NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE ARCHIVES
FRED E. WEICK AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL TRANSCRIPTS
1947 - Sanders Takes Ercoupe; Erco Experiments
Sanders Aviation Inc. had purchased from Erco all the drawings, tools, parts and materials on hand for the Ercoupe. They were also the Ercoupe distributors for the world: They set up an office, a hangar and shop on the field and operated the field as a fixed base operator also. At first they assembled and sold Ercoupes from parts already on hand, and later Erco left the tools in place in the Erco shop and Sanders ordered more parts as needed. The production continued on a small basis and in August 1948 the 5,OOOth Ercoupe was produced. Minor improvements and model changes were continued during this period. A shoulder harness arrangement was offered as optional equipment, this being the first in the light airplane industry. Also a seat for a child of not over 75 lbs. was provided in the baggage compartment in lieu of bagage. The Sanders operation struggled on during the period of '48 and '49 which was the time when all of the light airplane companies were having a very difficult period and only three of them, Cessna, Beech and Piper, and the latter just barely, managed to survive.
Sometime during the early 1950's the Sanders discontinued their Ercoupe operation and sold the Ercoupe drawings, toolings and such parts as they had to Univair in Denver. Univair was a company that supplied spare parts and materials to owners of airplanes that were no longer being manufactured.
I now want to go back and tell about a number of different items or events that occurred during some of this same time period from, say, 1945 till 1948.
Immediately following World War II we started working on a number of improvements or additions to the Ercoupe. One of these was the development of the tricycle ski arrangement I've already mentioned. Another one was getting Edo floats for the Ercoupe and making an Ercoupe seaplane. This made a relatively neat package and at first looked quite promising. With the Ercoupe's sliding windows and the walkways on either side, you could get off either side and down onto the floats either fore or aft of the wing,and, with the 7° dihedral even the low wing position was not a terrible disadvantage in docking, because the tip of the wing was only a foot or so lower than the tip of an ordinary high wing airplane. The wing could be brought in over a dock, but not over a high one. With the low wing and relatively widespread floats, the plane felt very solid on the water and could be handled very easily in good winds. As produced after the war, however, the Ercoupe had a severe disadvantage on floats. I don't remember mentioning this when I first talked about the post-war Ercoupe, but the business element at Erco had decided that all of the post-war Ercoupes should be two-control and that no provisions would be included for using three controls as in the case of the pre-war Ercoupes. Of the 900 orders for Ercoupes that had come in before the war, only 112 of which were produced; only 6 of the 900 orders asked for the full three controls. Four of these were the first four that went to the CAA. After their first trials, the CAA flew its 4 airplanes without the rudder pedals as two-control airplanes; and as a matter of fact, after a bit they lost all of the rudder pedals.
In 1948, I believe it was, John Geisse of the CAA asked me for a set of rudder pedals, because he wanted to use them in some tests with his cross-wind type landing gear on an Ercoupe, and they couldn't find any of the CAA rudder pedals. I managed to find a pair for him. Howard Ailer of Long Island, New York, was setting up a fly-yourself system where he hoped to have a sort of Hertz Rent-a-Car system in use with airplanes, having bases at various places. He ordered five Ercoupes to be delivered serially and the first one was delivered with rudder pedals, because he figured that the general run of pilots would want them with rudder pedals. After he'd had the first airplane a couple of weeks it was tried both with and without the rudder pedals a couple of times and after that they flew it without rudder pedals. He ordered the rest of the five as two-control airplanes. That left only one rudder-pedal Ercoupe that went somewhere in the Carolinas, which we lost track of. With this background it was decided to save $25 or so on the rudder pedal supports, and put all of the post-war Ercoupes out as two-control airplanes without rudder pedals. This also enabled the installation of a brake pedal, a foot pedal for the brake, as well as the hand brake, which was a nice feature to have. I believe, however, based on later experience, that eliminating the rudder pedals as an option was a bad mistake. This was mainly because immediately after the war there were thousands of pilots available who could fly airplanes with rudder pedals but did not know how to handle a two-control Ercoupe satisfactorily. It does require to be handled in a certain way, and the ex-military pilots not only did not know how to handle it, but they knew that they knew how to fly and assumed that they did not need any special instruction to fly this "simple, easy-to-fly airplane". So they often embarrassed themselves, and us, too.
