Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Creative thinking for a winter flyer

Most of my posts over the last 5 years have been about my CallAir Cadet 90 (nee Interstate Cadet) and the Call family who built it. They were entrepreneurs who happened to also be airplane people who started from scratch to design and build their own brand of flying machines in Afton WY in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

The Call Aircraft Company brand was dubbed "CallAir" at some point and started out with a low wing, strut braced design that had remarkable performance in the high (6,000'+MSL) Wyoming terrain. Production was on hold during World War II but started up again toward the end of the conflict and really began in earnest once parts and supplies became available.

The A-2 was powered by a Lycoming O-290 of 125HP. One write-up said it would take off in 800 feet at Afton's elevation, climb at 500 feet per minute and fly 500 miles. Local pilots loved it and the design's popularity spread. Most were sold in the western states. It's written that the first flight was in December of 1941 and one account said it was from snow skis. The Calls knew the need for skis and came up with an easy-on, easy-off set of clamps and bungees for their own brand of skis that were produced during and after the War. It was a design that allowed an airplane to be rolled on or lifted on.
Lifted, with appreciation, from Supercub.org

An unforeseen market crisis hit the small airplane manufacturers particularly hard when the double-whammy of oversupply and under-demand took hold in 1947. All of a sudden, the flood of cheap military surplus airplanes and an economic slump overwhelmed the industry. Being smart business people first, the Calls kept their doors open by promoting and producing their "Snowcar". It was a big hit with mail carriers, forestry/wildlife managers and emergency services. It was also marketed as a recreational vehicle, the forerunner of today's snowmobiles, using aircraft engines and propellers for power. The Snowcar could also be equipped with optional wheels for ease in rolling on and off those CallAir skis, though the lack of a reversing propeller made it impractical for highway use.
Barlow Call at right, extolling the virtues of the CallAir Snowcar

An undertaking like the Call Aircraft Company had to involve some pretty special people to take hold in a little town over 100 miles from any other town of any size and far, far away from other centers of aviation manufacturing. The Calls were certainly in touch with their customers and were creative when it came to keeping their employees at work. Today's aircraft manufacturers at Afton owe a debt to these resourceful people for getting the whole thing started.

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