I think I have always had a soft spot for the forgotten or overlooked parts of aviation history and as a result, I end up learned a lot about some fairly obscure aircraft, pilots and airports as I work my way around the web. I actually like this trait of mine as it makes me feel really special when I uncover something really mysterious. I’ll write about such finds later in future blog posts, but I might as well start with something that is a bit of ongoing research for me.
About a month ago, I read a blog post on the Antique Airplane Association website (by the way, an OUTSTANDING site that’s always being updated with new content!) about the recent court win in an ongoing battle to obtain the Approved Type Certificate (ATC) drawings/data held by the FAA, for those restoring antique/classic aircraft – something that has been extremely restricted for no real good reason by bureaucratic red tape and Federal Agency excuse-making in my opinion. The case stemmed from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the Fairchild 45 drawings/data by AAA Executive Director Brent Taylor that was denied by the FAA and lead to the legal action against the FAA and the now-defunct Fairchild Corporation to obtain them. As I followed this case, it occurred to me that I had never heard of the Fairchild F-45 and it caught my interest.
A few days later, while at work, Mr. Bill Cutter brought the AAA newsletter article on the case in to me and asked me if I could check to see if the aircraft pictured in the article (s/n 4015, now owned and flown by George Riffle) was one of the F-45’s his father, William P. Cutter, operated in Albuquerque in the late 30’s and 40’s. Evidently Cutter Flying Service was the primary Fairchild Dealership in the Southwest and William P. Cutter had quite a few Fairchilds in his logbook after a time. Mr. Cutter even had an article written about him in the Fairchild Corporation magazine, “The Pegasus” in March 1945 about his use of Fairchild’s in the Southwest… and that article showed two photos of an F-45 he was operating at the time (click on the image at right for a PDF of the article or click this link to the article). We later determined that the aircraft in the article was actually s/n 4011, NC16865 – but the process of looking up this limited-production, clean design, executive monoplane really got my research juices flowing.
The five-place, retractable gear Fairchild 45 first flew on May 31, 1935, powered originally by a 225 hp Jacobs L-4 radial engine. Later production models had a more powerful 320 hp Wright R-760 radial engine instead. Including the prototype, only 17 aircraft were constructed as the market at the time was considered to not be able to support more aggressive sales as the United States was just beginning to slowly recover from the Great Depression. Other executive low-wing monoplanes like the Spartan Executive and Harlow PJC-2 also saw low production numbers during this time with the Spartan having only 34 produced and a mere 11 Harlow PJC-2’s produced.
Of the 17 produced, three aircraft were sold to the Honduran Air Force (s/n’s 4001, 4005, 4010) and two to the Argentine Navy (s/n’s 4007 & 4008) and another being registered in the U.S. then sold in 1937 to the South African Air Force (s/n 4002). Another two aircraft were impressed into the US Army Air Corps as the UC-88 (s/n’s 4004 and 4013) in 1943 as General Aviation more-or-less came to a standstill during World War II. One more F-45A was impressed into the U.S. Navy as a JK-1 in 1943 as an executive transport (s/n 4006). This left a precious few to be sold and flown by civilian operators – and luckily Cutter Flying Service was one of them.
I was able to construct a fairly complete list of the entire production line of the Fairchild F-45 and F-45A and have created a preliminary table of them, their Civil Registrations, Serial Numbers, last known history, and if they are on the current U.S. Civil Aircraft Register.
Now I am just trying to determine what happened to the rest and to fill in the blanks… some of the aircraft seem to just disappear, meaning that they were destroyed, are sitting somewhere derelict, or met another fate. ANY assistance to track these aircraft down would be wonderful… as I’d like to build a complete history of each if at all possible.