Commonwealth Aircraft

Commonwealth Aircraft Company was an aircraft manufacturer from Valley Stream, New York. Originally Rearwin Aircraft & Engines of Kansas City, the company was renamed in 1942 after it was purchased by a new owner.[1]:199 During World War II, Commonwealth primarily made combat gliders under contract to the Waco Aircraft Company. After World War II, Commonwealth resumed production of the Rearwin-designed Commonwealth Skyranger and consolidated operations in Valley Stream, New York.[1]:212 Commonwealth Aircraft went bankrupt in March 1947 and ceased operations.[2]

Commonwealth Aircraft Co.
IndustryGeneral Aviation
PredecessorRearwin Aircraft & Engines
HeadquartersValley Stream, New York
Key people
  • Frank Cohen, Chairman
  • C.H. Dolan, President and General Manager
Number of employees
Footnotes / references


In early 1942, Rae Rearwin decided to sell Rearwin Aircraft & Engines since its products were based on small radial engines and horizontally opposed engines were taking over those engines' market share. He was convinced starting research into horizontally opposed engines would still leave the company trying to catch up with competitors, especially after successful horizontally opposed engines were already on the market and being used in the company's own planes. Thus, he thought if Rearwin waited to sell the company its intellectual property and tools would only become more outdated and less valuable.[1]:195

As the United States mobilized for World War II, a Wall Street investor named Frank Cohen had acquired several arms manufacturers, so he bought the Rearwin family's stock in Rearwin Aircraft & Engines to diversify his holdings.[3][1]:198

The Commonwealth Aircraft Company went on to produce Waco CG-3A and CG-4A gliders under contract during the war. The company built 1,470 of the latter type, which made them the third largest producer of the glider. At least 700 of its 2,000 employees were women.[1]:210 After World War II, Commonwealth Aircraft resumed production of the pre-war Commonwealth Skyranger, but the original jigs and tooling had been recycled for scrap so the first 12 airplanes had to be hand-built.[1]:186 After acquiring the Columbia Aircraft Corporation of Valley Stream, New York, in 1946, it was decided to move production to the former Columbia Aircraft properties.

Commonwealth Aircraft went bankrupt in 1946 and was dissolved in March 1947. Very few of the Kansas City employees had moved to New York, forcing the company to hire new employees, and there had been a labor strike in October of 1946. The Skyranger design hadn't been significantly updated from its pre-war origins, and it was forced to compete with both newer designs and cheap war surplus aircraft while the expected post-war sales boom for aircraft didn't live up to expectations.[1]:210

Aircraft producedEdit

Commonwealth Skyranger 175
Continued production of the pre-war Rearwin Skyranger 175 with a Continental 75hp engine. Discontinued by February 1946 in favor of the Skyranger 185.[1]:186
Commonwealth Skyranger 185
The pre-war Rearwin Skyranger with a Continental 85hp engine.[1]:213
Commonwealth Trimmer
Twin-engined amphibian powered by two Continental O-190 engines designed by engineer Gilbert Trimmer. 1 or 2 prototypes built.[1]:213[4]
Waco CG-3A
Produced under a wartime contract with the Waco Aircraft Company. 100 built.[5]
Waco CG-4A
Produced under a wartime contract with the Waco Aircraft Company. 1,470 built.[1]:210


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Wright, Bill (1997). Rearwin: A Story of Men, Planes, and Aircraft Manufacturing During the Great Depression. Manhattan, Kansas: Sunflower University Press. ISBN 0-89745-207-0.
  2. ^ a b Freeman, Paul. "Abandoned and Little-Known Airfields: New York: Long Island, Nassau County". Abandoned and Little-Known Airfields. Retrieved 22 December 2018.
  3. ^ "WAR FRONT: Frank Cohen, Munitionsmaker". TIME Magazine. November 3, 1941. Retrieved 22 December 2018.
  4. ^ Taylor, Michael J. H. (1989). Jane's Encyclopedia of Aviation. London: Studio Editions. p. 56.
  5. ^ "Transport Gliders: The Rise and Demise of a Weapon: Part Four". Air Enthusiast. 2 (6): 318–322. June 1972.