|Model 7 Champion|
|Role||Light utility aircraft|
|Primary users||Air National Guard
Civil Air Patrol
|Number built||more than 10,000|
|Developed from||Aeronca Model K Scout|
|Developed into||Champion Lancer, Citabria|
The Aeronca Model 7 Champion -- more commonly known as the "Champ", or "Airknocker"—is a single-engine, two-seat, fixed conventional landing gear light airplane. The Champ was designed for flight training and personal use—and specifically developed to compete directly with the popular Piper Cub. The Champ entered production in the United States in 1945, and was produced by the thousands over the next decade, and hundreds more in subsequent decades, in variations by Aeronca, Champion Aircraft, Bellanca and American Champion Aircraft, becoming one of the most popular, and longest-produced, light aircraft of all time.
Design and development
Like the Piper Cub with which it competed, the Champ features tandem seating. While the J-3 model of the Cub is flown solo from the rear seat, the Champ is soloed from the front, giving improved forward visibility on the ground and during takeoffs, landings, and climbs. The Champ has a wider cabin than the Cub and offers better visibility.
As with many light aircraft of the time, the Champ’s fuselage and tail surfaces are constructed of welded metal tubing. The outer shape of the fuselage is created by a combination of wooden formers and longerons, covered with fabric. The cross-section of the metal fuselage truss is triangular, a design feature which can be traced all the way back to the earliest Aeronca C-2 design of the late 1920s.
The strut-braced wings of the Champ are, like the fuselage and tail surfaces, fabric covered, utilizing aluminum ribs. Most Champs were built with wooden spars. American Champion has been using aluminum spars in the aircraft it has produced and has, as well, made the aluminum-spar wings available for retrofit installation on older aircraft.
The landing gear of most Champs is in a conventional arrangement, though a model with tricycle gear was produced, and a model with reversed tricycle gear was tried. Conventional-gear Champs feature a steerable tailwheel and most have steel tube main gear which use an oleo strut for shock absorption; one variant utilized sprung-steel main gear, and American Champion is using aluminum gear legs in its production model of the Champ. The tricycle-gear Champs use the steel tube and oleo strut main gear, mating these with an oleo strut nose gear.
Models 7AC, 7CCM, 7DC, and 7EC were approved as seaplanes, with the addition of floats and vertical stabilizer fins; the seaplane versions were designated the S7AC, S7CCM, S7DC, and S7EC, respectively. Float and supplemental fin installations are also approved for models 7ECA, 7GC, 7GCB, 7GCBC, and properly modified 7HC's.
Built by Aeronca Aircraft Corporation, the Champ first flew in 1944, having been designed in tandem with the 11AC Chief—the Champ with tandem seating and joystick controls, and the Chief with side-by-side seating and yoke controls. The intention was to simplify production and control costs by building a pair of aircraft with a significant number of parts in common; in fact, the two designs share between 70% and 80% of their parts. The tail surfaces, wings, landing gear, and firewall forward—engine, most accessories, and cowling, are common to both airplanes.
Selling for $2,095, the Champ outsold the Chief by an 8 to 1 margin. Engine upgrades in 1948 and 1949 resulted in the Models 7DC and 7EC. Between 1945 and 1950, Aeronca was producing 50 light aircraft per day and by the time production ended in 1951, the company had sold more than 7,000 Champions.
Champion Aircraft was acquired in 1970 by Bellanca Aircraft which continued production of their Champ-derived Citabria and Decathlon designs. In 1971, Bellanca introduced the 7ACA version of the Champ as a more basic complement to their other designs. Only a handful of 7ACA's were built between 1971 and 1972. Bellanca ceased all production in the early 1980s.
