Sanders Aeronautics has owned three different
Luscombes since 1976. The current Luscombe was built in
1947 and is equipped with a 85 HP Continental engine.
Don Luscombe was active in the aircraft manufacturing
business for many years prior to producing his signature
aircraft, the Luscombe Model 8. In the 1920s Don was an
important part of the Monocoupe Aircraft Corporation,
defining the Monocoupe look. Then in the 1930s there was
the Phantom, followed by a series of aircraft that
evolved into the Luscombe 8.
The Phantom - a classic Luscombe design - started
production in 1934, and continued through at least 1941.
Fewer than ten of these aircraft still exist in the
United States, although over 130 were originally
manufactured. Of those remaining, very few are actually
flown - for good reason: word is that these planes are a
guaranteed ground loop thanks to the way the gear (more
correctly, a shock absorption system) is designed.
Many people do not realize that Don Luscombe's vision
went beyond the Series 8. There were, for example,
concept drawings of a Luscombe Helicopter drawn up in
1943. Apparently conceived as a military offering, the
drawings show a helicopter configured as an air
ambulance - complete with a litter strapped on the
The turbulent history of the Luscombe Corporation is
well documented. In a nutshell, Model 8 production began
in 1938 with the plain Model 8. Over time letters were
added to the "8", from "A" thru "F".
During the war, Luscombe Aircraft moved from Trenton,
New Jersey to Dallas, Texas. In anticipation of the
postwar aircraft boom, and to satisfy military
procurement contracts it had, Luscombe set up a large
factory and re-tooled with new jigs capable of higher
production volume than the pre-war factory had been
capable of. Due to several factors, including a fire at
one plant that destroyed most of their stock of cushions
and upholstery, production in the latter part of 1945
was quite limited. During the war a redesign of the wing
to stamped ribs and slightly different rib spacing was
undertaken, and rag wings of this design were delivered
in 1946. The aircraft was also later redesigned at to
simplify construction of the fuselage into a modular
Early in 1946, Luscombe decided to redesign the wing
to an all-metal monocoque design, eliminating the fabric
covering and simplifying the construction. The company
also produced a prototype of a single-place low-wing
design called the Model 10. This was never placed into
production, since the market for single-seat aircraft
was considered to be too small.
The Model 8 was upgraded once again in June,
producing the 8E. This aircraft had an 85 horsepower (63
kW) engine, and the fuselage tank was replaced by two
12.5 (US) gallon (47 L) wing tanks. This freed up space
to install rear windows and a hat shelf in the space
formerly occupied by the fuel tank. For a while, both
all-metal and fabric-covered wing Luscombes were
produced before the fabric-covered wing was phased out
(use of old stock) in favor of the all-metal design.
The company ceased production and declared bankruptcy
in 1949, as the general aviation manufacturing industry
collapsed after World War II due to overproduction.
Low-volume production continued through 1959 in Fort
Collins, CO after the type certificate was purchased
from the bankruptcy proceedings. One salient takeaway
about the Luscombe's history is that only a small
fraction of the total fleet was manufactured while Don
Luscombe was in control of the company.