In 1934, the Bureau of Air Commerce recognized the Hammond Y as one of two award-winning designs for its "flivver" (ie. safe, easy-to-fly, and affordable) aircraft competition. The Stearman-Hammond Y-1-S is its improved version, distinguished for its exceptional slow speed handling characteristics and two-control flight system with the intent that an experienced automobile driver would be able to solo with only an hour of flight instruction. A national demonstration tour generated interest but no buyers, as many preferred the simple lines and prices of other aircraft, and experienced pilots found the plane confusing to fly.
This Hammond Y is the fourteenth Y-1-S built and was donated to the National Air Museum in 1955 by Dean Hammond, after the ownership had been transferred by Ford Slagle in 1952. The Museum's Stearman-Hammond, Waterman Aerobile, Stout Skycar, and Erco Ercoupe stand as testaments to the "flivver" movement of the 1930s.
In 1934, the Bureau of Air Commerce recognized the Hammond Y as one of two award-winning designs for its "flivver" (i.e. safe, easy-to-fly, and affordable) aircraft competition. The Stearman-Hammond Y-1-S is the improved version of that design. The Hammond aircraft was initially designed in response to Bureau Chief Eugene Vidal's initiative AB-205 for "everyman's safe, low-cost, foolproof airplane." The target price of $700 for a "flivver" aircraft was widely ridiculed by aircraft manufacturers as too low, even at Depression prices, because of engine and manufacturing costs; however, Vidal found significant general interest in the idea.
Designer Dean Hammond and Chief Engineer Carl Hadden of the Hammond Aircraft Corporation of Ypsilanti, Michigan, developed the first Y version. The target price was the $700 range but the type of construction used and the use of a 95 hp four-cylinder Menasco aircraft engine, in lieu of a converted heavy automobile engine, required that it initially had to be priced at an unmarketable $3,000. And while the airplane was a safe flying design, its performance fell far short of predictions. Lloyd Stearman became involved in the improvement of the design, moving the company to San Francisco and reorganizing it as Stearman-Hammond with himself as president and Dean Hammond as Vice President. The improved Y-125 version with a 125 hp four-cylinder Menasco engine was certificated in April 1936 and the Bureau of Air Commerce ordered fifteen of these improved airplanes for use by their field personnel.
After three years of further development, the Y-125 became the Y-1-S with improvements such as increased seating width, sound insulation, and upgraded interior. It also had a larger 150 hp Menasco C4S engine installed for better performance. It was a low-wing tricycle landing gear monoplane with a pusher engine and a twin-boom rear fuselage arrangement supporting the twin vertical fins and horizontal tail assembly. The pusher propeller was located between the rear fuselage booms for ground safety purposes. The fuselage nacelle, wing center section, fuselage booms, and tail assemblies were constructed of aluminum. The outer wing panels were constructed of aluminum and fabric covered. The ailerons and split wing flaps were entirely of aluminum.
The features that distinguished the airplane were its exceptional slow speed handling characteristics and the two-control flight system. Coordinated directional control was accomplished solely with differential aileron movement, thus eliminating the need for coordinated movable rudder controls. The intent was that the experienced automobile driver would be able to step into the airplane and solo it with only an hour or so of flight instruction. While this was unrealistic, many people were able to solo the airplane with less than four hours of dual flight time.
There were five main controls in the cockpit. One was the swing-over wheel control that could be used by either pilot for regular flight. A turn of the wheel coordinated the turns and the fore and aft motion of the column controlled the pitch. Either occupant could reach the elevator trim control crank located on the control column. Turning the wheel on the ground steered the airplane during taxiing, very much as a car is steered on the highway. Between the pilots, a three-position flap control lever was used to set the flaps in the off, 20-degree or 40-degree positions. On the floor was an additional flap control pedal that would add 20 degrees to the flap setting to provide additional lift and/or drag for takeoff and landing procedures. A second floor pedal was the brake. The tricycle landing gear shock struts had a retractable length of only 18 inches to eliminate bounced landings. Visibility for both the pilot and passenger was excellent. The indirectly-lighted instrument panel had a rheostat to control intensity. Automobile-type doors on both sides of the fuselage were only a short step above ground level. The upholstery was of two-tone broadcloth, the floor was carpeted, and the instrument panel and moldings were coordinated. Excellent ventilation control was provided along, with a sliding windshield panel.
Experienced pilots found the airplane to be confusing to fly, but it fulfilled its mandate and proved to be easy for student pilots to master. However, a national demonstration tour collected interest but no buyers. The notion of an airplane in every garage was an intriguing promotional idea of aviation enthusiasts in the 1930s, but did not prove to be practical due to engineering difficulties and price. In the case of the Stearman-Hammond, its price increased and was never low enough to make it affordable to the general populace. In reality, not enough of them really felt the urge to fly. Aspiring pilots instead preferred the simple lines and prices of the Curtiss-Wright CW-1 Junior, the Aeronca, and later the Piper Cub. Henry Kaiser made an unsuccessful attempt to revive this design after World War II. Vidal's $700 aircraft never became reality, but the Museum's Stearman-Hammond, Waterman Aerobile, Stout Skycar, and Erco Ercoupe stand as testaments to the "flivver" movement of the 1930s.
The history of this particular aircraft, NC15533, serial number 319 is unknown other than it is the fourteenth Y-1-S built. In 1952, Ford Slagle wrote to Dean Hammond that he wished to transfer ownership of the aircraft to Hammond. Hammond then approached Paul Garber to donate the aircraft to the National Air Museum. In 1954, Walter Male, manager of the National Air Museum's Park Ridge Facility in Illinois and in charge of moving artifacts from there to Silver Hill, Maryland, located the parts with Slagle's help. Male found the tarpaulin-covered fuselage at the home of Carl Dahlin, on the perimeter of the Mitchell Airport in Lombard, Illinois and the wings were located at a nearby farm leaning against a barn surrounded by farm machinery. Male shipped the airplane to the Museum's storage facility in Suitland, Maryland in July 1955.