THORP/TAYLOR T-18 N455DT
The following is a paragraph from an article John Thorp, EAA #1212, wrote for SPORT AVIATION in February 1962. “I decided to see what I could do with a metal airplane following Kirk’s theme (Note: Joe Kirk did a series of design studies on what he called the “Flit-Plane.” They were to be small wood aircraft with minimum horsepower and weighing less than 100 lbs when complete). I’m afraid that I don’t have Joe’s flourish, but my resulting design, I believe, can be built by an amateur in less time and for less money than any design ever produced for homebuilding regardless of its capability as an airplane.” Certainly Mr. Thorp had confidence in his design. Toward the end of the article he says, “At the moment I haven’t decided what the future of the T-18 design will be. And, “For the moment I have had my fun thinking about a ‘for fun airplane’ with helmet and goggles, etc., even if I set aviation back 25 years.”
John Thorp’s original T-18 design was a no frills, low-wing, two-place metal aircraft. Powered by an O-290-G engine converted to an O-290-D engine, the airplane could be extremely small which made it light without being flimsy. It was for the helmet and goggle crowd with an open cockpit and open cowl, but in the high performance league with 125 hp. Eventually he was convinced to draw up plans and make them available to homebuilders.
The airframe was fairly simple using flat fuselage side skins of .025 2024 T-3 Alclad. Wing tips, tail tips, tail cone, cowling, fuel tanks and seats are of fiberglas construction. The landing gear was a simple “A” frame welded from heavy wall 4130 steel tubing. Most everything was “pop” riveted together with the landing gear being bolted on with 3 3/8 inch bolts.
After making the statement that metal airplanes can be simpler to build than wooden airplanes, John Thorp set about proving this statement by publishing a series of articles in SPORT AVIATION on how to build his T-18 design. The articles showed up monthly like clockwork and homebuilders across the US began building the little metal aircraft. The design caught on with more than 400 Thorp T-18s on the current FAA register.
EAA’s Thorp T-18 belonged to Don Taylor and is a very special aircraft. Don built his T-18 for a specific purpose, to complete the first around-the-world flight in a homebuilt aircraft. Don studied many homebuilt plans and performance figures and decided that the Thorp T-18 would be the most adaptable. He encountered more than the usual homebuilder’s problems because of the unusual requirements of the proposed flight. The problems were solved and a Lycoming 180 hp engine was chosen for the powerplant. Don crowded a full set of IFR instruments into the small panel and also found space for a 360 channel VHF with localizer head, ADF and a transponder.
Flight testing was very encouraging with few problems. Don named the plane “Victoria” after the only ship of the Magellan fleet to complete the first world-circling trip. Next came more rigorous testing by attempting various speed records within the US, all-weather flying and continuous improvements to the plane. After meticulous planning, he felt quite ready to take on the globe circling challenge.
Full accounts of Don Taylor’s record breaking flights and around-the-world trips can be found in the pages of SPORT AVIATION. Call the EAA Library at 920/426-4848 to find out the specific issues. Don Taylor donated his T-18 to the EAA during the 1983 annual Oshkosh Fly-In and Convention.
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