Shared February 5, 2019
A remarkable history of an innovative aviation design decades ahead of its time. Many said flying the world's first spin proof, two control, tricycle landing gear airplane was like "driving a car."
Late in 1931 Fred Weick, a young NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) aeronautical engineer, invited several of his friends and co-workers to join in a private hobby venture to design and construct a safe, spin proof airplane suitable for the private pilot. During the next five years of experimentation, redesign, and testing, a two control, high flying, pusher design with tandem seating emerged incorporating a unique but unconventional, steerable, “tricycle” landing gear.
In 1936, Fred was invited by Henry Berliner to join his newly formed Engineering and Research Corporation (ERCO) in Washington DC. There, Fred would apply his skills and knowledge to design a 100 mile per hour, spin proof private airplane that would be economical and comfortable.
Fred proceeded to create a two-place airplane with an all-metal structure featuring side-by-side seating, doped fabric covering for the outer panels of the wings, tricycle gear and good pilot visibility. After several modifications and different engines were tested, the Ercoupe Model 415-C evolved.
One hundred and twelve airplanes were built until production was halted in 1941 because of World War II. In August 1945 production of the 415C with a 75hp Continental engine was resumed. Almost 5,000 Ercoupes were built until 1950 when ERCO deemed the project no longer economically feasible.
Many other companies including Sanders Aviation, Vest Aircraft, Forney Enterprises, Air Products, Alon Aircoupe, and Mooney Aircraft tried their hand at manufacturing the Ercoupe. All failed, and the tooling was finally sold to Univar Aircraft who still manufactures parts for the various Ercoupe and Aircoupe models.
In February of 1946, Fred Weick received the Fawcett Aviation Award for the greatest contribution to the scientific advancement of private flying. He has since been recognized as a true aviation pioneer. His many aircraft innovations including the “tricycle gear” are incorporated on countless aircraft today; but of all his achievements, the Ercoupe is the most remembered.
FEARLESS FLYING – The Ercoupe Story – Written and directed by Don Abbott
Research & Editing by Gary Schlintz
Special thanks to:
The Board of Directors Ercoupe Owners Club
Bowling Green State University
John Wright Sr.
John Wright Jr.
Kurt Yearout, & Mike Jenkins
Skyport Ercoupe Services
Copyright 2010 Air Campers Association
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