The Golden Age of Spartan

Separating Myth form Reality

By Jim Savage

The Spartan Aircraft Company will forever be remembered for producing the Spartan Executive, one of the most innovative and desirable aircraft ever designed during the Golden Age of Aviation.  Accompanying the fame of such a distinctive and memorable piece of aviation art are the inevitable myths and misunderstandings regarding production numbers, features and the ultimate disposition of individual aircraft. Fortunately, documentation and photographic evidence still exist to provide a complete and accurate history of the Spartan Executive and related models produced by Spartan Aircraft Company from 1935 through 1946.

The first Spartan airplane was built in 1926 and like most airplanes of that era, it was a fabric covered biplane.  From that starting point through 1934, a variety of designs were constructed, ranging from two seat, low powered training or sport aircraft, to biplanes to high wing monoplanes capable of seating five.  While these were generally regarded as good airplanes, Spartan never achieved the commercial success of other prominent aircraft manufacturers of the time.  In an attempt to change that situation, Spartan’s seventh basic airplane design was not only leading edge for the time, but was destined to eventually be regarded as an art deco masterpiece.

The basic premise of the design was to have an airplane that was both fast and luxurious and would appeal to corporate executives.  Targeted performance was 200 miles per hour with a range of 1000 miles, while providing the comfort of a fine limousine.   The new airplane was designed by James B. Ford and consisted of an all aluminum exterior instead of the traditional fabric covering used on most other period airplanes.  Two models were originally envisioned; the Standard Seven that would be powered by a 260 H.P. Jacobs engine and the Super Seven that would be powered by a 400 H.P. Pratt & Whitney engine.  

The initial experimental prototype was powered by an experimental 260 H.P. Jacobs engine with a Hamilton Standard two blade adjustable propeller.  Construction began in 1935 and it first flew on March 8, 1936.  This aircraft was designated as a 7X, representing the seventh basic model developed by Spartan.  The registration number was X-13994, with the X representing the experimental status.  The test flights indicated a need for significant design changes and more power. The engine was upgraded to a certified 285 H.P. Jacobs engine with a Curtiss-Reed fixed pitch propeller. What emerged from the factory after the design changes were made was an airplane quite similar in appearance to what we now recognize as a Spartan Executive.  It also marked the genesis of confusing and sometimes conflicting model designations. Following is a copy of the initial experimental license issued by the US Bureau of Air Commerce on March 5, 1936.

While it is generally accepted that thirty-four Spartan Executives (technically designated as Spartan 7W) were built, two additional aircraft that look like a Spartan Executive were constructed, as well as two other models based on the Spartan Executive. That represents a total of 38 actual “executive inspired” aircraft constructed from 1936 through 1946, a period of time I refer to as The Golden Age of Spartan.  Adding to the confusion was Spartan’s propensity to issue performance information and sales brochures for model variations that represented design concepts and not completed airplanes. 

Beginning with the initial prototype, X13984, I will provide a brief history of each of the thirty-eight aircraft mentioned above.  In instances where misinformation exists, I will try to provide provable facts.

X13984 – First built with a Jacobs 260 H.P. engine, a distinctive engine cowling and an ineffective and minimalist rudder.  It can best be described as an Ugly Duckling.  This airframe was then extensively modified to look like the production model Spartan Executives that were eventually built.

While used extensively for testing purposes, NX13984 never moved out of the experimental category and the experimental registration expired November 15, 1939.  It was subsequently used as a training aid by the Spartan School of Aeronautics.  Its final known use was as a movie prop in a 1940s Hollywood movie titled Tarzan and the Huntress.  The ultimate disposition of this airframe is unknown.

As a footnote, an early picture of X13984 has the word “Executive” painted in script on the left and right sides of the cowling.  This is the first indication of a move away from the Standard Seven and Super Seven model designations.  A September 1936 issue of Aero Digest also refers to the airplane as a Spartan Executive.

