One or Two Long Range Aeronca's?
number of years ago there was a controversy regarding the two
Aeroncas that were used for long range flights in the years 1938 and
The first Aeronca was known as the "Johnny Jones" plane and
was used to fly non-stop across the US in 1938
That story is summarized here.
- The other was Tommy's Smith's plane known as the "Baby Clipper". Tommy attempted to fly the Atlantic in 1939.
Both planes had large built in fuel tanks.
records show they were two separate planes. Even
with a strong connection to the Aeronca facility were of this
opinion. Their scepticism of the idea that they were the same
aircraft was warranted, given the paper
trail. The official record shows the Jones plane was sold to
Bjorkvall, Swedish national and that in fact the serial
number of the Jones plane appears in the Swedish records. Records
also show that serial number as being attached registration
number AE-AHL which was owned by Kurt
Bjorkvall and Ake Forsmark. Unfortunately AE-AHL was written
off in a crash in 1940.
suspicions were raised when we requested and reviewed the FAA
file on the Jones plane, US reg # NX21300. It showed the
date of manufacture, correspondance between CAA and Aeronca and bit of repair history including the repair that
was preformed after a ground accident in Glendale, California.
Apparently another airplane taxied into the wing of the Jones
airplane. (that documented repair will prove useful later)
It also showed that after the transcontinental flight,
Aeronca was interested in selling their experimental aircraft. It
also showed Bjorkvall was interested in buying the plane and with intention of flying it back to Sweden.
Bjorkvall had already been involved in his own
aviation adventures when in 1936 he flew across the ocean in a Bellanca CH 400W
Pacemaker (SE-AFG). His flight was officially a failure since
he didn't actually make it to
Ireland, but rather crashed a bit short of the Irish coast. As side note
to that flight, he was to take the Barroness Eve Blixen–Fineche with him, but
abandoned her at the last minute. A decision he didn't
considering how difficult and dangerous the flight ended up being.
Interesting Bjorkvall decided to fill his Bellanca with
ping-pong balls in the event that he crashed it sea. It
looks like that was a good decision!
to the story at
hand. Bjorkvall wanted the Jones plane and intended to fly it
back to Sweden. He
approached Aeronca to buy the airplane for $1500.00 During the
negotiations he asked for US registration to be removed. Aeronca
complied. That was a hugh mistake. He was then
informed by the CAA that he could not re-register this Experimental
aircraft in United
States or Sweden. He was caught with a plane that no one
fly. There the story appears to end with
buying the Jones plane and being forced to boxed it up and ship it
Sweden where he registers it under AE-AHL and it crashes in 1940.
It is also known that Smith was also interested in the Jones plane 1and
also planned to fly the Atlantic. Records show Smith bought
his Aeronca just two
after Bjorkvall found out he could not re-register and fly the Jones plane across
the Atlantic. Interesting, Smith paid $3000 for
double what Bjorkvall was willing to pay. Smith's
delivered just weeks after his order, this is unusual as Aeronca production logs
during that period show a normal lead time on
a stock plane was between 10 and 14 weeks.
correspondence with Eric Bratt, the person who piloted AE-AHL when it crashed, he revealed that AE-AHL had no long-range fuel tanks and
had a normal tank, with the exception of small aux tank located in the back of the plane.
It was obvious that this was not the Jones plane, since it had two very large
tanks that were built into the structure of the airplane.
The following PowerPoint was produced a number of years ago by my friend
Russ. It shows in a real simple way, how it was made to look like
they were two long range Aeroncas. I suspect Tommy bought the Jones
airplane for $1500.00 and as a part of deal he also bought a new stock Aeronca
for Bjorkval which was boxed up and shipped to Sweden and became which became AE-AHL.
1 Letters to the Editor - Harris (Mac) McMann The Vintage Airplane 1985