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Trella Aircraft prototypes and projects


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Jun 25, 2009
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The Detroit, Michigan-based Trella brothers produced their first original design in 1924. Designated the T-100 (or T-16, after its construction number), it was a single-seat open-cockpit biplane using a 30hp Ford T automotive engine conversion. The T-100 was designed and built by Frank Trella while at the University of Detroit. Unfortunately the T-100 was never flown because of insufficient take-off power, but it was used extensively for taxiing instruction.

Starting in 1926, Frank and his brothers worked on his second design, the T-101 Speedster [X6775 (c/n T-17)], a two-seater which first flew circa 1927. The Trella brothers set up Trella Aircraft Inc. in Detroit in 1928 to produce and market their aircraft. The T-101 prototype used an 80hp Anzani engine, but planned production versions could be fitted with a 60hp LeBlond 5D or a 55hp Velie M-5.

The T-102 Speedster [10509 (c/n T-18)] was an improved version of the T-101 using a 65hp Velie M-5 engine. It flew in 1928, but like its predecessor, it remained a sole prototype.

A third Speedster was produced in 1930 as the T-103 [13579 (c/n T-19)], this time with a 90hp Lambert R-266 engine. Designed by Frank Trella and built by his brother George, it was a further refinement from the previous machines and flew very well.

The T-104 produced in 1932 was nearly identical to the T-104 but featured minor improvements. Unfortunately it was destroyed in a flat spin on a test flight. This was to be the last of the Trella brothers' aircraft for a long while.

In 1935, they did try to produce a new aircraft, this time a totally new design, the T-105. Described as a two-seat high-wing cabin monoplane with a 90hp Lambert engine, it was begun but never finished for lack of financing, and was eventually dismantled.
It is not known if c/n 20 was assigned to the unregistered T-104 or to the unfinished T-105.

With the failure of the T-105, Frank Trella left for Troy, Ohio, and became a chief draftsman for Waco Aircraft. Only after World War 2 did he return to designing and building aircraft, with his most famous aircraft, the one-off T-106 (also known as the T-21C Special) and the aborted T-107, a slender five-seat twin-engine high-wing monoplane with retractable gear, which once again never went past the mock-up stage because of funding problems (more on the postwar Trellas in the Postwar Projects section).

The Trella story did not quite stop here, as Frank's son Fred produced from 1966 to 1971, with associate Joseph Bolinger, the new T-19 Speedster biplane with 125hp Lycoming O-290-G4 engine, inspired by the original T-103 and designated after its construction number. Damaged in 1978 when a Piper PA-22 crashed onto it, it was repaired that same year and flown again until 2008. Though clearly a postwar airplane, it is included here because it clearly was related to the early models.

More Trella on this forum:


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  • Trella Speedster (Aviation, Jan. 26,  1929).jpg
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  • Trella T-19.jpg
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