But to get back to the seaplane. The seaplane floats did not have the stable taxiing characteristics of a tricycle landing gear and they did not work well with two-control operation in strong cross-winds, either landing or taking off. Under ordinary conditions two-control operation worked very well, but for the strong cross-wind conditions and the floats, three-control operation was really necessary. This would undoubtedly have been taken care of had the Erco effort not petered out. Incidentally, the Ercoupe handled reasonably well with the original tail surfaces, but with the floats having extra fin area forward, it did a little better to put extra fin area behind also, and we installed a third fin and rudder directly in the centre over the fuselage, giving us a.three-tailed Ercoupe, which reminded us of a miniature Constellation.
Another item under development for the Ercoupe was a retractable landing gear. This would have increased the top speed about 15 mph and run it up to 140 mph. The main design was completed and installed on one experimental Ercoupe and preliminary flight tests were made. The main wheels folded inward up into the wing centre section. The nose wheel folded back and was almost completely but not quite completely enclosed. The gear doors and closig elements were never completed on this project, so the full maximum speed possibility was never attained. The gear was operated by means of a single hand lever, and the weight of the. gear was balanced by means of springs. This operated reasonably satisfactorily, although the gear had enough mass and inertia so that if it were brought up suddenly and quickly, it stopped with a hard jerk. This needed correcting with a damper of some sort. All in all, the retractable arrangement was promising but it was dropped when the Ercoupe production faded out.
Incidentally, one of our staff, I think maybe it was Bill Green, suggested putting an SUP on the front of ERCOUPE,which made SUPERCOUPE, and so we called it that.
One Ercoupe was modified to give the following five improvements: 1. decrease take off run and take-off distance to clear a 5O' obstacle; 2. improve the rate of climb of the airplane; 3. steepen the glide approach to landing; 4. decrease the landing run; and 5. improve the pilot's vision in landing, take-off and climbing flight. To accomplish this, one modification was to increase the span from 30' to 34'. Another modification was to increase the aileron length by 2' each, also. A third was to use slotted ailerons which made a good slotted flap and to droop them 20° for use as a flap and to have an extreme differential aileron motion from that 20° down posit on when the aileron was used as a flap. The extra adverse yaw that occurred when the ailerons were deflected down as flaps was overcome by deflecting the rudders as far inward as they went outward, thus nearly doubling their deflections. Another modification was to use a split flap in the centre section of the wing, carrying the flap effect across the whole span. The experimental airplane was flight tested (I flew it quite a bit myself) and it did accomplish the desired results. It would of course have added a bit to the cost of the plane, but the effort would have been continued had the company continued to produce light airplanes.
Another experimental development carried on during 1946 and 1947 for the Ercoupe was the development of a special muffler. We had a young physicist on the staff who went into the problem quite thoroughly. After a fair amount of both theoretical and experimental work, he finally developed a muffler that would attenuate both the high frequencies and the low frequency sounds from the engine exhaust and it appeared to be quite satisfactory. It was quite large, I believe the cylinder was about 7" or 8" in diameter, and possibly 18" long, I don't remember exactly. It was very difficult to fit it into the Ercoupe cowling, but we did and made flight tests. This was the best of a number of different mufflers that were made and flight tested, measuring the sound level at the ground as the airplane passed over. The measurements were made at the far end of the runway when the airplane was about 300ft above the ground, climbing at full throttle. They were also made cruising overhead 500' above the ground,and at 1000' above the ground. These tests showed that with this best muffler the people on the ground should be bothered very little by the noise of the airplane going over.
We then obtained a somewhat smaller diameter 4-bladed Sensenich propeller and the tests with this showed a slight further reduction in the noise level measured. The airplane performance was not quite as good with the 4-bladed propeller, however. All in all, we were relatively well pleased with our noise reduction efforts from the standpoint of the people on the ground. However, we still had to do a good job of insulating the cabin from the mechanical noise of the engine and the noise of the propeller. This of course has been done fairly satisfactorily. It's been done very satisfactorily on the large jet airplanes, fairly satisfactorily in the small private planes, but it would have been a little harder with the Ercoupe than for most planes because of the large amount of glass in the canopy. These efforts would of course have improved later Ercoupes had their production been continued.
