Travel Air 2000
|Travel Air 2000, 3000 and 4000|
|Travel Air 4000|
|Manufacturer||Travel Air, Curtiss-Wright|
|First flight||13 March 1925|
|Primary user||private owners, aerial sightseeing businesses|
|Number built||approx 1,300|
$3500 in 1925
The Travel Air 2000/3000/4000 (originally, the Model A, Model B and Model BH were open-cockpit biplane aircraft produced in the United States in the late 1920s by the Travel Air Manufacturing Company. During the period from 1924–1929, Travel Air produced more aircraft than any other American manufacturer, including over 1,000 biplanes. While an exact number is almost impossible to ascertain due to the number of conversions and rebuilds, some estimates for Travel Air as a whole range from 1,200 to nearly 2,000 aircraft. 
Design and development
Design and development
The Travel Air Model A was engineered chiefly by Lloyd Stearman, with input from Travel Air co-founders Walter Beech, Clyde Cessna, and Bill Snook and could trace its ancestry back to the Swallow New Swallow biplane. The Travel Air, however, replaced the New Swallow's wooden fuselage structure with a welded steel tube. An interim design, the Winstead Special, was developed by the Winstead brothers from a metal fuselage frame developed at Swallow by Stearman and Walter Beech, but subsequently rejected by Swallow president Jake Moellendick, a decision which triggered the departure of both Stearman and Beech, and the creation of Travel Air. Until the appearance of the all new 12/14/16 series, all subsequent Travel Air biplanes would be derived from the Model A.
The Travel Air biplanes were conventional single-bay biplanes with staggered wings braced by N-struts. The fuselage was fabric-covered welded chromium-molybdenum alloy steel tubes, faired with wooden battens and they had two open cockpits in tandem, with the forward cockpit carrying two passengers side-by-side.
In common with the Fokker D.VII that they resembled, the rudder and ailerons of the first Travel Air biplanes had an overhanging "horns" to counterbalance the aerodynamic loads on the controls, helping to reduce control forces and making for a more responsive aircraft. These were the distinctive Travel Air "elephant ear" ailerons which lead to the airplane's popular nicknames of Old Elephant Ears and Wichita Fokker. Some subsequent models were offered without the counterbalance, providing a cleaner, more conventional appearance with less drag. Pitch forces could be trimmed out with an inflight-adjustable horizontal stabilizer.
Different, interchangeable wings were offered, including a shorter and thinner wing known as the "Speedwing" which improved speed.
A considerable number of engines were installed, including nearly every mass produced engine in the 90–300 hp (67–224 kW) range available at the time, and a number of more obscure prototype engines, as can be seen in the list of designation prefixes.
Travel Air entered the specially-modified Model 4000-T in the Guggenheim Safe Aircraft Competition of 1930, but it was disqualified, as were all production aircraft entered during the qualification trials. The Travel Air biplanes were noted for their good flying qualities which may have helped Travel Air outsell all rivals by 1929.
In 1933, George and William Besler replaced the usual gasoline powered piston engine in a Travel Air 2000 with an oil-fired, reversible V-twin compounding steam engine, which would become the first airplane to successfully fly using a steam engine.
In addition to a wide range of normal aircraft applications, the Travel Air biplanes saw extensive use in early motion pictures, where they often stood in for the increasingly scarce Fokker D.VII.
Aside from surplus military aircraft such as the Curtiss JN-4 Jenny, during the late 1920s and very early 1930s, Travel Air biplanes were, along with their chief competitor, WACO, were the most widely used civilian biplanes in America.
Travel Air biplanes were popular as executive transports, and many were purchased by wealthy-sportsmen adventurers who entered them in the competitions and air races that were frequently held during that era.ref name=wichita_4/> Like many aircraft of the period, they also operated as air taxis and provided air charter services, carrying passengers and light air cargo, and some would find their way north where they worked as bushplanes. As the supply of war-surplus aircraft declined and they became available on the used aircraft market, many were also used for barnstorming, which included exhibition and stunt flying, and selling rides.  Commercial operators found the Travel Air biplanes to be versatile, owing to their useful payload, rugged construction and (for the times) speed and efficiency.
Towards the end of their career elsewhere, from the late-1930s through the early 1960s, they were increasingly used for the harsh work of bush flying and cropdusting, and Travel Air biplanes were among the most commonly used cropdusters, perhaps second only to surplus Stearman Kaydet biplanes.
Most remaining Travel Air biplanes have been restored, and are in museums, while a small number continue to be used for personal recreation or selling rides and flying at airshows.. A Travel Air normally based in the San Diego area is the oldest regularly flying aircraft tracked by FlightRadar24, an aviation tracking website.
