Flight, February 1927
THE FORD AERIAL "FLIVVER"
FOR some time past we have come across frequent reports and rumours regarding Henry Ford's aerial equivalent to the world-famous "Tin Lizzie." These reports have always been vague and various, serious and humorous
- one having it that all the nuts on the new Ford Flyabout would be fitted with automatic parachutes - but up to now technical details have been lacking. This week, however, through the courtesy of our American contemporary, Aviation, we are able to publish the actual facts regarding the production of the Ford "Flivver," together with a brief description of the machine itself.
We understand that Mr. Ford does not, at the present moment, intend entering upon the mass production of aerial "Flivvers," but merely wishes to investigate the possibilities of such a venture and prove to his own satisfaction whether or not this type of aeroplane has any future. With this object in view, therefore, Mr. Ford had a small light 'plane designed and constructed in order that practical tests might be carried out to assist in his investigations. It was the first public appearance of this machine - at, we think, Dearborn air port, during the Ford Commercial Aeroplane Reliability Tour last August - that gave rise to the reports referred to above.
The Ford aerial "Flivver" was designed for Mr. Ford by Otto Koppen, of the Aeroplane Division of the Ford Motor Co. - who was formerly of the Aeronautical Department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is a single-seater low wing cantilever monoplane, fitted with 35 h.p. 3-cylinder radial air-cooled Anzani engine. As will be seen from the accompanying illustration, it is of exceptionally clean appearance, there being no bracing wires or struts - excepting the undercarriage struts and the simple tail unit bracing - to offer unnecessary head resistance.
The fuselage is a normal structure of wood longerons braced with steel wire and fabric covered, with a comfortable cockpit for the pilot in which the seat is so arranged that he sits high up and has an excellent range of vision. In machines of this class this is an important feature, since as long-distance flying is not called for so much as short pleasure hops, the clear wide view enables the pilot to make the most use of the easy, slow landing qualities of this machine.
The forward end of the fuselage tapers off smoothly to cowl the Anzani engine, which drives a 5 ft. wooden airscrew specially designed for the machine by Mr. Koppen.
As previously stated, the wing is of the cantilever type, of moderately thick section - Gottingen 387 - and has a span of 22 ft. It is of orthodox wooden spar and rib construction, fabric covered, and has simple elliptical wing tips. The most interesting feature of the wing, which is attached to the lower longerons of the fuselage, is the flap device – somewhat on the lines of the system employed on the British Fairey machines. Flaps extend along the entire trailing edge divided at the fuselage, there being no ailerons of the usual type.
The mechanism of these flaps is such as to enable either their differential operation as ailerons for lateral control, or their linear operation as a means of altering the effective section - or camber - and, therefore, the lift, of the wing. Another interesting feature of this arrangement is the manner in which their operation is simplified from the standpoint of the pilot. These flaps are worked by the control column in the same sense as the column operates the elevator. Thus, pulling the stick back not only raises the elevators but also depresses the wing flaps, with the result that the change in the centre of pressure caused by a movement of the flaps is compensated for by a change in the longitudinal balance of the machine. As a result, no special effort, is necessary on the part of the pilot to correct for any use made of the flap device.
The under-carriage is of the non-axle type, having an exceptionally wide track - 7 ft. 6 in. Each wheel is supported at the apex of a tripod of three steel-tube struts, one sloping inwards to the fuselage and the other two extending up to the main plane. The vertical strut of each wheel incorporates a compression rubber disc shock absorber, the main feature of which is that the rubber discs are moulded into brass rings previous to assembling in order to reduce to a very large extent the wear on the internal surface of each ring when in use.
In place of the usual tail skid, a small wheel is fitted, to which a tire friction brake is attached, enabling the pilot to obtain, when desired, the same effect as that obtained with the ordinary skid.
An endeavour has been made in the Ford "Flivver" to silence the engine by leading the three exhausts from the cylinders into an inverted U-shaped manifold, the outlets of which extend below the leading edge of the wing. At each of the two outlets of this manifold a standard Ford car exhaust silencer is fitted, and the result, while not by any means being the absolute silencing of the engine, is a fifty per cent, reduction of the exhaust noises. This silencer is not shown in our illustration.
The Ford Air Transport Service pilot, Harry Brooks, who has flown the Ford "Flivver" reports the machine to be excellent on the controls, very easy to fly, and the pilot's position gives him excellent vision. When flying this machine, Brooks usually takes off straight out of the door of the building of the Ford Dearborn plant, where it is housed, and leaves the ground after a very short run. The "Flivver" has a remarkably good climb and low landing speed, whilst on the ground it can be manoeuvred with the greatest possible ease.
We understand the Ford Company are developing a special engine for this machine - a 2-cylinder horizontally opposed type, with aluminium steel-lined cylinders.