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Stout's post-Ford-era projects

Stargazer2006

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The name William Bushnell ("Bill") Stout is most often associated with Ford, but in fact the Stout Metal Airplane Co. was started in 1922, prior to Ford's involvement, producing the ST-1 Torpedo for the U. S. Navy (which already has a topic) and the Model 1-AS Air Sedan, with George Prudden as chief engineer/co-designer (earlier projects and prototypes are covered in yet another separate topic).

When the ST-1 contract folded, however, Stout, facing bankruptcy, solicited financial support. This came from a group of Detroit area businessmen including auto manufacturers Roy Chapin (Hudson), Walter Chrysler, Barney Everitt (Rickenbacker), Fred Fisher (Fisher Body), Henry Ford (via Edsel Ford), Charles F. Kettering (GMC), Alvin McCauley (Packard), and Ransom E. Olds (Reo). In 1924, Henry Ford became the major backer in Stout's operations, and within a year, the Stout Metal Airplane Co. had become a division of Ford Motor Co.

A fateful fire destroyed several Models 2-AT and the sole 3-AT. Ford sent Stout on a nationwide tour to promote the company's aviation activity (and presumably reassure financial backers); but with Stout away, Ford elected to assign Tom Towle and Otto Koppen to the design of a replacement airliner as quickly as possible. When Stout returned, the project was already well on its way, and became the Wright-powered Model 4-AT and Wasp-powered 5-AT Trimotors, in which Stout had no involvement (despite the fact it is often associated with him).

By 1929, Stout had virtually no involvement left in the company which he had created but that had gradually slipped from his hands. Even the Stout Air Lines name had been replaced, and all aircraft now sported the name Ford. As of 1929, Stout revived his Stout Engineering Laboratories and started looking for new outlets for his creative juices. He collaborated with the Wichita, Kansas-based Buckley Aircraft Co., designing two all-metal aircraft for them, the two-seat FC-1 in 1929, and the four-seat LC-4 Wichcraft (no "t") in 1930, the latter obtaning a contract with Yellow Air Cab Co. for 200 planes, though in the end only one was built (this was sold to Northrop and allegedly scrapped).
 

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Stargazer2006

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By 1931, Stout was left to his own devices again and started working in many directions: cars, trains, minivans (a concept he practically invented), all with various degrees of success. It seems that only the aircraft side of things didn't work out so well. In 1931 he explored two different types of concepts: one was the Skycar (or Sky Car, depending on source documents), which he meant as just that, the family car of the air. He studied several configurations for that: single tail boom, twin-boom tails on high or low-wing monoplanes. Eventually he produced a single prototype of his high-wing Model 11 Sky Car, initially with twin-booms, but this was quickly changed to a single tail connected to the pod-like cabin by an uncovered framework, in the manner of the primary glider types that had become so popular over the past two years. The Sky Car came at a wrong time and was not the resounding success Stout probably hoped it would be.
 

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Stargazer2006

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The other direction which Stout pursued was, unsurprisingly, the airliner. Ever since his 1920 "Batwing Limousine" he had strived to produce the ideal all-metal airliner, safe, sturdy and aerodynamic. In 1931, two designs emerged: the seven-passenger Safety Plane and the larger Air Transport, both with similar configurations as single tail twin-engine pushers. A patent was obtained in 1934 for this configuration. Of course none of these was built.

Much more ambitious were two large transport designs which Stout filed for patent in 1930 (both granted in 1932). Both were high wing all-metal double-deckers, the first an airliner with a set of four engines on top of each wing, aligned on pylons one behind the other; the second an airliner/cargo type with very thick wing and unspecified propulsion means (the patent applying more to the structure of the fuselage and its "beam-like keel structure for taking impact forces" rather than the general configuration).
 

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Stargazer2006

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The Sky Car however remained at the heart of Stout's aviation concerns. Here is a series of Sky Car/Skycar designs, that weren't built:
  • a circa 1930 low-wing twin-boom pusher
  • a November 1931 high-wing twin-boom pusher
  • a 1939 high-wing twin-boom pusher
  • the 1942 Sky Car Model 3 (possibly the Skycar III that would have been the XC-107?)
  • the 1942 Model V twin-engine pusher (reminiscent of the Safety Plane, also called a "Skycar" in some documents)
  • a 1944 twin-boom pusher design patent
 

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Stargazer2006

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Eventually, only one prototype called the Sky Car II, looking like the design patent, was built. Registered [NX22446], it was a two-seat high-wing cabin monoplane with 90hp Franklin O-200 pusher engine. It was transfered to the U. S. Army Air Forces for testing as XC-65 [42-7772], in order to serve as prototype for a larger military transport, the XC-107; however, when the sole XC-65 was destroyed in a hangar fire, the contract was cancelled.
 

