Founded in Cincinnati, Ohio in November 1928, the Aeronca Aircraft Corporation knew how to make a successful light plane. One such aircraft was the Aeronca C3, which was introduced in 1931.

Golden age wonder

Flying during the influential interwar years of aviation, The Aeronca C3 monoplane was developed from 1929’s C2 Scout aircraft designed by Jean A. Roche. However, the C3 was far more popular than its predecessor.

Users were fans of the plane’s low cost to run, operating at just three gallons of fuel per hour. As a result, it became a favorite at sporting evens across the United States. Trainers also benefited from the fact that the aircraft could have a passenger right next to the pilot, making it easy to train others. Altogether, the type was easy to operate, seeing several enthusiasts become pilots in quick succession.

The Wings Of History Air Museum highlights the following about the Aeronca C3’s impact:

“The pilot sat so low in the cockpit (very close to the ground) which is thought to have given rise to the cliché of “Flying by the seat of your pants.” Of course, the fact that there was no airspeed indicator in the cockpit might also have had a lot to do with using that saying!”

Impressive abilities

Cole Palen’s Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome holds an original 1936 Aeronca C3 powered by an Aeronca E-113C engine offering 36 hp and a top speed of 90 mph (144 km/hr). The aircraft has a gross weight of 1,006 lbs (456 kg), wingspan of 36 ft (10.98 m), and a length of 20 ft (6.1 m).

Referencing the type’s history, the Aerodrome shares:

“In the earliest of Aerodrome air shows it was the steed of “Mike Spandau” a pilot whose enthusiasm far exceeded his minimal skills. During the late ‘60s and ‘70s, it flew regularly as part of the Pants Race, a competition of speed among three pilots and their not-so-fast, Lindbergh-era flying flivvers. It was retired in the 1970s and awaits restoration. The Pants Race continues to be staged every Saturday during air show season.”

Production of the C-3 ended in 1937 as it longer adhered to new government airworthiness standards. Photo: 6oclocklow via Wikimedia Commons

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Aeronca C3 Aircraft

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Throughout the decades

Aeronca was forced to move to Middletown, Ohio in 1937 due to a flood. The firm notably went on the produce L-3 observation and liaison aircraft deployed by the United States Army Air Corps in World War II. After the war, it produced additional popular civilian types, including around 2,000 of the Chief series and 8,000 of the Champion range.

There have been several variants of the C3, including the UK-built Aeronca 100. Photo: Nigel Ish via Wikimedia Commons

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Aeronca 100

The company ceased light production manufacturing in the 1950s and sold the design of the Champion to Champion Aircraft Corporation. Today, Aeronca produces components for other manufacturing powerhouses such as Airbus, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed. With a brand that traces back to 94 years ago, the company has undoubtedly left a legacy across the aviation spectrum.

What are your thoughts about the Aeronca C3? What do you make of the overall history of the aircraft? Let us know what you think of the plane and its operations in the comment section.

Sources: Wings Of History Air Museum; Cole Palen’s Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome


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