Travel Air 2000

  (Redirected from Travel Air 2000, 3000 and 4000)

The Travel Air 2000/3000/4000 (originally, the Model A, Model B and Model BH[1] and later marketed as a Curtiss-Wright product under the names CW-14, Speedwing, Sportsman and Osprey), were open-cockpit biplane aircraft produced in the United States in the late 1920s by the Travel Air Manufacturing Company. During the period from 1924–1929, Travel Air produced more aircraft than any other American manufacturer, including over 1,000 biplanes (some estimates range from 1,200 to nearly 2,000).[2][3][4][5][6]

2000, 3000, 4000, CW-14, Sportsman, Osprey
Curtiss Wright Travel Air E4000 OTT2013 D7N8754 BEA 003.jpg
Travel Air 4000
Role biplane aircraft
Manufacturer Travel Air, Curtiss-Wright
Designer Lloyd Stearman
First flight 13 March 1925[1]
Introduction 1925
Primary user private owners, aerial sightseeing businesses
Produced 1925–1930
Number built approx 1,300[1]

Design and developmentEdit

Primary design and developmentEdit

The original Travel Air Model A was engineered chiefly by Lloyd Stearman—with input from Travel Air co-founders Walter Beech, Clyde Cessna, and Bill Snook—largely as a metal-framed improvement of his immediately previous design of the wood-framed, metal-cowled Swallow New Swallow biplane, with elements of the best fighter aircraft of World War I, the metal-framed German Fokker D-VII. Most subsequent Travel Air biplanes were derived, directly or indirectly, from the original Model A.[2][3][4]

(NOTE: An interim design, the Winstead Special was derived by the Winstead brothers from an initial metal fuselage frame developed at Swallow by Stearman and Walter Beech, and subsequently discarded by Swallow. The rejection of the metal frame concept, by Swallow president Jake Moellendick, triggered the departure of Stearman and Beech, and the creation of Travel Air.)[2][4]

The types shared a common structure of a conventional single-bay biplane with staggered wings braced by N-struts. The fuselage was of fabric-covered steel tube and included two open cockpits in tandem, the forward of which could carry two passengers side-by-side.

In common with the Fokker D-VII, the rudder and ailerons of first Travel Air biplanes had an overhanging "horn" to partially aerodynamically counterbalance the aerodynamic resistance of the controls when deflected, to provide a lighter control feel, and a more responsive aircraft. This gave Travel Airs their distinctive "elephant ear" vertical tails, and the similarly counterbalanced ailerons were also referred to as "elephant ear" ailerons—leading to the airplane's popular nicknames "Old Elephant Ears" and "Wichita Fokker." Some subsequent models were offered without the counterbalance, providing a cleaner, more conventional appearance and less drag. Elevator forces were trimmed out by use of an inflight-adjustable horizontal stabilizer.[2][4][5][7]

Like other aircraft in the Travel Air line, it was available with a variety of different, interchangeable wings, including a wing shorter and thinner than the rest known as the "Speedwing" designed, as the name suggests, for increased cruise speed. Travel Air entered a specially-modified Model 4000 (designated 4000-T) in the Guggenheim Safe Aircraft Competition of 1930, but it was disqualified.

Compared to other civilian ("commercial") open-cockpit biplanes of the era, Travel Airs were noted for their quality of construction, reliability, durability, speed, efficiency, payload and passenger capacity (two passengers in a small bench seat in the front cockpit, plus pilot in the rear cockpit—versus most biplanes of the era, which could only accommodate a single passenger in the front cockpit). They were also noted for superior comfort and easy flying. These various distinguishing characteristics led Travel Air to outsell all rivals by 1929.[3][4][8]


In 1933 a Travel Air 2000 was modified by George and William Besler where the usual inline or radial gasoline piston engine was replaced by an oil-fired, reversible 90° angle V-twin angle-compound engine of their own design, which became the first fixed-wing airplane to successful fly using a steam engine of any type.[9][10] The Beslers are thought[by whom?] to have sold the plane to the Japanese[who?] in 1937.[11]

Curtiss-Wright productionEdit

Following Travel Air Manufacturing Company purchase in August 1929[12] by Curtiss-Wright, the Model 4000 continued in production into the early 1930s as the CW-14, and the range was expanded to include a military derivative dubbed the Osprey. This was fitted with bomb racks, a fixed, forward-firing machine gun, and a trainable tail gun. These aircraft were supplied to Bolivia and used during the Gran Chaco War, which eventually led to Curtiss-Wright's successful prosecution for supplying these aircraft in violation of a U.S. arms embargo.[8][13][14]

Operational historyEdit

In addition to a wide range of normal aircraft applications, and conspicuous use in a minor South American war, Travel Air biplanes also saw extensive use in early motion pictures.

