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Friesley Falcon — a rare bird

15 October 2012

Friesley Falcon — a rare bird

Scale  model of the Friesley Falcon — photo by Joseph May

One of the first commercial airliners was the one-of-a-kind 1921 Friesley Falcon. Financed by Harold Friesley the prescient airliner was designed and flown by Ben. M. Spencer and flew a commercial route, for a brief time connecting the two California cities of Gridley and San Francisco (130 miles/208km).

Upon first look it could appear that the  Falcon was formed by a coach maker with its rounded nose and box-like cross-section and entry door but — as is the usual case — looks can be deceitful. The Falcon possessed advanced features such has the unusual, if not rare, enclosed passenger cabin as well as cockpit. The cabin was box-like in cross-section making for strong construction and a generous volume for twelve passengers. The pilots also had overhead views while all had views through generously sized windows. Fuselage construction was plywood panel over spruce longerons trussed with 3/16” (~5mm) nickel steel rods while aft of the cabin the construction was fabric over frame.

Powered by a pair of Liberty engines the the Falcon would cruise somewhat faster than 120 mph/192kph and stall at less than 50 mph/80kph. After a year of operation the sole Friesley Falcon was sold to a concern in China and with that its subsequent fate was lost to history.

A better view of the nose and entry door — photo by Joseph May

The model pictured in this post is suspended within the Hiller Aviation Museum and more information is available from the 5 January 1922 issue of Flight: the aircraft, engineer & airships.


Friesley Falcon in flight — San Diego Air & Space Museum archive photo

The enclosed flight deck was uncommon for the day — San Diego Air & Space Museum archive photo

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Marty Davis permalink
    15 October 2012 12:29

    What a classy and handsome aircraft. Style aloft!

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