The AA-5, after the ubiquitous Cessna 172 and Piper Warrior, is one of the most popular and widely flown basic single engine general aviation types flown over the past 50 years, in spite of a much shorter production life. First conceived by American Aviation, it was based on an earlier design, the AA-1 Yankee Clipper. Having failed to produce a viable 4 seater in the all-new AA-2, American Aviation less ambitiously chose to simply enlarge the AA-1, and the AA-5 resulted.
Almost as soon as the AA-5 commenced production, ownership of American Aviation passed to Grumman, who produced and developed the design until selling its piston division to Gulfstream. Gulfstream only produced the AA-5 for a further year before ceasing production in 1978. Since then American General (1990-1993) and Tiger Aircraft (2001-2006) have also produced airframes in smaller quantities.
The AA-5 design evolved over time, with the original Traveler – distinguishable by its squarer cowling – first being modified by Grumman with a more streamlined cowling, and then further developed as the AA-5A Cheetah with a revised tailplane. The AA-5B Tiger was also introduced in 1974, visually identical to the Cheetah but with a strengthened spar and 180hp instead of the standard 150hp.
The AA-5 is a diminutive and spirited but predictable aircraft to fly and has seen long service as a trainer, with the UK flight school Cabair maintaining a hard-working fleet for many years. Nowadays flying examples are likely to be flown by private owners, who covet its economy, the kudos of the Grumman name and a sliding, fighter-style canopy.
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