The Aeronca "K"|
By Robert F. Pauley
Published in the February 1970 issue of EAA Sport Aviation
Today the Aeronautical Corporation of America no longer builds airplanes, but many of the companys early products are still active and flying all over the world. One of the most informed experts on Aeronca K airplanes, and without a doubt "Mr. Aeronca" in the Detroit area, is Tom Trainor, who was one of the original members of EAA Chapter 13. Tom has recently restored and test-flown an Aeronca K, but his interest in Aeronca products goes back to the early 1950s when he owned a C-3 model.
The history of the Aeronca company goes back over 40 years when they brought out their first airplane. Aeronca was formed in November, 1928 and was incorporated under the laws of the state of Ohio as the Aeronautical Corporation of America, hence the acronym "Aeronca." Their approach was to build and market a true light airplane that was a direct descendant of the 1925 Roache Monoplane designed by Jean A. Roache, a senior aeronautical engineer for the U. S. Army Air Corps in Dayton, Ohio. Roache sold his refined 1925 design to the new company and production was started in 1929 on the single-place C-2 series. Soon Aeronca was established, and was selling a reliable engine, which had been the stumbling block to a successful light plane for years.
The two-place C-3 series was later added to the C-2 line, and both types were the mainstays of the Aeronca line until 1936 when the two-place low-wing "L" model was introduced. Powered with either a LeBlond 85 or the 90 hp Warner, this design was sold in large numbers and a few are still around.
The C-3 stayed in production until 1937 when the "K" model was introduced with the same two cylinder 36 hp Aeronca engine that powered the C-3 series. A total of 357 Aeronca Ks were built.
Demand for more comfort, range and instruments led to the famous "Chief" series which first appeared in 1938 powered by the 50 hp Continental, Lycoming, or Franklin series of engines. A number of endurance flights sparked sales for the "Chief" and it was, and still is, a common sight at many airports. With the advent of the CPT program, the Aeronca plant started turning out the "Defender" series for use in that program. They were sold to the U.S. Army as the O-58, later redesignated the L-3 series, and served well in different theatres of the war. During World War II, Aeronca also built the Fairchild PT-19 and PT-23.
Aeronca entered the post-war market with an improved "Chief" and a new "Champion" model, both of which were very popular and stayed in production for about five years. Also developed and sold to the U. S. Army was the L-16 series of liaison aircraft, many of which served in the Korean war. Most of this series are still doing valuable work with the Civil Air Patrol.
Aeronca also developed the "Arrow", a low-wing, retractable landing gear, two-place airplane that never went into production. Another model was the "Chum", a licensed version of the "Ercoupe" with Aeronca improvements, which appeared about the time of the 1948 lightplane slump and never saw production. Aeronca cracked the four-place market with the "Sedan" which proved to be popular and is most noted as a good floatplane. In the 1950s Aeronca turned to producing parts for military aircraft and sub-contractors and sold the rights to the "Champion" series to Champion Aircraft Co. of Osceola, Wis. Today, that company produces the "Citabria", which is a descendant of the Aeronca C-2 built so many years ago.
Tom Trainors interest in Aeronca products developed after he had been flying for a number of years. Tom was raised in Olivet, Mich., and went to Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo where he majored in education but took elective courses in aviation mechanics. He belonged to the college flying club, the Sky Broncos, and learned to fly with the club in a 1939 Aeronca "Chief." After graduating, Tom moved to Lakeview, Mich. where he taught school. One day at Newaygo Airport, Tom saw an Aeronca C-3 owned by Dick Black, and immediately acquired the urge to own one himself. He eventually bought a C-3 "razorback" model in 1953 from a man in Saginaw.
At that time, Tom was working in the General Motors styling department and lived in Royal Oak, so he kept his C-3 at Big Beaver Airport. He flew the airplane for about one year and during that time he experienced an engine failure that forced him to land at the Lapeer Airport. In his search for parts to rebuild the engine and to get the airplane back into the air, Tom was led to a Mr. Houseman of Wayland, Mich., who had bought out the complete Aeronca engine inventory from the factory in 1946. Instead of buying a few parts Tom bought the entire inventory that Houseman owned, including over 20 engines, a large supply of new parts, and six Aeronca model Ks. Later on, Tom obtained the rights to the Approved Type Certificate for that engine, and thus became the official owner of the Aeronca engine business. Tom was then able to rebuild the engine for his C-3 and continued to fly and enjoy the airplane. In 1955 he sold it to the late Keith Hopkinson from Goderich, Ontario, where is has remained to this day, and where it can be seen hanging from the rafters in the museum-hanger located at the Goderich Airport.
Having sold the C-3, Tom was without an airplane and so he decided to rebuild one of the six Aeronca Ks that he had acquired with the engine deal. Tom selected one at random which turned out to be the very last Aeronca K built, serial number K-357. This "K" had been built in April 1939 on special order, one full year after production had stopped on the "K" in favor of the "Chief." Tom started his restoration in 1961 by completely stripping the airframe to the bare tubing and starting from that point on. It was completely rebuilt from the sandblasted tubing on up. The wing spars and most of the wing hardware were original, but one spar in each wing had to be spliced and all of the wing ribs were newly made, plus a new leading edge. During the rebuilding process Tom added several "factory optional" items to his "K", such as a a door on the left side and a 5 gal. Auxiliary fuel tank located behind the seats.
The Aeronca K has a wing span of 36 ft. 0 in., a length of 20 ft. 7 in.., and an empty weight of 645 lbs. The powerplant is an Aeronca E-113CD two-cylinder air-cooled engine putting out 42 hp at 2540 rpm. Fuel consumption is a mere 3 gals. per hour! Performance figures listed for the "K" give a top speed of 90 mph, a cruising speed of 80 mph, and a rate of climb at 450 fpm. The "K" stalls at 35 mph and has a glide ratio of 10:1.
Tom Trainors Aeronca K, beautifully restored in its original gleaming Loening yellow with black trim, and carrying FAA registration number N-22338, was flown by him for the first time from Oakland-Orion Airport (Allen Airport) on July 20, 1969.
Tom lives at 4604 Briarwood in Royal Oak with his wife Val and their five children, and is on the product planning and development staff in the engineering department of Chrysler Corp. Now that the long hours of work to restore the airplane are over, he is looking forward to enjoying his Aeronca K in leisurely flights from Allen Airport where it is based.