Porterfield Aircraft


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Jun 25, 2009
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As I was doing a completely different search, I happened on a mention that I found really surprising: a 1937 high-altitude fighter project for Porterfield...

Equally surprising is the fact that the name Porterfield doesn't appear in any topic on this forum, whether in the "Early Projects" or "Designation Systems" boards!

Allow me therefore to offer a list of this short-lived company's various types and known designs. But first, a bit of history. Edward E. Porterfield, Jr. was running a flying school at the Fairfax Airport outside Kansas City, Missouri (there is often a huge confusion over the home location of Porterfield, based in the Kansas City of Missouri, not the one in Kansas as can sometimes be found.) Porterfield operated mostly Curtiss "Jenny" and Lincoln Standard types, and wanted to come up with a better-performing trainer aircraft. After consulting with several aeronautical engineers of the period (including Giuseppe M. Bellanca), he started producing several light single-engine two-seat aircraft, of both biplane and high-wing monoplane design. Then, in 1925, he founded the American Eagle Aircraft Corp., which produced highly successful and quality aircraft for the next five years. Ed Porterfield had a hand in the design of several of these, notably the Eaglet, which partly served as a basis for Porterfield's later Collegiate.

Late in 1929, after the worldwide stock market crash, the sale of sport airplanes dropped drastically, but American Eagle, which was the third largest producer of aircraft in America at the time, continued producing airplanes, until 1931 when Porterfield's company declared bankruptcy and ceased production. On 15 May 1931, the company's assets were purchased by the Lincoln-Page Aircraft Company of Lincoln, Nebraska. Porterfield briefly assumed the title of aircraft sales representative of that company (which became known as the American Eagle-Lincoln Aircraft Corporation), based in Lincoln. Porterfield left the following year, discovered the Wyandotte Pup design, the rights of which he purchased, and formed the Porterfield Aircraft Co. in 1933, hiring Hockaday as designer, factory manager and test pilot for the new company. Porterfield planes were well-crafted, reliable, and very cheap. No wonder they became instant favorites with many pilots, although the lack of military contracts prevented the compnay from achieving the success of Piper, Stinson, Aeronca or Taylorcraft.

  • WY-100 Pup (1932): Single-seat high-wing cabin monoplane with Poyer 3-40 engine, replaced by 40hp Aeromarine AR-3, designed and built by students of Wyandotte High School, Kansas City, Missouri. This was the first ever shop class project designed and built in an American public high school, under the supervision of Guy House. Design by Noel R. Hockaday (later of Comet fame) and G. Poyer. Dubbed the "grandparent of the Porterfield". The Taylorcraft Cub (later Piper Cub) design is also said to have been evolved from the Wyandotte Pup. 1 built [X12546] (c/n 10, likely a typo for c/n 100).

  • Model 35 -> Flyabout (1934): High-wing monoplane with 60hp LeBlond 5D engine, evolved from Wyandotte Pup, after Edward E. Porterfield purchased the Wyandotte design and set up his company; the type was officially introduced at 1935 Detroit Air Show, and later given limited Group 2 Approval #2-498. 2 built [NC14400] (c/n 101, begun as a second WY-100) and [NC14421] (c/n 102).
  • Flyabout -> 35-70 -> Model 70 (1935): Main "DeLuxe" production version with 70hp LeBlond 5D (70) or 5DE (E70) engine, approved under ATC 567. 132 examples built [NC14424, etc.] (c/n 103/199, 225/248, 326/336).
  • Flyabout > 35-65 -> 35-V (1936): Entry-level variant with 65hp Velie M-5 engine, approved under ATC 606. 11 built (c/n 200/203, 205/210).
  • 35-90 -> 35-W -> Model 90 (1938): "Deluxe Sport" variant with 90hp Warner Scarab Jr. Series 40 engine, approved under ATC 611. 25 built (c/n 300/325).
  • 35-75 -> Custom 75 -> Model 75C (1939): Derivative of 35-W with 75hp Continental A-75 engine, new tail and fixed wing slots, designed to use up left-over Model 35 parts. Approved under ATC 611. Number built unknown (at least 9).

  • (not known) (1937): High-altitude fighter project developed with John D. Akerman as a consultant.

  • Zephyr -> Model 40 -> CP-40 (1936): Lightweight high-wing cabin monoplane with 37/40hp Continental A40 engine. H. Barlow design, based on Porterfield's own American Eagle Eaglet. Approved under limited Group 2 Approval #2-530. About 45 built (c/n 250/264, 501/532).

