Fairchild Aviation Corporation history, performance and specifications
Sherman M. Fairchild was born in Oneonta, New York,
in 1895. The only child of a congressman and a
founder of International Business Machines (IBM), he
attended college at Harvard, the University of
Arizona, and Columbia, studying engineering and
aerial photography. He graduated from none of these
schools, however, because of poor health and his
desire to go into business.
In 1917 Fairchild was rejected from the military
because of poor health. Determined to help with the
war effort, he and his father went to Washington to
see if his experience with cameras might be useful.
At the time, the military had aerial cameras that
produced poor quality images because the shutter
speed could not keep pace with the motion of the
airplane. Fairchild developed a camera where the
shutter was inside the lens and which produced much
Although the Army did not accept his camera until
the war had ended, it bought two for training.
Fairchild started the Fairchild Aerial Camera
Corporation in February 1920 to build his aerial
cameras. Soon the Army ordered 20 more and made them
its standard aerial camera. Fairchild began using
his cameras for mapmaking and aerial surveying and
established another company—Fairchild Aerial
Surveys—which remained in business until 1965.
The FC-1, Fairchild's first airplane.
He quickly realized that existing planes were
unsuitable for accurate aerial photography and
decided to manufacture his own. In 1925, he formed
Fairchild Aviation Corporation to develop a plane
specifically for mapping flights. His first plane
was the FC-1, a high-wing monoplane with a heated
enclosed cockpit to protect the pilot and equipment.
The plane provided a steady platform, featured
folding wings, and used slots and ailerons for
stability. The production version, the FC-2,
available in 1927, was similar but could hold five
passengers and was available with float or ski
landing gear in place of standard wheeled landing
gear. It was one of the first airplanes flown by Pan
American-Grace Airways in South America. The plane
made the first scheduled passenger flight in Peru,
from Lima to Talara, on September 13, 1928.
Fairchild also acquired the Caminez Engine Company
in 1925 as Fairchild Engine Company, which became
the Ranger Engine Division in the early 1930s. Its
most successful engine was the L-440 six-cylinder
series, which powered more than 6,500 aircraft
during World War II.
In 1927, he incorporated Fairchild Aviation as a
holding company. One unit was the Fairchild Airplane
Manufacturing Corporation of Farmingdale, New York.
Another, acquired in 1928, was the Kreidner-Reisner
Aircraft Company of Hagerstown, Maryland. In 1929,
Fairchild also provided funds for and organized the
Aviation Corporation (AVCO), a new holding company
that would become one of the largest of its time.
In the late 1920s, Fairchild built the open-cockpit
C-7 monoplane. The C-8, also known as the Model 24,
followed in 1930. Similar to the C-7 but with an
enclosed cockpit, some versions of this successful
monoplane included optional twin-float seaplane
landing gear. Fairchild also built the equivalent
Model 71 in Canada from 1930, which evolved into the
Super 71 in 1936 that could hold a ton of freight or
The XC-8 was the first in the new series of light
transport aircraft in the early 1930s.
The M-62 trainer debuted in 1939. This rugged
monoplane was produced during World War II under the
PT-19 and PT-26 Cornell designations—one with an
open and one with an enclosed cockpit. A total of
7,742 Cornells were manufactured for the U.S.
military. Additional Cornells went to Canada,
Norway, Brazil, Ecuador, and Chile.
The PT-19 was developed by Fairchild in 1938 to
satisfy a military requirement for a rugged
monoplane primary trainer.
The L-440 air-cooled, six-cylinder, inverted,
in-line engine was manufactured by the Ranger
Aircraft Engine Division of Fairchild Engine and
Airplane Corp. They were used to power more than
6,000 Fairchild trainers during World War II.
In 1939, Fairchild became interested in a process
developed by Col. G.A. Clark for building airframes
using a composite made of hot layers of plywood
soaked with resin adhesive and bonded under
pressure. Called the Clark Duramold process,
Fairchild bought the process, as well as Clark's
company, and renamed the process Fairchild Duramold.
Fairchild used it on the wartime AT-21 Gunner
The Fairchild C-8s were used primarily as light
staff transports and for mapping air routes within
North America. They were used throughout the 1930s
and into the early 1940s.
Fairchild took on the task in 1941 of producing
military transports designed specifically for that
purpose rather than by converting a civilian model
to military purposes, as was customary. The large
capacity twin-boom plane, called the C-82 Packet,
had a hinged rear door for loading bulky cargo, and
223 were delivered from late 1945 until September
1948. Several flew assembled vehicles into Berlin
during the airlift.
One reason that Fairchild was among the few aircraft
firms to remain profitable after the war was the
success of its C-119 Flying Boxcar, an improved
Packet with more powerful engines and greater
capacity. Deliveries of Boxcars began in December
1949. When production ended in 1955, more than 1,100
C-119s had been built for the U.S. military, Canada,
Belgium, Italy, India, and other countries. It
would, though, turn out to be the last Fairchild
design to enter mass production. A C-119 was
specially modified for midair retrieval of orbiting
space capsules reentering the Earth's atmosphere. On
August 19, 1960, one made the first midair recovery
of a space capsule when it "snagged" the parachute
lowering the Discoverer XIV satellite to
Earth. In the 1960s, the plane was converted to a
night attack gunship, the AC-119, for use in
In the early 1950s, Fairchild began to manufacture
the C-123 Provider, a Chase Aircraft Company design
that was transferred to Fairchild. More than 300 of
this short-range assault transport were built up to
1958. They were used for a variety of purposes
including spraying defoliants in Vietnam and
controlling mosquitoes for the U.S. Department of
Fairchild purchased the license to manufacture the
Fokker F-27 Friendship passenger airplane in 1956,
building approximately 200 of six versions as well
as its own stretched FH-227 version, which first
flew in 1966. The F-27 became the first
American-built jet airliner in service and, along
with the FH-227, became widely used as "feeder"
planes for commercial carriers both in the United
States and abroad. The F-27, however, lost a total
of $29 million for the company from 1958 to 1960.
