|1946-built Luscombe 8E|
|Designed by||Donald Luscombe|
|First flight||December 17, 1937|
The Luscombe Aircraft Corporation was re-formed as a New Jersey company in 1937, and a new design was begun. The Luscombe 50 (Model 8) was to become the company's most famous product. The Model 8 used the new horizontally-opposed small engines that had just been developed by the engine manufacturers. For simplicity, the aircraft was designed with a round firewall to minimize frontal area and simplify construction. Although it was alleged this might allow the installation of a small radial engine if the flat four did not work, none of the original design engineers recall that being a design consideration.
The Model 8 followed in the Luscombe tradition of using no wood in the construction, and had a monocoque fuselage with fabric-covered metal wings. For a cheap, light aircraft, this was a revolutionary construction technique. Its competitors were built of fabric-covered steel tubing, with wooden spars and sometimes ribs in the fabric-covered wings. Luscombe's construction techniques allowed him to build his aircraft quickly and cheaply, without sacrificing strength. His aircraft were also more efficient than his competitors, cruising 10-20 mph faster on the same power.
The new Luscombe sold well, and soon the factory was making changes to the design. Continental had upgraded the A-50 engine to the A-65 engine of 65 horsepower (48 kW). Luscombe quickly certified this engine on the Model 8, and began producing it as the Model 8A. In 1938 and 1939, though, personality conflicts arose within the company, and Don Luscombe was forced out of the company in a proxy battle. Many Luscombe employees left at this time, also.
March of 1940 saw the introduction of another version of the Model 8, the 8B. This aircraft was powered by a Lycoming O-145-B3 engine of 65 horsepower (48 kW). A month later, the company developed the deluxe model 8C, powered by a Continental C-75-8J engine. The interior was finished off with maroon cloth and tan leather upholstery, with a shock-mounted section in the instrument panel. The deluxe model was named the Silvaire, (in a contest) and was sold with full-color advertising.
With war raging in Europe, stocks of aluminum began to be rationed. Since the Model 8 was widely used in the Civilian Pilot Training Program, Luscombe was able to maintain production and get a reasonable allotment of the lightweight metal. To ensure future allotments and increase its share of the CPTP market, Luscombe developed the model 8D. The instrument panel was changed so that it could be equipped with the necessary instruments for instrument flight and training, and so that radios could be installed easily. The 8D used the same 75 hp (56 kW) Continental engine as the 8C, but the 14 (US) gallon (53 L) fuselage tank was replaced by two 11.5 (US) gallon (44 L) wing tanks (designed by Carl Frey) for greater range.
The man who had forced Don Luscombe out of the company was an Austrian named Leopold Klotz. The government considered him to be an enemy alien, which led to the company being taken over by the government during World War II, where its facilities produced military aircraft sub assemblies. Luscombe Aircraft spent the war years doing subcontract work for other manufacturers. In 1944, the Vested Claims Committee ruled that Klotz was a resident neutral rather than an enemy alien, and his Luscombe holdings were restored to him.
During the war, Luscombe Aircraft moved from Trenton, New Jersey to Dallas, Texas. In anticipation of the postwar aircraft boom, and to satisfy military procurement contracts it had, Luscombe set up a large factory and re-tooled with new jigs capable of higher production volume than the pre-war factory had been capable of. Due to several factors, including a fire at one plant that destroyed most of their stock of cushions and upholstery, production in the latter part of 1945 was quite limited. The aircraft was also redesigned at this time to simplify construction of the fuselage into a modular construction.
Early in 1946, Luscombe decided to redesign the wing to an all-metal monocoque design, eliminating the fabric covering and simplifying the construction. The company also produced a prototype of a single-place low-wing design called the Model 10. This was never placed into production, since the market for single-seat aircraft was considered to be too small.
The Model 8 was upgraded once again in June, producing the 8E. This aircraft had an 85 horsepower (63 kW) engine, and the fuselage tank was replaced by two 12.5 (US?) gallon (47 L) wing tanks. This freed up space to install rear windows and a "hat throw" (shelf) in the space formerly occupied by the fuel tank. For a while, both all-metal and fabric-covered wing Luscombes were produced before the fabric-covered wing was phased out (use of old stock) in favor of the all-metal design.
Further design changes to simplify construction of the model 8 vertical stabilizer and horizontal stabilizer construction were implemented in 1947. These changes were alleged to save several hundred man hours in the construction of the airplanes.
The Air Force, in 1947, released a specification calling for an 85 hp (63 kW), high-wing tandem-seating aircraft to use as a liaison aircraft for Army ground forces. The proposal required an aircraft that was in current production, so Luscombe decided to convert a model 8E to a tandem configuration. This model passed the military tests, but lost out to the entry from Aeronca, who quoted a low price of less than $1700 per aircraft. Luscombe obtained a type certificate for the T8F anyway, in anticipation of future off-the-shelf buys by the military. The later, modified specification excluded Luscombe with several changes to the procurement, and instead resulted in the Air Force's buying the Cessna L-19 Bird Dog.
The final simplification made to the Luscombe 8 design was the introduction in 1948 of the Silflex landing gear. This was a cantilever tubular-steel gear attached to a spring-oleo unit. It was four inches (102 mm) wider than the original wire-braced gear, simpler to manufacture, and stronger in side-load. It also reduced the incidence of ground-looping, and was less prone to damage when ground loops did occur. While the gear usually survived ground incidents, its strength often resulted in serious fuselage damage at the hard point attachments which was difficult to repair without jigging.
