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A history of the Aeronca, Bellanca, American Champion Family of Aircraft

By Tom Beamer - tom@theairport.com 
 

Page 1 - Aeronca Beginnings

Page 2 - Aeronca/Champion/Bellanca-Champion/American Champion Models

Page 3 - Early Aircraft Designations

Page 4 - The Citabria Era Designations

Page 5 - The 8 Series

Page 6 - And..

Page 7 - Structure (Fuselage and Wings)

 

Aeronca/Champion/Bellanca-Champion/American Champion Models

 

The number 7 designates the seventh Aeronca design, the letter A the first model in the series (G is the seventh model in the 7 series design), C is Continental powered (F for Franklin and L for Lycoming were never used because unlike prior Aeronca designs the Champion (Model 7) and Chief (Model 11) were never offered with Franklin or Lycoming engines due to the overwhelming success of the small Continentals in the post-war era. By the time Lycomings were installed the use of the second letter for engine manufacturer was superfluous because there were no other options within a given model and the letter C was frequently thought to stand for Champion, and later it could have stood for Citabria. M was used as a suffix to designate military models, confusingly some military models were sold on the civilian market minus military configuration and equipment. S was used as a prefix to designate seaplane models, with changes in regulations seaplane approval no longer required a separate certification so this was only used for four models. A was used for agricultural, aerobatic, and just to denote a subsequent version of a given model (7ACA). Some of the confusing usage of suffixes is due to changes of ownership and management but the first suffix letter clearly notes heritage within the original design sequence in the 7 series even if there were many subsequent changes and suffixes added.

All 7 series aircraft subsequent to the 7AC are approved as amendments to Type Certificate A-759 dated 18 October 1945, the TCDS is a wealth of valuable, and interesting information and should be downloaded and saved by anyone whos interest is more than simply fueling and flying, anything installed on an airworthy aircraft must be listed on the TCDS, be approved on a STC, or be Field Approved. A-759 approval conforms to CAR 4 with subsequent amendments by the FAA and requires a hands off spin recovery in 1.5 turns from a 6 turn spin, the Citabria (Airbatic spelled in reverse) was the first aircraft certified in the new aerobatic Category. With the current interest in aerobatics, and a plethora of excellent dedicated aerobatic mounts, it is easy to forget that when the Citabria was certified it began a rebirth of aerobatics. Prior to the Citabria aerobatics usually meant a tired old biplane, an equally tired WWII trainer, or a Clipwing Cub. In todays world of high performance aerobatic mounts its easy to lose sight of the fact that the original Citabria was arguably a better aerobatic performer than the common stock biplanes in limited use, very limited use, as aerobatic trainers in the mid-60s.

The 8 series aircraft are certified under Type Certificate A21CE dated 16 October 1970; these aircraft comply with the modern FAR 23 certification standards. The reason Champion certified the Decathlon under FAR 23 and a new TC was that FAR 23 allowed use of flight controls for spin recovery thereby allowing design, and approval, of a better aerobatic aircraft. Subsequently the 8GCBC was approved as an amendment to A21CE because the relaxed spin recovery requirement of FAR 23 allowed a higher gross weight and wider CG range. Given that the two 8 series aircraft are simply Part 23 derivatives of comparable 7 series aircraft the only designation change was the number.

There are too many detailed differences between models, and even options within a given model to list. There are differences in structure, approved and required equipment, rigging, weight and balance limits, landing gear, engine, etc. A close reading of the TCDS for the model of interest is required to gain further insight.

One important difference between CAR 4 and current Parts 23 standards is that early production aircraft were only required to have a Table of Operations Limitations on board, this was typically a single 8.5X11 sheet that simply listed aircraft, engine, and weight and balance limits, there were rarely any detailed charts or descriptions of procedures or systems. Aircraft produced after 1 March 1979 are required to have an FAA Approved AFM on board for operations.
 

Page 1 - Aeronca Beginnings

Page 2 - Aeronca/Champion/Bellanca-Champion/American Champion Models

Page 3 - Early Aircraft Designations

Page 4 - The Citabria Era Designations

Page 5 - The 8 Series

Page 6 - And..

Page 7 - Structure (Fuselage and Wings)

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