Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ryan's Brougham

Back in early 2012, when we looked at T. Claude Ryan's airline, we noted that before Claude had sold out his interest in the company to his business partner B. F. "Frank" Mahoney in November, 1926, he had helped design the M-1 mail plane, which was well received by the blossoming airmail industry. That design, and the improved M-2, had helped attract a young airmail pilot named Charles Lindbergh, who was looking for a plane that would be capable of crossing the Atlantic and winning the Orteig prize. Lindbergh had initially wanted to modify a stock M-2, but eventually the modifications resulted in the Spirit of St. Louis having little in common with the M-2, other than its basic lines.

The last B-3, which became the prototype B-5
Shortly before the contract to build Linbergh's plane was signed, Mahoney and the Ryan engineers started building the prototype of their next, follow-on aircraft, the B-1 Brougham. Designed to carry four passengers plus the pilot, the Brougham was intended to be the next-generation of small airliner. Although the lines were similar, there was very little in common between the M-2 and B-1 (except for the tail feathers on the earliest B-1s). While the M-1/M-2 design sold a combined total of 34 airframes, the Brougham (in all its variants) sold over 220 copies, making it wildly successful for its time.

The initial B-1 model, which first flew in early 1927, was powered by a Wright J-5 engine, and sold well. Frank Hawks bought the prototype, named it Gold Bug and went barnstorming. After Lindbergh's flight, Hawks renamed the plane Spirit of San Diego and sold rides in the plane "like the one Lindy flew". Mahoney subsequently hired him to be an official company representative. The company built a special one-off version, the B-2, for Lindbergh to use as his personal aircraft, which he took on tour across the U.S. during 1928.

After building about 150 of the B-1s, Mahoney decided it was time to update the design, and the 1928 B-3 included a larger cabin, larger tail surfaces and swiveling tailwheel. The last few were built with 300 hp J-6 engines, but retained the B-3's 1,590 pound useful load. To take advantage of the bigger engine, the last B-3 was built as the prototype B-5 in 1929, which had a 1,749 pound useful load. This prototype, initially NX-8321, is shown in the first of our two photos, which appear to be offical factory prints.

A Parks College B-5 in flight
Also in 1929, the company changed its name to Mahoney-Ryan Aircraft Co. But as production got undeway, Frank Mahoney started having serious health issues, and so in 1930 sold his controlling interest in the company to Detroit Aircraft Corp., a company that was rabidly buying up the shares of numerous aviation-related companies, including the likes of Aircraft Development Corp, Aviation Tool Co., Eastman Aircraft, Blackburn Airplane, Parks Air College, and held almost all of the stock of Lockheed. They dropped the "Mahoney" part of the name and the company became the Ryan Aircraft Division (althought "Corp" was also used), and was moved to St. Louis.

Since Detroit Aircraft owned Parks, it was natural that the college's fleet would include aircraft built by other divisions of the company, and the aircraft shown in our second photo, NC728M, was one of Park's acquisitions.

Compare the tails of our two subject planes: the first B-5 was built by Mahoney-
Ryan in San Diego, the Parks College plane was built by Ryan in St. Louis MO.
The size of Detroit, though, was not able to save the conglomerate from the effects of the Great Depression, and on October 27, 1931, the company went into receivership. Several divisions, such as Lockheed and Parks, were bought out of receivership by other entities, but the Ryan Division was one that did not survive.

In 1934, T. Claude tried again, and it was this later version of Ryan Aeronautical that succeeded in the long term, and today is a part of Northrop Grumman Corp.

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