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S-4C Scout
Role advanced trainer
National origin United States
Manufacturer Thomas-Morse Aircraft
Designed by Benjamin D. Thomas
First flight June 1917[1]

The Thomas-Morse S-4 Scout was an American biplane advanced trainer, operated by the Army and Navy. Dubbed the "Tommy" by pilots who flew it, the aircraft became the favorite single-seat training airplane produced in the U.S. during World War I, having a long and varied career beginning with the S4B, which first appeared in the summer of 1917.[2 ]



Built by Thomas-Morse Aircraft in Bath, New York in 1917, it was a compact single-seat open-cockpit biplane of equal span and a 100 hp (75 kW) Gnome rotary.[3]

Designed by Englishman Benjamin D. Thomas (no relation),[4] formerly of the Sopwith Aviation Company[5], the S-4 made her maiden flight in June 1917 in the hands of Paul D. Wilson.[4] Twelve went to the Navy.[4]

The S-4B, with a 110 hp Gnome, span of 27’ (8.22 m), and length 20’3” (6.17 m)[4] proved more successful, with three prototypes followed by an order of 97 for the Army and ten for the Navy,[4][6] while six more were completed with two main and one tail floats as the Navy S-5.[3][7] The S4B was used by practically every pursuit flying school in the U.S. during 1918.[2 ]

It was supplemented in 1918 by the S-4C, at a cost of US$5400 each.[4] Six prototypes were built,[4] and the 80 hp (60 kW) Gnome B-9 was replaced by the "more reliable" 80 hp (60 kW) Le Rhône C-9 with the fifty-second aircraft.[3][4] Four S-4Cs with floats went to the Navy, and 461 for the Army.[4]

After World War I many "Tommys" were sold as surplus to civilian flying schools, sportsman pilots, and ex-Army fliers. Many were still being used in the mid-1930s for World War I aviation movies, and several continue to exist in flying condition today.[2 ]

A single aircraft was fitted with new tail and 110 hp (82 kW) Le Rhône, becoming the S-4E aerobatic trainer.[3] It was not adopted, and (fitted with a 135 hp (101 kW) Aeromarine V8 engine) became Basil Rowe‘s racer Space-Eater.[4]

About sixty surplus aircraft survive in civil service, most fitted with the Curtiss OX-5s.[4]


 United States


Specifications (S-4C, late production)

Data from Aerofiles, United States Navy Aircraft since 1911 [4][6] ,

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 19 ft 10 in (6.05 m m)
  • Wingspan: 26 ft 6 in (8.08 m)
  • Gross weight: 1,330 lb (605 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Le Rhône aircooled rotary, 80 hp (60 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 97 mph (156 km/h)
  • Service ceiling: 15,000 ft (4500 m)

See also

Related lists




  1. ^ Holmes, 2005. p 52.
  2. ^ a b c d United States Air Force Museum 1975, p. 10.
  3. ^ a b c d Donald 1997, p875.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l retrieved 8 April 2008.
  5. ^ Angelucci, Enzo, Great Aeroplanes of the World, London, New York, Sydney, Toronto: Hamlyn, 1973. p. 41
  6. ^ a b Swanborough and Bowers 1976, p.471.
  7. ^ Swanborough and Bowers,1976, p.472.


  • Donald, David, ed. Encyclopedia of World Aircraft, p. 875, "Thomas Brothers and Thomas-Morse aircraft". Etobicoke, Ontario: Prospero Books, 1997.
  • Holmes, Tony (2005). Jane's Vintage Aircraft Recognition Guide. London: Harper Collins. ISBN 0 0071 9292 4.  
  • Swanborough, Gordon and Bowers, Peter. United States Navy Aircraft since 1911. London:Putnam, Second edition, 1976. ISBN 0 370 10054 9.
  • United States Air Force Museum. Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio: Air Force Museum Foundation. 1975.  

External links


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