X13986 – Although many sources identify the second 7 series airplane with this registration number, it was never an actual number used by Spartan on any airplane. An article was written that appeared in the September 1936 issue of Aero Digest.   The cover of that September magazine shows two Spartans, the 7X prototype with registration number X13984 on the ground and a second airplane in flight wearing registration number X13986. Although never stated as such, the cover picture and the related article leads the reader of the magazine to believe these are two different airplanes, with the one on the ground being the first prototype and the one in the second prototype. Unfortunately, that article and more specifically the picture have created a level of confusion around the specifics of the initial version of the second prototype airframe. That confusion remains today. The airplane shown in flight is a doctored version of the 7X with a fictitious registration number. The registration number chosen was also problematic since it was in use by another non-Spartan aircraft at that time. 

When initially constructed, the second prototype incorporated design changes that would have been difficult or impossible to retrofit into the initial prototype. Although quite similar to that would ultimately be the Spartan Executive 7W, it further evolved into a model 7W-P with serial number 1.  The 7 in the model number is an identification of the basic design, the W indicates a Wasp engine  (P&W R-985) and the P designates it as a Photo Reconnaissance model.  This model was awarded Type Certificate No. 646 on June 28, 1937. The airplane was sold to China Airmotive Co. in Shanghai and had the number 1309 painted on the side prior to shipping to China.  Vintage pictures of the airplane in a severely damaged state have resulted in the generally accepted belief the airplane no longer exists.  

NX13992 – This was the first production 7W built and carries serial number 7W-1.  It was built and sold prior to the ultimate Type Certificate No. 628 being issued.  As such, it was issued an NX experimental registration prefix on November 9, 1936 and never received a NC certified registration prefix. The airplane was sold in early 1937 and the NX registration was cancelled January 18, 1937.  The ultimate Type Certificate for the 7W series was issued February 15, 1937.  The airplane was sold to noted Mexican aviator Colonel Roberto Fierro and exported to Mexico as XA-BES in early 1937.  Some sources indicate this aircraft was subsequently exported to Spain.

 NC13993 – The second production 7W was sold to Olsen Drilling Company in early 1937. Some sources indicate it was impressed into military service with the USAAF during World War II, however, those sources never show a military registration number.  The reason is simple, this airplane maintained US civilian registration number NC13993 throughout the war and was never directly owned or operated by the USAAF. The underlying story is a bit more complicated.  Prior to the US entering the war with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, three British training schools were established in the US to train US pilots for service in the RAF with one of the three Eagle Squadrons.  To circumvent Neutrality Act restrictions, non-military aircraft had to be used for all training. For the advanced portion of the training program, two of the three British training schools used Spartan Executives.  A branch of the Spartan School of Aeronautics was one of those schools and NC13993 was acquired  February 12, 1941 for training future RAF pilots for Eagle Squadron service.  After the US entered the war in late 1941, the need for this arrangement disappeared. The British, who actually owned the airplane, offered it to the US Government. On June 17, 1943, it was transferred to the Defense Plant Corporation. Instead of transferring it the USAAF, an arrangement was made for the Spartan School to continue to use it their training program for US military pilots.  It remained in the name of Defense Plant Corporation until March 20, 1944 when it was actually sold to Spartan. The aircraft continued to be operated by Spartan until they sold it April 17, 1946.  By one definition, this Spartan is a Warbird, by another definition, it is not.  Regardless of the definition, it provided desperately needed training services for both the RAF and the USAAF before and during World War II. A similar history exists for S/N 6.  A current image of S/N 2 follows.

S/N 2 – NC13993

This aircraft is sometimes erroneously cited as being the only Spartan Executive to have been built with “stick” controls instead of the normal control yoke.  While the airplane does currently have a stick configuration, this modification was performed in 1953.  A copy of the 337 from 1953 covering that modification is shown below.