The design of a 4-place Ercoupe was started in 1946 and carried on through 1947 and part of 1948. The construction of the first experimental airplane was started in 1947 and was about 75% completed when the work on light airplanes was stopped. It was basically a stepped-up Ercoupe with a retractable gear. In fact, the same gear as that on the retractable Ercoupe was to be used but beefed up if necessary. The fuselage necked down behind the cabin, however, with a full door on the right hand side, as in the case of most modern 4-place airplanes. It It was designed with the idea of corning out at first if necessary with a 150 hp Franklin engine, but hoping that the same weight Franklin engine would be stepped up to 200 hp in accordance with the Franklin company's plans. It hurt me a lot to see this airplane dropped, but it hurst still more to see the next one, which I will tell about, dropped also.
In the spring of 1941 well before this country got into World War II, I was making some computations regarding a twin-engine airplane that would have at least some of the characteristics of the Ercoupe. During the summer and fall of 1941 I had some help from a couple of my young engineers at Erco, but of course when December 7 came along, this work all stopped. It looked at the time that this entire venture would have to be put off until after the close of the war, but an interesting situation developed.
Some excellent engineers applied for work at Erco, but with the war on we could not take them because of some foreign connection. One of these men was Dr. Felix Nagel who had been educated in Germany but had been working in this country for 10 or 12 years at the Martin and the Douglas Cornpany and was an American citizen. His mother still lived in Germany, however, and the FBI would not permit Erco to hire a person in that situation. We then formed another little company called Aircraft Development Corp., wholly owned by Erco but operating in an entirely sperate area about four miles away. I was president of this company and hired Felix Nagel and an Italian engineer, who incidentally had married the daughter of a United States Senator,and also a Canadian mechanic who for some reason couldn't be used on war work. An auto dealer in College Park had had to give up during the war years, and I rented his office and shop area and set up our activities there. The work on the twin-engine design was carried on there and as time went on a few other people were added to the staff. By the end of the war, the preliminary design work had been completed, a complete wooden mock-up of the fuselage area and other parts, landing gear and so forth, had been made and the detailed design was pretty well along.
During this period I put in full time with overtime, evenings and weekends at Erco on our war efforts, but I got up an hour early and put in a little time before the Erco work started, at this little unit in College Park, so I had at least a half hour's contact with it most every working day. The design had some unique features and I believe that it would not only have been the first light twin to be produced after the war, but would have performance and flight characteristics that would have been hard to beat for a while. It was designed to have two engines of at least 150 or 160hp each, but these were not available in a light form at that time. There were two different 125 hp engine models available then, both of which would be boosted to powers from 145 to 160 later. And this was what we were counting on. One of these was a 4-cylinder Lycoming engine and the other was a 6-cylinder Continental. In order for these to have the plane fly satisfactorily with at least four people on one of the 125 hp engines, I gave the airplane a large span, 45', and we tried to make it as sleek as possible, as close as possible to a sailplane in form. It had a tapered wig which was thick enough in the center to house either of the engines completely, since they could be furnished with fuel injection systems and would not have carburetors hanging down below. With the oil not housed in a sump below but in a separate tank, the vertical dimension of the engine could be made very shallow and the engine could be made to fit completely within the contour of the wing itself. One of the then new NACA low-drag, so-called laminar-flow airfoils was used which had the thickest part of the wing near the center of the chord. With the fully retractable gear, then, this would make a very clean twin engine airplane. The center panel of the wing including the engines was straight, but from the engines out the wing was tapered in such a way that the planform gave very nearly an eliptical loading for the wing and airplane as a whole. With the 45' span, it should therefore have a very low induced drag and be able to do reasonably well, even with just one 125 hp engine operating. The general configuration of the plane was a little more like the W-1 than the Ercoupe, in that it had a high wing and used pusher propellers. The tail surfaces were very similar to either the W-1 or the Ercoupe, with horizontal surface between two vertical ones. In this case the horizontal surface was supported on the fuselage like that of the Ercoupe, and it had two vertical tails, like that of either one. In this case the vertical tails were directly behind the propellers, so that by setting the fin at a slight angle, we could get a certain amount of correction against the yawing tendency of a single engine, when a single engine was in use. With this arrangement, it would have been relatively easy to get approximately the same trim airspeed for a given control wheel position regardless of whether the power was on or the power was off, and throughout the entire speed range. This helped the ease with which one can obtain a single limitation to the elevator movement to serve with the power-on and power-off condition. In the front there were two individual seats for the pilot and co-pilot, but the rear bench seat was as wide as that in a car of that day, so that it could seat three people if desired. The airplane could therefore be considered either 4-passenger or a 5-passenger airplane.
