Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Andrew Smith AJ-2 - N9AJ

Spend enough time snooping around small rural airports, and before long, you'll unearth some interesting finds. On a sunny summer day in 2008, I unexpectedly happened upon one of only two or three airworthy Percival EP-9s in the world. I felt fortunate to document that aircraft for the world to see. This year, I was able to further document it with a full photo shoot. I even got to fly it for a bit. All as a result of sticking my nose in forgotten corners of sleepy little airports.

A similar discovery occurred back in 1999. I was flying out of Ann Arbor and decided to pop into Al Meyers airport down in Tecumseh, just for fun. Not a whole lot was going on that day, so I decided to have a look around. Peeking into the main hangar, I discovered one of the nicest-looking airplanes I'd ever seen - what I would later learn was the one and only Andrew Smith AJ-2, manufactured in 1981.

Fortunately, I had a camera. Unfortunately, it was a very cheap camera unaccompanied by any sort of knowledge or talent. These are the photos I was able to shoot in the hangar:

Lacking the foresight to examine the dataplate, I left the airport not knowing what aircraft type I had just photographed. I wouldn't learn much more about it for nearly ten years.

A few years ago, a friend found some great info about it in the October 1981 issue of Sport Aviation. Jack Cox interviewed A.J. himself and shot these photos of the beautiful airplane:

The interview revealed that the aircraft was designed as a cross-country touring aircraft. It had two seats. The passenger seat was intended to serve as a baggage area when only the pilot was aboard. The engine is a Lycoming IO-360. It makes about 215 hp and has a custom, "one-off" McCauley constant-speed prop. Long-range cruise (55% power) reportedly resulted in 200 mph and 40 mpg. Normal cruise (75% power) was said to be 250-255 mph and about 23-24 mpg.

For the airframe, A.J. utilized techniques developed by the Germans in WWII. It consists of bulkheads spanned by balsa and foam. The wing is one piece, designed to be easily replaced with an updated version that contained retractable gear. The updated version was, to my knowledge, never manufactured or mounted. The wing pictured uses a NACA 64212 airfoil, 12% thick, with a constant section and a .5 taper ratio with no twist. The lack of twist produced undesirable stall characteristics, so A.J. added stall strips and rigged the ailerons up a quarter of an inch, providing an effective twist.

The airplane has a T-tail that also uses NACA sections - 9% for the horizontal, and 12% for the vertical. The tailwheel is a Henry Haigh locking version mounted on a Wittman-type tapered rod spring.

The AJ-2 is now registered to an individual in rural Wisconsin. An individual I hope to meet. With any luck, the AJ-2 will receive the full photo shoot it deserves.

In the meantime, I continue to scour the web for additional photos of the aircraft. Here are my latest finds:

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