I recently visited the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan and saw the only surviving original Ford Flivver. It is small (roughly 22 ft. x 15 ft) and made of ash, spruce, steel tubing and fabric covered but what is the story behind this airplane? Here is what I found out.
In 1926 Henry Ford wanted to produce an “everyman’s aircraft” so that the average person could fly and own his/her own aircraft. (Sort of like he did with the Model T.) One of the stipulations for the design was that it would be small enough to “fit in Mr. Ford’s office”. Obviously Henry Ford was thinking practically here.
Otto Koppen was the designer of the Flivver and keeping Mr. Ford’s size criteria in mind, designed a fabric covered airplane using a steel tube fuselage with wood wing construction. The rudder had a steerable tailwheel which also incorporated the only brake. A steel landing gear was fastened to the wing and used rubber doughnuts in compression for shock absorption.
The Ford Flivver was unveiled on July 30, 1926 (Henry Ford’s 63rd birthday) and was test flown by Harry J. Brooks. It is interesting to note that the only other person (other than Brooks) to ever fly the Flivver was Charles Lindbergh who was invited to fly the airplane on a visit to Ford field on August 11, 1927. He later described the Flivver as “one of the worst aircraft he ever flew”.
Only 5 Flivvers were ever built, the variants incorporated longer wings, increased wing dihedral, increased fuel capacity and engine changes but sadly after a fatal crash on an expedition flight by Harry Brooks the program was cancelled.
|Specifications Ford Flivver (Model 2A)
• Crew: 1
• Stall speed: 30 mph.; 26 kt; 48 km/h