As the 2000/3000/4000 series was nearing the end of its development cycle, a pair of new designs, the Travel Air 12 and 14 were developed to replace it - the 12 as a slightly smaller two-seat trainer, and the larger 14 as a direct replacement, even to continuing some of the marketing names. Both would fly while Travel Air retained its identity, but would be incorporated into the Curtiss-Wright line with the same numbers.
Travel Air biplanes were widely used in 1920s/1930s war movies, particularly to represent the airplanes they were patterned after: Germany's Fokker D-VII fighter, the top fighter of World War I. In the motion picture industry, they were known as "Wichita Fokkers." In fact, Hollywood's demand for Travel Air biplanes was so intense that Travel Air's California salesman, Fred Hoyt, coaxed Travel Air co-founder and principal airplane designer, Lloyd Stearman, to come to Venice, California in 1926 to exploit the movie industry demand for his aircraft by starting the short-lived independent Stearman Aircraft Company (re-opened back in Wichita in 1927).
- Wings (1927) won the first-ever Academy Award for Best Picture for its technical accuracy
- Flying Fool (1929) early leading roles for William Boyd, later famous as "Hopalong Cassidy")
- Hell's Angels (1930) extravagant war epic by Howard Hughes
- The Dawn Patrol (1930)
- Heartbreak (1931)
- Ace Of Aces (1933) featured five Travel Air Model Bs, and numerous other aircraft.
- Hell in the Heavens (1933)
- Flying Devils (1933)
- Murder in the Clouds (1934)
Date from Aerofiles
Early Letter Designations
Initially Travel Air assigned letters to each type, with a suffix denoting the engine.
- Model A
- 1925 Prototype, with WW1 style straight axle. 90 hp (67 kW) Curtiss OX-5 water-cooled V-8 engine
- Model B
- Similar to Model A with a split axle undercarriage, also fitted with a 90 hp (67 kW) Curtiss OX-5. Redesignated as 2000.
- Model BH
- 1926 Model B powered with a 150–180 hp (110–130 kW) Hispano-Suiza 8A or Wright model E water-cooled V-8 engine. Redesignated as 3000.
- Model BW
- 1926 Model B with a 200 hp (150 kW) Wright J-4 9-cylinder radial engine. Redesignated CW-4000
Numerical designation sequences
Variants were distinguished with prefixes and suffixes in a particular order, and denoting different fittings. The prefix S, preceding all other prefixes meant it was a Seaplane and was fitted with floats. Next it was wings. B was the Standard wing, not to be confused with the original basic elephant ear wing, and D indicated the aircraft was fitted with a Speedwing. The engine code followed this, and due to the long service period when considerable experimentation occurred, a wide variety of engines were installed in production airplane as follows:
- A - 150 hp (110 kW) Axelson B engine 7-cylinder radial engine
- B - 220 hp (160 kW) Wright J-5 Whirlwind 9-cylinder radial engine
- C - 170–185 hp (127–138 kW) Curtiss Challenger 6-cylinder radial, or Curtiss C-6 inline engine
- D - 150 hp (110 kW) Aeromarine B 6-cylinder inline engine
- E - 165 hp (123 kW) Wright J-6-5 Whirlwind 5-cylinder radial engine
- J4 - 200 hp (150 kW) Wright J-4 Whirlwind 9-cylinder radial engine
- K - 100 hp (75 kW) Kinner K-5 5-cylinder radial engine
- W - 110 hp (82 kW) Warner Scarab 7-cylinder radial engine
- L - 225 hp (168 kW) Lycoming R-680 9-cylinder radial engine
- V - 180 hp (130 kW) Velie ML-9 9-cylinder radial engine
- W - 125 hp (93 kW) Warner Scarab S-50 radial 7-cylinder engine
- 9 - 300 hp (220 kW) Wright J-6-9 Whirlwind 9-cylinder radial engine
Following the engine code in a very small number of cases, M, indicated that it was a single seater configured as a Mailplane, and then the model number. The same system was also used with the later numerical desigation sequence. The sole example of the mailplane seems to have been the BM-4000, a Wright J-5 powered mailplane, of which 7 were built. Not all possible variations were built. Suffixes were also added that were specific to modifications made and often referred to conversions or post-production versions.
