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The Fleet biplane and its later offspring started life as the Consolidated "Husky Jr" in 1928 in Buffalo, New York. This was a development of a series of trainers produced in quantity for the Army and Navy of several nations across the world. The civilian version of this approved design was renamed the "Fleet" in honour of mr. Ruben H. Fleet, president of Consolidated for many years. Fleet Aircraft Inc. became a division of Consolidated. Fleets were later also built by Fleet Aircraft of Canada Ltd. Surprisingly, at fly-ins in the US these days a large percentage of participating Fleets are actually Canadian built. The Fleet gained early fame as a very strong and light biplane with a fuselage of welded chrome-moly steel tubes and fabric covered wings with spruce spars and aluminium ribs.. Production started with the Fleet 1 and ended with the '21'. Models '1' and '2' were nearly identical except for their engines, respectively a 110 hp Warner 'Scarab' and a 100 hp Kinner K5. The model '7' was basically a model '1' or '2' with a 125 hp Kinner B5 engine, larger tail surfaces to improver directional stability, and some parts of the airframe reinforced. The name Fleet dissappeared with Consolidated in 1939. Fleet Aircraft of Canada ceased operations in 1957. In Europe only two Fleets are in flying condition, one in Spain, the other with Early Birds Foundation in Lelystad, NL
Part of text from: The Fleet Story, International Fleet Club magazine and: The Fleet Biplane by Leslie E. Neville, 1929.
Production: Fleet 7 1928-1934 numbers: ?
Engine: 5 cylinder radial Kinner B5, 125 hp
Maximum speed: 114 mph (185 km/hr) Cruise 90 mph (145 km/h)
Weight: empty 1155 lbs (520 kg0, max. 1820 lbs (819 kg)
Dimensions: wingspan 28 ft (8.53 m), length 21 ft 6 in (6.55 m)
The Early Birds Fleet
This aircraft was deliverd by Fleet Aircraft Inc. (US) on the 2nd of May 1930. At the time it was produced as a Model 2; although fuselage and wings are quite similar to the later Model 7 there are some major differences. The tailfeathers are smaller and the engine is a 100 hp Kinner K5. In 1943 this Fleet was converted to a Model 7. The registration NC724V which it received at birth is still on the top wing in the same lettering.
During the early years of its life the Fleet was a sports- and training aircraft but it changed owners and domicile quite frequently, from several places in California to Montana and back to California. After a 12 year period on Hawaii it returned to California, then went to North Carolina and via Florida to the Netherlands where it arrived on the 17th of December 1982. Since that date it is part of the Early Birds Collection, making several trips over Europe every year.
Twice the Fleet was rather badly damaged. Once in September 1933 after which incident both main wingspars had to be replaced. The second accident called for far more drastic repairs. On a flight over Montana's Mission Range the engine stopped; in the ensueing forced landing the plane suffered so much damage that it was considered a "total write off". Pilot Gerald Semrau of Butte and his co-pilot survived but were in hospital for several weeks. The remains of the plane were stored for some four years before changing owner who took up restoration. Five years after the accident the Fleet was fully airworthy again. Some pictures (below) show a young Fleet and after the accident. Pictures, the pilot's log and the newspaper article were kindly supplied by Ron Semrau, the unfortunate Fleet pilot during the 1934 accident.