The Mystery Airplane
Laird LC-RW 300 Speedwing
November 1, 2018
Emil Matthew "Matty" Laird (1896-1982) flew his first design on 15 September 1913. Built in his mother's attic, it got 10 feet into the air.
Associated with Wichita and Chicago, Laird was famed for his custom-built sport and racing aircraft. Known initially for the Swallow biplane (about 43 built between 1920 and 1923), in 1924 he began design and manufacture of a series of Laird Commercials that sold well to "sportsman" pilots even during the Depression.
Laird biplanes were part of the early days of Northwest Airlines, flown by well-known racing pilot "Speed" Holman. Holman also flew Laird's Solution biplane racer, #77, powered by a 450 hp Wasp Junior, to victory in the 1930 Chicago National Air Races, beginning the age of custom-built racers beating modified fighter planes. Laird's Super Solution, flown by Jimmy Doolittle, won the 1931 Bendix cross-country race. Laird's final racer was Roscoe Turner's Meteor.
The elegant Speedwing series, encompassing Approved Type Certificates 152, 176, 377, and Group Two Approval 2-346, appeared in 1929. Utilizing Wright Whirlwind and Pratt & Whitney Wasp engines rated from 200 to 450 hp, the Speedwing series were custom-built for the "sportsman" pilot.
Costing up to $15,500, they were considered luxury airplanes. Sources vary as to the number of LC-RW 300's built – anywhere from two to six. Joe Juptner (vol. 4) lists only two, NC10591 and NC14803.
NC4442, shown in this Oshkosh 2012 photo, was partially built and stored for 60 years. Completed by Dan Murray in Santa Paula, CA, it was rolled out in 1993. Powered by a 450 hp R-985, it cruises at 170 mph and burns 20 gallons per hour. It won the Antique Reserve Grand Champion award at EAA in 2012. The last few years, still registered NC4442, it has appeared at air displays in France and Great Britain.
Lots of correct answers on this one, with Chris Price of Shullsburg, Wisconsin, winning this month. Graydon Carlson, wrote that his set of Juptner has gotten a lot of use. So has mine! Blue skies and tail winds. Fly safely.