  • CP-70 (c.1937): No data, possibly an early Collegiate fitted with a 70hp Continental engine. 1 built [NC18079] (c/n 249).
  • CP-50 Collegiate (1937): Improved version of CP-40 with 50hp Continental A50-4 engine, dual mags, brakes, tail wheel. Prototype [NC21953] had a different tail shape. Approved under ATC 690. Over 50 built (known c/n from 550 to 624 suggests 75 built, possibly including LP-50 and FP-50).
  • LP-50 Collegiate (1940): Version of CP-65 with 50hp Lycoming O-145-A1 engine. Approved under ATC 690.
  • FP-50 Collegiate (1941): Version of CP-50 with 50hp Franklin 4AC engine. Approved under ATC 690?
  • CP-55 Collegiate (1940): Variant with 55hp Continental A50-7/8 engine, revised engine cowling. Approved under ATC 720 but soon superseded by CP-65. Number built unknown.
  • CP-65 Collegiate (1940): Deluxe version of CP-40 with 65hp Continental A65-8/9 engine, dual mags, brakes, tail wheel. Approved under ATC 720. Attempted revivial in the 1980s as the Rankin Collegiate.
  • LP-55 Collegiate (1940): Version of CP-65 with 55hp Lycoming O-145-A3 engine. Approved under ATC 720 but soon superseded by LP-65.
  • LP-65 Collegiate (1940): Version of CP-65 with 65hp Lycoming O-145-B1/B2 engine. Approved under ATC 720.
  • FP-60 Collegiate (1941): Version of FP-50 with 50hp Franklin 4AC-171-A1 engine. Approved under ATC 720.
  • FP-65 Collegiate (1941): Version of CP-65 with 65hp Franklin 4AC-176-B2 engine. Approved under ATC 720.
NOTE: Collegiate production said to have amounted to 470 aircraft altogether. There is no precise breakdown of versions at this point, although the bulk of the production was made of CP-65 and LP-65 types. Construction numbers for the Models 55 and 65 were from c/n 651 up (at least up to c/n 1016).

  • Model 145 Advanced Trainer = PT-25 (1938): Biplane trainer prototype, said to have used a 90hp Warner or 100hp Kinner K-5 engine (though designation suggests a 145hp type). Described as based on American Eagle 201 drawings, it was actually the second American Eagle 201 rebuilt, most likely for submission to U.S.A.A.C. tender. 1 built [NX582H] (c/n 801).
  • 145 (nd): Planned production version meant to use a 125-165hp Warner Super Scarab engine. Not built.

In what seems in retrospect like a mere publicity stunt, Col. Roscoe Turner joined the Porterfield company in 1939 as vice-president and chief of sales. The company was even dubbed "Porterfield-Turner" in many ads and documents, although the name was never official. In a matter of months, the Turner connection was no more. In 1940, the company inaugurated a new plant which enabled to triple the production over the previous year. Also, the entire line of 65hp airplanes were offered with both Edo float and Federal ski options. The company was also planning to increase the gross weight of its CP-65 and LP-65 models, and a version of the CP-65 with full blind flight training equipment was also in the works. However, the production of light civilian aircraft came to a stop in 1941, due to the war. The company had also planned completion of a side-by-side seating model, but it never happened, and to which degree the project had evolved is not known.

Harlow Aircraft Co. bought a one-third interest in the company. Due to illness, Porterfield then sold the company to Columbia Aircraft, Kansas City, Kansas (recently purchased by Commonwealth Aircraft, Inc. and relocated in Kansas, in the former Rearwin facilities which Commonwealth had also acquired). Columbia then sold the Porterfield rights to Northwestern Aeronautical Corp., located at Holman Field, St. Paul, Minnesota — an unfortunate commercial move, it seems, since Northwestern received the second biggest production subcontract for the Waco CG-4 transport glider and built 1509 examples in the former Porterfield facilities. Meanwhile, production of the Collegiate ceased, and all plans and jigs were lost.

Edward Porterfield died from a heart attack in 1948.

In the early 1980s, after over a decade of research, Joe Rankin, from Maryville, Missouri, acquired the type certificate and plans to the Collegiate and made the modifications necessary to modernize the original design, which was certified by the FAA with marketed as the Rankin Collegiate.

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