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Fletcher FD-25 Defender
Toyo Aircraft FD25
 
Fletch-FD-25
 

 

John Thorp was interested in armed light aircraft and in 1948 he demonstrated the prototype Sky Skooter at Fort Bragg. At the start of the Korean conflict Thorp sold his basic armed lightplane concept to Wendell and Maurice Fletcher. The result was the FD-25 series. Developed by the Fletcher brothers and John Thorp it was aimed at a perceived need in the US armed forces for a cheap and lightweight counter insurgency (COIN) attack aircraft.
 
 
The prototype FD-25, N90802, received the green light from the Fletcher management on 1 November 1950. Five engineers, including Thorp, and five engineers were assigned to the project. The prototype flew on 14 April 1951. The single seat FD25 was manufactured from Dow magnesium rather than aluminium. According to Thorp was “economically marginal because of the extra processing, equivalent to anodising, that was required to resist corrosion”.
 
 
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Prototype magnesium FD-25 Marine HQ, Quantico, Virginia. Pilot Roy Cusick.
 
 
The FD-25A two-place version was begun before the single-place flew. The aircraft, N90609, had a magnesium wing and aluminium fuselage. Heavy navigation equipment resulted in a critical aft c-o-g condition that contributed to the FD25A crashing during flight trials in 1952, killing several Fletcher employees.
 
 
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FD-25A – pilot Roy Cusick, engineer Leland Lord. Both were killed in the plane
 
 
It was the two-place version that was built in Japan.
 
 
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Protype FD-25 crated for shipment to Toyo Aircraft in Tokyo, Japan
 
 
Fletcher then took nine months to complete the all-aluminium FD-25B N91316. Two 30-calibre machine guns were imbedded in the wings, mounted outboard of the fuel cells and firing outside the propeller arc procured on bailment from the office of Admiral Richardson, then Chief of Naval Aviation. Each gun had space for 1000 rounds of ammunition.
 
 
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Thorp, who made the initial flights in all the FD-25s, also fired the first in-flight rockets on the range at Inyokern, California. In preliminary ground firing, the cap on the back of the 5-in HVAR rockets ejected with such force that it damaged the stabiliser. The rocket rails were then moved farther outboard.
 
 
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The plane was to depend on surprise attack and was built without armour plate or self-sealing tanks. The FD-25 was created to stop Russian T-36 tanks used by the North Koreans.
 
 
The FD25B undertook very successful demonstrations with the US armed forces. The FD25B was a performer and was enthusiastically supported by US military personnel but unfortunately received no US Government support.
 
 
Senator Barry Goldwater flew the experimental FD-25B solo, as did Chuck Yeager.
 
 
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Senator Barry Goldwater in the FD-25B, Washington-Virginia airport in 1953.
 
 
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Circa 1951, John Thorp (right) and Don Downie with prototype FD-25. The fixed pitch
propeller was later changed to a Hartzell controllable.

 

The FD25B armament consisted of a pair of wing mounted racks for two 33-gallon napalm tanks. Additionally two 250 lb. fragmentation bombs and up to 40 2.75 inch folding fin air rockets of four 5.0 inch heavy rockets or twenty 80 mm Oerliken rockets could be fitted.

 

fletcherfd25

 

Fletched ceased production after three examples to then concentrate on the development of the FU-24. However, further FD25 production was undertaken under license in Japan by the Toyo Aircraft company.
 
The first Toyo example, a FD25B, was flown in March, 1953 and soon after sales of four FD25A and four FD25B were made to the Royal Cambodian Air Force. These were followed by an unclear number, possibly two each FD25A and FD25B, to the North Vietnamese Air Force. The fate of these airframes is unknown.
 
 Fletcher-FD25-01
Cambodian Air Force FD-25
 
Much of the demonstration life of the FD-25B was flown with a full dull black paint job. The FD-25 was designed to sell originally for $25,000 or less.
 
Ex-WW2 fighter pilot Jim Castor took over the FD-25 project after Don Downie and obtained the only known 25 in existence. He obtained it from the company after it had collected dust for eight years and refurbished it in his garage in La Mirada, California. Part of Castor’s agreement with Fletcher Aviation was to demonstrate the airplane to any potential customer on request.
 
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Jim Castor inspects the FD-25B prior to re-assembly

 

Fletcher-FD-25

 

Gallery

 

Engine: Continental E225-8, 225 hp.
Wingspan: 30 ft
Length: 20 ft 11 in
Height: 6 ft 3 in
Wing area: 150 sq.ft
Empty weight: 1228 lb
MTOW: 2500 lb
Fuel capacity: 50 gal
Max speed: 187 mph SL
Cruise speed: 162 mph SL
Service ceiling: 16,500 ft
Range: 630 mi
Armament: 2 x 0.30in mg
Hardpoints for: 2 x 33 gal nalpalm, 2 x 250 lb bombs, 40 x 2.75in rockets, or 4 x 5in rockets
 

 

FD-25B
 
Engine: Continental E225, 250 hp
 
Propeller: Hartzell controllable pitch
 
Wingspan: 30 ft
 
Wing area: 150 sq.ft
 
Airfoil: NACS 652-415
 
Aspect ratio: 6-1
 
Chord: 60 in
 
Outer wing dihedral: 6 deg
 
Length: 20 ft 11 in
 
Height: 6 ft 3 in
 
Gross weight: 2700 lb
 
Empty weight: 1428 lb
 
Useful load: 1272 lb
 
Fuel capacity: 60 USG
 
Max speed: 187 mph
 
Cruise speed: 162 mph
 
Landing speed: 45 mph
 
ROC: 1725 fpm
 
Service ceiling: 16,500 ft
 
Cruise range: 630 mi
 
Take-off distance: 500 ft
 
Landing distance: 330 ft
 
Fin area: 8 sq.ft
 
Rudder area: 4 sq.ft
 
Wlevator area: 9 sq.ft
 
Stabiliser area: 21 sq.ft
 
Seats: 1
 
 
Fletch-FD25-19
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


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