Normal OperationsEdit

During the 1920s and very early 1930s, Travel Air biplanes were the most widely used civilian biplanes in America (not counting war-surplus military trainers re-purposed for civilian use) -- with the arguable exception of their chief competitors, WACO biplanes. (Travel Air production ended in the mid-1930s, under the Curtiss-Wright Corporation).[2][3][4]

Initially, Travel Air biplanes were very widely used for executive transport, wealthy-sportsmen adventures, air taxi and air charter service, light air cargo transport, and some bush flying. Many were also used in barnstorming: exhibition and stunt flying, selling recreational rides, and early air racing.[2][3][4][6]

Commercial operators found the Travel Air biplanes very versatile and useful, owing to their substantial payload, simple and reliable systems, rugged construction and (for the times) substantial speed and efficiency.[2][15]

Towards the end of their useful lives (the late-1930s through the early 1970s), they were heavily used for the harsh work of bush flying and cropdusting, and Travel Air biplanes were among the most heavily used cropdusters in America—perhaps second only to the World War II surplus Stearman Kaydet biplanes (also designed by Lloyd Stearman).[2][6][16][17]

Today, most remaining Travel Air biplanes are regarded as treasures, having been carefully restored at substantial cost, and are used sparingly and carefully for personal recreation and/or modern-day barnstorming (exhibition flying and selling rides).[2][5][7][18]

Military OperationsEdit

The Osprey, a Travel Air biplane variant by Curtiss-Wright, was armed with bomb racks and machine guns, and supplied to Bolivia, who used them in the 1933 Gran Chaco War with Paraguay (in violation of a U.S. arms embargo, for which Curtiss-Wright's was eventually successfully prosecuted). Numerous plane-makers attempted to get their aircraft into the war, for publicity, and the Osprey initially benefitted the most from this international competition. Fitted with single machine guns fore (fixed) and aft (moveable), and bomb racks, the rugged, reliable Ospreys were the preferred mounts of the Bolivian pilots—of several competing aircraft supplied. The resulting heavy use led to high losses—half of the original 12 units being lost in accidents or action, another five or so were employed, though precise outcomes are unclear, owing in part to repairs on some of the "lost" aircraft, which were returned to service. However, the action brought favorable publicity and credibility to Curtiss-Wright aircraft.[8][13][14]

Movie IndustryEdit

Travel Air biplanes were widely used in 1920s/1930s war movies, particularly to represent the airplanes they were patterned after: Germany's Fokker D-VII fighter, the top fighter of World War I. In the motion picture industry, they were known as "Wichita Fokkers." In fact, Hollywood's demand for Travel Air biplanes was so intense that Travel Air's California salesman, Fred Hoyt, coaxed Travel Air co-founder and principal airplane designer, Lloyd Stearman, to come to Venice, California in 1926 to exploit the movie industry demand for his aircraft by starting a short-lived independent Stearman Aircraft Company (re-opened back in Wichita in 1927).[2][5][5][7][19]

Some of the many movies using Travel Air biplanes (2000 and 4000, in particular) included:[19][20]


Model B
Travel Air Model A fitted with a Wright J-6 piston engine.

Like other Travel Air aircraft, Model 4000 variants were distinguished by letters prefixed (or occasionally affixed) to the basic designation to denote different engine and wing fits. These letter codes included:

