The Aeronca Manufacturing Corporation of Ohio ended production of the very successful and popular model Aeronca 7EC Champion tandem two-seat light cabin monoplane in 1951. In June of 1954 Champion Aircraft Corporation of Osceola, Wisconsin was formed by Robert Brown, who acquired the 7EC Type Certificate for continued production of the 7EC line, which he now named the Champion 7EC Traveller. Champion of Wisconsin was in business building aircraft until 1970, when their assets were acquired by Bellanca Aircraft Corporation of Alexandria, Minnesota.
Champion of Wisconsin built 13 different model aircraft, including an agricultural model-the 7GCA Sky-Trac with Sorensen Super Spray gear in 1959 while in business, all related to the original 7AC/7EC aircraft models. They introduced the 7ECA Citabria (Airbatic backward) aerobatic model with just 100 horsepower, FAA-approved in 1964. Champion's final production model was the upgraded, advanced aerobatic 8KCAB Decathlon with 150 horsepower. I met Champion's Bob Brown in the mid-1960s in St. Paul, Minnesota where we both served on the Press Entertainment Committee of the St. Paul Winter Carnival, an annual event in late January-early February that celebrates winter weather and sports. I also met Bob's wife, who raised chickens and had a rural egg route around Osceola, so she sold little fryers out of the little flyers-ouch!
Osceola's airport has a single runway and Champion Aircraft Corp. had a large production building next to the runway. I landed there during my primary flight training in the mid 1960s based in Minnesota. The airport is now called the L. O. Simenstad Municipal Airport. Champion in 1956 launched a tri-gear version of the Traveller, called the 7FC Tri-Traveller. This model was the genesis of the twin engine tri-gear Champion Lancer 402, the prototype of which first flew in 1961. The Lancer was designed to offer a low cost, simple to maintain twin with ability to operate from unprepared strips. In hindsight, some might consider a taildragger design better equipped to meet these requirements.
The prototype Lancer N9924Y was made of all-metal welded steel tube construction with fabric covering and first flew in 1961 using, as I recall, two Continental C95 95 horsepower engines. Many changes were made to the prototype design, including moving the engine nacelles to the top of the wing for the production version. Production commenced in the summer of 1963 after Federal Aviation Agency type certification and 26 Lancer 402s were produced that year and the next, of all-metal construction with glass-fibre covering. The production Lancer used two Continental O-200-A 100 horsepower engines driving fixed pitch props. The wing root airfoil was the NACA 4412 and the wingtip also the NACA 4412 airfoil. I have seen references to 24 production aircraft made, and also to 36 total Lancers produced, but believe the true total figure is 26. Remarkably, the US and Canadian aircraft registers show a total of 18 remaining Champion Lancer 402s.
As the propellers were fixed pitch, engine out performance with single engine suffered because the unpowered prop could not be feathered, resulting in great windmilling prop drag and yaw and required full power on the remaining engine (and altitude). Note the tall balanced rudder in N9931Y above, the only photo at present of a Lancer 402 in the Airport-Data database. I thank Timothy Aanerud for his fine photo taken of this unusual twin engine aircraft. The FAA quickly limited a multi-engine rating obtained on this aircraft to operation of this type model aircraft only. This limitation was greater than anticipated by Champion and sales and instruction opportunities suffered. Champion FBO dealers/flight schools showed a reluctance to operate the Lancer 402 for multi-engine training.
(A corollary FAA limitation was also established when the Cessna 336 Skymaster with twin in-line engines was introduced. The Cessna 337 Super Skymaster with retractable gear was also a follow-on center-line thrust in-line twin engine design. The FAA quickly limited the multi-engine ratings obtained on training in these aircraft to these models only, resulting in a center line thrust multi-engine rating. The center-line thrust operational skills required are not directly transferable to conventional twin engine operation, including engine-out performance and recovery).
Small World Department: A long time friend in California saw this article that triggered his memory and went to his old logbook. He informed me via email that he got his twin rating in 1966 (while in Obstetrics practice in Chicago) in a Champion Lancer 402 N9981Y. Champion used a block of FAA-assigned N numbers and as various models were built assigned the numbers, so the Lancer models had consecutive serial numbers of production, but not necessarily consecutive N numbers. As of this writing, N9981Y, a 1964 Lancer 402 is still in registration in the state of Kentucky.
The initial climb rate of the Lancer 402 was just 642 feet/minute, and its single engine altitude could only be maintained down to 2,000 feet msl. So, an engine out below this figure resulted in descent even with full power on the operating engine, and a quick look for a suitable emergency landing field. One has to question whether this aircraft design with fixed pitch props could even be type certificated now in 2007 as a new production aircraft meeting our Federal Aviation Administration's flight standards requirements. Service ceiling of the aircraft was 12,000 feet, if you were patient in the climb and had oxygen aboard, which should be used above 10,000 feet altitude. Seating was tandem for two with dual controls, a control wheel up front and a stick in the rear for the instructor. Solo flight from front seat. The rear seat position had no brakes. The dual sets of engine controls were overhead each seating position. Visibility was limited by the engine nacelle placements. Visibility into a normal banked turn was nil. Noise was remarkable, very remarkable especially when the engines were not synchronized. With dual braced wing struts, dual braced gear struts and long, fixed leg gear legs there was a lot of form drag. Wheel pants were not an option.
Rarely seen, I have observed just two Lancers in Minnesota and one in California, up close chocked at OXR, Oxnard, CA in the early 1970s. Summarizing, this design provided far less utility than expected, and lack of market acceptance of this novel offering doomed further production. Ownership of a Champion Lancer 402 as an oddity and rarity of aviation is perhaps its own reward. Its appearance does attract and invite attention.
Please click on the top picture to see the N9931Y Aircraft Profile page.
Powerplant: two Continental O-200-A flat opposed, 100 Hp each
Propellers: Fixed pitch
Landing gear type: Fixed tricycle gear, steerable nose wheel
Seating: two in tandem, dual controls
Wing span: 34' 5.75"
Wing area: 170.22 sq. ft.
Wing loading: 14.39 lbs. sq. ft.
Power loading: 12.25 lbs. hp.
Overall length: 22' 3"
Overall height: 8' 1.5"
Empty weight: 1,790 lbs.
Gross weight: 2,450 lbs.
Fuel capacity: 26 gallons
Max speed: 130 mph @ 7.500'
Cruise speed: 120 mph @ 75% power
Cruise speed: 115 mph @ 65% power
Stall speed: 43 mph
Initial climb rate: 642 ft. Min.
Service ceiling: 12,000 ft.
Endurance: 710 miles?
1963 Price FAF: $12,500
Asking in 2007: about $55,000