The airplane is currently owned by EAA Aviation Foundation and is displayed at the EAA Museum located at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  It was one of the eight Spartans displayed at AirVenture 2016.

NC13994 – Serial number 3 was sold to Transportes Aeras Jalisco – Mexico and exported to Mexico as XA-BEW.  Some sources indicate this aircraft was exported to Spain. Ultimate fate of aircraft is unknown although the generally accepted belief is that it no longer exists.

NC13997 – Serial number 4 was sold to Transportes Aeras Jalisco – Mexico and exported to Mexico as XA-BEX.  Some sources indicate this aircraft was exported to Spain.  Ultimate fate of the aircraft is unknown although a generally accepted belief is that it no longer exists.  

NC13998 – Serial number 5 was sold to General Saturnino Cedillo and exported to Mexico as XA-CFX. Ultimate fate of the aircraft is unknown although a generally accepted belief is that it no longer exists.  

NC17601 – Serial number 6 was originally sold to Lee Drilling Company. Some sources indicate it was impressed into military service with the USAAF during World War II, however, those sources never show a military registration number.  The reason is simple, this airplane maintained US civilian registration number NC17601 throughout the war and was never directly operated by the USAAF.  

The underlying story is a bit more complicated.  Prior to the US entering the war with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, three British training schools were established in the US to train US pilots for service in the RAF with one of the three Eagle Squadrons.  To circumvent Neutrality Act restrictions, non-military aircraft had to be used for all training. For the advanced portion of the training program, two of the three British training schools used Spartan Executives.  A branch of the Spartan School of Aeronautics was one of those schools and NC17601 was acquired December 26, 1940 for training future RAF pilots for Eagle Squadron service.  After the US entered the war in late 1941, the need for this arrangement disappeared. The British, who actually owned the airplane, offered it to the US Government.  On June 17, 1943, it was transferred to the Defense Plant Corporation. Instead of transferring it the USAAF, an arrangement was made for the Spartan School to continue to use it their training program for US military pilots. It remained in the name of Defense Plant Corporation until 3/20/44 when it was actually sold to Spartan. The aircraft continued to be operated by Spartan until they sold it April 23, 1947. By one definition, this Spartan is a Warbird, by another definition, it is not. Regardless of the definition, it provided desperately needed training services for both the RAF and the USAAF before and during World War II. A similar history exists for S/N 2.  

The airplane remains on the US Registry and was one of the eight Spartans displayed at AirVenture 2016. A current image of S/N 6 follows.

S/N 6 – NC17601

NC17602 – Serial number 7 was originally sold (or loaned) for use in President Roosevelt’s 1937 Infantile Paralysis campaign and named “New Hope”.  It was then purchased by Claude Drilling Company.  The final owner to operate the airplane was Morrison Knudson Corp. While on a survey mission, the airplane was destroyed in an emergency landing in Alaska on June 2, 1944. The wreckage was retrieved and is currently preserved by the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum in Anchorage, AK.

NC17603 – Serial number 8 was sold to United Sugar Company and exported to Mexico as XB-BAX. The airplane was destroyed in an accident in 1939.

NC17604 – Serial Number 9 was originally sold to Lucy Products Company of  Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Prior to the US entering the war with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, three British training schools were established in the US to train US pilots for service in the RAF with one of the three Eagle Squadrons.  To circumvent Neutrality Act restrictions, non-military aircraft had to be used for all training.  For the advanced portion of the training program, two of the three British training schools used Spartan Executives.  A new school named Polaris Flight Academy was opened in Lancaster CA and NC17604 was acquired by them early in 1941 for training future RAF pilots for Eagle Squadron service.  After the US entered the war in late 1941, the need for this arrangement disappeared. The British, who actually owned the airplane, reassigned it to the RAF Ferry Command in Montreal on December 28, 1942. It was registered as KD 100 and remained in service with the RAF until late summer, 1945.  Because the airplane was flown in Canada, some publications erroneously list this Spartan as having served with the Royal Canadian Air Force. The aircraft was returned to civilian ownership in the US after the war and reregistered as NC17604. It was destroyed and salvaged for parts in 1954. A similar military history exists for S/N’s 16 and 17.

NC17605 – Serial number 10 is an airplane with an interesting and sometimes confusing history.  Construction S/N 10 was finished on November 1, 1937 and was first registered in the name of Spartan Aircraft Company on November 15, 1937.  The airplane was sold to Bodine Drilling Company on December 15, 1938 and they sold it to Arlene Davis on August 24, 1939. She had the airplane temporarily modified with long-range fuel tanks that increased fuel capacity from 112 gallons to 332 gallons.  Oil capacity was increased from 7 gallons to 13-3/4 gallons. Arlene flew the modified Spartan in the 1939 Bendix Trophy Race, finishing 5thoverall. The aircraft was acquired by the US Government on July 2, 1942 and served the USAAF as 42-68361. Arlene Davis reacquired S/N 10 on November 22, 1944 and it was reregistered as NC17605.  It has changed hands several times since 1944, but remains on the current FAA registry.

During the period between November 1, 1937, when initial construction of S/N 10 was completed until the time it was sold to Bodine Drilling Company on December 15, 1938, numerous modifications were made that were incorporated into all subsequent Executives.  This included a different radio, a modified landing gear system, a larger oil cooler, a different windshield, and some changes to induction and exhaust features. All of the changes made to this airplane are detailed in the Airworthiness file maintained by the Federal Aviation Administration. 

Around the same time S/N 10 was receiving the above modifications, Spartan Aircraft produced a brochure for a military version of the Spartan Executive that was referred to as the 7F. The “F” in the designation signified a fighter version. The brochure included pictures of the 7F depicting a roof-mounted rear facing machine gun, using the registration number and distinctive paint design of S/N 10.  Other modifications included forward guns that would fire through the turning propeller and wing racks for mounting ten 25 pound bombs. 

This has led to confusion as to whether an airframe was actually modified into an actual 7F and then converted back to a conventional 7W.  There are publications and online reference material that claim S/N 10 was actually converted to a 7F and then back to a 7W.  

A review of the S/N 10 airworthiness records shows no information whatsoever regarding any of the extensive modifications that would have been made for either the conversion to a 7F or back to a 7W.  Additionally, a critical look at the pictures in the brochure lead most observers to the conclusion they are looking at an image that is something other than an actual photograph.  In addition to the non military improvements made to this airframe that were incorporated into subsequent 7W production, S/N 10 was flown 190 hours by Spartan Aircraft Company during the time period beginning with the date S/N 10 came off the production line until it was sold to Bodine Drilling Company.  Finally, the airworthiness records associated with this airplane show detailed weight and balance information which includes lists of all installed equipment on the dates of June 14, August 29 and October 22, 1938. In all cases, there is nothing of a military nature included on those records.  Considering all of the factors involved, it is clear the 7F was no more than a concept put forth by Spartan as a trial balloon to gauge possible military interest and was never an actual airplane or temporary modification of an existing airplane.

NC20200 – Serial number 11 has a unique registration number that was requested by the original purchaser, Halliburton, an oil well cementing company located in Oklahoma. Like many Executives, it was impressed into military service with USAAF, wearing registration number 42-43846. After the war, it was returned to civilian ownership, and reregistered as NC20200.  It remains on the current US registry and was one of the eight Spartans on display at AirVenture 2016.  A current image of S/N 11 follows.

S/N 11 – NC20200

NC17613 – Serial number 12 was originally sold to American Manufacturing Company of Fort Worth, Texas. It was impressed into service with the USAAF in 1942 as 42-38265.  When returned to civilian ownership in 1944, it was once again registered at NC17613.  Some sources suggest S/N 12 was once owned by Howard Hughes. However, a thorough review of FAA registration records for SN 12, as well as all other Spartan Executives, shows no evidence othat Mr. Hughes ever owned a Spartan Executive.  See related comments on this subject under NC17616, serial number 15. S/N 13 remains on the current US registry and was one of the eight Spartans on display at AirVenture 2016.  A current image of S/N 12 follows.

