design was created for a purpose. In 1928, aviation was
setting records right and left and an Italian WW I ace,
Caesare Sabelli, commissioned a design for a plane that would
be able to to fly non-stop from New York to Rome. Giuseppe
Bellanca, a gifted designer, came up with the Model K , which
never made that flight, but the design survived. The
distinctive silhouette of the plane is derived from the
aerodynamically shaped triangular lifting struts extending
down from the bottom of the fuselage and continuing up to a
point outboard the main wing.
23 Airbus/Aircruisers were
built, all told. The first Bellanca Aircruiser was built in 1930. It was
originally called the Airbus and designated the P-100. An efficient
airplane design, it was capable of carrying 12 to 14 passengers(later
versions differed in being able to carry 15)depending upon how the cabin
interior was arranged. In 1931, test pilot George Haldeman flew the P-100
a distance of 4400 miles in a time aloft of 35 hours. Although efficient,
with a cost/mile figure of .08 cents/mile calculated for that flight, the
first Airbus didn't sell due to its water-cooled engine. This was followed
by the P-200 Airbus, with a larger, more reliable air-cooled engine.
version available( the P-200-A) came with floats and operated as a ferry
service in New York City, flying between Wall Street and the East River.
Other versions included a P-200 Deluxe model, with custom interiors
available and seating for 9, as well as the P-300 which was designed to
carry 15 passengers. The final model, the Aircruiser, was the most
efficient airplane of its day and even would rank high among all airplanes
designed. With a Wright aircooled supercharged radial engine (Cyclone),
rated at 715 hp. the Aircruiser could carry a useful load greater than its
empty weight! It could carry 4,000lb payloads at a speed of between
145-155 mph. This was in the mid-1930's; Fokkers and Ford Trimotors could
not come close to this capacity, and they were both multi-engine
So why isn't this flying W a more recognizable shape in US aviation
history? Three reasons, I feel. First, when Charles Lindbergh and his
backers were looking for a plane to win the $25,000 Orteig prize, a
Bellanca plane, the WB-2, a powerful, proven performer and race winner was
first considered. Unfortunately the chairman of the board for the Columbia
Aircraft Corporation (G. M. Bellanca's aircraft firm), Charlie Levine,
proved to be too much of a wheeler-dealer. Bellanca was all for selling
the plane to Lindbergh in order that he might make the New York to Paris
flight, but Levine had other ideas. He agreed to sell the plane to
Lindbergh for $15,000. When Lindbergh arrived to purchase the plane,
Levine told him, "...We will sell you the plane, but we reserve the right
to select the crew who flies it." Naturally Lindbergh was furious. He left
New York City and the Columbia Aircraft Corporation, went straight to San
Diego and purchased the Ryan plane in which he successfully completed his
It is only speculation, but one has to imagine what the boost in prestige
and attention to Bellanca and his airplane designs, might have done to his
company ultimately. As it was, after two weeks of bickering between Levine
and his pilot, Clarence Chamberlin, over both crew and what equipment
would be on the plane; the plane Lindbergh refused to buy, Miss Columbia,
flew from New York to Berlin, the first plane to do so. In 1931 a version
of this same model, Miss Veedol, was the first plane to cross the Pacific.
Another reason would be the time of the early 1930's. Not a time for a
robust airline passenger market that could have supported a plane which
would have been a successful pioneering passenger plane design.
Finally, in 1934, Federal regulations outlawed single engine transports on
US airlines. No one of these factors was responsible more than the other,
but the cumulative effect did its damage. Canadian interests utilized
several of the Aircruisers and the Bellanca Aircruiser, known in Canada
popularly as, "The Flying W" was used in mineral mining, both ferrying
supplies and ore, for quite some time. The last flying Aircruiser, CF-BTW,
served into the 1970's! It was purchased 2 years ago and flown from
Manitoba to Oregon, where it is now on display at the Blimp Hangar Museum
NAS, in Tillamook, Oregon.
These are for the Airbus (YIC-27), originally powered by a Wright
"Cyclone" engine of 650hp, the military models (YIC-27,A, B, C) were
powered by, respectively: a geared 550hp, P/W "Hornet" ; R-1820-F,
"Wright" Cyclone" or S3D1-G, P/W "Hornet" both 650hp; 675hp, Wright
"Cyclone" F; 750hp, Wright "Cyclone".
It began to be referred to as the "Aircruiser" after 1934 and when they
began to be fitted with the 670hp Wright "Cyclone" powerplants on up.
Height: 11' 6"
Wing Area: 520 sq. ft. (approx.)
Weight: 6,072 lbs.
Gross Weight: 10,000 lbs.
No. of Engines: 1
Powerplant: Wright Cyclone 1820-F
Horsepower: 650 hp
Range: 570 miles
Cruise Speed: 115 mph
Max. Speed: 136 mph