Travel Air

Type R
Mystery Ship
The Travel Air Manufacturing Company was an aircraft manufacturer established in Wichita, Kansas in the United States in January 1925 by Clyde Cessna, Walter Beech, and Lloyd Stearman.

Company history

The company initially built a series of sporting and training open-cockpit biplanes, including the Model A, Model B, Model BH, and Model BW. (renumbered so that A = 1000, B = 2000, BH = 3000, BW = 4000). Other types included the 5000 and 6000 high wing cabin monoplanes and the CW / 7000 mailplane.

The A differed in some minor details such as lacking the overhanging Fokker style ailerons that gave the rest of the series the nickname Wichita Fokker (not present on all of the later models though), while the B, BH and BW differed only in the engine installed - the A and B had a Curtiss OX-5, the BH had a Hispano Suiza V-8, the BW had a Wright radial (of various types) though other radials would be installed later (especially after it became the 4000). Aside from the Wichita Fokkers seen in such movies as Howard Hughes' Hell's Angels, likely the most famous of the open cockpit biplanes was N434N, a D4D (the ultimate derivative of the BW) painted in Pepsi colors for airshow and skywriting use which survives in the National Air & Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy annex. A second, backup D4D, N434P, used by Pepsi in later years to supplement and fill-in for the original aircraft, is housed in the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, California.

The Travel Air 5000 was a Clyde Cessna designed aircraft ordered in small numbers for National Air Transport. Two were custom built long range endurance aircraft similar in concept to Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis. Woolaroc, flown by Art Gobel won the disastrous Dole Air Race from Oakland, California to Hawaii in which the majority of contestants disappeared at sea or otherwise died attempting the crossing.[1]

Travel Air then produced the model 6000, a five or six-seat high-wing cabin monoplane intended for airline use, and for very wealthy private owners. In 1928, National Air Transport operated the Type 6000 on their mail and passenger routes from Chicago to Dallas, Kansas City and New York.[2] Two Travel Air 6000 were purchased by the Paraguayan government during the Chaco War (1932–1935) for the Transport Squadron of its Air Arm. These planes belonged to TAT with the registrations NC624K (c/n 6B-2011) and NC9815 (c/n 6B-1029); They received the military serials T-2 and T-5 (later reserialled as T-9). The planes were intensively used during the conflict as air ambulances. They both survived the war and continued flying in the air arm. In 1945, they were transferred to the first Paraguayan airline, Líneas Aéreas de Transporte Nacional (LATN) and received the civil registrations ZP-SEC and ZP-SED. They were withdrawn from use in 1947.

The CH or 7000 found little success but ended up in Alaska as an early bushplane with an enclosed cabin for the cargo or passengers. Unfortunately the pilot was not given the protection of the cabin but sat behind it in an open cockpit.

Travel Air was also responsible for a series of very successful racing aircraft, which due to Travel Air being extremely secretive, were named Mystery Ships by the press. The Mystery Ships dominated the racing circuit for several years and had the distinction of being faster than anything the U.S. military had on strength. Its renown led to one example being sold to the Italians which inspired the design of a racing aircraft and the Breda Ba.27 fighter.

Travel Air merged with the Curtiss-Wright Corporation in August 1929.[3] Curtiss-Wright continued to manufacture some of the Travel Air designs though they were renumbered again so that the 4000 became the 4, the 6000 became the 6. Additional types that had been close to production number from 8 to 16 were built while under Curtiss-Wright management such as the Curtiss-Wright CW-12. which in various marks was sold to several South American countries.

One of the founders of Travel Air was Walter H. Beech who quit shortly after it was amalgamated into Curtiss Wright and later formed the Beechcraft company where he would continue the numbering sequence with the Beechcraft 17 Staggerwing.


Source: Wikipedia