S/N 12 – NC17613

NC17614 – Serial number 13 was originally sold to Standard Oil of Ohio. It was impressed into service with the USAAF in 1942 as 42-38269. After the war, it was once again registered as NC17614.  The registration number was changed to N13PH when purchased by Mr. Pat Hartness, founder of the Triple Tree Aerodrome in SC. It remains on the current US registry as N13PH and was one of the eight Spartans on display at AirVenture 2016.  A current image of S/N 13 follows.

S/N 13 – NC13PH

NC17615 – Serial number 14 was completed November 5, 1937 and was owned by Spartan Aircraft until September 22, 1940 when it was sold to Arthur J. Olson. Prior to that sale,  S/N 14 had a short but colorful history.  In 1938, it was flown by Charles LaJatte to 6th place in the Bendix Trophy Race.  It was also featured in a John Wayne movie titled Overland Stage Raiders, a movie released in 1938. Like many other Spartan Executives, it was impressed into service with the USAAF in 1942 as 42-38368.  However, unlike most of the other Spartans that returned to civilian ownership, it did not return to its pre-war registration number of NC17615. Instead, it was issued NC49075.  In 1970, the registration number was changed to N111PB while owned by Paul Brice.  S/N 30 also shows a registration number of N111PB, a second Spartan owned by Mr. Brice at a different time.  Finally, in 1975, it was changed back to the original NC17615, a number it still carries.  Although still registered in the USA, S/N 14 now resides in England. An image of S/N 14 from 2006 follows.

S/N 14 – NC17615

NC17616 – Serial number 15 was completed in March, 1938 and retained and flown by Spartan Aircraft Company for a total of 352 hours before being sold to Hickok Manufacturing Company in Rochester, NY. It was impressed into service with the USAAF in 1942 as 42-57515. During a portion of the time S/N 15 was owned by the USAAF, it was made available to Howard Hughes in conjunction with his role in the War Bond Campaign.  His use of this airplane is the likely source of the many unsubstantiated assertions that he once owned a Spartan Executive.  In November 1943, ownership was transferred from the USAAF to the Civil Aeronautics Authority and registration number NC836 was assigned. The airplane was returned to civilian ownership in August 1947 and remained registered as NC836 until 2001 when it was finally returned to NC17616, the airplane’s original registration number. It remains on the US registry and was one of the eight Spartans on display at AirVenture 2016.  A current image of S/N 15 follows.

S/N 15 – NC17616

NC17617 – Serial number 16 was originally sold to Seismograph Services Company of Oklahoma. Prior to the US entering the war with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, three British training schools were established in the US to train US pilots for service in the RAF with one of the three Eagle Squadrons.  To circumvent Neutrality Act restrictions, non-military aircraft had to be used for all training.  For the advanced portion of the training program, two of the three British training schools used Spartan Executives.  A new school named Polaris Flight Academy was opened in Lancaster CA and NC17617 was acquired by them early in December 1940 for training future RAF pilots for Eagle Squadron service.  After the US entered the war in late 1941, the need for this arrangement disappeared. The British, who actually owned the airplane, reassigned it to the RAF Ferry Command in Montreal on December 28, 1942. It was registered as KD 101 and remained in service with the RAF until late summer, 1945.  Because the airplane was flown in Canada, some publications erroneously list this Spartan as having served with the Royal Canadian Air Force. The aircraft was returned to civilian ownership in the US after the war and reregistered as NC17617. It remains on the US registry.  A similar military history exists for S/N’s 9 and 17.  A current image of S/N 16 follows.