American Champion Aircraft Corporation acquired the Champ and related designs in 1989. In 2001, they were rumored to be considering a reintroduction of the Champ design as a 7EC powered by a Jabiru Aircraft engine. While a test version was flown, this combination was not put into production. With the creation of the light-sport aircraft (LSA) category of aircraft in the United States by the FAA, American Champion in late 2007 began producing a revised version of the 7EC powered by the 100 hp (75 kW) Continental O-200-A. The new production aircraft are type certified, but also qualify to be flown by sport pilots in the United States. Although the fuselage and cowling contours are similar to the original-production models, the new aircraft uses the windows, interior, door, and windscreen of the modern Citabria. Fuel capacity is reduced to 18 US gal (68 l; 15 imp gal) to conserve weight; despite this measure and various others, such as the use of aluminum landing gear legs and bare birch floorboards rather than carpet, the aircraft's payload is inadequate to carry two adults and full fuel simultaneously. The manufacturer is considering various further weight-reduction measures including the use of the lightened Continental O-200D engine previously offered in the Cessna 162 Skycatcher.
Standard-production 7AC, 7BCM (L-16A), 7CCM (L-16B), 7DC, and 7ACA models qualify as U.S. Light Sport Aircraft. Only those specific original-production 7EC airplanes certificated at a 1,300 lb (590 kg) gross weight qualify for the LSA category; a standard original-production 7EC is certificated at a gross weight of 1,450 lb (660 kg) and does not qualify.
Various versions of the Champ have been tested and produced since 1944. The derivative Citabria designs — models 7ECA, 7GCAA, 7GCBC, and 7KCAB — are discussed in a separate article, as is the twin-engined 402 Lancer.
Introduced in 1945, the 7AC was the first version of the design and used the Continental A-65-8 engine of 65 horsepower (48 kW). It featured a conventional landing gear configuration, with shock absorption in the main gear provided by oleo struts, 7200 built. Gross weight is 1,220 lb (550 kg) and fuel capacity is 13 US gal (49 l; 11 imp gal) in a single tank.
Aeronca began building the 7BCM in 1947. This version upgraded the engine to a Continental C85, and featured a "no-bounce" version of the main landing gear. All of the 7BCM production went to the military as model L-16A. These served with the United States Air Force, Army, and National Guard. In 1956, many L-16s were transferred to the United States' Civil Air Patrol. Many L-16As ultimately made their way back into civilian use as 7BCMs. Gross weight and fuel capacity are unchanged from the 7AC.
An improved version of the L-16, the L-16B/7CCM featured a 90 hp (67 kW) Continental C90-8 engine, an enlarged vertical tail, hydraulic brakes, and a gross weight increased to 1,300 lb (590 kg). A gross weight increase to 1,350 lb (610 kg) is allowed when "Long Stroke Oleo Landing Gear" is installed and placard, "Intentional spinning prohibited when baggage carried", is installed on the instrument panel. An additional 5.5 US gal (21 l; 4.6 imp gal) fuel tank is used, increasing total fuel capacity to 18.5 US gal (70 l; 15.4 imp gal). Unlike the L-16A not all production went to the USAF. Due to an early cancellation of the production contract some aircraft went directly to the civilian market as 7CCM Champions. The military L-16B featured hydraulic brakes and the "no bounce" landing gear while civilian 7CCM models retained the hydraulic brakes but were fitted with the standard Aeronca oleo landing gear. The L-16A and B featured an enlarged "greenhouse" canopy glazing whereas the civilian 7CCM had the original type windows and headliner. Many USAF and Civil Air Patrol L-16Bs returned to the civil market as 7CCMs after their military service.
Continental C85 engine. 85 hp (63 kW) similar to the 7AC except the vertical stabilizer is extended forward to accommodate the increase torque from the more powerful engine, and the aircraft was now fitted with a basic electrical system including starter, generator, battery, and radio. Allowable gross weights and fuel capacity are identical to those for the 7CCM.