Although this was a high-wing plane, as far as the wing-fuselage combination was concerned, the wing was no higher than it needed to be to give propeller clearance. And so it might be better to call it a low fuselage plane rather than a high wing. With the twin-engine pusher arrangement, we could run the nose of the fuselage as far forward as we desired and have a good structural support for the nose wheel, even with a good, long wheel base for the landing gear. Furthermore, I designed a gear supporting the nose wheel in such a way that it moved up and backward as the load was supplied to it, and it continued to move up and backward as it retracted into the fuselage. The wheel would in effect be dragged over obstacles by its landing gear support in about the same way that the rear wheel of an Ercoupe gets dragged over obstacles, and I hoped that this would relieve much of the punishment that a nose wheel has to take, particularly when it is supported from the rear, as it has to be in a single-engine tractor airplane.
When World War II ended, the aircraft development corporation was dropped and the activity moved into Erco itself. The new design had two features that needed extra development. One of these was the cooling of the pusher air-cooled engine entirely submerged within the wing. The other was the development of a suitable extension shaft arrangement because the propellers were located about 2 ' back of the engines, to give reasonable clearance from the wing. We made cooling tests, both at Erco and on dynamometer at the Lycoming plant. I used exhaust ejector pumps for pumping the cooling air through the engine baffling and used inlets in the leading edge of the wing in front of each row of cylinders, as had been worked out by the NACA. We finally attained satisfactory cooling at full throttle on the ground, but the baffles that we had installed cracked and did not last very long. Because of the pulsations that were in the cooling air as it was pulled through by the exhaust ejector cooling pumps, we could not use any flat surfaces in the baffling without vibration and failure, and this problem still needed development but was certainly one that could have been worked out satisfactorily. Ground runs were made with the extension shafts also, but this was not worked out completely satisfactorily at the time the work stopped because of the general stoppage of the light airplane work at Erco.
We called this twin-engine job the Ercoach, and not being able to complete the project and see it in actual use has been one of my greatest disappointments.
During this same post-war period of time, two interesting Ercoupe modifications were accomplished by others in the field. One of these was a roadable Ercoupe, devised by Wismer Holland of Valdosta, Georgia. The Holland folding wing device is a simple structure. With his device, the bolts holding the outer panel in place are removed and the wing is swung upward and back in a horizontal position over the cabin and the rear part of the fuselage. The trailing edges of the wings dovetail on top of the cabin, out of the way, and in this position do not restrict vision, do not change the center of gravity and do not present a vertical surface to be affected by high winds. The propeller had an effective guard of rods which encircled it to ensure safety on the ground. This part of the road equipment was designed in sections so that it could be carried in the baggage compartment in flight. He used the propeller to carry him along on the road at average traffic speed, and had no difficulty with oil temperature or cylinder head temperature. All in all, it was a neat and clever arrangement but the idea didn't seem to take as a practical application.
The other interesting Ercoupe modification was a twin Ercoupe built for Thresher Brothers Air Circus of Alberton, Georgia by J. B. Collier, Southeastern Air Service. The twin arrangement was made by taking two Ercoupes, removing the lefthand wing panel from one of them and the right hand wing panel from the other one and joining the two centre panels together. The tail surfaces were also joined together, but just one fin and rudder combination was used in the center where the two tails were joined. Thus there were three vertical fins and rudders altogether. Both nose wheels were used, but for the rear landing gear, only the outer one of each Ercoupwas left in place and the inner one was removed, so it was really a 4-wheeled arrangement. The plane had conventional controls, and could be flown from either cockpit. It had been rolled, looped and spun. It was then a 4-place airplane with two people in each of the separate cockpits. It was said to cruise at 140 mph and could be flown at 100 mph on one engine. It was an interesting novelty used at airshows.
