Hapkido Online

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Aviation: In the Beginning, The Corben Ace

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Gerry Hollands beautiful Junior Ace, used with permission.
In 1923 Orland Corben designed and manufactured the worlds very first Kitplane the Corben Ace.  In the early 1920's a mere two decades from Kitty Hawk flying had become a rich person's game.  Mr. Corben changed that by giving the world the very first kit plane that any working man could own.  Mr. Corben's feelings about flying mirror my own, that it should be within reach of any working person.

The Ace aircraft designs are called the Baby ace, the Junior Ace, and the Super Ace. Over the years each has been slightly modified to match the march of progress.  The aircraft is a parasol and bears some superficial resemblance to the Pietenpol aircraft.  It however predates the Piet by five years.  The ace became very popular during the golden age of flight (1920's-1930's).

Not surprisingly because the Ace was designed for owner builders of modest means it is just as valuable to us today as it was to the early pilots of yore.  The designs from the early days of flight such as the Ace and the Pietenpol have special significance for our quest for the airplanes for the next century.  They were designed in a time when power plants were heavy and did not produce much horsepower for their weight.  They were designed in a time when a large segment of the flying population were folks of humble means.  Forget not that the Great Depression happened right smack in the middle of the Golden Age of Flight.  These are aircraft that could then and can now be built by any working person and so therefore the Corben Ace aircraftbelong to the next century list.
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An early Corben Ace, used with permission

I believe the Corben is primed to make a comeback.  Though it is a parasol it has been built fully enclosed and would make a nice cross country machine in that configuration.  The Baby Ace is a single place aircraft and the Junior is two place (side by side).  These can be built as tail wheel or tricycle gear.  They can fly with a number of power plants in the 65-85 HP range.  The Ace's use the Clark Y airfoil.

Just as a side note Famed EAA founder Paul Poberezny bought the rights to Ace Aircraft in the 1950's and built a baby ace for $500.  The construction of the bird was featured in a number of Popular Mechanics articles.
Plans and Kits of the Ace aircraft are available at:

Corben Sport Planes Museum
2701 Airport Road
Toccoa, Ga. 30577

Works Cited:

The Baby Ace". Experimenter. February 1955.

Air Trails: 14. Winter 1971.

The Baby Ace". Experimenter. February 1955.

Tiger Boy's Airplane Works". Retrieved 6 May 2011.