1950 brought the introduction of the Aeronca 7EC, which features a Continental C90 engine of 95 horsepower (71 kW), standard long-throw oleo strut main gear, thicker seat cushions, additional interior insulation for noise reduction, an improved heater and electrical system, the addition of a parking brake, and a change in center of gravity for enhanced speed. Advertised empty weight is 890 lb (400 kg). Standard gross weight is 1,450 lb (660 kg), or 1,300 lb (590 kg) with "Lower End Landing Gear Oleo Strut Assembly." Standard fuel capacity is unchanged from the 7DC; an optional 26 US gal (98 l; 22 imp gal) system was offered, increasing the manufacturer's empty weight by 30 lb (14 kg). 773 were built.
The last Champ produced at Aeronca was a 7EC, and when Champion reintroduced the Champ in 1955, it was with their version of the 7EC, very little changed from Aeronca's. Champion's version did replace the mechanical brakes with hydraulic. An enhanced version called the Champion DeLuxe Traveler offered a metal propeller with spinner, wheel pants, a steerable tailwheel, and navigation lights.
In late 2007, American Champion introduced a revised version of the 7EC, featuring the Continental O-200-A engine of 100 horsepower (75 kW). Differing in a number of ways from earlier 7ECs, this new version in particular replaces the wood-spar wings of the earlier versions with a metal-spar wing, and it uses aluminum gear legs. To fit within the Light Sport requirements, the maximum weight is reduced to 1,320 pounds (599 kilograms).
In 1957, Champion brought out the 7FC, a design sharing many parts, including the engine, with the 7EC; the most significant difference is the tricycle landing gear arrangement with oleo struts on all 3 wheels and extra frame bracing for the nosewheel. Factory standard equipment was comparable to the tailwheel DeLuxe Traveler. The 7FC is 3 mph (4.8 km/h) slower and 90 lb (41 kg) heavier than an equivalent 7EC. Standard gross weight is 1,450 lb (660 kg). 472 were built.
The nose-wheel equipped 7FC has a useful load of 540 lb (245 kg) compared with 630 lb (286 kg) for the conventional (tail-wheel) geared 7EC. Both 1957 models are equipped with a Continental C90-12F 90 hp (67 kW) engine.
7GC Sky Trac
A 7EC with a 140 hp Lycoming O-290-D2B engine and three seats, 171 built. Gross weight is 1,650 lb (750 kg) in standard configuration, 1,732 lb (786 kg) in seaplane configuration.
7GCA Sky Trac
In 1971 Bellanca introduced the 7ACA, a modernized version of the design which made it a variant of the Citabria line. The 7ACA is powered by the two-cylinder Franklin 2A engine of 60 horsepower (45 kW), a change which required a cowling redesign. The oleo-strut main gear are replaced by steel legs like those used on the later Citabria models, and the rear side windows are squared-off versions, again matching the Citabrias. Gross weight is 1,220 lb (550 kg).
- Crew: one
- Capacity: one passenger
- Length: 21 ft 6 in (6.55 m)
- Wingspan: 35 ft 0 in (10.67 m)
- Empty weight: 740 lb (336 kg)
- Gross weight: 1,220 lb (553 kg)
- Fuel capacity: 13 U.S. gallons (49 L; 11 imp gal)
- Powerplant: 1 × Continental A65-8 four cylinder, horizontally opposed piston aircraft engine, 65 hp (48 kW)
- Propellers: 2-bladed fixed pitch, wooden
- Maximum speed: 95 mph (153 km/h; 83 kn)
- Cruise speed: 85 mph (74 kn; 137 km/h)
- Stall speed: 38 mph (33 kn; 61 km/h)
- Never exceed speed: 129 mph (112 kn; 208 km/h)
- Range: 270 mi (235 nmi; 435 km)
- Service ceiling: 12,500 ft (3,810 m)
- Rate of climb: 370 ft/min (1.9 m/s)
- Related development
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Ethell, Jeffrey, Used Aircraft Guide, 1979, Charles Scribner's Sons, NY
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