No. 12095. Puget Pacific Wheelair III-A (NX31223 c/n 1)
Photographed by Howard Levy

Puget Pacific Wheelair III-A

09/30/2013. Based on a 1944 prize-winning light aircraft design by Donald J. Wheeler, the Wheelair III-A was yet another attempt to produce a utility private-owner type. It was developed through the backing of hundreds of small investors in Seattle and Washington state, and claimed to be the first personal type aircraft ever built in the US Northwest.

Registered NX31223 on March 27, 1947, the aircraft was first flown in April and was first shown to its backers in public at Boeing Field in mid-July 1947. At that time the company that would manufacture the type, Puget Pacific Planes Inc. of Tacoma, Washington, had orders for 2,000 aircraft on file.

Built by Seattle and Tacoma engineers and production specialists like Wheeler (Puget Pacific Chief Engineer, formerly with Boeing), the Wheelair was a four-passenger non-spinable stall-resistant aircraft. Of all-metal construction, the twin-tail aircraft had a tricycle-landing gear and was powered by a 190 hp Lycoming O-435 six-cylinder horizontally-opposed air-cooled engine driving a pusher propeller. Fitted with a simplified two-control system, a car-type steering wheel was used to control the aircraft, which had no rudders.

The company filed for bankruptcy in 1949 before the test and certification program was completed. Eventually, the plane was bought by one of the company's backers, Earl Barks of Seattle, disassembled and stored on a relative's farm. It was struck off the FAA registry on January 6, 1955.

Created September 30, 2013