Flying Bathtubs, Cuban Cigars and Yankee Ingenuity
At a glance, these words might not seem like they would have anything in common, unless you were an Aeronca E107A aircraft engine that some how wound up in an old tobacco barn in Windsor, CT, spending time drying tobacco to be used as rappers for fine Cuban cigars during the 1930s.
This is the tale of one such engine, an Aeronca E107A engine, serial number 39, which wound up mounted to a stand to dry tobacco and purchased at a farm auction in the early 1950s.
Before I begin, I must say that very little is known about the first E107As. Most of the records from Aeronca were lost during the flood of 1937, when Lunken Airport was covered by 30 feet of icy water. The data I collected about my little engine is from research at aviation museums and from some very nice gentlemen who took the time to tell me what they knew about the Flying Bathtub and the E107A. Many of the stories, however, are second hand, as those who developed and worked on these engines have taken their final flight west.
The Aeronca C-2 was introduced at the St. Louis Airshow in February 1930. It was the first truly lightweight airplane to be certified by the government for the civilian market. Much has been written about the Flying Bathtub, so I will be brief on this subject. Jean Roche, had a prototype back in 1925 called the Roche-Dohse, flivver flyer. It had the Wright-Morehouse 29 h.p. engine. In 1926, Wright Aeronautical Corporation bought the rights to this engine, but in 1927, they decided there was not a market for this type of engine and abandoned the project.
Jean Roche found Ray Poole and Robert Galloway to follow in Harold Morehouses footsteps and using some similar parts, designed the prototype engine that would eventually be called, the Aeronca E107A. Roche made arrangements with the Govro-Nelson Company of Detroit, Michigan to build the Poole/Galloway engine on a production basis provided he could find an aircraft manufacturer. That would turn out to be the Aeronautical Corporation of America and the rest is history. Aeronca now had an airplane and an engine perfectly suited to each other.
Now, I will detail the evolution of the Aeronca E107A. Once again, the information on early E107As is marginal at best, so if you have some other information to add or differ with my findings, please let me know. Trust me, you will not hurt my feelings......This has been a fun project for me and when I am done gathering facts, I will donate it to my towns new airport terminal. I am a B-757 Captain for Northwest Airlines and I am on the airport commission of our towns airport, Parlin Field, Newport, NH.
It is one of the oldest airports in New Hampshire, founded in 1929 and we are putting up an exact duplicate of our original terminal next spring.
The first C-2 was flown on August 24, 1929, it was serial no. 1. The N number was 3774, it was called the Roche Light Plane. It was powered by the Morehouse engine. Fred Fluck flew it for one hour. It was quoted by the press as Americas newest and safest plane.
On October 20, 1929, the first Aeronca-powered C-2, using the newly designed Aeronca E107A, took to the skies. The s/n was X626N.
Only twenty or so C-2s were built by the spring of 1930, with less than 100 completed by the end of the year. The C-2 received its Approved Type Certificate, A.T.C. #351 on August 13, 1930.
The first C-2 had the N number of 3774. Remember, it had the Morehouse engine, and was given out in appreciation to Jean Roche and assigned serial number 1. It was called an E107......no A
The first true C-2, X626N, had an E107A engine rated at 26 h.p. It was serial number 2, engine number 26.
Excluding the first C-2, the next 19 E107A s were all the same, with the exception that the first five were made without main crankcase cooling fins. They were 26 h.p. Other important differences are listed later in the article.
My engine falls into this category, being engine number 039 or the 14th engine off the production line. The aircraft serial numbers are sequential, two to 20. After that, the serial numbers starting with A-105 indicate the first of several changes to the E107A, listed later in the article.
The E107A was designated for its displacement of 107 cubic inches. The first serial number of this engine was number 26, assigned to match Aeroncas claim of 26 h.p. This was common practice on early aircraft engines.
There may be earlier manuals out there, but the earliest one I have come across is from 1937. They make no reference to the first production run of the first E107As. Please note pictures to see important differences of the first 19 engines.
The E107A Lineage
Note: All number references apply to aircraft serial numbers. Also early Aeronca engines experimented with different manufactures propellers, but the standard prop was an in house Aeronca prop.
Serial numbers two to five: 26 h.p., no crankcase cooling fins, 58 inch Aeronca prop, early Bosch magneto, FF2AR, non-screw terminals, no oil temp gage, Winfield Model 5 carburetor, early crankcase breather, aft, center mounted, part number: AERO 293, oil pressure adjustment screw under oil cap.
Serial numbers six to twenty: 26 h.p., crankcase cooling fins, 58 inch Aeronca prop, early Bosch Magneto, FF2AR, non-screw terminals, no oil temp gage, Winfield Model 5 carburetor, early crankcase breather, aft center mounted, part number, AERO 293, oil pressure adjustment screw under oil cap.
Serial numbers 21 to 39: 26 h.p-29 h.p., Sensenich 63 inch prop, Zenith 156AL carburetor, improved connecting rod bearings and crankshaft bearings, relocated and improved breather assembly; aft left location, relocated oil pressure adjustment screw, later Bosch, FF2AR magneto, screw type terminals, and oil temperature probe located in oil sump cover.
Serial numbers 301-40 to 301-50: first production run of the 30 h.p. model. Improved rollers bearings, adjusted valve timing, updated oil scavenging pump.
Serial numbers A-51 to A-115: Final production run of the E107A. At this time Aeronca began offering some different models of the C-2, including a seaplane, an enclosed two seat aircraft, the Scout and Deluxe and some E113 powered aircraft.
Approximately, 115, C-2 aircraft were manufactured in the U.S.A. with ten or so powered by early E113 engines. Today, there are only eight or so correct C-2s in the world, powered by E107s and many have been kept running by using E113 parts.
Aeronca E107A Engine Number 39
The first production run of the E107A was very short lived. There are no blue prints in existence, there was never an engine handbook published and there are no drawings of this engine group.
The only document that I have found, thanks to John Houser, is the original S.A.E. Engine Testing Form Specification Sheet. It shows the engine as having the Winfleld Model 5 carburetor and Bosch Aircraft spark plugs. This form is dated July 1929.
My engine was bought at a farm auction in the 1950s by my friend, Dirk Averys Father. It remained in his shop for many years and being that it was nose heavy, was tied to a beam. When Dirk closed his shop he agreed to let me have it.
The engine was mounted up to a frame that was used to dry tobacco. The engine is completely original and has never been torn apart. The carburetor that is on it is a Stromberg M-l from the early 30s. This type carburetor was typically used on farm equipment. The farmer rigged up some type of instrument panel and gas tank.
The orange paint on the main crankcase is probably not original, as it was hand painted. Underneath this paint is a dark blue paint and under that a light blue paint. The rear of the engine shows this clearly.
The engine was first cleaned on the outside, the crankcase cleaned and flushed, the original oil sump and oil pump gaskets replaced, the top end inspected and lubed, the wires/plugs replaced and the carburetor cleaned and inspected. It was fired up on August 20, 2001. It was run for a total of ten minutes and then put back to rest.
I feel very fortunate to have found such an important piece of Aeronca history. From my studies, I believe that this is the oldest, original, running E107A in the United States.
My engine, however has some issues, it is really bothered that it cannot find its airplane. My research has led me to believe that it was on the Aeronca C-2, NC-565V, serial number 15. Now that my research on my engine is complete, I will try to track down the history of that aircraft.
As stated earlier, if anyone feels that my findings are off-base or has anything to add please feel free to contact me. I have spent hundreds of hours researching my engine and have met many fine gentlemen who have been very gracious in helping me document this engine. Thanks to all of you!