Rearwin Airplanes Inc.
|Successor||Empire Ordnance Company, Commonwealth Aircraft|
|R.A. Rearwin, Royce Rearwin, Ken Rearwin|
Rearwin Airplanes was a series of US airplane-manufacturing business founded by Andrew ("Rae") Rearwin in 1928. Rae Rearwin was an American businessman who had developed several successful business ventures in the Salina, Kansas area in the early 20th century. Although he had no experience with aircraft manufacturing (and no pilot training), he felt that he could succeed with his solid business acumen. With his two sons, Ken and Royce, he hired some engineers and built the Ken-Royce in a garage in Salina. The business moved to the Fairfax Airport in Kansas City, Kansas, and went through several variations before it was sold to Commonwealth Aircraft in 1942, which went bankrupt in 1946.
Rae Rearwin had toured Wichita aircraft manufacturers in the summer of 1927 with his teenage sons Royce and Ken and became convinced he could improve on what he saw. He investigated buying an existing firm, but none were interested in selling, so he tried to hire Herb Rawdon away from the Travel Air Corporation. Rawdon wasn't interested but suggested an engineer who might be.:41
The company started construction in an old garage in Salina, Kansas, the Rearwin's hometown. The company's first prototype, the Rearwin Ken-Royce was finished on January 1929. Rearwin moved the operation to the Fairfax Airport] in Kansas City, Kansas in early 1929. While the Ken-Royce prototype engaged in publicity tours and races, Rae Rearwin sought an investor to fund operations. A Kansas City oilman provided funds and Rae formed a joint venture with him, naming the company Rearwin Airplanes.:63
Rearwin Airplanes would produce both the Ken-Royce and the Rearwin Junior, although the Great Depression ultimately caused orders for both to dry up. In 1933, Rae started a new sole proprietorship using the idle Rearwin Airplanes factory and equipment, which was named Rearwin Aircraft. Rearwin Aircraft focused on producing the high performance Rearwin Speedster and the lower-cost Rearwin Sportster. The company became Rearwin Aircraft & Engines upon acquiring LeBlond Aircraft Engine Corporation, a maker of small radial engines which Rearwin used in several of their products. The division was renamed Ken-Royce Engines Company.
Rearwin Aircraft & Engines introduced their Cloudster in 1939, which was further developed into a specialized instrument trainer for airlines. To stay current, Rearwin's last product, the Skyranger adopted the new horizontally-opposed engine instead of the small radial engines the company produced and was experienced with.
The company was sold to investor Frank Cohen's Empire Ordnance company in 1942 and became Commonwealth Aircraft, which would acquire Columbia Aircraft Corporation and move to their former plant in Valley Stream, New York. While Ken and Royce had always been involved in the Rearwin company, they were not interested in taking over the business. Rearwin Aircraft & Engines' investments and specialty in small radial engines left them poorly positioned for the coming age of horizontally-opposed engines that would dominate after World War II.
Before selling the company, the Rearwins had negotiated contracts to make Waco CG-3A and CG-4A. This required physical expansions, and 2000 employees would eventually be hired. Other war contracts included dies and punches for Remington Arms and glider tow releases. By the end of World War II, 1,470 of the CG-4A gliders had been built, making Rearwin/Commonwealth the third-largest manufacturer of the type.
Commonwealth Aircraft resumed production of the Skyranger in 1945 at the Fairfax plant, before moving production to New York. The company went bankrupt in 1946 and was dissolved by March 1947.
- Named after his two sons (and a play on the Rolls-Royce name that meant quality products), this 2-seat biplane flew in January 1929. The Ken-Royce was powered by a 170HP Curtiss Challenger radial engine. Only one known example of the type exists today.
- This small high-wing monoplane was designed to be inexpensive and easily approachable. It resembled an American Eaglet and was produced as the model 3000 and model 4000. Only one known example of the type exists today.
- Originally designed in 1934, this modern-looking airplane was narrow and impressive looking. However, it was unable to pass the stringent aircraft spin tests for several years. A young engineer named Bob Rummell was brought in to solve the problem (and did), but the delay to market proved fatal and only about 11 were made, since less expensive models were already available. However, the Speedster remains one of Rearwin's most exciting designs, as demonstrated by the numerous model kits that were produced for the modeling and R/C enthusiasts.
- Many Sportsters were exported to South America, Africa and Australia due to its large 24-gallon (91 liter) fuel capacity. The Siamese (Thai) air force bought several. A Sportster variant called the GV-38 was produced by the Gotaverken Shipyard in Sweden in 1938. As many as 15 may have been built, with 4 known to still exist in museums in Denmark and Sweden.
- This side-by-side model offered more cabin room than the Speedster and was popular with enthusiasts and as a trainer (model 8135T). The trainer was used by the Rearwin flight school and also by TWA and Pan American Airways. Juan Trippe, founder of PAA, owned a Sportster and later a Cloudster. One of Ken Rearwin's largest sales was 25 Cloudsters to Iran in 1941. Approximately 124 Cloudsters were built.
- The Skyranger was Rearwin's last design. It was popular due to its easy and stable flight characteristics. Serial numbers in the 1500s were built by Rearwin prior to the company's 1942 sale. The post-warCommonwealth Skyranger was essentially the same aircraft with minor modifications.
Ken-Royce Engine Company
Rearwin's aircraft mainly used small radial engines, so in 1937 when the R. K. LeBlond Machine Tool Company offered to sell their engine division, which specialized in small radial engines, Rearwin bought the assets. The sale was made at a steeply discounted price, to give the LeBlond company a tax write-off, and gave Rearwin an in-house source of small radial engines for their aircraft.
- Donald M. Pattillo. A History in the Making: 80 Turbulent Years in the American General Aviation Industry. p. 20.
- Wright, Bill (1997). Rearwin: A Story of Men, Planes, and Aircraft Manufacturing During the Great Depression. Manhattan, Kansas: Sunflower University Press. ISBN 0-89745-207-0.
- Rearwin, Eric. "Rearwin Plane Information". Rearwin Airplanes. Archived from the original on 11 January 2009. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
- "Rearwin 2000C". Pioneer Flight Museum. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
- Mondey, Dave (1985). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft. London: Orbis: Aerospace Publishing. p. 2792.
- Cioffi, Chris (14 March 2015). "Oscar's Dreamland a Town That Always Is". Billings Gazette. Billings Gazette. Archived from the original on June 5, 2017. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
- Juptner, Joseph P.: U.S. Civil Aircraft Series Volume 8, ATC 701-800 TAB Books, 1994 ISBN 0-8168-9178-8