The Kreutzer "Air Coach"
Say the word "tri-motor" in aviation circles and most people quickly
conjure up a mental image of a graceful old Ford Trimotor. But Ford
was not the first, nor the only company to manufacture tri-motors
during aviation's Golden Age. In fact, there were at least twenty-four
different manufacturers and forty-seven different models of
tri-motored aircraft produced in the United States during this
In January of 1929, the U.S. Department of Commerce began issuing an
"A.T.C." (Approved Type Certificate) to aircraft manufacturers for
each model of aircraft intended to be used for commercial
purposes. The A.T.C. meant that the aircraft met certain design and
performance criteria for safe flight operations. While tri-motors were
already being built, the first tri-motor to receive an Approved Type
Certificate was the ten place Bach "Air Yacht", the nest three
tri-motor A.T.C.s went to Fords. In June of 1929, the fifth Approved
Type Certificate for a tri-motored aircraft (A.T.C. 170) was issued to
Joseph Kreutzer Corporation of Venice, California, for the Kreutzer
"Air Coach", Model K-3.
This aircraft, NC-612, was the prototype for this first of three
Kreutzer tri-motor models. NC-612 (now NC-612A) was not only the
prototype for the company's first model but it was progressively
converted to each of the two subsequent models as well. Today,
Kreutzer's very first tri-motor is also the only surviving example
from the Kreutzer tri-motor line. The history of this airplane and its
survival is really quite fascinating.
- From The Kreutzer "Air Coach", The Life and Times of One of America's First Tri-motors
While it has been my good fortune to see many rare and unusual aircraft over the years, it is a very rare occurence indeed to see a factory prototype from the "Golden Age" - especially when it is the sole survivor of its breed.
When the Kreutzer "Air Coach" arrived at Antique Airfield for the 1999 National Fly-In, it was immediately the center of attention. Just the sound of three Kinner K-5s "flying in close formation" attracted enough attention... and then the question: "Just what is it, anyway?" quickly followed. Although I'm not sure that anyone other than the aircraft's owner, Greg Herrick, and pilot, Col. Joe Kittinger (USAF Retired) quite figured out how to pronounce it... by the time the weekend was over, everyone know what it was.
Col. Kittinger reported that the aircraft flies well - much like an Aeronca Champ.
The concensus of the observers was "Well... ok... a big Aeronca Champ".
I suppose it was no surprise to anyone attending the Fly-In that the "Air Coach" was chosen as the 1999 Antique Grand Champion.
This is what the Antique Airplane Association stands for... "Keep the Antiques Flying"... and it is indeed a pleasure that such a rare aircraft has been kept flying.
Specifications of the Kreutzer K-5 "Air Coach"
Courtesy of Greg Herrick
Manufactured in 1928 by the Joseph Kreutzer Corporation, Venice, California.
ATC #223, September 6, 1929
Serial Number: 102
Registration Number: NC-612 (Currently NC-612A)
Three Kinner K-5, 100 H.P. each
Maximum Speed: 130 M.P.H.
Cruising Speed: 110 M.P.H.
Landing Speed: 45 M.P.H.
Climb: 950 feet/minute at sea level
Service Ceiling: 17,000 feet
Range at 18 gallons/hour: 520 miles
Height: 8' 6"
Wing Chord: 84"
Total Wing Area: 315 square feet
Empty Weight: 2745 pounds
Useful Load: 1698 pounds
Payload with Full Fuel: 951 pounds
Gross Weight: 4333 pounds
Owned by Greg Herrick, the aircraft was restored and is presently based near Minneapolis, Minnesota.