Travel Air 2000 with Curtiss OX-5 engine airworthy at the Historic Aircraft Restoration Museum, Dauster Field, Creve Coeur, Missouri, in June 2006
Travel Air 3000
Travel Air 4000 at Fantasy of Flight.
Travel Air E-4000
original wing with "elephant-ear" ailerons
Axelson engine
"standard wing" with Frise-type ailerons and three fuel tanks
Curtiss engine
revised "standard wing" with a single fuel tank
Kinner engine
Lycoming engine
Travel Air 2000
first production model
powered by a 160-hp (119-kW) Curtiss C-6 engine
Travel Air 3000
powered by a 150-hp / 180-hp (112-kW / 134-kW) Hispano-Suiza Model A or Model engine.
Travel Air 4000
powered by a 220-hp (164-kW) Wright J-5 engine
powered by a 150-hp (112-kW) Axelson engine
powered by a 220-hp (164-kW) Wright J-5 engine
floatplane version
powered by a 300-hp (224-kW) Wright J-6-9 engine
powered by a 170-hp (127-kW) Challenger engine
powered by a 165-hp (123-kW) Wright J-6-5 engine
powered by a 100-hp (75-kW) Kinner K5 engine
floatplane version
powered by 110-hp (82-kW) Warner Scarab engine
Travel Air 8000 (aka 4000-CAM)
powered by a 120-hp (89-kW) Fairchild-Caminez 447 engine
Travel Air 9000 (aka 4000-SH)
powered by a 125-hp (93-kW) Ryan-Siemens engine
Travel Air 11
D-2000 powered by a Wright J-6 engine

Curtiss-Wright models builtEdit

CW-14C Sportsman
Version with 185 hp (138 kW) Curtiss Challenger engine (1 built).[21]
CW-A14D Deluxe Sportsman
Three-seat version with 240 hp (180 kW) Wright J-6-7 engine and NACA cowling (5 built).[21]
CW-B14B Speedwing Deluxe
Version with 300 hp (220 kW) Wright J-6-9 engine (2 built).[21]
CW-B14R Special Speedwing Deluxe
Single-seat racer built for Casey Lambert with supercharged Wright R-975 engine (1 built)
CW-C14B Osprey
militarized version with Wright R-975E engine
CW-C14R Osprey
militarized version with Wright J-6-9 engine
CW-17R Pursuit Osprey
CW-B14B with uprated engine; possibly not built


Military operatorsEdit

20 purchased 1933–34.[22]
3 CW-C14R Osprey from 1932.[22]
2 CW-14Rs purchased 1931.[22]
2 acquired 1931.[22]
  El Salvador
3 from 1933.[22]
3 CW-14Rs purchased 1932.[22]

Aircraft on displayEdit

Surviving aircraftEdit

These are surviving aircraft owned by museums:

