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The Flying Bathtub

by John M. White |

The Aeronca C-2

The Aeronca C-2 had the ignominious nickname of “The Flying Bathtub”, but was originally called the Roche Original being named after its homebuilt designer Jean Roche, a U.S. Army Air Service engineer. The airplane made its first flights in 1925 and was built with just the bare minimums to get the aircraft into the air. The pilot sat on a seat fashioned out of plywood with rudder pedals and a stick controller in front of him. Finding engines to power aircraft under development in those days was a challenge. There were no aircraft engine manufacturers around, so aircraft designers had to scrounge to find engines to power their airplanes.
The Flying Bathtub At first Roche installed a motorcycle engine on the airframe but could not get it into the air. He then tried an engine which had been designed to pump ballast air into blimps, but that engine perished in an accident. Two partners, Roy Poole and Robert Galloway, designed an engine which developed 26hp especially for the C-2, and it was known as the Aeronca E-107A. The C-2 was the first light airplane certified by the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Aeronautics, and which was produced in significant numbers in the United States. Certification took place on October 20th, 1929, and sales began the following year. Priced at $ 1,495 Aeronca wanted to provide an aircraft that was cheap enough that private citizens could possibly afford. Aeronca sold 164 of these aircraft, an incredible feat considering these sales took place at the height of the Great Depression. While not fast or powerful, it was the first affordable aircraft designed for the general public to encourage more people to consider flying for business or as a hobby. Operators could rent the airplane for only $ 4.00 per hour and make money. “The Flying Bathtub” had a wingspan of 36 feet, was 20 feet long and 8 feet high. With a useful load of 274 the airplane could reportedly cruise at 65 mph and had a range of some 240 miles. Among its more memorable attributes was that it was simple to fly. The airplane had no brakes but could be slowed and stopped easily by the pilot reaching out and grabbing one of the large tires with his gloved hand. Here is a video showing one being started: The success of the Aeronca C-2 convinced William T. Piper to proceed with a low-cost 2 place aircraft which eventually evolved into the famous "Piper J3 Cub". If you want to do something fun, you can download a paper model version of the Piper J3 at The Paper Airplane Company and if you use the code "JetAviator7" you will save over 40% off the purchase price. Check it out today! Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7

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