THE SPARTAN AIRCRAFT COMPANY
Mid-Continent Aircraft Co. was established in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1927. By 1928, oil man, W.G. Skelly, and other air-minded businessmen had purchased the company and reorganized it as The Spartan Aircraft Company. The Spartan School of Aeronautics was also begun that year and a new production plant was constructed bringing total employment to 100. That year they also offered for sale their first aircraft, the Spartan C3 biplane, which was powered by a 125 hp Ryan-Siemens radial. In 1929 they added other versions of the C3 powered by the 120 hp Walter 9-cylinder radial, the 150 hp Wright “Whirlwind” J6 and the 170 hp Curtiss “Challenger”.
In 1930 the Spartan C4-225 was introduced. This was a four-seat cabin monoplane equipped with the 225 hp Wright “Whirlwind” engine. Two more biplane models were available as well, the C3-225 with the same 225 hp Wright “Whirlwind” as the C4 and the C3-165 using a 165 hp version of the “Whirlwind.” These would be the last Spartan biplanes produced for the American Civil market.
The C4 added two additional engine variations in 1931. They were the C4-300 with a 300 hp. “Whirlwind” and the C4-301 with a 300 hp. Pratt & Whitney “Wasp Junior.” The C4 also was modified to carry five people as the C5-300 and C5-301 depending on the engine used. A two-seat, low-wing monoplane, the C2-60 was also introduced this year. Its power came from a 60 hp 3-cylinder Jacobs radial.
Spartan continued to offer the C2-60 in 1934 and also produced six two-seat primary training biplanes for the Mexican government. These C2-175 models were powered with 175 hp radial engines. Similar C-165 models were reportedly used for blind flying training in the civil market, but the U.S. military was uninterested. A proposal was tendered to the U.S. Bureau of Air Commerce to provide a two-seat light plane, likely the C2-60, for use by their inspectors, but it was continued operation of the Spartan School of Aeronautics that helped keep the Spartan company in business during the years of the Great Depression.
The last Spartan civil aircraft design was introduced in 1935 – the Spartan 7W “Executive.” This 4-5 place, high-performance airplane represented a radical change from previous Spartan designs. A low-wing, all-metal monoplane, it had retractable gear and split trailing-edge flaps. As introduced, the “Exec” was available with either a 285 hp Jacobs or the 450 hp Pratt & Whitney “Wasp Junior.” Later the 300 hp “Wasp Junior” became available. Marketed primarily to high-level oil company officials, the “Executive” was luxurious and unique at the time and continues to be held in high esteem today.
The “Executive” also led to an obscure military design, the Spartan 8W or FBW-1 “Zeus,” in 1937. It had tandem cockpits with a sliding canopy, one machine gun in the wing and one flexible gun in the rear cockpit. Provision was also made to carry ten 25 lbs bombs under the wings. The Spartan School of Aeronautics meanwhile was offering courses for both pilots and mechanics lasting from six to sixteen months.
In 1940 Spartan finally had a military design that reached production. The NS-1 (USN NP-1) was a two-seat primary training biplane similar in layout to others produced for the war effort. Fifteen “Executives” were also impressed into the service and given the Army Air Forces designation UC-71.
Spartan spent most of its energies during the war producing parts and sub assemblies under contract for other aircraft manufacturers. This work allowed the expansion of its factory space to 350,000 sq. ft.
The Spartan School of Aeronautics was another hub of activity. 1940 saw 870 students enrolled. 250 were civilians and 420 were Air Corp cadets. The school spent $600,000 preparing to train up to 2,100 Air Corps pilots a year adding 10 new buildings in Tulsa and at its branch in Muskogee. Fifteen training planes were added bringing the school’s fleet to 120 Fairchild PT-19 and Stearman PT-13 trainers. Personnel increased to 540 including 110 flight instructors. The classroom work-week was lengthened to six days to produce trained technicians for work in the aviation industry. This change didn’t apply to the military program which was carried out in Tulsa and Muskogee and also trained British flyers in Miami, Oklahoma.
Civil enrollment in 1943 reached 600. The school was reorganized into the College of Aeronautical Engineering, School of Flight, School of Mechanics, School of Meteorology, School of Communications and School of Instruments. The College of Aeronautical Engineering became an accredited part of the Oklahoma State System for Higher Education as a private college. In November the school was selected as a training agency for the Inter-American Aviation Mechanic Training program of the Department of State and Civil Aeronautics Administration. Its first class comprised 67 students from 12 Central and South American countries.
At its peak in early 1944 Spartan had 2,000 employees, 1,200 students and 54 buildings. As the war moved toward its close, a vocational rehabilitation department was created to train and place veterans entering the aviation industry. By year’s end things began to contract with 1,077 employees and 1,101 students using 43 buildings in two locations.
Post-war planning envisioned two new designs. One was the Model 12 “Executive” a faster and more economical tricycle geared update of their greatest design. Only one example was ever built. The other would have been the “Skyway Traveler,” a six to eight seat twin engine monoplane suitable for business and feeder airline use.
Post-war reality saw the end of any aircraft production for Spartan. Adapting to survive the company began producing consumer products including aircraft radios, all-metal caravan trailers, food-freezing cabinets and floor furnaces. The Spartan Aircraft Company reorganized in 1946-1947 becoming Spartan Aero Repair. Still the Spartan School of Aeronautics continued to train new pilots benefiting like other schools from the GI Bill.
In 1968 Spartan’s interests were sold to Automation Industries Inc. and, in 1972 it was purchased by National Systems Corp. The Spartan School remains active today.
Spartan Aircraft Production
C3-1 – 15
C-3-2 and C3-120 – 35
C3-165 – 40+
C3-225 – 14
C3-166 – 1
C4-225 – 5
C4-300 – 1
C5-301 – 4
C2-60 – 16+
Executive 7X – 1 (prototype for the 7 series)
Executive 7W – 34 (includes all 7 series)
Executive 7W-F – 1 (converted 7W, later converted back)
Executive 7W-P – 1 (customized 7W, exported to China July, 1937)
8W Zeus – 1
12W – 1
NP-1 – 201
NS-1 – 1 (prototype for NP-1)