By: Norm Goyer
North American introduced the Navion and L-17 in 1948. It was built on the same production line as the famous P-51 Mustang.
Thanks to Wikipedia for facts regarding the Navion. NG
Now here is an interesting aircraft, both in conception, flying and modifications. I had the use of a 285-hp version for several years and really enjoyed flying it. If it had had a 300-hp Lycoming, instead of a trouble prone light case Continental I would have loved it even more. At the time Apple Valley Airport was the home for five highly-modified Navions owned by local professionals, including a doctor, dentist and business men. One of the owners, Ozzie Osborne, also produced wing tip tanks for the Navion; his personal bird was really tricked out. The Navion I flew also had tip tanks, wheel and tail conversion which were popular at the time. I would have to say the Navion was one of my all time favorite aircraft, not perfect, but a very fine aircraft.
North American Aviation’s Navion was released to the flying public in 1948, a great year for highly innovative aircraft. Private aviation aircraft had been made mostly of tube and fabric. The planes had been designed prewar and resurrected post war, not all were suitable for post war sales. The ones that succeeded, included the Beechcraft Bonanza, North American Navion, Cessna 195 and Republic Sea Bee all utilized technologies honed by wartime aviation experiences. After World War II ended, North American and Republic were sitting on huge inventories and had production lines which had built Mustangs, B-25s and Thunderbolts. The marketing departments of these firms really believed that there would be a post war aviation boom with the thousands of returning pilots looking to purchase a plane for their own transportation needs. It did make sense, but it never happened. North American’s Mustang for the masses was the Navion design Its pugnacious military look did capture the imagination of many high profile pilots. I had to sell several which I had taken in on new aircraft, in my opinion, the company was ignoring women in its design. It was a macho airplane, both in looks and climbing into the cockpit. I found that women did not like it. The wing was too high off the ground, it had no doors, but a sliding canopy which demanded an ungainly access to the rear seats, which included climbing over the side of the fuselage. Once inside, it was comfortable and the visibility was good, but a lack of opening windows was also a negative factor.
The Navion Rangemaster had a different cockpit including a real door, windows and five seats. It also had a huge fuel capacity for a very long range, thus the name Rangemaster.
Early versions sold by North American used a Continental 185/205 hp engines, very underpowered. But, the Army Air Force jumped on it immediately as a perfect trainer for their college courses for future Army pilots. Army L-17As were used in many different roles. Its macho looks was very responsible for the Army’s purchase. The very visible Crocker Snow, Massachusetts Director of Airports, tooled around the Commonwealth in his personal L-17A. Then the Korean conflict heated up and North American geared up for F-86 jet production with designers hard at work on the T-28 to replace the T-6 for advanced training. North American sold the rights to the Navion to Ryan Aeronautical. Between various companies over 2,500 Navions were sold. Ryan alone produced over 1,200 model B and Cs with 260-hp Continental engines. The design was later sold to Tubular Steel Corporation, TUSCO, took over production of the Navion in the mid 1950s, manufacturing D, E and F models some with tip tanks and flush rivets. Navion TUSCO aircraft were manufactured from 1961 to 1976. Their production followed that of earlier canopy-model Navion aircraft. In addition to the 39.5-gallon main fuel tanks, the TUSCO Navion Rangemaster added tip tanks with 34 gallons each. The total fuel capacity of 107.5 gallons gave these Navions the range for which they are named. TUSCO also introduced the Navion Rangemaster G model in 1960, which incorporated all previous advancements including replacing the Navion’s sliding canopy with a side door, enlarged the cabin, created five separate seats, and standardized use of tip tanks and larger, late-model Continental engines. An H Model was produced as well the by Navion Aircraft Company, during a short production run ending in 1976, during one of several attempts to restore the airplane to commercial viability.
Both Camair and Temco produced after-market, twin-engine conversions. The one shown is a Camair 480. This Twin Navion had two 240 Continental engines. Very nice aircraft.
Both Temco and Camair produced after market twin-engine conversions, one with twin 240 hp engines, which produced a very high-performance, light-twin. I always wanted to fly one of those, but never found one. Most airworthy Navions have now been highly modified by their owners.
The instrument panel was well laid out. Controls were well balanced and there was a lot of room for added instruments and navcoms.
Specifications for Navion A and L-17
- Crew: one, pilot
- Capacity: three passengers
- Length: 27.25 ft
- Wingspan: 33.38 ft
- Height: 8.53 ft
- Wing area: 184 ft²
- Loaded weight: 2,750 lb
- Engine: Continental E185 flat-6 piston engine, 185/205 hp