Delaware Military History

Bellanca Aircraft Company

The company

After Giuseppe Mario Bellanca, the designer and builder of Italy's first aircraft, came to the
United States in 1911, he began to design aircraft for a number of firms including Maryland
Pressed Steel Company, Wright Aeronautical Corporation and Columbia Aircraft Company.
Bellanca founded his own company, Bellanca Aircraft Corporation of America, in 1927, sited
first in Richmond Hill, New York and moving in 1928 to New Castle (Wilmington), Delaware.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Bellanca's aircraft of his own design were known for their efficient, low
operating cost gaining fame for world record endurance and distance flights. Lindbergh's first
choice for his New York to Paris flight was a Bellanca WB-2. The company's insistence on
selecting the crew drove Lindbergh to Ryan.

Bellanca remained President and Chairman of the Board from the corporation's inception on the
last day of 1927 until he sold the company to L. Albert and Sons in 1954. From that time on, the
Bellanca line was part of a succession of companies that maintained the lineage of the original
aircraft produced by Bellanca.

Mr. Bellanca

Giuseppe Mario Bellanca was born in 1886 in Sciacca, Sicily. As a young man, he attended the
Technical Institute in Milan, graduating with a teaching degree in mathematics in 1908. During
his quest for a second mathematics and engineering degree, he became enamoured of aviation,
and set out to design and build his own airplane. Bellanca's first aircraft design was a "pusher"
aircraft, somewhat similar to the Wright Flyer. Lacking funds for such an endeavor, he joined
with two partners, Enea Bossi, and Paolo Invernizzi. The union of the three produced the first
flight of a totally Italian-designed and Italian-built aircraft in December of 1909. Bellanca's
second design, was a tractor-type aircraft. Although the aircraft was successfully constructed, it
was never flown due to insufficient funds for an engine.

At the urging of his brother Carlo, who was already established in Brooklyn, New York,
Giuseppe Bellanca immigrated to America in 1911. Before the end of the year, he began
construction of his third airplane design, a parasol monoplane. After construction was
completed, he took the small craft to Mineola Field on Long Island, NY, and proceeded to teach
himself to fly. He began by taxiing. He then, taxied faster, which gave way to short hops. The
hops got longer, until, on May 19, 1912, there was not enough room to land straight ahead,
and Bellanca had to complete a turn in order land safely. Having successfully taught himself to
fly, Bellanca then set about teaching others to fly, and from 1912 to 1916, he operated the
Bellanca Flying School. One of his students was a young Fiorello La Guardia, the future mayor
of New York City. In return for flying lessons, La Guardia taught Bellanca how to drive a car.

In 1917 the Maryland Pressed Steel Company of Hagerstown, MD hired Bellanca as a consulting
engineer. While there, he designed two trainer biplanes, the CD, and an improved version, the
CE. With the conclusion of WWI, Maryland Pressed Steel's contracts were cancelled and the
company entered into receivership. Thus, the CE never went into production.

In 1921, a group of investors lured Bellanca westward to Omaha, NE, in hopes of establishing
that town as a center for aircraft manufacture. Before the aircraft could be built, the company
went bankrupt, but construction of the aircraft continued under the financial backing of a local
motorcycle dealer named Victor Roos. The resultant aircraft, the Bellanca CF, was called by
Janes's All the World's Aircraft "the first up-to-date transport aeroplane that was designed,
built, and flown with success in the United States." Among the local people helping to build the
aircraft was the daughter of Bellanca's landlord, Dorothy Brown. Giuseppe and she were
married on November 18, 1922.

Despite its advanced design, the Bellanca CF could not compete with the economics of the time.
In the days just after World War I, a surplus Curtiss Jenny could be purchased for as little as
$250.00. A Bellanca CF, with a price tag of $5000.00, was just too expensive and the aircraft
never went into production. After the disappointment of the CF, Bellanca designed wings for
the Post Office Department's DH-4's. His new wings were a tremendous improvement over the
original design, but only a few aircraft were so modified.

In 1925, Bellanca went to work for the Wright Aeronautical Corporation of Paterson, NJ. His
assignment there was to develop an aircraft around the new Wright Whirlwind engine. He
already had a design in mind, which was an improved version of the CF, called the CG. This
design evolved into the Wright-Bellanca WB-1.

The WB-1 enjoyed a short, but successful flying career. The aircraft had already won one race
and efficiency contest before an untimely accident destroyed the craft during preparation for an
attempt to break the world's non-refueled endurance record. Fortunately, at the time of the
crash, Bellanca was already working on an improved version, of the WB-1 designated the WB-2.

During 1926, the WB-2 won two efficiency trophies at the National Air Races in Philadelphia.
Wright considered putting the aircraft into production, but decided against it to avoid
alienating other aircraft companies that were potential customers for their engines.
Disappointed by Wright's decision, Bellanca left the company and joined with a young
businessman named Charles Levine to form the Columbia Aircraft Company. Wright sold the
WB-2 and all drawings and production rights to the new company. The WB-2 went on to a
long and fruitful flying career starting with establishing a new world's non-refueled endurance
record of 51 hours, 11 minutes, and 59 seconds in April of 1927.

In the latter half of 1926, Charles Lindbergh wanted to buy the WB-2, now named the
'Columbia', for his proposed flight from New York to Paris. He was rebuffed by Levine who also
had designs on the flight and the $25,000 prize money. Lindbergh then went to Ryan for his
“Spirit of St. Louis”. Meanwhile Levine, in choosing the crew, managed to promise two seats to
three people. So while the Columbia was grounded by a court order brought by the third party,
Lindbergh took off on his successful flight to Paris.