Our daughter Betsey was 16 years old at just about the time that World War II ended and she started taking flying lessons in August 1945. She wanted to be able to fly any kind of airplane and not be limited to Ercoupes, so she took her flying lessons in Cubs. Her instructor was Everett Hart who was our Erco experimental test pilot at the time. Ev had been an instructor at the Parks Air College in East St. Louis, both in regard to academic work and in regard to flying. Parks had had at least one of the pre-war Ercoupes all through the war, and when he got interested in taking the distributorship for the post-war period, we had some contact with Ev Hart in regard to this and he was still so interested in the airplane, having given some instruction in it, that he wanted to come with Erco. And so we hired him and he was our experimental test pilot for the entire post-war Ercoupe period. Ev and Betsey rented Cubs from George Brinkerhoff at the College Park airport. The lessons went along rather slowly, however, because all three of our children had difficulty with motion sickness when they were young, and Betsey still could not take much bumpy air. Ev said that during their lessons, he would watch Betsey, and when her lips turned green, he would call it a day and head for home.
I remember that when I gave her her first ride in an airplane several years before, I had taken her around Queens-Chapel airport for a couple of take-offs and landings and was turning around on the ground to take off again when she tossed her cookies and that was the end of flying for that day. She discontinued her lessons for the winter months and in early spring started again at Queens Chapel airport with Bill Henderson as her instructor. She soloed in April 1946 and got her private license after she was 17, in August. Then she got checked out in Ercoupes, also. In the summer of 1947 Bob Sanders hired her to help sell and demonstrate Ercoupes. He had an Ercoupe without wings displayed in a storeroom in Hyattsville, Maryland, for a period of about two weeks and Betsey spent most of the daytime in this display roomtelling people about the characteristics of the Ercoupe and she attracted quite a bit of attention mornings and evenings when she taxied the wing-less Ercoupe with a police escort from the field to the display room, a matter of a couple of miles, and back again in the evenings. During and after that period, she also gave flight demonstrations to prospective customers. Her most interesting experience in this matter, she said, was a time when with less than 100 hours of airplane time, she gave a flight demonstration to an airline pilot. He told her that he was amazed at what the airplane would do, or possibly she. He had her worried when he made his landing approach to the half-mile Erco field at 90 mph, which she was not used to, but he got it down, held it off and landed satisfactorily.
Donald as a cadet in the V-5 program, was still in pre-flight when the war ended, and he was disappointed·that he didn't get to become a Navy pilot. He had been fully occupied without any vacation or time off from the late spring in 1940 when he started at Carleton College in Minnesota, to the early summer of 1946, when he had completed his first year at the University of Maryland. So he decided to take a vacation that summer and do nothing but learn to fly. He too took his instruction from Bill Henderson at Queens Chapel airport and before the summer was over he had obtained his private pilot's certificate. He did a fair amount of flying over the next two years; both Betsey and Donald flew mostly in Ercoupes.
In the summer of 1946 I decided that I would like to have an Ercoupe of my own, so I put in a written order to our sales department, hoping to get the distributor's discount. Sales immediately took the matter up with Les Wells and Henry Berliner and Henry came to me and said "We can't sell you an Ercoupe, Fred". I said "I'd like to have one for my very own". So he said, "Well, I'll tell you what we'll do; we'll assign you one for your very own, but it'll still be the company's property and we will maintain it for you and fill it with fuel." So Ercoupe N2439H was mine, at least for my own personal use. This was while things were still on the upbeat.
In the early summer of 1947 I returned from a business trip in my Ercoupe and landed on the north-south runway at Erco field. As I rolled to a stop, I was much surprised to see an Ercoupe on the grass off the runway with Dorothy and a company pilot in it, Oscar James. During the flush period, Erco had set aside about 3 Ercoupes and established a club so that any of the employees could learn to fly or if they had licenses, fly these airplanes, and Oscar James was the pilot in charge of this activity. Even though things were not flush in the early part of 1947, this activity had not been discontinued. It was available for the immediate family members of the employees, as well as for the employees themselves. It turned out that without letting me know anything about it, Dorothy had been learnig to fly on this program and was well on her way toward soloing. She wanted to surpriseme by telling me after she had soloed. She surprised me allright, a little bit ahead of time. People had just assumed that she must know how to fly when they learned that Donald and Betsey and I did. She soloed somewhat later and got her private license in the fall.
This involved quite a coincidence, because it just happened that as I came in from another business trip in my Ercoupe and landed on the north-south runway at Erco field, there at the side on the grass was an Ercoupe with both Dorothy and Oscar James. "He waved me over and said, "Come, meet a new private pilot." She had just finished her final tests and he had given her her temporary certificate. The permanent one would come later from the CAA. She, like Betsey, just about 100 hours of solo flying, but it was very good after that, flying around the country with Dorothy, to know that she could handle the airplane entirely by herself very well. And over the years we have covered most of the country and parts of Canada and Mexico as well.
