to the Fleet. Dimensionally, they were quite different, and except for a few details, such as the type of windscreen and the fuel arrangement, it would be difficult to find features tying the two designs together. In spite of that, the first Fleets were sometimes called "Husky Junior". Formally they were known as the Consolidated Model 14, a design that received ATC #84 on 10 November 1928 and was approved for the Warner Scarab engine. In 1929, a slightly reworked version of the Model 14 was produced under ATC #122 (issued 15 June 1929) and named the Fleet Model 1. Fleet Model 2 also dates from June 15, 1929 and was certified under ATC #131. Both the Model 1 and Model 2 used the Kinner K-5 engine. The third popular Fleet design, the Model 7 powered by the Kinner B-5 of 125 hp, was placed in production in 1930 and received ATC #374 in October 4 of that year.

Throughout the 1930s Warner "Scarab" and Kinner K-5 and B-5 Fleets were common everywhere in the United States, but they were particularly popular on both coasts. In the east, for example, the Roosevelt Flying School of New York operated Fleets for many years. In Southern California, Fleets were available at almost every airport where, quite unlike today, a considerable number of impending bankrupts, called "fixed base operators," scratched a precarious living renting them out to "Sunday Flyers" and providing flying instruction (of a sort) in half-hour increments. The rental was almost always the same whether the owner-operator went along to provide "flying instruction" or not. His services came free. The charges for Fleets ranged from $6 to $8 per hour with the poorer Los Angeles area fields like Dycer or Culver City offering the lower prices.

The specifications for the K-5 Fleet listed a cruising speed of 95 and the top speed of 110 but everybody knew better than to believe it. No one expected to go anywhere in a hurry in a Fleet and so the fact that it might, if everything was set just right, cruise at 85 was interesting but not important. It was just nice to be up there in this fun aircraft so nobody held it against the airplane. That fact seems strange today in this fast paced world, but in the 1930s just cruising leisurely over the countryside was something special.

The 1929 Directory issue of Western Flying listed the price of the Fleet Model 2 as $5,500 at the factory, Buffalo, N. Y. By 1931, the depression had forced the price down to $3,985.

(The following information was taken from a 1930 Sales Brochure). The Fleet Airplane is a two-seat, open cockpit, staggered tractor biplane having the following general dimensions:

Span28 Feet
Wing Chord48 Inches
Wing Area194.4 Sq. Ft.
Horiz. Stabilizer Area13.7 Sq. Ft.
Elevator Area10.8 Sq. Ft.
Fin Area2.9 Sq. Ft.
Rudder Area8.2 Sq. Ft.
Aileron Area21.7 Sq. Ft.
Landing Gear Tread76.75 Inches
Overall Length21 Feet 8 Inches
Height (landing Position)7 Feet 9 Inches
Wing Incidence2
Upper Wing Dihedral0
Lower Wing Dihedral4
Gap at center section54 Inches
Stagger23 Inches
Tire Size8.50 x 10 (7.50 x 10 and 6.50 x 10 also available)
Engine Kinner 5 cyl K-5 100 hp.
B-5 125 hp.
R-5 160 hp.

Wing Cellule
Wing panels are made of laminated spruce spars, stamped sheet Duralumin leading edges, trailing edges, ribs, walkboards, and center section cutout. Covering is cotton airplane fabric. Interplane struts comprise of streamlined chrome alloy tubing. Ailerons are triangulated spruce structure, fabric covered.

Tail Surfaces
All tail control surfaces have alloy steel tabular spars and stamped sheet steel ribs. Stabilizer is adjustable in flight from either cockpit and the fin is adjustable on the ground.

The fuselage structure is made of chrome molybdinum steel tubing with welded joints. Fuselage is covered with fabric. Fairing strips under the covering on the sides prevent flapping of the fabric. Engine cowling consists of nose cowl, top cowl, bottom cowl, and two side doors. Engine compartment side doors are easily opened and top cowls are easily removed. All other cowlings are held on by Oval countersunk machine screws and special washers.

The adjustable seats are of all metal construction and designed to take parachutes. They are securely fastened to the fuselage structure and have a quick-release buckle.

Windshields are of Pyralin
Instrument boards are slanted at a restful angle to the eye and are provided with curled-hair upholstered crash pads to protect the pilot's face. Normally the front cockpit is the Master cockpit whose instrument panel contains the following controls and instruments: Primer and Primer Shut-off cock, Carburetor Heat Control, Mixture Control, Tachometer, Oil Pressure Gauge, Oil Temperature Gauge, and the Altimeter. Standard instruments may be installed in the rear cockpit at an additional cost. Air Speed and Bank Indicators may also be mounted and a compass may be mounted under the front spar of the upper wing in view from both cockpits. The ignition switch is normally located in the front cockpit with an extension rod to the rear cockpit. Throttle controls are installed in both cockpits on the left side.

Standard colors are yellow or light yellow for the wings and stabilizer, and blue, green, or red for the fuselage, fin, rudder, landing gear and struts.

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