S/N 16 – NC17617

NC17630 – Serial number 17 was originally sold to Claude Drilling Company of Oklahoma.  Prior to the US entering the war with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, three British training schools were established in the US to train US pilots for service in the RAF with one of the three Eagle Squadrons. To circumvent Neutrality Act restrictions, non-military aircraft had to be used for all training.  For the advanced portion of the training program, two of the three British training schools used Spartan Executives.  A new school named Polaris Flight Academy was opened in Lancaster CA and NC17630 was acquired by them early in December 1940 for training future RAF pilots for Eagle Squadron service.  After the US entered the war in late 1941, the need for this arrangement disappeared.  The British, who actually owned the airplane, reassigned it to the RAF Ferry Command in Montreal on December 28, 1942.  It was registered as KD 102 and remained in service with the RAF until late summer, 1945. Because the airplane was flown in Canada, some publications erroneously list this Spartan as having served with the Royal Canadian Air Force. The aircraft was returned to civilian ownership in the US after the war and reregistered as NC17630. The registration number was changed to N1MJ in the mid 50’s when purchased by Malcolm Jacobs. It was changed again in 1994 to NC17667 and finally to NC17634 in 2008.  It remains on the US registry and was one of the eight Spartans on display at AirVenture 2016. A similar military history exists for S/N’s 9 and 16. A current image of S/N 17 follows.

S/N 17 – NC17634

NC17631 – Serial number 18 was first purchased by Edward K. Warren from Three Oaks, Michigan. It was impressed into service with the USAAF in 1942 as 42-38267.  After the war it was assigned registration number NC4444.  It remains on the US registry as N4444.

YI-SOF (Iraq) – Serial number 19 was a Spartan Executive with luxurious upgrades that had been ordered by King Ghazi of Iraq.  Unfortunately, King Ghazi was killed in an auto accident on April 4, 1939, approximately one month before S/N 19 was finished.  Although originally destined for a life of grandeur, the airplane was procured by the British RAF.  While in the RAF, it was registered as AX666. The airplane was destroyed in a landing accident at Montrose, Scotland in January 1941. 

NC17632 – Serial number 20 was originally purchased by Wynn-Crosby Drilling Company of Texas. It was impressed into service with the USAAF in 1942 as 42-57514.  It was wrecked and burned in an accident in Mooresville, SC on November 17, 1942.

NC17633 – Serial number 21 was originally purchased by Rock Glycerin Company of Odessa, Texas. It was impressed into service with the USAAF in 1942 as 42-38367.  After the war, it was once again registered as NC17633. Although still registered in the USA, S/N 21 now resides in England.

NC17659 – Serial number 22 was originally purchased by Standard Oil of Ohio.  It remains on the US Registry as NC17659.  An image from 2004 follows.

S/N 22 – NC17659

NC17661 – Serial number 23 was originally purchased by J. I. Roberts Drilling Company of Louisiana. It was impressed into service with the USAAF in 1942 as 42-78037.  After the war, it was registered as NC 58300.  On October 20, 1946, S/N 23 crashed and was destroyed by fire.

NC17655 – Serial number 24 was originally purchased by Thomson Management in NY.  It was impressed into service with the USAAF in 1942 as 42-38268.  After the war it was again registered as NC17655.  On April 11, 1952, S/N 24 crashed in Casper, WY and was destroyed. 

NC17656 – S/N 25 was originally purchased by Luzier’s Inc. in Kansas City, MO.  It was impressed into service with the USAAF in 1942 as 42-38288.  On May 29, 1943, S/N 25 was assigned to the Pacific Wing, Air Transport Command, Hickam Field, HI. It returned to the US January 24, 1945 and was returned to civilian ownership as NC17656 on July 12, 1945 when it was purchased by renowned aviator Paul Mantz. S/N 25 was reregistered as N47W in 1954 and still wears that registration number today.  Although still registered in the US, S/N 25 was relocated to France in 2017.