During the war years when I was taking the train back and forth between Washington and New York quite frequently, I used to spend some of the time on the train thinking about how airplanes could be improved further, particularly for private use. It seemed to me that closer to the best possible performance could be obtained and with fewer stall type accidents if the airplane could be made to help the pilot to fly always at a suitable angle of attack and always with a good margin from the stall. One approach might be to make the airplane itself so that it would tend firmly to hold any angle of attack for which it was set or trimmed. With such an arrangement, the pilot could set the control directly for the angle of attack desired; the airplane would then continue to fly definitely at that angle of attack and at the corresponding indicated airspeed. The trim indicator could be marked off directly in terms of indicated airspeed and the positions for certain optimum flight conditions could be designated directly. Then if the pilot wanted to fly at the speed which would give him the best rate of climb, he would merely set the trim indicator for the point so marked, and the airplane would fly at that speed. In like manner, the airspeed giving the best performance could be set for the maximum angle of climb or for the flattest glide. The trim control would then become the basic speed control. Moving the elevator control from this firmly trimmed position could be made to require the overcoming of a certain acceptable break-out force. The pilot would presumably have to do this only for getting the tail down to cause rotation at a high angle of attack in the take-off, for flaring off the flight path in a landing,and for making any emergency movement in the air ; or possibly overcoming the effects of violent gusts.
It happened that this was easy to try out experimentally for one speed at a time on the Ercoupe. There was a given elevator position, and the corresponding fore-and-aft control wheel position, for each indicated airspeed on the Ercoupe.
It varied with the CG position but the CG location changed very little with various loadings. Also with the Ercoupe the trimmed airspeed remained very nearly the same regardless of whether the power was on or off. That made the Ercoupe ideal for this sort of arrangement. All I had to do was select an indicated airspeed, find the position of the control wheel for that airspeed, and then block it so that it could not go forward from that position, but could come back or could turn for lateral control. Then, by setting the longitudinal trim tab full forward, the control wheel would always tend to rest up against the stop and it would take a certain force to pull it back from that position. I then made easily removable stops which covered the speed range reasonably well and set out to make some flight trials. I found that for any of the speeds selected, for any one speed, that is the indicated airspeed would remain the same within very small limits, from full power in a climb through cruising at horizontal flight and down to a power-off glide. Also, the same indicated speeds held good at altitudes clear up to 10,000'.
This is fortunate and natural because any given elevator position holds a given angle of attack and with a constant angle of attack the indicated airspeed is constant throughout the entire range of altitudes, although the true indicated airspeed corrected for temperature and pressure altitude increases with altitude. Of course maintaining a constant airspeed under these conditions depended on the natural longitudinal stability of the airplane and if a disturbance occurred, the phugoid oscillations would be set up and would have to damp out. Fixing the elevator in this way, however, gave a greater damping than with free elevator controls and helped some in this regard. All in all, it seemed to work. reasonably well, even in moderately gusty air in VFR flight and the general idea seemed to be promising.
In late 1947 there was a meeting of the Industry Advisory Committee of the NACA in Los Angeles. About a week ahead of that, there was a meeting in Dayton, Ohio, of the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences on general aviation subjects. Dorothy and I decided to fly to both meetings in my Ercoupe.
I taped on a control wheel stop that would give an indicated airspeed of about 102 mph and decided to leave it on for the whole trip if feasible.
At the Institute meeting in Dayton I met many aviation notables, including Orville Wright (I believe that was the last time I saw him) and James (Mac) MacDonnell. The J.MacDonnell Airplane Corp. which was organized just before the war in St. Louis, Missouri, had grown rapidly during the war and now was reduced somewhat to about 3300 employees. All of its orders had been for the military and it was now actively producing Phantom and Banshee jet fighters for the Navy. It was also working on helicopters for the services. Mac was of course aware of the light plane depression and of the fact that Erco was in financial difficulties and struggling along with a skeleton crew. In that connection, all of us Erco officials were going along on greatly reduced salaries and in fact had not been paid anything for the last couple of months. I was still hoping, however, that Erco would pull through and resume its aircraft activities. At any rate, Mac invited me to visit him at his plant in St. Louis on our way to the west coast and invited Dorothy and me to stay at his house with his family.