1000 series Designations
- Formerly Model A with 90 hp (67 kW) Curtiss OX-5 water-cooled V-8 engine
- Formerly Model B with 90 hp (67 kW) Curtiss OX-5 engine
- Formerly Model BH with 150–180 hp (110–130 kW) Hispano-Suiza 8A or Wright model E water-cooled V-8 engine
- D-3000 straight wing for competition 1928
- 220 hp (160 kW) Wright J-5 radial engine
- 4000-T - 300 hp (220 kW) Wright J-6 Whirlwind radial engine, converted C-4000 for 1930 Safe Airplane competition, Curtiss-built wings
- 4000-CAM - 120 hp (89 kW) Fairchild-Caminez 447 X engine, also designated 8000 and later Curtiss-Wright CW-8
- 4000-SH - 125 hp (93 kW) Ryan-Siemens Sh 14 radial engine, also designated 9000 and later Curtiss-Wright CW-9
Late Numerical sequence
- originally 4000 series
- 4-B - 240 hp (180 kW) Wright J-6
- 4-D - 220 hp (160 kW) Wright J-5, E-4000.
- 4-P/PT - 140 hp (100 kW) ACE LA-1 (later became Jacobs LA-1)
- 4-S - 4000 with experimental Powell engine
- 4-U - 130–165 hp (97–123 kW) Comet 7-D or 7RA 7-cylinder air-cooled radial
- W-4-B - Ted Wells Special Single seat competition aircraft modified from D-4000
- Z-4-D - 4-D crop duster with 300 hp (220 kW) Wright J-6 Whirlwind
- Modified D-2000 with Wright J-6 Whirlwind 9-cylinder radial engine and a narrower fuselage for competition
- B-11D: 240 hp (180 kW) Wright J-6 Whirlwind, modified 4-D for competition in the National Air Races
- Peruvian Air Force - operated at least one Travel Air E-4000 at the start of the Leticia Incident in 1932.
Surviving aircraft and aircraft on display
- 206 (NC1081) – 2000 at the Golden Age Air Museum in Bethel, Pennsylvania.
- 490 (NC5290) – 2000 airworthy at the Historic Aircraft Restoration Museum in Maryland Heights, Missouri.
- 321 (NC3947) – 3000 airworthy at the Historic Aircraft Restoration Museum in Maryland Heights, Missouri.
- 475 (NC2709) – 4000 airworthy at the Kelch Aviation Museum in Brodhead, Wisconsin.
- 720 (CF-AFG) – 2000 on static display at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa, Ontario.
- 721 (NC6282) - 2000 on static display at the Shannon Air Museum in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
- 766 (NC6425) – 4000 airworthy at the Cavanaugh Flight Museum in Addison, Texas.
- 850 (NC9049) – 4000 airworthy with the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum in Hood River, Oregon.
- 1151 (CF-JLW) – D-4D at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum in Wetaskiwin, Alberta.
- 1340 (NC434N) – D-4D (ex-E-4000) on static display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
- 1365 (NC174V) – 4000 airworthy at the Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, Florida.
- 1379 (NC477N) – D-4000 airworthy at the Owls Head Transportation Museum in Owls Head, Maine.
- 1224 (NC648H) – E-4000 airworthy at the EAA Aviation Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Specifications (OX-5 Travel Air 2000 (ATC 30))
Data from U.S. Civil Aircraft Vol. 1 (ATC 1 - 100)
- Crew: One
- Capacity: Two passengers
- Length: 24 ft 2 in (7.37 m)
- Upper wingspan: 34 ft 8 in (10.57 m)
- Upper wing chord: 66.75 in (1.695 m)
- Lower wingspan: 28 ft 8 in (8.74 m)
- Lower wing chord: 55.75 in (1.416 m)
- Height: 8 ft 11 in (2.72 m)
- Wing area: 297 sq ft (27.6 m2)
- Airfoil: Travel Air #1
- Empty weight: 1,335 lb (606 kg)
- Gross weight: 2,180 lb (989 kg)
- Useful load: 845 lb (383 kg)
- Fuel capacity: 42 US gal (160 l; 35 imp gal)
- Oil capacity: 4 US gal (15 l; 3.3 imp gal)
- Powerplant: 1 × Curtiss OX-5 water-cooled V8 engine, 90 hp (67 kW)
- Propellers: 2-bladed wooden fixed-pitch propeller
- Maximum speed: 100 mph (160 km/h, 87 kn)
- Cruise speed: 85 mph (137 km/h, 74 kn)
- Minimum control speed: 40 mph (64 km/h, 35 kn)
- Range: 425 mi (684 km, 369 nmi)
- Service ceiling: 10,000 ft (3,000 m) no load
- Rate of climb: 550 ft/min (2.8 m/s)
- Deland Travel Air 2000, a modern replica of the aircraft
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
(Partial listing, only covers most numerous types)
- Alexander Eaglerock
- American Eagle A-101
- Brunner-Winkle Bird
- Buhl-Verville CA-3 Airster
- Command-Aire 3C3
- Parks P-1
- Pitcairn Mailwing
- Spartan C3
- Stearman C2 and C3
- Swallow New Swallow
- Waco 10
- Simpson 2007, p. 553 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFSimpson2007 (help)
- Juptner, 1962, pp.89-91
- Phillips, 1982, pp.?
- Bissionette, 1999, pp.?
- Wilkinson, 28 February 2014, pp.?
- Cooper, 2008, pp.?
- Fitzgerald, 1933, pp.9-11
- "What's New," page, Travel Air Restorers Association website, retrieved January 28, 2017
- Leigh, Gabriel (September 16, 2020). "Nothing but a number? Aircraft age explained".
- Harris, 2017
- Eckland, K. O. "Aviation Films". Aerofiles.com. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
- Eckland, Aerofiles.com
- Bowers 1979, p. 399
- Hagedorn2006, p. 88
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- "Museum Hangar 2". Historic Aircraft Restoration Museum. Historic Aircraft Restoration Museum. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- "FAA REGISTRY [N5290]". Federal Aviation Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- "Museum Hangar 4". Historic Aircraft Restoration Museum. Historic Aircraft Restoration Museum. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- "FAA REGISTRY [N3947]". Federal Aviation Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- "1927 Travel Air 4000". Kelch Aviation Museum. Kelch Aviation Museum. 2014-10-31. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
- "FAA REGISTRY [N2709]". Federal Aviation Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
- "TRAVEL AIR 2000". Ingenium. Ingenium. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- "Airframe Dossier - Travel Air 2000, c/n 0720, c/r CF-AFG". Aerial Visuals. AerialVisuals.ca. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- "HISTORIC AIRCRAFT" (PDF). Virginia Aviation Museum. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 May 2016. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- "Shannon's rebirth". AOPA Pilot Magazine. February 2018. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
- "Aircraft". Cavanaugh Flight Museum. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
- "FAA REGISTRY [N6425]". Federal Aviation Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
- "Travel Air Aircraft". Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- "FAA REGISTRY [N9049]". Federal Aviation Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- "Canadian Civil Aircraft Register: Aircraft Details [CF-JLW]". Transport Canada. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- Skaarup, Harold A. (2009). Canadian Warplanes. iUniverse. p. 450.
- "Travel Air D4D". Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Smithsonian Institution. 2016-03-18. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- "1929 Travel Air 4000". Fantasy of Flight. Fantasy of Flight. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- "FAA REGISTRY [N174V]". Federal Aviation Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- "1930 Curtiss-Wright Travel Air D-4000 Speedwing (Restoration)". Owls Head Transportation Museum. Owls Head Transportation Museum. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- "FAA REGISTRY [N477N]". Federal Aviation Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- Stadler, Fred. "1929 Travel Air E-4000 - NC648H". EAA. EAA. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
- "FAA REGISTRY [N648H]". Federal Aviation Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Travel Air 2000.|
- Bissionette, Bruce (1999). The Wichita 4: Cessna, Moellendick, Beech and Stearman. Destin, FL: Aviation Heritage. ISBN 0-943691508.
- Bowers, Peter M. (1979). Curtiss Aircraft 1907–1947. London: Putnam. ISBN 0-370-10029-8.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Cooper, Ann Lewis; Rajnus, Sharon (2008). Stars of the Sky, Legends All. Zenith Imprint. ISBN 978-1610607520. Retrieved 28 January 2017.
- Eckland, K. O. (28 December 2008). "Travel Air". Aerofiles.com. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
- Fitzgerald, H. J. (July 1933). ""World's First Steam Driven Airplane". Popular Science. Vol. 123 no. 1. pp. 9–11. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
- Hagedorn, Dan (2006). Latin American Air Wars and Aircraft 1912–1969. Crowborough, UK: Hikoki Publications. ISBN 1-902109-44-9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Harris, Richard (January 2017). "Wichita Aircraft in TV, Video & Film". The Wichita Aviation Centennial. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
- Juptner, Joseph P. (1962). U.S. Civil Aircraft Vol. 1 (ATC 1 - 100). Los Angeles, CA: Aero Publishers, Inc. LCCN 62-15967.
- Ogden, Bob (2007). Aviation Museums and Collections of North America. Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. ISBN 978-0-85130-385-7.
- Simpson, Rod (2001). Airlife's World Aircraft. Shrewsbury: Airlife Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-840371153.
- Phillips, Edward H (1982). Travel Air: Wings Over the Prairie. Wind Canyon Books. ISBN 9780911139174.
- Phillips, Edward H. (1994). Travel Air: Wings Over the Prairie (revised ed.). Eagan, MN: Flying Books International. ISBN 0-911139-17-6.
- Virginia Aviation Museum. "Virginia Aviation Museum Civilian Aircraft Collection". Archived from the original on 15 January 2008.
- Wilkinson, Stephan (28 February 2014). ""Wichita Fokker" Takes Flight". "Aviation History". Retrieved 7 January 2017.