No. 8204. Cieslak Little Pal (12388 c/n 1)
Photographs from Zane Cieslak

Cieslak Little Pal

Remarks by Bob Cieslak: "Little Pal was built by my father, Zane Cieslak. He was employed as a mechanic for Robertson Aircraft Corp. at Lambert Field, St. Louis, Missouri, working on D.H.4 mailplanes. He began the construction of the plane in 1926 in the backyard of his apartment in St. Louis, Missouri. The aircraft had minimal instrumentation

The aircraft was completed in the fall of 1930 and taken to a field near St. Louis for its first flight. The first flight of Little Pal was also the first solo flight for Zane. He was not a pilot. The photo above shows the aircraft at its official roll-out, with Zane in the cockpit. A week later the engine was tested at full-power for the first time.

A stability issue discovered during the initial flights, conducted at an altitude of 3 or 4 feet, which was corrected by increasing the size of the vertical stabilizer. During the next few years many low-altitude flights were made, including some by his good friend, Frank Dunn, a professional pilot. The field took on a carnival atmosphere when crowds of people came to picnic and observe the test flights. In 1933 the Department of Commerce issued Certificate 12388 for the Little Pal. Evaluation flights could now be made at distances from the field by licensed pilots.

On August 5th, 1933 Little Pal achieved a high-speed run of 75 mph, causing the pilot, Frank Dunn, to remark: “Good flight – for 40 horsepower”. On the next flight, with Zane's friend, Harry Rein, at the controls, a tire blew out on takeoff causing the Little Pal to ground loop. The aircraft was almost completely destroyed. The fuselage needed a complete rebuild in order for Little Pal to fly again.

Little Pal was a single-seater powered by a Ford engine. Early in its construction Zane wanted to eventually alter it to a two-seater with a radial engine. The Ford engine would be inadequate for the heavier aircraft so, in 1931, he bought for a surplus cost of $10 an Anzani radial engine and a Le Rhône rotary engine. Using parts from both engines Zane built a 3-cylinder radial engine which eventually developed 70 hp at 1700 rpm.

In 1932 Zane had been approached by employees of Moon Motor Car Co. and Alexander Aircraft Co. to develop and market Little Pal as a two-seater, radial engine powered sport aircraft. But after the loss of the flying prototype it was impossible to obtain investor support for the endeavor. The remains of Little Pal sat in Zane's basement until 1947 when it was removed and burned to make room for home improvements.

In 1976 Zane and I decided to resurrect Little Pal II as the two-place tandem sport aircraft powered by the 70 hp engine Zane had built 45 years earlier. The engine work was done by Zane in St. Louis and aircraft construction by me at my place in Florida. The engine and fuselage were mated in 1985 and taxi tests around my acreage provided us with many happy hours.

Zane passed away in 1988 and I continued work on Little Pal II for a while until time and space constraints caused me to donate the aircraft (in 1995) to the museum in Lakeland, presently known as the Florida Air Museum at Sun ‘n Fun. The engine and airframe are now permanently preserved there in two separate displays. A short list of the specifications of Little Pal were given in a 1972 issue of Sport Aviation."

Created October 31, 2008