September 1970 American Aircraft Modeler[Table of Contents]
Aircraft modeling has undergone significant changes over the decades - both in technology and preferences. Magazines like American Aircraft Modeler, and American Modeler before that, were the best venues for capturing snapshots of the status quo of the day. Still, many things never change, so much of the old content is relevant to today's modeler.
Whether you are here to wax nostalgic, or are just interested in learning history, hopefully you will find what you are seeking. As time permits, I will be glad to scan articles for you. All copyrights (if any) are hereby acknowledged.
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 standards.
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, the firm's
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