Eventually, the 'Columbia' was cleared of litigation and took off on its successful transatlantic
flight on June 4, 1927. In the cockpit were Clarence Chamberlin, one of the pilots of the
endurance record and Charles Levine, who became the first transatlantic passenger. The plan
was to fly all the way to Berlin, and Chamberlin had vowed to fly until they ran out of fuel.
Forty-three hours later, they landed in Eisleben, Germany, the first of two successful Atlantic
crossings for Bellanca's most famous aircraft.

Disappointed because the 'Columbia' was not the first aircraft to accomplish the New York to
Paris flight, Bellanca severed all relations with Levine, and started his own company, the
Bellanca Aircraft Corporation of America, and rented facilities on Staten Island, NY. The new
Bellanca model was designated the CH, and was basically a commercial version of the WB-2. The
new company also had two other models that were built for special orders, the Bellanca Model J
and the Model K.

It was not long before Bellanca caught the attention of the Du Pont family of Delaware. They
wanted to start aircraft manufacturing in Delaware, and in late 1927, an agreement was made
with Bellanca to locate his factory outside of Wilmington. The site was large enough for a first-
class airfield, with a seaplane ramp on the nearby Delaware River.

This was a busy time in Bellanca's life. Along with all that was happening in his professional
life, he and Dorothy celebrated the birth of their son August T. Bellanca in March of 1927.

With the exception of a few years immediately before and during the early stages of WWII,
Bellanca was President and Chairman of the Board from the corporation's inception on the last
day of 1927 until he sold the company to L. Albert and Sons in 1954. After his departure from
the company, Giuseppe and his son, August, formed the Bellanca Development Company with
the purpose of building a new aircraft. It would have increased performance due to the use of
lighter materials for its structure. Work on this aircraft was progressing when Giuseppe
Bellanca succumbed to leukemia and died on December 26, 1960. After his father's death, August
continued the project, and under his guidance, the aircraft, a record breaker, first flew in 1973.

In 1993, August Bellanca donated his father’s 1920 CF to the Smithsonian along with many
personal and corporate papers and correspondence. NASA craftsmen restored the aircraft and it
is on display at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum’s new Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near
Washington’s Dulles International Airport. The far-sighted, innovative designer and builder of
American aircraft, Giuseppe M. Bellanca was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in
1993, the Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame in 1999.

The Airfield

In 1928, Bellanca and Henry B. duPont built an airfield, aircraft plant, and service hangar in
New Castle, Delaware.  Located off Route 273 near the Delaware River, the plant produced
approximately 3000 aircraft before closing in 1954.

FoBA volunteers are restoring the 1935 Bellanca Airfield service hangar, owned by the Trustees
of The New Castle Common. Interested individuals may contact FOBA by email at
contact@friendsofbellanca.org for more information or membership data.

Aircraft

First Flight - Model / Military number - Name
1912 Bellanca Parasol, high wing monoplane
1918 Model CD 35 hp Biplane, Maryland Pressed Steel Co.
1919 Model CE 55 hp Biplane Maryland Pressed Steel Co.
1921 Model CF 90 hp cabin monoplane, Roos Bellanca Airplane Co.
1925 Wright Bellanca Number 1 (WB-1)
1925 Wright Bellanca Number 2 (WB-2) (Columbia)
1927 Bellanca J (Pathfinder)
1928 Bellanca Model K
1928 CH-200 / - Pacemaker
1929 CH-300 / - Pacemaker
1929 Bellanca TES (Bellanca TES Tandem "Blue Streak", X/NR855E)
1930 P-100 / C-27 Aircruiser Army Cargo craft
1930 Bellanca P-100 Airbus Passenger Plane
1931 Bellanca CH 400 Skyrocket 6-place high wing monoplane
1934 Bellanca 77-140 Patrol Bomber
1934 Bellanca 28-70 Flash Air Racer
1934  Bellanca CH 400 Senior Skyrocket 8-place high wing monoplane
1937 Bellanca 28-90 flash Air Racer
1937 Bellanca 17-20 - 5 seat cabin monoplane, not built
1937 Bellanca XSE-1 and XSE-2 Patrol Scout carrier plane USN
1938 Bellanca Model 28-92 Trimotor racer low wing monoplane
1939 Bellanca Cruisair Junior  3-place cabin monoplane
1941 Bellanca YO-50 Army Observation
1941 HC-57 Higgins-Bellanca Cargo Transport unbuilt design flying wing with twin tail boom
1942 Contract built Fairchild AT-21 Gunnery Crew Trainer
1942-1945 Contracted build components for floats, gun trurrents and other equipment for C-46,
B-26, Helldiver, B-24, C-109, and the A-30
1945 Bellanca 14-13 Cruisair Senior
1949 Bellanca Cruisemaster
1964 7ECA Citabria (by Champion, prior to Bellanca acquisition)
1965 7GCAA Citabria (by Champion, prior to Bellanca acquisition)
1965 7GCBC Citabria (by Champion, prior to Bellanca acquisition)
1966 17-30 / Viking
1968 7KCAB Citabria (by Champion, prior to Bellanca acquisition)
1970 8KCAB Decathlon (by Champion, prior to Bellanca acquisition)
1971 7ACA Champ
1973 T-250 Aries
1974 8GCBC Scout
1975 19-25 Skyrocket II

Sources:
"Bellanca's Golden Age, by Alan Abel and Drina Welch Abel, the Golden Age of Aviation Series,
Wind Canyon Books Inc. Brawley CA 2004.