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History of the Pheasant

Although the Pheasant H-10 became a nationally recognized name during the late twenties and thirties, there were only 41 working examples constructed. The plane was reportedly designed in 1927 by Orville Hickman in Memphis, Missouri. Lee R. Briggs, who managed a flying school and airport near Memphis, built eleven Pheasants later that same year and started the Pheasant Company. Unfortunately, while testing the aircraft in preparation for approval, Briggs was killed in a crash.

With the loss of the Pheasant’s main financial backer, the company experienced economic problems. The now famous S.J. “Steve” Wittman took over the position as head test pilot for the Pheasant Company. Fortunately for the company, Adolf Bechaud and his associates of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, were looking to enter the airplane business. Wittman, who was originally from Wisconsin, suggested to Bechaud that he should purchase the financially troubled company. Negotiations for the acquisition concluded in 1928, and the Pheasant Aircraft Company was reborn, with headquarters in Fond du Lac. Wittman was put in charge of development of the H-10.

Wittman entered the September 8, 1928 Air Derby from New York to Los Angeles flying the H-10. He was in third place for the early part of the race before engine radiator trouble forced him to make an emergency landing in the desert. Nevertheless, Wittman finished 12th out of 38 entries. This was Wittman’s first nationwide event in what would turn out to be a long and successful racing career. In a return race from Los Angeles to Cincinnati, Wittman flew the Pheasant to an impressive 4th place finish.

Although the Pheasant airplane had success at the races, the company’s performance was not as impressive. The Pheasant Aircraft Company started experimenting with various other designs and produced three versions of the “Traveler,” a light monoplane with a 4-cylinder engine based on the Ford Model A engine. It was unveiled at the 1929 Detroit Aircraft Show, but generated little interest. Considerable time and money had been spent building the Traveler and the H-10 with mediocre results. The company was once again in dire financial straits. The onset of the Great Depression put the final nail in the coffin, and the Pheasant Aircraft Company was sold. The new owner never developed any other models.

This aircraft was researched by EAA volunteer Johnathan Tsao

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