This week’s plane of the week is the ERCO Ercoupe.
The ERCO Ercoupe is a low-wing monoplane aircraft that was designed and built in the United States. It was first manufactured by the Engineering and Research Corporation (ERCO) shortly before World War II; several other manufacturers continued its production after the war. The final model, the Mooney M-10, first flew in 1968 and the last model year was 1970. It was designed to be the safest fixed-wing aircraft that aerospace engineering could provide at the time, and the type continues to enjoy a faithful following.
The Ercoupe was the first aircraft certified by the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) as “characteristically incapable of spinning.” The high-winged General Skyfarer obtained the second certification by licensing the ERCO technology. The first production Ercoupe, serial no. 1, NC15692 built in 1939 was donated to the National Air and Space Museum. In 1941 that aircraft, designated YO-55, was used in US Army Air Force testing.
The two-seat ERCO Ercoupe 415 went on sale in 1940. LIFE magazine described the aircraft as “nearly foolproof” and showed pictures of a pilot landing with his hands in the air. Only 112 units were delivered before World War II intervened, halting all civil aircraft production. By mid-1941 aluminum supplies were being diverted to war-related production, so ERCO decided to manufacture Ercoupes for military use by using wood as the principal building material. The substitution of wood resulted in a heavier but quieter aircraft, because the wood absorbed vibrations from the engine and airflow. Ercoupes were flown during the war by the Civilian Pilot Training Program for flight instruction, and the Civil Air Patrol used them to patrol for German submarines.
The ERCO Ercoupe was perhaps most notable for being the first aircraft sold in retail stores. It was the perfect plane for it, too, due to its safety and it’s simple controls. It only had a throttle and a steering wheel, while many other planes even today have pedals for yaw control. It was sold in Macy’s and J. C. Penney’s, among other places. They cost $2,665 brand new and 5,685 were sold.
The Ercoupe had a crew of one and could carry one passenger. It weighed 749 pounds empty. Its maximum speed was 144 miles per hour and it’s maximum takeoff weight was 1260 pounds. It was 20 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 6 feet tall. It had a range of 300 miles.
Next week: Not a plane, but a place…