In the mid-1950s, Fairchild began to diversify.
Fairchild helped create Fairchild Semiconductor in
1957, a spinoff of Shockley Semiconductors by a
group of unhappy Shockley employees. Fairchild
Semiconductor disappeared in 1987 when it was
absorbed by National Semiconductor. It separated
from National Semiconductor in 1997 and has since
grown to a business with almost $2 billion in
revenue in 2000.
In 1961, Fairchild was renamed Fairchild-Stratos
Corporation. It built meteoroid detection satellites
for the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA) and cameras for the Apollo
In 1964, the company acquired Hiller Helicopters,
becoming Fairchild Hiller. In 1966, it introduced
the FH-1100 civilian helicopter and the Pilatus
Porter turboprop short takeoff and landing (STOL)
utility aircraft, which sold primarily as the AU-23
Peacemaker military helicopter. Production of the
FH-1100 ended in January 1973, and Fairchild sold
Hiller back to its founder Stanley Hiller soon
Fairchild acquired Republic Aviation, a major
producer of combat aircraft, in September 1964.
Republic became the Republic Aviation Division of
Fairchild Hiller. Fairchild also created a Space and
Electronic Systems Division in 1965, and began
producing spacecraft and subsystems. It also
produced parts for the F-4 Phantom and the Boeing
747 jumbo jet.
After the death of Sherman Fairchild in 1971,
Fairchild Hiller became Fairchild Industries, Inc.
The Republic Aviation Division became Fairchild
Republic in 1973 and went on to build more than 700
A-10s Thunderbolt IIs between 1975 and 1984.
Equipped with the most powerful gun ever fitted into
an aircraft, the A-10 can "kill" all known
vehicles. Its pilot sits in a cockpit well forward
from the wing to make ejection easier if needed, and
the plane is designed to operate from unprepared
takeoff and landing areas. Still in use, its first
use in combat came in January 1991 with the start of
Operation Desert Storm.
Another acquisition was Swearingen in 1971, a maker
of light executive and commercial transports. The
successful Metro II, based on a Swearingen design,
along with the A-10, kept Fairchild active in the
aircraft market through the 1970s.
In 1981, Fairchild began a partnership with the
Swedish firm SAAB-Scania to develop and produce the
SAAB 340 airliner, a plane accommodating about twice
as many passengers as the Metro. Fairchild also won
the contract for the T-46 trainer. But both programs
encountered problems and late in 1985, company
president Emanual Fthenakis announced that Fairchild
would withdraw from civil aircraft production. In
1986, Fairchild sold its rights to the Metro. The
T-46 was also cancelled. The official end of the
T-46 program in March 1987 marked the end of over 60
years of Fairchild aircraft manufacturing. Late in
1987, Fairchild dismissed its remaining 3,500
employees at Farmingdale and closed the plant.
The company still retained space, electronics, and
subcontracting work. A metals firm, Banner
Industries of Ohio, acquired it in August 1989. The
new company, a diversified firm with only a slight
connection to the aerospace industry, was renamed
Fairchild Corporation. In 1994, Orbital Sciences
Corporation purchased Fairchild Space and Defence
Corporation from Matra, a French aerospace company.
Orbital sold Fairchild's Defence Unit to the British
company, Smiths Industries, in 2000.
Fairchild, San Antonio (USA)
Sherman Mills Fairchild got his start in the
aviation industry by designing his own aerial
cameras. In 1925, Huff-Daland failed to honour a
contract with Sherman Fairchild acting as an
independent aircraft salesman prompting the creation
of Fairchild Aircraft Manufacturing Corp. in
1926. The U.S. Army's first dedicated photo-
reconnaissance aircraft, the F-1 of 1929, was a
Fairchild hires Harold Caminez and forms
Fairchild-Caminez to develop the Caminez 447
Fairchild forms Fairchild Aviation Corp.
Fairchild takes over Kreider-Reisner which
operates as an separate unit until 1936. Fairchild-Caminez
becomes the Fairchild Engine Corporation.
Fairchild forms the Ranger Engine Division.
Fairchild acquires Hiller Helicopters forming
Fairchild acquires Republic Aviation forming the
Republic Division of Fairchild Hiller.
parent company changes its name to Fairchild
Fairchild acquires 90% of Swearingen Aviation, the
maker of Metro airliners.
Production costs and schedule problems with
Fairchild's last aircraft, the T-46, leads to the
announcement that Fairchild Industries is
leaving the aircraft business.
Fairchild Industries is acquired by Banner
Industries which changes its name to The Fairchild
Corporation. The Fairchild Corporation currently
focuses on industrial products.
Fairchild Corp sells it's Metro plant in San
Antonio, Texas. The new owners take the name
Fairchild Aircraft (later Fairchild Aerospace).
Fairchild Aerospace acquires Dornier to form
Fairchild Dornier files bankruptcy. The court
appointed administrator determines that the company
will have to be sold in pieces.