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Stargazer2006

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There must be a lot of Stout designs that have never been identified and were lost to history. Fortunately, some neat stuff remains thanks to the Detroit Historical Society, which possesses many beautiful documents spanning all of Stout's aviation career.

Among these other projects, two more large transports for 1941:
  • a 1941 three-engine partly-trailerable airplane
  • the 1941 Stout Bimotor Transport, a clean twin-engine tractor design with twin tails and corrugated fuselage.

Other designs include two types meant for the post-war market:
  • the 1943 Aerocar, a Skycar-like twin-boom pusher whose wing and tail could be detached from the pod-like roadable fuselage for transport.
  • the Helicab, a 1943 cabin helicopter of very streamlined design

Interestingly, a similar helicopter was patented in 1944, and registration [NX1268] assigned that same year to a "CVAC Stout Research Division Model 6" helicopter, of which nothing is known. Most likely this must have been a prototype for this design, which presumably was never completed.
 

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Stargazer2006

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The Stout Skycraft Corp., which Stout had started in 1941 in the hope of producing the Skycar II and other designs, had become the Stout Research Division of Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft Corp. in 1943. Most sources state that the "CVAC Stout Research Division Model 8" or Sky Car IV was the same as the Convair 103. This is not substantiated by the civil register's entries (see last attachment below) or even photos.

The first picture below shows Bill Stout and George Spratt with the still incomplete Sky Car IV, obviously a different, much less refined machine with crude tail. According to civil registers, this machine got the registration [NX22447] in 1944, at the very same time as a separate aircraft designated the Consolidated-Vultee Model 103 [NX22448]. The fact that these two aircraft were registered together with sequential numbers is proof that the two machines were not the same one modified, but indeed two separate prototypes. The Model 103 Skycar was a more refined design, and I wouldn't be surprised if the former had never been completed and only the second one flown instead.

The last of the Sky Cars was a very different animal indeed. First of all, it was not a Stout design, but used the "Controlwing" floating wing (or living wing) principle developed by George A. Spratt and his son George G. Spratt since the 1910s. This was only one of the many Controlwing prototypes developed over the years, but certainly the best-known because of Consolidated-Vultee's involvement. The Controlwing and the Spratt designs deserve a topic of their own, and since I've done quite a bit of research into the matter, I will start one soon.

Final and little-known fact about the Model 103: it was completely rebuilt circa 1945 with new tail, as can be seen in the eighth attachment below. The reason for this reconstruction is not clear. Was the prototype damaged? Did its disappointing performance lead to a redesign? I promise I'll dig further into this subject for the Spratt topic...
 

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lark

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Well done Stéphane...!
 

hesham

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Incredible work my dear Skyblazer.
 

Stargazer2006

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Thanks Steve Pace, lark and hesham. Glad you enjoyed these! I certainly did.
 

hesham

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My dear Skyblazer,

here is a Stout Helicopter,in artist drawing form.

http://archive.aviationweek.com/image/spread/19430802/12/2
 

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hesham

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Hi,

http://www.coachbuilt.com/des/s/stout/stout.htm
 

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Stargazer2006

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Just realized I omitted a Stout type that was actually built, appearing only on registers as the Stout glider [490M], whose construction number — SX-9 — echoed Stout's earliest known prototype of 1918, the SX-6, perhaps indicating a personal sequence of Stout Engineering experimental types. I have never seen any picture of this machine and do not know what it might have looked like.
 

Stargazer2006

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cluttonfred said:
Great stuff, that could easily make a publishable article.
I would love to do that; I just don't hang around the adequate circles to get started! :'(
 

Schneiderman

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Go to The Aviation Historian website and use the contact e-mail address there, give a precis of your idea and a link to this forum thread. I think this could be exactly the kind of material they are seeking.
 

Stargazer2006

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Thanks a lot cluttonfred and Schneiderman for the vote of confidence and the tip! :)
 

cluttonfred

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Schneiderman said:
Go to The Aviation Historian website and use the contact e-mail address there, give a precis of your idea and a link to this forum thread. I think this could be exactly the kind of material they are seeking.
That's a great suggestion but you would need to secure the rights to photos to be used. You might reach out the the guys at 1000aircraftphotos.com to see if they have anything you could use.
 

Schneiderman

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Much of Skyblazer's posted material comes from the Detroit Historical Society, so his first contact should be to them.
 

Stargazer2006

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Schneiderman said:
Much of Skyblazer's posted material comes from the Detroit Historical Society, so his first contact should be to them.
Exactly. ;)
 
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