Elegance by any name – G-COUP
Tags: 'legacy' aircraft, 'no-rudder-bar' control arrangement, 115 machines, 1937, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1946, 1951, 1959, 1970, 2009, 28 pound thrust JATO unit, 75 hp, AAC, ab initio pilot, Aeronca, Aerostar 90, Air Products Inc., Air Show, aircraft, Alon Inc., aluminium, amalgamations, America, American-built machine, Atlantic, Aviation, B.E.2c, bankruptcies, brakes, British Civil Register, British contemporary, Buchon, Butler Aviation, C-75-12 engine, California, Captain Homer Boushey, Carlsbad, Cessna, Chrislea, Chrislea Super Ace, Colorado, consolidation, Continental C-75, Continental Motors Corporation, dihedral, dihedral angle, Engineering & Research Corporation, England, ERCO Model 310, Ercoupe, Ercoupe 415, excellent selling point, first ever rocket-assisted take-off, fixed tricycle undercarriage, flaps, Forney Aircraft Manufacturing Company, Forney F-1 Ercoupe, Fred Weick, full-span ailerons, G-COUP, Great Britain, Great Vintage Flying Weekend, GVFWE, Hispano Aviación HA-1112 Buchon, Hullavington, inherently unspinnable, intrinsically stable, JATO, Korean War, Lelystad, licensing arrangements, light aircraft, long-lived classic, Luscombe, M-10 Cadet, March 12th, March Field, Messerschmitt Bf109, Messerschmitt Bf109 V1, metal construction, metal monoplane, mild stalling characteristics, monoplane, Mooney Aircraft Corporation, Mooney profile, N99280, NACA, name changes, NC28655, Netherlands, new aircraft, New Mexico, new model numbers, Piper, post-WW2 market, rocket-assisted take-off, Roland Haarlem, Sanders Aviation, senior engineer, single fin and rudder, spare parts, Stephen Gerrard, Stinson, strategic materials, Super Ace, surviving Ercoupes, take-overs, Taylorcraft, technical support, tricycle undercarriage, twin-fin, twin-fin design, type certificate, Univair Aircraft Corporation, unspinnable, US Register, USA, Vest Aircraft, war-surplus machines, West Sussex, wing, WW1
Throughout the history of those companies, on either side of the Atlantic, who have produced what are now called ‘light aircraft’ there have been take-overs, amalgamations, consolidation, bankruptcies, licensing arrangements and many more events. All of these things have given rise to a positive maze of name changes, and new model numbers. A fairly simple example (in warbird terms) would be the trail which leads from the Messerschmitt Bf109 V1 to the Hispano Aviación HA-1112 Buchon.
The Ercoupe is one such example. Here we see a most elegant example of the type, G-COUP (which was on the US Register as N99280) parked at Hullavington during a GVFWE event. A trim metal monoplane, with distinctive dihedral to the wings, this American-built machine shares a few design features with its British near-contemporary, the Chrislea Super Ace. As well as metal construction, fixed tricycle undercarriage, and an almost identical twin-fin design, both aircraft had early production examples with a strange, ‘no-rudder-bar’ control arrangement. Needless to say this feature, which was supposed to make things easy for the ab initio pilot, was heartily disliked. Whereas the Ercoupe survived the necessary re-design, the Super Ace floundered, and Chrislea went under.
Designed by ex-NACA senior engineer Fred Weick, of the Engineering & Research Corporation, the prototype ERCO Model 310 flew in 1937, but the first production machine, called by the name Ercoupe, flew in 1939. Marketing began in earnest in 1940, as the Ercoupe 415, but increasing need for strategic materials (especially aluminium) meant that production was curtailed, and did not really get into its stride until 1946. G-COUP was built in 1946 (#1903), and was powered by a Continental Motors Corporation C-75-12 engine, producing only 75 hp. Weick had come up with a design which was as safe as he could make it; inherently unspinnable, with mild stalling characteristics, it had full-span ailerons and no flaps. Rather like the WW1 B.E.2c, the large dihedral angle of the wing made the aircraft intrinsically stable, and this was an excellent selling point.
The post-WW2 market in America was competitive, with war-surplus machines of all types competing for sales with new aircraft. Despite this, ERCO managed to sell over 5,000 Ercoupes of various models over the period up until 1951. The Korean War, and the military’s urgent need for aluminium again, put the brakes on Ercoupe production. ERCO decided to sell the rights to produce the Ercoupe, and this gave rise to an almost incredible series of name changes.
First, Sanders Aviation constructed Ercoupes from parts made by ERCO; Vest Aircraft acquired the type certificate, but quickly sold it without making any aircraft. The new owner, Forney Aircraft Manufacturing Company, built 115 machines, as the Forney F-1 Ercoupe. Things started to become rather odd when, in 1959, the city of Carlsbad , New Mexico, became the next owner of the Ercoupe design! A pair of small manufacturing concerns then come into the picture, namely Air Products Inc. and Alon Inc. When Alon Inc. was taken over by Mooney Aircraft Corporation in 1967, the Ercoupe was redesigned with a single fin and rudder of a typical Mooney profile and renamed the M-10 Cadet. The last re-iteration of the design came when Butler Aviation bought Mooney, and re-branded the M-10 as the Aerostar 90. Butler built 61 of these before production of this long-lived classic finally ceased in 1970.
G-COUP was owned by Stephen Gerrard of West Sussex until 2009, but has since been acquired by Roland Haarlem of Lelystad, in the Netherlands. Fortunately, the new owner has kept the aircraft on the British Civil Register, for the moment.
One good fact is that Univair Aircraft Corporation of Colorado (who also support ‘legacy’ aircraft from Aeronca, Cessna, Luscombe, Piper, Stinson and Taylorcraft) has acquired the type certificate for the aircraft and is continuing to manufacture spare parts and offer technical support to the surviving Ercoupes, so we will be able to see G-COUP and others for many years yet.
As an interesting aside, Captain Homer Boushey, AAC, on March 12th, 1941, performed the first ever rocket-assisted take-off, from March Field, California, using a 28 pound thrust JATO unit. The aircraft? An Ercoupe, registered NC28655.
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