Specifications (CW-A14D)Edit

Data from Specifications of American Airplanes[47]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Capacity: 2 passengers
  • Length: 23 ft 7 in (7.19 m)
  • Wingspan: 31 ft 0 in (9.45 m)
  • Height: 9 ft 10 in (3.00 m)
  • Wing area: 248.0 sq ft (23.04 m2)
  • Airfoil: Navy N-9[48]
  • Empty weight: 1,772 lb (804 kg)
  • Gross weight: 2,870 lb (1,302 kg)
  • Fuel capacity: 58 US gal (48 imp gal; 220 L)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Wright Whirlwind , 250 hp (190 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 155 mph (249 km/h, 135 kn)
  • Cruise speed: 132 mph (212 km/h, 115 kn)
  • Stall speed: 56 mph (90 km/h, 49 kn)
  • Range: 530 mi (850 km, 460 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 18,000 ft (5,500 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,000 ft/min (5.1 m/s)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Simpson 2007, p. 553
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Phillips, Edward H., book: Travel Air: Wings Over the Prairie, 1982, Wind Canyon Books, ISBN 9780911139174. (revised ed., Flying Books International, 1994, Eagan, MN, ISBN 0-911139-17-6)
  3. ^ a b c d e Phillips, Edward H., "An Abridged History of Travel Air," March, 2000, Travel Air Log, as reproduced on the TARA-History page of the Travel Air Restorers Association, retrieved January 28, 2017
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Bissionette, Bruce, The Wichita 4: Cessna, Moellendick, Beech and Stearman, 1999, Aviation Heritage, Destin FL ISBN 0-943691-50-8
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Wilkinson, Stephan, "'Wichita Fokker' Takes Flight," February 28, 2014, Aviation History, as posted on retrieved January 7, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c Cooper, Ann Lewis and Sharon Rajnus, Stars of the Sky, Legends All,, 2008, Zenith Imprint, ISBN 9781610607520, retrieved January 28, 2017
  7. ^ a b c "1929 Travel Air 4000," exhibit notes, Fantasy of Flight Museum, retrieved January 28, 2017
  8. ^ a b c Hagedorn, Dan and Antonio L. Sapienza, Aircraft of the Chaco War 1928-1935, Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., Atglen, Pa., 1997
  9. ^ "World's First Steam Driven Airplane" Popular Science, July 1933, detailed article with drawings
  10. ^ George & William Besler (April 29, 2011). The Besler Steam Plane (YouTube). Bomberguy.
  11. ^ Where have all the Dobles gone, The Steam Automobile, Vol 7 No 1, Spring 1965, page 23
  12. ^ Simpson 2001, p. 553
  13. ^ a b "Book Review: Aircraft of the Chaco War 1928-1935 (Dan Hagedorn and Antonio L. Sapienza)," August 11, 2001, Aviation History Magazine in, retrieved January 28, 2017
  14. ^ a b Colangelo, Anthony J., "Constitutional Limits on Extraterritorial Jurisdiction: Terrorism and the Intersection of National and International Law," Harvard International Law Journal, Volume 48, Number 1, Winter 2007, retrieved January 28, 2017
  15. ^ Cite error: The named reference Phillips_abridged_travel_air_history was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  16. ^ "The Travel Air 4000 – a Working Ag Plane," May 19, 2014, The Heidrick Ag Museum, retrieved January 28, 2017
  17. ^ "Travel Air 4000 1928-1936," in "Aircraft By Type," Delta Museum, retrieved January 28, 2017
  18. ^ "What's New," page, Travel Air Restorers Association website, retrieved January 28, 2017
  19. ^ a b Harris, Richard, "Early Movies" Archived 2017-02-03 at the Wayback Machine sub-section, "Motion Pictures" section, Wichita Aircraft in TV, Video & Film, website of The Wichita Aviation Centennial. retrieved Janualry 28, 2017
  20. ^ "Aviation Films,"
  21. ^ a b c Bowers 1979, p. 404.
  22. ^ a b c d e f Hagedorn 1992, p. 72.
  23. ^ "HISTORIC AIRCRAFT" (PDF). Virginia Aviation Museum. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 May 2016. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  24. ^ "TRAVEL AIR 2000". Ingenium. Ingenium. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  25. ^ "Airframe Dossier - Travel Air 2000, c/n 0720, c/r CF-AFG". Aerial Visuals. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  26. ^ "Travel Air D4D". Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Smithsonian Institution. 2016-03-18. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  27. ^ "MUSEUM COLLECTION". Golden Age Air Museum. Golden Age Air Museum. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  28. ^ "FAA REGISTRY [N1081]". Federal Aviation Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  29. ^ "Museum Hangar 2". Historic Aircraft Restoration Museum. Historic Aircraft Restoration Museum. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  30. ^ "FAA REGISTRY [N5290]". Federal Aviation Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  31. ^ "Museum Hangar 4". Historic Aircraft Restoration Museum. Historic Aircraft Restoration Museum. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  32. ^ "FAA REGISTRY [N3947]". Federal Aviation Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  33. ^ "1927 Travel Air 4000". Kelch Aviation Museum. Kelch Aviation Museum. 2014-10-31. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  34. ^ "FAA REGISTRY [N2709]". Federal Aviation Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  35. ^ "Aircraft". Cavanaugh Flight Museum. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  36. ^ "FAA REGISTRY [N6425]". Federal Aviation Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  37. ^ "Travel Air Aircraft". Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  38. ^ "FAA REGISTRY [N9049]". Federal Aviation Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  39. ^ "Canadian Civil Aircraft Register: Aircraft Details [CF-JLW]". Transport Canada. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  40. ^ Skaarup, Harold A. (2009). Canadian Warplanes. iUniverse. p. 450.
  41. ^ "1929 Travel Air 4000". Fantasy of Flight. Fantasy of Flight. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  42. ^ "FAA REGISTRY [N174V]". Federal Aviation Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  43. ^ "1930 Curtiss-Wright Travel Air D-4000 Speedwing (Restoration)". Owls Head Transportation Museum. Owls Head Transportation Museum. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  44. ^ "FAA REGISTRY [N477N]". Federal Aviation Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  45. ^ Stadler, Fred. "1929 Travel Air E-4000 - NC648H". EAA. EAA. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  46. ^ "FAA REGISTRY [N648H]". Federal Aviation Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation.
  47. ^ Aviation March 1936, pp. 82–83.
  48. ^ Lednicer, David. "The Incomplete Guide to Airfoil Usage". Retrieved 16 April 2019.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Travel Air 2000 at Wikimedia Commons