NC17657 – Serial number 26 was first purchased by the Des Moines Register and Tribune in Des Moines, IA. It was impressed into service with the USAAF in 1942 as 42-38266.  After the war, it was again registered as NC17657.  S/N 26 was subsequently registered as N46481 in 1951 and was then exported in 1964. In 1969, S/N 26 returned to the US and was assigned registration number N5053, which is still used today.  An image from 2005 follows. 

S/N 26 – NC5053

NC17658 – Serial number 27 was first purchased by Thompson Equipment Company in Jamaica, NY.  It remains on the US Registry as NC17658.  S/N 27 has appeared in two full-length movies: Academy Award Winner – When Worlds Collideand Jungle Flight.

NC17662 – S/N 28 was kept by Spartan until 1968. The airplane was first flown March 26, 1940 and by November 26, 1940 had accumulated 135 hours while being used by Spartan.  At that time, a dual control yoke was installed as a replacement for the original single throw-over style that was originally installed.  This change occurred at the same time Spartan acquired S/N’s 2 and 6, for the purpose of training US pilots for RAF Eagle Squadron service.  Training Contract A-5001 between Spartan School of Aeronautics and the British Air Commission called for three Spartan Executives to be used as advanced trainers. Over the next 12 months, S/N 28 quickly accumulated another 609 hours, so it seems probable it was the third 7W called for in the contract and was being used in the same manner as S/N’s 2 and 6. See the explanation of the RAF training role shown for those serial numbers.  It remains on the US registry and was one of the eight Spartans on display at AirVenture 2016.  It currently resides in the Mid-America Flight Museum in Mt. Pleasant, TX.  A current image of S/N 28 is shown below.

S/N 28 – NC17662

NC17663 – S/N 29 was purchased by Corning Glass Works in NY.  It was operated by them until March 21, 1942 when it was destroyed near Harrisburg, PA in a weather related accident.

NC17664 – S/N 30 was acquired by Westchester Airplane Sales in NY, NY and subsequently sold to Matilda R. Wilson in Detroit, MI.  It was impressed into service with the USAAF in 1942 as 42-38369.  After the war, it was again registered as NC17664.  In the mid 70’s the registration number was changed to N111PB while owned by Paul Brice.  S/N 14 also shows a registration number of N111PB, a second Spartan owned by Mr. Brice at a different time.  In 2002 it was returned to the original registration number of NC18664.  It remains on the US registry with that number. An image from 2005 follows.

S/N 30 – NC17664

NC17665 – S/N 31 was originally purchased by Barklay K. Douglas from NY, NY. It was impressed into service with the USAAF in 1942 as 42-38287.  After the war, it was registered as NC46426, a number it retained until 1974 when it was once again registered as NC17665.  It remains on the US registry with that number.  An image from 2007 follows.

N/C 31 – NC17665

NC17666 – S/N 32 was originally purchased by V.T.C. Lines, Inc. in Harlan KY.  It was sold to Pump Engineering Service Corp in Cleveland, Ohio and was subsequently destroyed in a fire in April 1949.

NC17667 – S/N 33 was first purchased by Standard Oil of Ohio. It was  impressed into service with the USAAF in 1942 as 42-38286. The airplane was destroyed in a ground loop accident October 1, 1942 while being operated by the USAAF.

NC17668 – S/N 34 was first purchased by The Texas Company in NY, NY.  In 1958 the registration number was changed to N668MD, then to N1667D in 1968. The final change was to N34SE in 1969. It remains on the US Registry as N34SE. 

A number of Spartan information sources indicate this particular aircraft was “zero timed” by Spartan Aircraft Company in January 1953.  The claim is, in fact, incorrect.  Spartan Aircraft produced the last model 7W in 1941 and built the last airplane of any type in 1946.  Once the aircraft production activities ceased, Spartan had three separate businesses. They included a trailer (mobile home) construction business, the Spartan School of Aeronautics and the Spartan Aero Repair business.  In the early to mid 50’s, Spartan Aero completely refurbished several Spartan Executives. The refurbishment included conversion to a 28 volt electrical system, replacement of the troublesome pneumatic flaps with electric flaps, new interiors, and any other necessary repairs. In all cases, the airframe time continued, which is what was required by CAA regulations and is still required by FAA regulations.  