The day after the Institute meeting in Dayton, Dorothy and I flew to St. Louis and landed on Lambert Field, which was the main St. Louis airport and on which the MacDonnell plant was located. This was the same field, incidentally, that Hans Hoyt and I had landed on in a Jenny for the 1923 St. Louis National Air Races and with only enough fuel left to taxi a few feet. It was entirely built up now and quite active; quite a change from the grass field with the two hangars on it in 1923.
I was taken to the MacDonnell plant where I noticed that all of the employees referred to him in a somewhat familiar but respectful manner as "Mr. Mac". When he first organized his company he saw that I was well tied with the Ercoupe development at Erco, but he gave me the open invitation to come see him anytime things were not favourable at Erco. Now he offered me the job of Director of Research of the MacDonnell Aircraft Corp. I thanked him, and sayd that I would be glad to consider it if things did not work out at Erco, and if, because I was still vitally interested in light airplanes, MacDonnell would get into the light plane activity also. He said that he too was interested in light airplanes and would take it up with the Board of Directors, but he didn't really think that they would go for it; he informed me later that they didn't.
It was interesting while I was visiting the factory, Banshee jets that were to make flight tests in the area would run to Chicago and back just to warm up for the flight tests. In 1923 it took me over 4 hours to fly a Jenny from Chicago to St. Louis one-way. While I was visiting at the MacDonnell plant, they demonstrated for me the operation of "Little Henry" which was a small one-place helicopter, the power plant of which was a jet, a ram jet on the end of each rotor blade. The man in charge of the helicopter design was no other than C.L. Zakarschenko, who had done the structural design for Mac during the construction of the Doodlebug in Milwaukee, back in 1929.
We left St. Louis about noon the next day, but the weather was not good and we got only 100 miles to Rolla, Missouri, where the Missouri School of Mines is located. The following day we couldn't take off until afternoon and then gain made only about 100 miles slipping into Springfield,Missouri. Here we were weathered in for a couple of days, but it was a very pleasant couple of days.
Springfield had a rather large airport some distance out of town, but a small one right on the eastern edge of town, and we landed on that one because we knew that Jim Johnson, one of the members of the Non-Scheduled flying advisory Committee, was living on that field. Jim, and his wife, called Pete, welcomed us with open arms and invited us to stay right on the field with them, which was fine with us. They lived in a one-story building which included the airport office, but a portion of which had been made over into living quarters. The next day was Sunday, and we had an early dinner, as I remember it because the Johnsons had to go to a funeral which began I believe about 1 o'clock.
While the Johnsons were getting dressed Doro and I just kept sitting there talking for a while at the dining room table. While we were there, the door back of me leading to the airport office opened and who should walk in but Bill Piper,Sr. and his wife, Clara. Bill explained „Hello Weick“ and the Johnsons came in and wondered how anyone in Springfield could happen to know me that well. Bill was scheduled to attend the same meeting of the Industry Advisory Committee of the NACA that I was. His son, Bill Piper, Jr., was in the Los Angeles area, trying to help sell Pipers in those hard times and Bill, Sr. was driving Bill Jr.'s car to him. Mrs. Piper originally came from Dallas and he was going to drop her off there and drive the rest of the way by himself. In the meantime, they happened to be coming through Spring field, and thought they'd stop off to visit the Johnsons. We had a good visit with them until the Johnsons came home, and then they stayed most of the afternoon before driving on.
When the weather cleared, we flew out to the west coast, and landed at Monrovia, near where my brother Herb and his wife Virginia were living then in Arcadia, some 20 miles or so east of Los Angeles proper.
After the After the meeting, or rather as part of it, Mr. Horner, a member of our committee and president of United Airlines, who had a DC-3 there, took the whole committee down to see the Convair plant in San Diego and back again. We flew from the Lockheed terminal in Burbank, the same field that I had worked on with Hamilton Standard Propellers in 1929-30 and flown from with Lindbergh, but how different now! Initial an open grass field, it was covered with a paved runway and apron and surrounded by today's buildings all filled with plenty of room. My speed course had followed five miles of railroad track between Burbank and VanNuys, and only one farm house was close to it.