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1946 North American L-17A

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When the second world war ended North American Aviation, maker of the Harvard trainer (A6, or Texan) and the superior P-51 Mustang, needed to diversify with military contracts gone, so they turned to general aviation and designed this remarkable four place retractable cross country private aircraft. Some components like the landing gear bear distinct resemblance to P-51 parts and the tail is similar. North American put the aircraft into production and turned out 1,100 of them between 1946 and 1947. It has a 185hp Continental engine and with the exception of upgrades to its panel, is pretty much what it would have been like when it was made.

North American sold the design to Ryan, the fellow who put Lindberg's Spirit of Saint Louis together and this company went on to build more than a thousand with some variation in power and fuel capacity from 1948 to the early 50s. Many of these had 205 and 260 hp Continental engines. The aircraft was then picked up in the 60s by a company called Navion who built and fixed ceiling version with doors and five seats called the Rangemaster the last built in the mid seventies. The Company was sold moved from Texas to Bowling Green and is making new machines, though different in design the basic concept is still there.

The L-17 was used by the military services from the late 1940s through the early 1960s for liaison, reconnaissance and light cargo missions. First flown in April 1946, the Army Air Force ordered 83 military versions under the designation L-17A. In the summer of 1947, the Ryan Aeronautical Company acquired the design and manufacturing rights from North American. Shortly thereafter, the Air Force ordered 163 improved Navions from Ryan as L-17Bs, the first of which was delivered in November 1948. Later the L-17As were converted to L-17Cs with improved brakes and more fuel capacity. All L-17s were designated as U-18s (Utility Aircraft) in 1962.

Our L17A is presently a collection of parts undergoing restoration.

Manufactured by North American Aircraft Co, Inglewood CA.

Powerplant: 185 hp Continental O-470
Wingspan: 33' 5 "
Length: 27' 6 "
Height: 8' 8 "
Wing area: 184 sf
Empty weight: 1,782 lbs
Gross weight: 2,750 lbs
Maximum speed: 153 mph
Cruising speed: 145 mph
Landing speed: 53 mph
Ceiling: 13,500 ft
Range: 560 statute miles
Status: Scheduled for return to flight. 
Under restoration

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