Collection Item Summary:
Monocoupes were spirited, light cabin planes that featured an enclosed cabin, side-by-side seating, strong structures, and powerful engines. First conceptualized in the mid-1920s by Don Luscombe, a young advertising man, the Monocoupe 22, prototype of the 70, was the first light cabin monoplane to be certified under the Department of Commerce's regulations established in 1927. By 1928, Monocoupes comprised of nearly 90 percent of all light airplanes produced and sold in the United States. The Monocoupe 70 was issued its Approved Type Certificate (ATC 70) in September 1928. With its flashy good looks and Velie engine, the plane was popular with air race pilots.
Goerge Law originally owned this Monocoupe Model 70 (NC6730, serial number 133) and it went through a succession of sixteen owners before it was severely damaged in a crash in 1940. In 1975, it was given to famous racing and test pilot Tony LeVier, who renovated the aircraft and donated it to the National Air and Space Museum in 1983 It is one of only a few of this famous type still in existence and has been on loan since 1984 to the California Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles.
Collection Item Long Description:
The Monocoupe 22, the prototype of the 70, was the first light cabin monoplane to be certificated under the Department of Commerce regulations established in 1927. In 1928, nearly 90 percent of all the light airplanes produced and sold in the United States were Monocoupes. The popularity of this light cabin plane lay in the side-by-side seating and the pleasant, though spirited, characteristics of the aircraft that made it fun to fly.
In the mid-1920s a young advertising man named Don Luscombe flew his open cockpit JN-4D "Jenny" in and out of a small airstrip in Davenport, Iowa. Luscombe thought about how much better air travel would be if he could fly in a relatively small, enclosed-cabin airplane. Then he could dress in a business suit, rather than the usual helmet, goggles, and flight coveralls of the day, and arrive at his destination ready for business or pleasure. He decided to build his own aircraft, a two-place, side-by-side cabin monoplane with a simple but strong structure and a powerful engine. Luscombe was somewhat influenced by the design of the rather rakish-looking Belgian Delmonty-Poncelet Limousine, a high-wing monoplane with a side-by-side enclosed cabin and the reverse curve rear fuselage lines that were to become one of the signature identifier features of the Monocoupes. Luscombe's mock-ups impressed his companions in the Davenport Flying Club so well that, in October 1926, they raised $5,000 to help him start the Central States Aero Company. To build his dream plane, Luscombe hired a young self-taught designer by the name of Clayton Folkerts, who would go on to design championship racing airplanes of the 1930s.
Folkerts built the first prototype, Mono #1, almost single-handedly, in about 4 ½ months and E.K. "Rusty" Campbell made the first test flight on April 6, 1927. The airplane configuration was a two-place, side by side, strut-braced high wing monoplane with a conventional tailskid and main wheel landing gear. The fuselage and tail structure was of welded steel tubing. The one-piece wing was constructed with routed solid spruce spars and the ribs were constructed of spruce and basswood. The entire airplane was covered with Grade A cotton fabric.
Mono #1 received a lot of interest but just as Luscombe began to prepare to sell this type of plane to customers, a fundamental change in aircraft production occurred. The U.S. Department of Commerce Aeronautics branch instituted the Approved Type Certificate (ATC) program requiring all potential commercial aircraft designs to undergo analysis and test for a type certificate. Because Folkerts did not have formal training in engineering, Central States hired university graduate Jerome Lederer, a consulting aeronautical engineer, to verify the performance predictions and the structural integrity of the airplane. Lederer hired two graduate aeronautical engineers, Fred Knack and Bud Whelan, to help in the certification process. Luscombe's and Folkerts' basic design proved to be sound and ATC #22 was awarded to the Monocoupe in January 1928.
The name Monocoupe referred to the marriage of a monoplane and the coupe, the two-passenger enclosed car. The first model was known as the Monocoupe Model 22 (after its ATC number) and a total of 20 Mono 22s were built. The engine, a Detroit Air Cat air-cooled radial proved to be problematic and several others, including the expensive Anzani, were tried. The solution was the newly developed Velie M-5 five-cylinder radial, an engine similar to but more reliable than the Air Cat. The engine was nominally rated at 55 hp with maximum of 62 hp available for take-off. The Velie engine came from the highly successful Velie Motors Corporation in Moline, Illinois and the compatibility of this engine with the Monocoupe Model 22 encouraged the Velie family to support Luscombe and go into full-time aircraft production. Central States Aero moved to Moline and became Mono-Aircraft Inc., a subsidiary of Velie Motors.
The installation of the Velie engine in the Monocoupe airplane, along with a few minor improvements, resulted in the Monocoupe 70 that was issued its Approved Type Certificate (ATC 70) in September 1928. In June 1928, Phoebe Omlie, a racing pilot, announced her intent to fly her Velie-powered Monocoupe Chiggers in the National Air Tour and with it she also won the lightweight division of the Women's Air Derby in August 1928. The Monocoupe 70 flew at air races around the country with Omlie, Johnny Livingston, and Vern Roberts. Luscombe established a network of dealers and distributors around the country and wrote a book entitled Simplified Flying as a means of advertisement. More than 350 of the Model 70 and its incrementally improved companion Model 113 (ATC 113 issued Feb. 1929) were produced. The flashy good looks did not come cheaply though, as it cost between $2,500 and $3,000 to buy. While the standard Models 70, 110, 113 and 125 were more docile to fly than the 110 and 113 Specials, it was not an airplane intended for the novice pilot.
George Law purchased Monocoupe Model 70 (NC6730, serial number 133) in July 1928 and it went through a succession of sixteen owners before it was severely damaged in a crash in 1940. Robert and Glen Jordan sold the aircraft when it was declared not airworthy and three additional owners passed it along until it was given to famous racing and test pilot Tony LeVier in 1975. He acquired title in March 1978 and had the aircraft restored with its striking black fuselage and vertical tail with orange wings and horizontal tail. Some people suggest that the only original parts of the airplane are the nameplate and the paperwork. Nonetheless, it is one of only a few of this famous type still in existence. LeVier donated it to the National Air and Space Museum on December 12, 1983, and it was stored in California until its loan in 1984 to the California Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles.