Minnesota Flyer - Serving Midwest Aviation Since 1960

By Tom Lymburn
Minnesota Flyer 

Mystery Airplane November 2013


Loening OA-1A

Grover C. Loening, a 1911 graduate of Columbia University, worked with Orville Wright and the Army Signal Corps before forming Loening Aeronautical Engineering in 1917. He was the first to have a degree in Aeronautical Engineering.

First appearing in 1923 as the COA-1, his OA-1 observation amphibian was powered by a 425 hp Liberty. The Army ordered 45 between 1924 and 1928, primarily for use in Hawaii and the Philippines. Fifteen were OA-1A models costing $21,000 each. The landing gear was retracted with a hand crank, the wings were similar to DH-4B, with a .30 caliber Browning for the pilot and a Lewis on a Scarff ring for the observer.

This photo, taken at Dulles, is the San Francisco, AAC 26-431, sole survivor of the Pan American Good Will Tour of Latin American countries undertaken by five Army OA-1A's. The San Francisco was flown by Captain Ira C. Eaker and Muir S. Fairchild. The flight departed from Kelly Field on 21 December 1926 and finished the 22,000-mile tour on 2 May 1927 at Bolling Field. Upon return, President Coolidge awarded each flyer the DFC. They also received the prestigious Mackay Trophy. However, Lindbergh's Atlantic crossing quickly replaced the Army flyers in the public eye.

The San Francisco was given to the Smithsonian in 1927, restored by 1965, and displayed at the Air Force Museum until space at Dulles became available. Doug Sasse of Mankato wins this month's identification award. Ed Hartnett noted that when he joined the USAF in 1951, Ira Eaker was the CO of the Air Force Training Command. Other correct responses came from Graydon Carlson, Joe Connell and Ed Wells.

A very special thank you to Pat Kostelecky, Jan and Brad Deckert, Cindy Beck and the Battle Lake Area Community Fund for inviting me to announce the "7th Annual Tribute to Beck Gathering of Airplanes" on 31 August. It was superbly run, hosting over 50 aircraft and many guests. Blue skies and tail winds.


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