The performance, strength, and utility of the Bellanca Cruisair Senior made it very attractive to general aviation pilots in the immediate post-World War II era. Although only about 600 were produced by Bellanca because of a depression in private aircraft sales during the postwar years, the aircraft's type certificate was passed on and subsequent companies, some using the Bellanca name, continued to build variants into the 1990s. Even today, the Bellanca Cruisair remains popular with private pilots looking for a classic cabin monoplane.
The Bellanca Cruisair Senior in the NASM collection was manufactured late in 1947. While the record of ownership in its early years is unclear, the final owner, A.L. Sutton of Ft. Davis, Texas, bought the airplane in June 1974. He offered to donate it to NASM in 1983 but just before delivery, the aircraft sustained severe hail damage on its upper surfaces.
Gift of A.L. Sutton
Country of Origin: United States of America
Wing span: 10.4 m (34 ft. 2 in.)
Length: 6.4 m (21 ft. 3 in.)
Height: 1.7 m (5 ft. 7 in.)
Weight: 567 kg (1,250 lbs.)
Steel tube and fabric cover
Single engine, low wing; red and white.
The Bellanca Cruisair Senior was a post-World War II general aviation aircraft with outstanding performance on relatively low engine power and a very modest price that appealed to private pilots. The performance and strength of the aircraft also made it attractive for utility work. Although only about 600 were produced, because of the post-war depression in private aircraft sales, the aircraft remains popular today with the private pilots looking for a classic cabin monoplane.
The Cruisair Senior had a good solid reputation of aeronautical excellence already established by Giuseppi Bellanca. It began in 1922 with the Bellanca C.F., a closed cabin monoplane that won several races but found no market. In 1927 Clarence Chamberlain, Charles Levine and Bert Acosta few the Bellanca monoplane Columbia non-stop from New York to Germany in June 1927, one month after Lindbergh's solo flight. Establishing a world's non-refueled, endurance record of 51 ½ hours. The subsequent Pacemaker and Skyrocket series were great successes and were followed by a series of custom-built airplanes and military designs in the 1930s.
In 1936, Bellanca decided to turn his attention to smaller aircraft for the personal travel. He wanted to design a three-place cabin airplane that had a relatively fast cruise speed, benign stall characteristics, good low-speed control, and was capable of short-field take-off and landing. This design effort resulted in the low-wing Bellanca 14-9 Junior which later became the Cruisair Junior. The prototype 14-7, first flown in December 1937, had a 140 sq. ft wing area and a 70 hp engine and was therefore designated the 14-7. The 1939 production models were offered in both fixed and retractable landing gear versions and were powered with a 90 hp Ken Royce radial engine. This series of airplanes was perhaps one of Bellanca's most successful pre-war production airplanes and was the direct ancestor of NASM's Bellanca 14-13 airplane. With the demise of the small radial engine around 1940, Bellanca decided to install the flat 6-cylinder engine being developed by Franklin Motors. The cabin was enlarged to become a four-place airplane and the addition of wing flaps and minor improvements in cockpit interiors resulted in the 1941 14-12 version of the airplane.
Bellanca developed the model 14-12 in 1941, just before U.S. entry into World War II, but was delayed the design while performing military sub-contract work during the war for Fairchild and several other firms. The model 14-12 was redesignated the model 14-13 in 1945 and ultimately included the newly developed 150 hp Franklin 6A4-150-B3 engine that gave the Cruisair Sr. a remarkable cruise speed of 150 mph. It first flew in late 1945 and was officially shown in the fall of 1946 at the National Aircraft Show in Cleveland, Ohio, where it was enthusiastically received. Bellanca booked quite a few orders and also built a large number of Cruisairs on speculation to meet the perceived post-war boom, and although yearly sales did not meet expectations, Bellanca continued in the market until 1951.
The Bellanca 14-13-2, which was an updated 14-13, first flew in 1948. It was a four-place low-wing cabin monoplane with a conventional tail wheel landing gear and retractable main gear. The tail configuration had fixed vertical fins at the tips of the horizontal stabilizer in addition to the conventional centerline mounted fin and rudder combination, a distinguishing characteristic for this class of airplane in that era. The fuselage and tail units were constructed of welded steel tubing and were fabric covered. The wings, famous for their structural rigidity, were of wood construction, covered with mahogany plywood, and finally covered with plastic-impregnated fabric. The ailerons and flaps were fabric covered. The cabin interior was plush with overhead radio speaker, map and glove compartments, ashtrays, assist ropes, landing lights etc. It had a molded Plexiglas windshield, the cabin walls were lined with thin Fiberglas sheet, and the upholstery was mohair fabric trimmed in leather. The instrument panel was conventional with dual-wheel yokes and rudder pedals. The landing gear was manually retracted with 32 to 38 turns of what was jokingly called the "armstrong type" floor-mounted crank, although an optional electric drive was available for $325. It had toe-operated hydraulic brakes and a full-swiveling, steerable tail wheel. The 150 hp Franklin engine installation included a 12-volt generator and battery system, an electric engine starter and an exhaust gas cabin heater system. The airplane came equipped with a fixed pitch Sensenich wood propeller or, as an extra cost option, a controllable pitch Aeromatic propeller could be substituted. The Cruisair's immediate successor, delivered in 1949, was the 190 hp Bellanca 14-19 Cruisemaster.
Production ceased in 1951 but the type certificate passed to Northern Aircraft Inc. in 1956. Northern and subsequent companies, some using the Bellanca name, continued to build various Bellanca aircraft into the 1990s.
The Bellanca Cruisair Senior, (serial number 1514, N74401), in the NASM collection was manufactured late in 1947. The airplane is painted red and white with black trim. While its record of ownership in its early years is unclear, the final owner, A. L. Sutton of Ft. Davis, Texas, bought the airplane in June 1974. He offered to donate it to NASM in 1983 but just before delivery, the aircraft sustained severe hail damage on its upper surfaces. It was received on July 8th of that year.