The last major upgrade to the Silvaire came in 1948. The Model 8F was introduced in January using a 90 hp (67 kW) Continental engine. The tandem aircraft was simultaneously upgraded to produce the T8F model. Sales were not strong, however, and the company was failing. In December, its major suppliers put Luscombe on a COD basis. More financial problems followed, and the company closed its doors in 1950.
After a bankruptcy, the assets were purchased by a major Luscombe dealer and a new venture opened in Fort Collins, Colorado as "Silvaire Aircraft and Uranium Corp". from 1958 to 1961, this firm produced some 83 aircraft labeled Silvaire. Many of these aircraft were constructed from spares or MRB parts that were serviceable, but left from prior production.
A Federal Aviation Administration certification audit resulted in the determination that continued production required a wholesale revision to the engineering drawings, specifications, and processes which had expired, run out of date, or been superseded. This was to be a comprehensive and very expensive process necessary to satisfy the FAA. The FAA required a new production management team of their choosing to oversee the project.
Senior management reviewed the findings and costs anticipated to prepare for future production of the aircraft in 1960. They determined that the limited market and the required changes necessary for production would not be economically feasible, so they closed the company and delivered the assets to a receiver who sold the production materials.
Several attempts to revive production have failed due to the high engineering and production costs involved, long lead times, missing drawings, old processes and tools, and a limited marketplace for an airplane that generally does not accommodate average sized persons (2006). None of the production revivals have succeeded. Although the aircraft has a passionate following, it is eclectic, and many more marketable and cost effective product options now exist which render the successful revival of this 60-year-old antique design unlikely.
In 1994, the Don Luscombe Aviation History Foundation (DLAHF) acquired the Approved Type Certificate (ATC 694) for the Luscombe aircraft. This was in turn transferred to The Luscombe Endowment in 1999-2001.
After many years of being out of production, a group of enthusists purchased the type certificate with the intent of producing parts and providing technical support to the existing fleet. This led to the creation of the Don Luscombe Aviation History Foundation. Throughout the years this foundation offered parts support and major restoration abilities. One proposal was to market the Luscombe aircraft as a kit plane. FAA inquiries showed some problems with this that might make it difficult, but not insumountable, however, After one of the investors backed out with his financing for that project it was abandoned by the proponent. The Luscombe Foundation did however continue to manufacture and sell parts and service to current Luscombe owners in order to finance the TC purchase.
Not only were the owners of Luscombe aircraft being supported, local aircraft mechanic students and others interested in learning the art of aircraft manufacturing and maintenance were taught the tools of a dying trade. Many young people passed through this "internship" and have gone on to continue in the field and some progressing on to other related fields such as aerospace engineering.
These services continued from 1993-through 2004; and were revitalized in 2005 by the Luscombe Endowment.
Unfortunately, as has been the case so many times with this historic aircraft, once again it brought financial ruin to many involved. Renaissance Aircraft & John Dearden obtained a right to produce aircraft under license Agreement in 1996. Under that agreement Renaissance was to upgrade the engineering defects that brought about the demise of the company in 1961, and to obtain an FAA production certificate. They did not do either, resulting in a disputed agreement over the rights to produce the aircraft. There continues to be disputes involved with this case pending in Georgia, Missouri, Arizona, and California.
The type certificate of the aircraft has changed hands, though there is still litigation making its way through the system. The current holder is alleged to be Team Luscombe, though Court Orders state "Renaissance Aircraft", and the actual production & marketing are done by a third company "Luscombe Slivaire" www.luscombesilvaire.com. This is the second or third attempt to market the aircraft by Mr. Dearden. The first attempt did not yield any deliveries, while the second yielded just one delivery to a close associate.
The third effort is a new version of the Luscombe 8 offered as a Light Sport Aircraft or LSA. It has roughly similar specifications and appearance to the original airplanes, but it is powered by a 100 horsepower (75 kW) Continental O-200 opposed engine. The http://www.luscombesilvaire.com/ Luscombe Silvaire LSA-8] is capable of speeds up to 120 mph (190 km/h) at sea level, has a climb rate of 900 ft/min, a stall speed of only 44 mph (71 km/h) and a service ceiling of 17,000 feet (5,200 m). It sells for $90,000 and is notable for its all metal construction and polished aluminum finish.
It is yet to be proven whether or not this aircraft will be legally certifiable under the light sport aircraft rules because the aircraft model was never certified with the O-200 engine, except by supplemental type certificate. The only installations which occurred pursuant to the supplemental type certificate conversion also increased the gross weight of the aircraft to 1,400 lb (640 kg) as one of the underlying conditions in the STC which was predicated upon a model change to 8E/8F, which bears that weight limitation. This 1400# GW is over the current limit of the light sport aircraft certification (#1320). It is unlikely for this hurdle to be overcome using the existing STC, because of its terms.
GILBERT ARIZONA In 2005, the existing fleet service and support functions were reinstituted and expanded by the Luscombe Endowment, Inc, an IRS 501 (C)3 organization headed by Doug Combs who had originally established the Luscombe Foundation http://www.luscombe.org/. Mr. Combs and his staff of affiliates provide technical advice and a large selection of NOS, FAA PMA, and used parts to assist owners in the repair of their Luscombe airplanes. They may be contacted through email@example.com
Sub-Model T8F has tandem seating but is generally similar in dimension, Sprayer version approved for Restricted category operations can have higher Gross Weight with operational limits.