Some Flivver history before we return to the build…

While I prep some more pics of the build progress to post, I thought folks might enjoy a little of the history of this unusual little plane. The following is an excerpt from the Wikipedia entry for the Flivver, and is a short synopsis of it’s curious but ill -fated career. I believe that it’s rather weak engine (for it’s size) was the main reason for the Flivvers’ unpleasant handling charactersistics as described by Lindbergh. I guess I’ll find out for myself whether it handles well or not! But in the meantime…..

The aircraft was a welded steel tube fuselage, with wood wing construction with fabric covering. The steerable rudder mounted tailwheel was also the only wheel with a brake. The exhaust was routed through a special manifold to a stock Model T exhaust. The designer of the plane, Otto Koppen went on to design the Helio Courier.

 Operational history

Ford’s chief test pilot was Harry J. Brooks. Brooks flew the Flivver regularly from his home garage to work. He once flew the aircraft in a race against Gar Wood in Miss America Von the Detroit River during the Harmsworth Trophy Races.

Charles Lindbergh flew the Flivver on a visit to Ford field August 11, 1927, and was the only other pilot to fly the Flivver prototype. He later described the Flivver as, “one of the worst aircraft he ever flew”.

A third prototype, tail number3218,was built to win a long distance record for light planes in 440 to 880 lb (200 to 400 kg) “C” class.The race was set from Ford Field in Dearborn Michigan to Miami, Florida . A first attempt launched on 24 January 1928, witnessed by Henry Ford, landed short in Asheville, North Carolina. A second attempt launched from Detroit on 21 February 1928, witnessed by Edsel Ford, landed 200 mi (320 km) short in Titusville, Florida, but still won a record.

Flying the second prototype from a winning record attempt four days earlier on February 21, 1928, Brooks crashed into the ocean off Melbourne, Florida . Investigation of the wreckage disclosed a matchstick had been plugged into the gas cap vent hole, causing an engine stoppage.

Following the death of Brooks, Henry Ford was distraught, and light airplane development was stopped under the Ford brand. In 1931 a new “Air Flivver” or Sky Car was marketed by the Stout division of Ford. Ford went back into light plane development in 1936 with the two seat Model 15-P. The prototype crashed during flight testing and did not go into production.

A surviving Flivver resides in the Henry Ford Museum.


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