The Great Lakes Trainer has been kitted by many manufacturers over the years. Its proportions, designed to make
it stable and easy to fly in its full-size format makes it ideal for free flight, control line, or radio control.
Its classic lines and a unique engine and cowling arrangement makes the Great Lakes Trainer a stand-out in any lineup
of biplanes. This article is a historical insight into the airplane and offers a detailed 3-view that will serve
the scale modeler who needs accurate dimensional and cross-sectional references for judges to use in scoring
Great Lakes Trainer
One of the most popular and aerobatic aircraft in history was this photogenic biplane.
By Don Berliner
A Great Lakes Trainer is an ore barge with dual controls and training wheels.
It is also a wonderful old biplane that has made more of a name for itself in its reincarnation as an aerobatic
mount and as a vintage treasure than it ever did in its first life as a training machine.
While hundreds of thousands have gaped in admiration at the splendid aerobatics of Hal Krier in his red-and-white
Great Lakes with its roaring 185-hp Warner radial engine, a relative few have ever seen the unmodified "Lakes,"
which is quite a different airplane. It was graceful, it was agile and it was underpowered, at least by today's
Although Hal Krier's 185 hp "Lakes" is known to airshow crowds, the Cirrus jobs first flew in 1929.
Menasco mounting, one of many.
Scale buffs have plenty of intake holes to carve. Inverted engine puts thrust high for a good trim.
But when the Great Lakes Aircraft Corp., Cleveland, Ohio, introduced its Model 2T-1 in 1929, the goal v as pilot
training, not aerobatics. The boom in aviation interest following Lindbergh's 1927 New York-to-Paris flight was
on everyone's mind, and learning to fly was becoming popular. Schools were popping up all over the country and they
needed good training planes.
And they also needed money, which was in extremely short supply once the Great Depression hit, and learning to
fly airplanes suddenly became a luxury most people could do without, as they scraped for a liv-ing. In 1932, after
producing just over 200 Trainers, the Great Lakes Aircraft Corp. went out of business. It was not until many years
had passed that its airplane achieved the level of fame for which its developers had hoped.
The prototype Great Lakes Trainer, first shown to the public at the March, 1929, AllAmerican Aircraft Show in
Detroit, Mich., was powered by a 95-hp American Cirrus Mark III, an upright, four-cylinder, in-line, air-cooled
engine built by American Cirrus Engines, Inc., on license from the British developer. The airplane differed from
the better-known later versions mainly in having a straight top wing rather than the more familiar swept wing.
Tests performed on an early 2T-1 by the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics - predecessor of NASA - showed
top speed of 106 mph; sea level rate of climb of 545 ft./min.; landing speed of 48 mph.
After four 2T-1s were built, it became apparent that, by placing the top wing far forward and thus enabling a
passenger to enter the front seat with a minimum of dif-ficulty, the airplane had been made tail heavy. Moving the
top wing back would have made entry into the front cockpit awkward, so the center section of the top wing was kept
in place and the outer panels swept back 9 degrees into their now familiar form. This was the 2T-1A of 1929. Part
way through the production run, the vertical tail was considerably enlarged, and those subsequently produced are
known among enthusiasts as the "Big Tail" Great Lakes.
In 1930, a new version of the Cirrus engine - the inverted, in-line Hi-Drive - was introduced on the assembly
line, and resulted in the new profile of the Model 2T-1E, with its higher-mounted propeller. Some of the 2T-1Es,
last of the production versions, were powered by the American Cirrus company's100-hp Ensign.
This was the relatively simple overall pattern of the Great Lakes Trainer, but modifications played an unusually
important role in the history of the type, even before the post- World War II flurry of amateur redesigning completely
muddied the picture. A few of the early trainers were fitted with the Menasco B4 "Pirate," an inverted, in-line
engine of 95 hp; these were never given a full Approved Type Certificate by the CAA and were manufactured under
a special license. Others carried Kinner engines and were known as the Model 2T-1K.
The one-and-only Model2T -2 Great Lakes was a racing version of the 2T-1A built for and raced by Charlie Meyers,
<click for larger version>
The AMA Plans Service offers a full-size
version of many of the plans show here at a very reasonable cost. They will scale the plans any size for you. It is always
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plans also help to support the operation of the Academy of Model
Aeronautics - the #1 advocate for model aviation throughout the world. If the AMA no longer has this plan on file, I
will be glad to send you my higher resolution version.
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Posted October 2, 2010