Stinson Model A
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|Stinson Model A|
|National origin||United States|
|Manufacturer||Stinson Aircraft Company|
|First flight||April 27, 1934|
|Primary user||American Airlines|
$37,000 in 1934
The Stinson Model A was a moderately successful airliner of the mid-1930s. It was one of the last commercial airliners designed in the United States with a fabric-covered steel tube fuselage before the introduction of stressed skin aluminum construction.
Design and development
A total of 30 Stinson Model As were built until production ceased in 1936. It was one of many promising designs whose commercial success was cut short by the introduction of the stressed-skin Boeing 247 and Douglas DC-2.
Because the waiting lists for either the new Boeing or Douglas aircraft were already too long Airlines of Australia (AOA) ordered three Stinson Model As in January 1936. These aircraft were VH-UGG Lismore (arrived per s.s. City of Winchester on 27 March), VH-UHH Brisbane (arrived per s.s. Wichita on 22 June) and VH-UKK Townsville (arrived 22 July in the s.s. City of Manilla). All three were quickly reassembled and entered the Sydney - Brisbane service, proving so successful that in August AOA ordered a fourth example VH-UYY Grafton – the very last Stinson Model A to be built – which arrived at Sydney on board s.s. Port Alma on 14 December.
With posturing from both AOA and Australian National Airways (ANA) to cut into each other’s turf by late 1936, early efforts by ANA to gain a controlling interest in AOA failed, until the tragic losses of VH-UHH Brisbane in the McPherson Ranges on 19 February 1937 and VH-UGG Lismore on 28 March halved AOA’s main-line fleet. A merger took effect in March 1937, although the two companies retained separate identities until AOA was formally absorbed into ANA on 1 July 1942. The two surviving Stinsons were then renamed VH-UKK Binana and VH-UYY Tokana, in conformity with ANA nomenclature.
During the Second World War spare parts for the Stinsons' aging Lycoming R-680 engines were impossible to obtain in Australia and it was decided to re-engine both aircraft with a Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp engine on each wing and eliminate the engine on the nose. The additional power allowed both aircraft to fly faster and carry heavier loads, although fuel dumps had to be fitted to allow them to remain under their maximum landing weight of 10,750 lb (4,876 kg), in case of an emergency necessitating landing shortly after take-off.
On completion at Essendon, Victoria in May 1943, Binana returned to the Brisbane-Cairns, Queensland run, while Tokana was similarly converted and re-entered service in October on the run between Melbourne (Essendon), Kerang, Victoria, Mildura, Victoria and Broken Hill, New South Wales. Binana was later transferred to the Melbourne-Tasmania service.
On the morning of 31 January 1945 Tokana was on the Essendon to Kerang leg of its regular service when the port wing separated in flight between Redesdale and Heathcote, fifty miles north of Melbourne. The aircraft then plunged to the ground, killing both crew and the full load of eight passengers. An investigation revealed that metal fatigue had developed in the wing’s lower main spar boom attachment socket, the actual failure possibly being instigated by the aircraft encountering a particularly heavy gust of wind. It was the first known occurrence of this type of accident in an aircraft anywhere in the world, but it was to become a problem all too common in later years where progressively larger aircraft would be built from light-weight alloys that were more susceptible to the underlying metallurgical phenomenon. It being assumed that the same problems could occur in Binana, its certificate of airworthiness was cancelled, and the old aircraft was subsequently broken up.
A non-flying scale replica was built for a television movie account of the 1937 McPherson Ranges disaster, The Riddle of the Stinson, in which two survivors of the crash were rescued by Bernard O'Reilly.
Outside Australia, examples of the Stinson Model A soldiered on in such far-flung corners of the globe as Korea and Alaska for some years. One example still survives, having crashed in Alaska in 1947, being recovered and rebuilt in 1979 it passed to the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum in 1988 and then to Greg Herrick's Golden Wings Flying Museum in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Data from General Dynamics Aircraft and their Predecessors
- Crew: Two (pilot and co-pilot)
- Capacity: 8 passengers
- Length: 36 ft 10 in (11.22 m)
- Wingspan: 60 ft 0 in (18.29 m)
- Height: 11 ft 6 in (3.51 m)
- Wing area: 500 ft2 (46.5 m2)
- Empty weight: 7,200 lb (3,370 kg)
- Loaded weight: 10,200 lb (4,636 kg)
- Powerplant: 3 × Lycoming R-680-5 nine-cylinder air-cooled radial engine, 260 hp (194 kW) each
- Maximum speed: 180 mph (157 knots, 290 km/h)
- Cruise speed: 163 mph (142 knots, 262 km/h) at 5,000 m (16,000 ft)
- Range: 490 miles (426 nmi, 790 km)
- Service ceiling: 17,000 ft (5,180 m)
- Rate of climb: 980 ft/min (5.0 m/s)
- Wegg, John (1990). General Dynamics Aircraft and their Predecessors. London: Putnam Aeronautical Books. ISBN 0-85177-833-X.
- Macarthur Job (1991–92). Air Crash, Volumes One and Two (1991-92 ed.). Canberra: Aerospace Publications.
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