After involvement in several aviation enterprises Giuseppe Mario
Bellanca joined engine manufacturer Wright Aeronautics in 1923 to
design an aircraft to show the potential and reliability of the new
Wright Whirlwind series of radial engines. The first design, derived
from the Bellanca CF and designated Wright-Bellanca WB-1, was a
five-seat high-winged monoplane cabin airliner powered by a 200 hp
Wright J-4 engine.
It flew at the 1925 National Air Races in Philadelphia National Air
Races in Philadelphia winning the speed and efficiency competitions.
During speed and payload tests in preparation for an attempt to break
the world's non-refueled endurance record the WB-1 crashed at Curtiss
Field in 1926. US Navy pilot Becker, who did most of the WB-1 flying,
was seriously injured and the aircraft damaged beyond repair.
The WB-2, an improved six-seat version, followed in 1926, in its turn
winning the efficiency competition at the 1926 National Air Races at
Philadelphia, and the Detroit News Trophy efficiency contest. However
Wright decided not to compete with potential engine buying aircraft
manufacturers and ended aircraft production. A disappointed Bellanca
left Wright and joined Charles A. Levine of Columbia Air Liners Inc.
to form Columbia Aircraft Corp. and Levine bought the WB-2 aircraft
and production rights from Wright.
In 1927 Charles Lindbergh was searching for an aircraft to attempt to
win the $ 25,000 prize in the Raymond Orteig solo transatlantic race.
He was impressed by the performance and reliability of the WB-2.
Levine agreed to sell the WB-2 to Lindbergh for $ 15,000, but at his
arrival at Columbia Aircraft Levine stipulated that he wanted to
select the crew to fly the aircraft. Lindbergh did not want to agree
to that and left on a cross-continent trip to San Diego and bought
the Ryan M-2 for only $ 6,000, the rest is history.
Between April 12 and 14, 1927 pilots Clarence Chamberlin and Bert
Acosta set a world endurance record of 51 hours, 11 minutes and 20
seconds with the WB-2 over Roosevelt Field. Chamberlin wanted to
attempt to win the Orteig prize too with the WB-2, now named
"Columbia", but Levines arguing about the crew was
still going on when Lindbergh landed in Paris on May 22, 1927.
Finally, on June 4 1927, Chamberlin took the "Columbia"
into the air for the trip to Europe with Levine on board. As Levine
had no aeronautical skills, he became the first transatlantic
passenger. Intended to fly to Berlin the flight ended due to fuel
starvation in a field near Eisleben 100 mls (160 km) south-west of
Berlin on June 6. They had flown 3,905 mls (6,285 km) and 42 hours and
45 minutes, 315 mls (507km) and 9 hours and 6 minutes longer than Lindbergh.
Giuseppe Bellanca severed all relations with Columbia Aircraft Corp.
and Levine to form Bellanca Aircraft Corp on December 30, 1927.
In 1928 the "Columbia" made the first non-stop flight
between New York and Havana, piloted by Wilbur Stultz with Mabel Boll
(also known as "Queen of Diamonds") as passenger.
Renamed "Maple Leaf" the sole WB-2 was finally destroyed in
a hangar fire at the Bellanca factory in Newcastle, Delaware, on
January 25, 1934.