The situation with S/N 34 can easily be sorted out by simply looking at CAA/FAA airworthiness records associated with that airframe.  Prior to 1956, a new airworthiness certificate was required to be issued each year.  To obtain the certificate, a comprehensive application that included airframe and engine times needed to be submitted to and approved by the CAA.  In the case of S/N 34, an initial application dated June 18, 1954 was submitted to the CAA requesting the issuance of a new airworthiness certificate.  On the application, total airframe hours was listed as 00:00 hours and total engine time was listed as 574.55. This is undoubtedly where the misinformation about a zero timed airframe originated. The application, as submitted, was neverapproved. A copy of the unapproved application is shown below.

The situation with S/N 34 can easily be sorted out by simply looking at CAA/FAA airworthiness records associated with that airframe.  Prior to 1956, a new airworthiness certificate was required to be issued each year.  To obtain the certificate, a comprehensive application that included airframe and engine times needed to be submitted to and approved by the CAA.  In the case of S/N 34, an initial application dated June 18, 1954 was submitted to the CAA requesting the issuance of a new airworthiness certificate.  On the application, total airframe hours was listed as 00:00 hours and total engine time was listed as 574.55. This is undoubtedly where the misinformation about a zero timed airframe originated. The application, as submitted, was never approved. A copy of that unapproved application is shown below.

 A second application was then submitted that listed the airframe hours as 2975.05 and engine hours as 574.55.  That application was approved on July 16, 1954. A copy of the approved application, showing a continuation of airframe hours, is show below.

On the following year’s application, the airframe hours was 3179.45 and the engine hours 779.35, further proof the “zero timed” notion is incorrect. Both the unapproved and the approved applications submitted in 1954, along with the subsequent approved application submitted in 1955 are contained in the current FAA airworthiness files for S/N 34.

NX21962 was the next “executive inspired” aircraft to be built.  Unlike the traditional 7W’s, it was built with a tricycle gear arrangement and was designated the model 12W.  Only one example was built in the Experimental category, so a type certificate was never issued.  The vast number of surplus military aircraft available to the public after the war was probably the biggest factor in making the decision to not move forward with this design.  The lone example of this model now resides in the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, not far from where the airplane was built 70 plus years ago.  An image from 2005 follows.

Model 12W – NC21962

NX17612 is the final example of “executive inspired” aircraft to be covered in this document. The actual designation was 8W but it is generally referred to as the Spartan Zeus. It was constructed in 1937 and various attempts were made to market it to both the US military and the militaries of other countries.  With that in mind, the first paint design consisted of Mexican military markings.  Ultimately, no orders were ever received by Spartan and the airplane became a training tool for aviation maintenance students at the Spartan School of Aeronautics.

In total, 38 “executive inspired” airplanes were built during The Golden Age of Spartan.  They included one original prototype, one 7W-P, 34 production 7W’s, one 8W Zeus and one tricycle gear 12W.  While few in number, they have achieved the status of one of the most desirable and most valuable of all pre-war vintage civilian airplanes.  For those of us who own one, it doesn’t get any better.

I’ll end with one final comment.  There are many outrageous assertions about Spartan Executives or derivatives that show up in publications and on Internet sites.  Ones like the production run of 4 or 5 Zeus 8W’s that appears on Wikipedia as a “fact” or another like the shipload of 7W’s that were sunk while being delivered to Spain during their Civil War.  Simply stated, if it isn’t one of the airframes covered in the above paragraphs, then it doesn’t now nor did it ever exist.

Note – Unless indicated otherwise, all photos taken by Jim Savage.

END