W H A T Z I T ?

9/4/04 - Richard Harris

This appears to be an Laird Swallow or early New Swallow, with young Lloyd Stearman standing in front of it in his dress clothes.

Note the double-wide front cockpit, with one of the Swallow's proudest trademarks: the single-piece curved-glass windshield (claimed to be the first such windshield in America). It bears other characteristic marks of the Swallow family, including the OX-5 and other Jenny holdovers, and the stout-belly appearance of later models.

The cowling does NOT appear like any Swallow pix I recall, but seems to resemble a restored 1927 model at the Kansas Aviation Museum. The double-bay wing was discarded on some later models for a single-bay design (one set of struts), but probably not on all prototypes. This may actually have been a transitional model between Laird Swallow and New Swallow.

Lloyd Stearman (whom this looks like to me) was Laird's understudy, of sorts, until Laird left Wichita to return to Chicago's Cicero Field. When Laird took the company name with him (E M Laird Airplane Mfg Co), Laird's feisty/obnoxious Wichita factory co-owner and financier, Jake Moellendick (who reportedly drove Laird off), renamed the Wichita operation Swallow Airplane Mfg Co), and made draftsman/handyman Stearman the new Chief Engineer (test pilot/handyman Walter Beech was made Gen Mgr & Chief Salesman).

Young Stearman (about 20, as I recall) created a greatly revised Swallow, resulting in the "New Swallow." This may have been an early version.

About this time, Yackey was employing a youngster named Fred Weick (who would later create the NACA cowling, Ercoupe, Ag-1 and Pawnee cropdusters, and lead development of the Piper Cherokee). Weick recounts in his "Autobiography of an Aeronautical Engineer" flying his first cross-country with Yackey to a major air meet in St. Louis (c.1924?). Undoubtedly, the latest Swallow prototype would have been on display, and its designer present in his "Sunday best."

Please note that this is very unscientific of me, and its shooting from the hip. I'm away from home, and my documents on the Swallow. But perhaps this provides some clues. For more information on Swallows, contact Walter House, historian at the Kansas Aviation Museum, where the recently-restored '27 Swallow is paired with a replica original Laird Swallow recently built.