In a sector with a large degree of design conformity, it is striking to consider the Ercoupe, a type with a unique and unmistakeable profile and a prolific production life. Offering a host of novel (in 1936) features, some of which proved enduring, some not, today’s owners enjoy the double privilege of preserving an important part of aviation history and economical operation that put it on a par with contemporary types in the light sports category.
The Ercoupe was the brainchild of Fred Weick, a prolific aircraft designer who was later jointly responsible for the Piper Cherokee. Weick had a background in experimental aeronautics having worked for NACA where he originated new propeller designs, low drag engine cowlings and a 1931 prototype aircraft known as the W1, which featured tricycle undercarriage. He moved to The Engineering and Research Corporation (ERCO) in 1936 to further develop his aircraft designs with a focus on safety and economy. The Ercoupe 310 of 1936 which resulted was conceived to never spin and for extreme ease of flight, which included a novel coupling of the ailerons and rudders which allowed the pilot to fly, car style, using the control wheel only – there were no rudder pedals.
However, only 112 Ercoupes were built prior to 1941 when WW2 halted US production of civilian aircraft. With very little call for the Ercoupe for military purposes, its heyday was postponed until 1945, when the civilian aircraft market boomed, with a surfeit of demobbed pilots providing custom for around 5000 Ercoupe 415s which were produced in three shifts at the factory in Riverdale, Maryland.
The postwar boom was short-lived however, and in 1947 ERCO left the aircraft industry and sold the Ercoupe design to Sanders Aviation. This began a period of sporadic low volume manufacture of the Ercoupe by numerous successive companies until 1970, when it manifested as the Forney F1 Aircoupe, the New Aircoupe, the Alon A2 Aircoupe and the Mooney A2A and M10 Cadet. The latter was a substantial modification with a Mooney-style single vertical stabiliser.
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