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Sanders Aeronautics' Luscombe 8E


Home Base: Ione, CA
Model: 8E
Wing Span:
32' 1"
Length: 20' 11"
Height: 6' 6"
Max Speed: 136 mph
Gross Weight: 1,725 lbs
Power Plant: Continental
Horsepower: 85

Sanders Aeronautics has owned three different Luscombes since 1976. The current Luscombe was built in 1947 and is equipped with a 85 HP Continental engine.

Don Luscombe was active in the aircraft manufacturing business for many years prior to producing his signature aircraft, the Luscombe Model 8. In the 1920s Don was an important part of the Monocoupe Aircraft Corporation, defining the Monocoupe look. Then in the 1930s there was the Phantom, followed by a series of aircraft that evolved into the Luscombe 8.

The Phantom - a classic Luscombe design - started production in 1934, and continued through at least 1941. Fewer than ten of these aircraft still exist in the United States, although over 130 were originally manufactured. Of those remaining, very few are actually flown - for good reason: word is that these planes are a guaranteed ground loop thanks to the way the gear (more correctly, a shock absorption system) is designed.

Many people do not realize that Don Luscombe's vision went beyond the Series 8. There were, for example, concept drawings of a Luscombe Helicopter drawn up in 1943. Apparently conceived as a military offering, the drawings show a helicopter configured as an air ambulance - complete with a litter strapped on the outside.

The turbulent history of the Luscombe Corporation is well documented. In a nutshell, Model 8 production began in 1938 with the plain Model 8. Over time letters were added to the "8", from "A" thru "F".

During the war, Luscombe Aircraft moved from Trenton, New Jersey to Dallas, Texas. In anticipation of the postwar aircraft boom, and to satisfy military procurement contracts it had, Luscombe set up a large factory and re-tooled with new jigs capable of higher production volume than the pre-war factory had been capable of. Due to several factors, including a fire at one plant that destroyed most of their stock of cushions and upholstery, production in the latter part of 1945 was quite limited. During the war a redesign of the wing to stamped ribs and slightly different rib spacing was undertaken, and rag wings of this design were delivered in 1946. The aircraft was also later redesigned at to simplify construction of the fuselage into a modular construction.

Early in 1946, Luscombe decided to redesign the wing to an all-metal monocoque design, eliminating the fabric covering and simplifying the construction. The company also produced a prototype of a single-place low-wing design called the Model 10. This was never placed into production, since the market for single-seat aircraft was considered to be too small.

The Model 8 was upgraded once again in June, producing the 8E. This aircraft had an 85 horsepower (63 kW) engine, and the fuselage tank was replaced by two 12.5 (US) gallon (47 L) wing tanks. This freed up space to install rear windows and a hat shelf in the space formerly occupied by the fuel tank. For a while, both all-metal and fabric-covered wing Luscombes were produced before the fabric-covered wing was phased out (use of old stock) in favor of the all-metal design.

The company ceased production and declared bankruptcy in 1949, as the general aviation manufacturing industry collapsed after World War II due to overproduction. Low-volume production continued through 1959 in Fort Collins, CO after the type certificate was purchased from the bankruptcy proceedings. One salient takeaway about the Luscombe's history is that only a small fraction of the total fleet was manufactured while Don Luscombe was in control of the company.

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