Fairchild FC-2

Wingspan 13.5 m (44 ft.)
Length 8.68 m (30 ft. 11 in.)
Height 2.73 m (9 ft.)
Weight 930 kg (2,050 lb.)

The All-Purpose Monoplane’ of Sherman Mills Fairchild, despite its unassuming appearance, was designed for aerial photography. It was such a success that it was also used as a light transport in the Canadian bush country, in the jungles and mountains of South America, and on the Antarctic continent.

Sherman Fairchild was an important designer, builder, and user of aerial cameras in the early 1920s. None of the aircraft then available met the requirements of his work. His criteria for a usable airplane included a wide field of view for the pilot and photographer and stability for high-altitude camera work. The ability to operate out of small, rough fields and the space to accommodate the bulky contemporary cameras were also important.

Norm MacQueen was Fairchild’s engineer. Fred Weymouth, Professor Alexander Klemin, Fairchild chief pilot Dick Depew, and chief photographer F.P. Lott assisted in the design.

The resulting aircraft was the Fairchild FC-1, which first flew on June 14, 1926, for twenty-three minutes. It was powered by the then standard Curtiss OX-5 engine. The airplane had a closed, heated cabin, which was unusual for the time. The fuselage narrowed at the pilot’s window, and Vshaped struts supported a semicantilever wing. An unusual three-longeron structure gave rise to the razor back" nickname; later models with a more conventional four-longeron structure were called "turtle back."

A unique feature of the Fairchild monoplane, however, was that the wings folded for easier storage and road mobility. The folding operation was simple—two men in two minutes could fold the 44-foot span into a 13-foot compact unit. Unfolding took about the same amount of time. A large Yale padlock hung down in clear view of the pilot to show that the wings were locked in place.

The criteria that produced a fine camera plane also produced an aircraft adaptable for a number of other purposes. The FC-1 flew in the Ford Casey Jones, veteran airman and proprietor 01 the Curtiss Flying Service, ordered several Fairchilds for his operation. His interest in the Fairchild was regarded as significant by aircraft buyers.

The first production model of the Fairchild was the FC-2. The Curtiss OX-5 was replaced by the more powerful Wright J-4 engine, which became a major factor in the success of the FC-2.

The first FC-2 off the production line was procured by the U.S. Department of Commerce and was used to accompany Lindbergh on his goodwill tour of the United States in the Spirit of St Louis.

Float-equipped FC-2s were used extensively in the demanding Canadian bush country. In the United States, Colonial Air Transport flew FC-2s.

A number of Fairchilds were used in significant and record-breaking flights. The Fairchild FC-2 La Nina, piloted by Cy CaIdwell, delivered Pan American’s first contract airmail by proxy. The City of New York, piloted by Charles Collyer and carrying J. H. Mears, made an around-the-world trip in 1928. The plane flew over the land areas, but was carried across the oceans by ship. Another FC-2 made the first New York-Miami nonstop flight in January 1928.

The most famous individual Fairchild. however. was the FC-2W Stars and Stripes, which was the first airplane to fly on the continent of Antarctica. It was left in the ice at the end of the first expedition. but was recovered, refurbished and flown four years later by the second expedition. Much of the aircraft was later used to supply parts for other FC2s, but portions of it are now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum.