Taylorcraft 15 Tourist
In the late 1940s and the early 1950s the people at Taylorcraft wanted to better cash in on the coming boom in general aviation. The boom never happened, but its promise generated a Taylorcraft big enough for the whole family.
The idea of a four-place aircraft began in 1945 as the war ended. A prototype was built at that time, but it never got out of the development stage. According to the book, The Taylorcraft Story by Chet Peek, the prototype began as a tube-and-fabric aircraft at the Taylorcraft plant in Alliance, Ohio, and was dubbed the Tourist, but development stopped with the bankruptcy of the company. When the Taylorcraft company was bought by Ben Mauro and moved to Conway, Pennsylvania, the model went with him but wasn't developed further until 1949. The Model 15A, which retained the Tourist moniker, was intended to have a 125-horsepower Franklin engine, but concerns that Franklin might go out of business caused a switch to 145-horsepower Continental C-145 engine.
The 15A features three large doors - a fourth was optional - slotted wing tips to improve aileron effectiveness at slow airspeeds, and the same door handles used for Nash automobiles.
It has a wing with wooden spars and stamped-aluminum ribs. C.G. Taylor, the founder and former owner, was working with Mauro as a vice president when he was asked to take weight out of the airplane; he took 150 pounds out but he never touched the wings. For stress testing during the wing's design, it was hung from the roof of the factory and loaded with increasing weight over the course of an afternoon. Mauro got bored waiting for it to break and went back to his office. Finally the workers heard a crack and thought the wing had failed, but it hadn't: The roof beam of the factory had cracked from the weight of the still-intact and heavily loaded wing.
Preflight includes draining two tank sumps and the gascolator. The tanks are covered by fabric. Features include side window panels that slide up and down and an overhead trim control. The preflight also includes the gas caps. Because they use forward-facing vent tubes, care must be taken not to install them backward, which can result in siphoning out gas in flight.
The interior is tight enough that you must fly with someone you like, but it is not uncomfortable. Steel tubes of the airframe limit foot space. Original avionics included Narco tube radios (an outside vent channeled air to cool the tubes).
Takeoff requires a 10-degree flap setting using a mechanical lever on the floor. (Takeoff with two people aboard took less than the advertised 500 feet). True airspeed measured at typical cruise power setting of 2,350 rpm was 85 knots (98 mph. Stalls with power on dropped the right wing.
The original four-place 1953 demonstrator Taylorcraft 15A, N6653N, first went to a flight school in Texas where it was used for rides. Then it went to Alaska where in the 1950s and 1960s a church flew supplies to remote settlements until a shortage of parts led to dereliction. The aircraft sat in the weeds at Fairbanks International Airport in the 1970s until it left Alaska on a truck with the promise of restoration in Florida.
The restoration never happened, but two pilots in Alliance stepped in, restored it, then sold it to finance their North American T-6 restoration. Roe bought it in 1992 for $24,000 and brought it to Culpeper, Virginia. By 2010 it was owned by Robert Peterson of Mahaffey, Pennsylvania. It features a Lear Omnimatic navigation radio developed by Bill Lear, father of the Learjet.
Roe said. "I can use short fields - it probably made a heck of a bush plane in Alaska. If only it were a little faster." He flight-plans for 105 mph and burns 8.5 gallons per hour; usable fuel totals 40 gallons. Roe uses 80 mph in the pattern, 70 on final, 60 over the numbers, and finds that touchdown occurs at 45 to 50 mph. The only modification he made was to add Fiberglas wing tips.
In all, there were more than 20 Model 15As made.