NC12350’s History

On October 12, 1932, Don A. Luscombe, Vice President and General Manager of the Monocoupe Corporation, signed the Aircraft Registration for NC12350, a Monocoupe 110.  Shortly thereafter, Henry A. (Tony) Little, took delivery of the aircraft.  Tony was the Monocoupe dealer for the Mid-Atlantic States and was based at Patco Field in Norristown, PA just northeast of Philadelphia.

Tony was an avid Monocoupe enthusiast and successful racer of his 1929 Warner powered Monosport Model 1.  Over the next three years, Tony and the Monosport would compete in 7 closed-course races, finishing first in 51 events and second in 27 events.  The “fast-flying” duo of Tony and the Monosport, were also contenders in 7 cross country derbies, taking a first in three of them and a second in two of them.

MonosportTony Little’s Monosport

It was no surprise when Monocoupe introduced the Model 110, Tony had to have one and race it.  The 110 was designed for the sportsman pilot who would enjoy a small cabin monoplane with exceptional speed and performance.  The 110 was similar to the Model 90, with the exception of the installation of the seven cylinder Warner Scarab engine of 110 to 125 hp.  The 110 also included an adjustable horizontal stabilizer driven by a jackscrew mechanism to manage elevator trim.  NC12350 was delivered with the 125 hp Warner Scarab and a Townend anti-drag (speed ring).  Tony quickly had a special racing
cowl (NACA tight fitting bump cowl) fabricated.  Other non-standard equipment listed in the delivery documents include an eight day clock and a cylinder head temperature gauge.

NC12350 at the Monocoupe factoryNC 12350 at the Monocoupe Factory

Tony Little regularly raced NC12350 at events from New England to Florida, including the All American Air Maneuvers in Miami.  During the four years between 1932 and 1936 the combination won numerous closed course events and several cross country derbies.  The aircraft was also featured in Monocoupe marketing literature.

Tony and NC12350 participated in the Langley Day Air Races, held at the College Park, MD, airport on May 7, 1933 and on May 6, 1934.  You can find an excellent write up about Langley Day at Don Warrington’s website (http://www.chet-aero.com/langley-day.php).  Don’s grandfather, Chet Warrington, organized these events.  This picture  shows Tony and his Fiancée, Frances Sykes, along with NC12350 and the trophies won at Langley Day.  This picture appeared in a 1934 issue of Sportsman Pilot in an article written by L. Ron Hubbard, who had attended the May 7, 1933 event.  L. Ron Hubbard wrote:

The third event listed ships with a rated speed of 140 M.P.H.  It was at this point, by the clock and by the program that Tony Little of Pylon (stimulated, no doubt, by the presence of Miss Frances Sykes) rubbed his hands together and began to walk off with the meet.  Col. Holland Duell of New York was the only other entry.  Both ships were Monocoupes.  Little whipped his yellow, be-spattered racer home amid a volume of cheers a minute and four seconds ahead of Colonel Duell.  Little’s time: ten minutes, fourteen seconds.

The air, until the third event, had not been what you would call crowded, but for the free-for-all handicap a swarm arose.  A bit of everything seemed to be upstairs.  Tony Little streaked in with the field far behind, thereby netting another cheer.

The impossible always seems to occur in dead stick landing contests.  It did this time.  Tony Little in his felt hat and suspenders was towering over a mechanic who was helping wind yards of string around the Monocoupe’s brakes.  We solemnly requested Tony to win the contest as to give our story a high point.  He straightened up, pushed back his felt hat and wrinkled his nose.  Said pilot Little: “No use even trying with a racing plane.”

And so, after winning the swiftest high-speed event of the day, Tony sailed down from a thousand feet without shimmying and placed his nose 8 feet and 3 1/4 inches from the spot.  Wilkes came within 19 feet, 11 1/2 inches.  Floyd scraped to a halt 25 feet and 1 1/2 inches away.

You may note in the article above, L. Ron Hubbard says “Tony Little of Pylon”, referring to the Pylon Club which, at that time, was headed by Tony at his home base of Patco Field. The Pylon Club was a group of Sportsmen Pilots which assembled regularly to participate in a wide variety of aviation events.  Patco Field was located just five miles from Wings Field and the home of the Philadelphia Aviation Country Club, which also hosted similar events. Luckily, L. Ron Hubbard chronicled several of these events in the pages of Sportsman Pilot.

As to non-handicap races covering longer distances. Tony Little has just invented and run off the only really good type of race we have seen for private fliers. It was run recently at the Pylon Club near Philadelphia. Tony called it a “Class Race,” because the idea was stolen from the yacht clubbers who put a dozen or so identical sailboats up against each other. He gathered together nine owners of Lambert Monocoupes of the new design. He told them that at 2:00 P.M. on Saturday they were to be on the starting line, engines hot and gas tanks absolutely full, ready with maps for a 205-mile race over a course somewhere in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and/or Maryland.  Just before the race he announced the course and check points.  These were the hangars at:  -first, Pottstown; second, Lancaster (old airport); third, Baltimore (Curtiss-Wright Airport); and fourth, back to the starting point, the Pylon Club.

Monocoupes lined up at Patco Field ready to race.  NC12350 is the fifth ‘Coupe from the left.

He also told them that the scoring would be as follows: -fifty percent credit to the plane making fastest time, zero percent to the slowest and pro rata credit for those in between; also fifty per cent for the plane using the least gasoline, zero for the most and pro rata for those between. If you cogitate over the merits of this scoring system, the more you think about it the better it looks.  It puts a premium on excellent navigation at low altitude, a premium on properly choosing altitude versus head- or tail-wind, a premium on level flying and minimum use of controls in riding the bumps, and a premium on having your engine in good condition and your plane slicked up for speed. In other words, it is mainly a test of good piloting, as far as that particular race is concerned, and not a test of who has bought the fastest plane.

Tony managed the race well and started it exactly on time. He started the planes off at two-minute intervals so that no one could follow another’s trail. When the planes came in, he got the elapsed time of each, then filled the tanks level full of gas from accurate measuring cans to show how much each had used. Peculiarly enough, the winning plane had the lowest gas consumption, as well as the shortest elapsed time, scoring 100 per cent.  A number of the contestants missed and over-ran the Baltimore pylon and lost some valuable minutes

Charles Lindbergh and Clayton Folkerts at the Monocoupe Factory, 1934.

Tony loaned NC12350 to Charles Lindbergh for several local flights in the spring of 1934.  Lindbergh became interested in purchasing his own Monocoupe and used NC12350 for his flight to the Monocoupe factory to order his own ship, a specially modified D-145, which now hangs in the St. Louis airport.

 

 

 

The following advertisement appeared on Page 120 of the July 1936 issue of Aero Digest:

For sale:  Warner Monocoupe, cruises 135.  Fastest 125 Warner Monocoupe in Country; excellent; 330 hrs TT. Racing type landing gear, pants, Townend ring, special racing  cowling.  Yellow and black.  Bank & Turn, Rate of Climb, cylinder head temp, Pioneer clock.  If you are looking for plenty of power, this is the ship for you.  $2100.  No dealers.  Tony Little, Patco Field, Norristown, Pa.

NC12350 at Airman Acres airport in 1968.

Over the next 32 years NC12350 would pass through 4 owners who each had some degree of “incident”, mostly ground loops.  In 1968 the aircraft suffered major damage when the oil shut off valve was left in the off position and the engine seized on climb out following take off.  A 180 degree turn was initiated to return to the runway and the plane stalled and impacted the ground.  Both occupants survived, but the plane was badly damaged.