Globe Swift GC-1A

Display Status:

This object is on display in the Boeing Aviation Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

Collection Item Summary:

Produced from 1946 to 1951, the Globe Swift is a sporty general aviation design whose beauty and superior flying characteristics have made it a favorite classic. The A model was the only multi-seat, complex, nonexperimental aircraft of its time in the United States under 100 horsepower. All-metal with sleek lines and retractable landing gear, it handled like a fighter and was a major advance over wood-and-fabric sport designs-and surprisingly economical to fly.

Ludlow "Pete" King bought this Swift in 1975 and restored it to near-original condition. It retains most of its Alclad skin, early production magnesium engine cooling grills and fabric-covered ailerons, and a Beech-Roby variable-pitch wooden propeller. The interior is vintage as well, with its Art Deco-style instrument panel and instruments, cream and blue color scheme, and original control wheel yokes and seats.

Collection Item Long Description:

The Globe Swift is recognized as a classic post-World War II general aviation aircraft design due to its beauty and sporty flying characteristics. It was also the only multi-seat, complex aircraft under 100 horsepower in the normal category (not experimental) in the United States. The all-metal Globe Swift was a major advance in performance and complexity over the more prevalent and minimally improved pre-war tube, wood and fabric designs still being produced. With its sleek lines and retractable landing gear, this aircraft was an ideal economical civilian counterpart to the fighter aircraft that many pilots flew during World War II. Some have likened the handling and performance of the higher powered Swift GC-1B version to be somewhat reminiscent of a smaller version of the US Army Air Force's P-40 fighter of the early 1940s.

The Globe Swift had its beginnings in Fort Worth, Texas in 1940, when R.S. (Pop) Johnson built the first Swift as a homebuilt airplane with a tube and fabric fuselage and Duraloid wings and tail surfaces. Johnson was associated with the Bennett Aircraft Corporation which was originally formed to build aircraft utilizing the new Duraloid (Bakelite-bonded plywood) process developed by Dr. Robert Nebesar. The Bennett Corporation quietly closed its doors in the fall of 1940 but managed a first showing of the Swift in early 1941 as reorganization was underway. The Globe Aircraft Corporation emerged and Johnson's Swift became the Globe GC-1. The somewhat underpowered prototype had a 65hp Continental engine which was subsequently replaced with a more robust 80 hp Continental. Type Certificate ATC# 753 was issued in May 1942 for this airplane. The Swift project was shelved for the duration upon the advent of World War II, and Globe Aircraft went on to build 600 of the all-wood Beechcraft AT-10 twin engine training airplanes for the US Army Air Force under a licensing agreement with the Beech Aircraft Corporation.

Toward the end of the war additional wood/metal prototype GC-1's were built, although the end design was the new all-metal Swift GC-1A that we are familiar with today. This was initially a joint effort of Pop Johnson and Chief Engineer K.H. "Bud" Knox. Johnson became disenchanted with the changes to his design and left Globe shortly thereafter to do such aircraft as the "Texas Bullet" and the "Johnson Rocket". The first prototype GC-1A flew in January 1945 and the first production model was completed in November of that year. Type Certificate ATC# 766 was issued on May 7, 1946. While the orders for the GC-1A numbered in the thousands, only a total of 408 GC-1A airplanes were built before the higher powered GC-1B was put into production. The highly stressed GC-1A's robust airframe was a bit on the heavy side and this resulted in somewhat sluggish performance with the normally installed 4 cylinder 85 hp Continental C-85 engine. The improved GC-1B with a 6 cylinder 125 hp Continental C-125 engine provided sparkling performance.

The majority of Swift's production was the GC-1B model of which 833 were built in just over six months in 1947. Globe built 504 of them and 329 were built by TEMCO (The Texas Engineering & Manufacturing Co.) hired as a sub-contractor when Globe initially became overwhelmed with orders. However, the post-World War II general aviation production glut soon caught up with Globe and GC-1B production was halted when the parking lots of both companies became full of unsold airplanes. Globe Aircraft filed for bankruptcy and TEMCO took it over in August 1947. TEMCO continued to build and modify the Swift until 1951 when they finally used up the earlier inventory of parts and production became concentrated on military commitments for the Korean War. However, the company still provided spare parts and service for several more years. A grand total of 1,500 GC-1As and Bs were built. The design remained so popular that it was briefly built as a twin trainer for the U.S. and Saudi air forces and, in the 1990s, Roy LoPresti attempted to build a new version, the Swift Fury, but it never made it to production.

The airplane is a side-by-side, low-wing monoplane with retractable main landing gear designed to fit in between the inexpensive Cubs or Cessnas and the more sophisticated and expensive four-place Beech Bonanzas or North American Navions. It is an all-metal aircraft construction with exception of the fabric covered moveable aileron, and rudder control surfaces. The fabric covered ailerons are distinctive because only the first 25 production airplanes had them prior to going to all metal units. The fuselage is semi-monocoque structure with brilliant unpainted Alclad aluminum sheet covering the structural aluminum rings and stringers. The 42-inch wide two-place cockpit is enclosed by a four-piece sliding Lucite blue canopy. The front mounted engine is fully cowled. The tapered cantilever wing has aluminum spars with stamped aluminum ribs and covered with aluminum sheet. The wing has fixed leading edge slots and electro-hydraulically operated trailing edge flaps. The cantilever tail group is of similar construction.

Swift GC-1A Serial Number 21, FAA Registration N80518, was completed in early January 1946 and was licensed on February 22. The Wells Aircraft Sales Company of Hutchison, Kansas took possession of the airplane on February 27 and subsequently sold it to Fred G. Wallace of The Banfield Packing Company of Salina, Kansas on June 29, 1946. Its 1950s owner Don Kames, an early member of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA #13), removed the fabric control surfaces to upgrade to metal control surfaces. The aircraft went through a total of eleven owners including Bob Padgett, a National Air and Space Museum restoration specialist, before Ludlow "Pete" King bought it from Padgett on October 18, 1975.

The aircraft arrived at King's home in a pickup truck, and he painstakingly repaired and restored the wind-damaged aircraft to flying condition. As presently configured, King considers it to be 99 % original. It has most of its original skins and the early production magnesium engine cooling grills as well as the early fabric-covered ailerons (retrieved from Kames), and the early production welded-formed sheet metal upper landing gear trunions. The cockpit retains the original Art Deco style instrument panel and instruments including a GE-AS-1B low frequency radio, an early style needle ball, and an Airpath compass. The interior sports the original cream and blue color scheme as well as the original control wheel yokes and seats. It has original Beech-Roby variable-pitch wood propeller which could be adjusted from the cockpit. King donated the Globe Swift to the Museum in December 2004.