# Ford Flivver (again?)

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#### Turd Ferguson

##### Well-Known Member
It was intended to be mass produced at low cost. Think expensive tooling and a plane every 5 minutes as opposed to no tooling and one plane every 5 years. His plan was to replace hand formed aluminum with a die to make 10 parts per minute and instead of hand bucking rivets to machine assemble major components. Fords production assembly today would produce 500 airplanes per day at a MSRP of $20,000 each or less. Also, we would have an airport and airway system to support the fleet that would be the best in the world. (Can you imagine a runway within 2 miles of your home AND your destination?) And in true Ford tradition, there could have been some hype in there. The plane was very conventional for the day, tube, stick and fabric. Requires building techniques that don't favor mass production. As far as building one for$20k today using mass production techniques, if it were made from aluminum just the aluminum stock would run somewhere in the neighborhood of $5k. Add stamping cost, assembly, engine, prop, some instruments, upholstery and paint, which is what the average consumer would demand and$20k is but a spec in the review mirror.

To build the plane today would most certainly require modernization (and improvements) as the originals had several shortcomings. I always ask this question: Who wants to fly a plane that's not any fun to fly?

#### bmcj

HBA Supporter
And in true Ford tradition, there could have been some hype in there. The plane was very conventional for the day, tube, stick and fabric. Requires building techniques that don't favor mass production. As far as building one for $20k today using mass production techniques, if it were made from aluminum just the aluminum stock would run somewhere in the neighborhood of$5k. Add stamping cost, assembly, engine, prop, some instruments, upholstery and paint, which is what the average consumer would demand and $20k is but a spec in the review mirror. True for that time, but there is no reason that a robotic assembly line today couldn't take on a welded tube, fabric covered frame. The fabric process might take a little thought to set up, but welding can be done by today's robots AFIK. #### Turd Ferguson ##### Well-Known Member True for that time, but there is no reason that a robotic assembly line today couldn't take on a welded tube, fabric covered frame. The fabric process might take a little thought to set up, but welding can be done by today's robots AFIK. Unfortunately, will never achieve the one every five minute goal. Mass production has evolved somewhat over the years. The way it would be done today is all those assemblies would be produced by a vendor then shipped to a final assembly line. If you ever get to Detroit, take the Ford Rouge River plant tour and watch them build an F-150. Pretty cool. The final assembly of a truck takes about 20 hrs but when the line is cranking, it can roll off 1200 trucks per day. #### Toobuilder ##### Well-Known Member Log Member Is that the guy with the "Scarlet Screamer" Rocket? I met that guy at Columbia in 2007, he takes his Rocket camping all the time... Sounds like the guy. The leading edge of the stab is full of dents, dings and missing paint as a result of rock damage. He is very proud of this, incidentally. He does get teased from the other Rocket guys for being so slow, but to his credit, there are not many other bush aircraft that cruise at 185 KTAS and burning 10 GPH. ...I do have one question about the U-2; why they did not install some sort of spoiler system to make the landing phase less critical... They have them- roll and lift spoilers as well as a reflex flap position for improved gust margin in descent. The airplane is hard to land because it has 1000 sq feet of wing area, an empty weight of only 20,000 pounds, its a taildragger with limited rudder and a high polar moment of inertia (outboard fuel is consumed last). #### ironnerd ##### Well-Known Member Ford built a B-24 every hour during WWII. He could have built a LOT of Flivvers. For a mass-production airplane, I always look the the AA-1. 1. No rivets (almost all bonded structure) 2. Left and right wings are interchangeable. 3. Horizontal Stabs and Vertical stab are all interchangeable. 4. Cockpit is bonded aluminum honeycomb. 5. Spar is a tube (no build-up) that is also the gas tank. Manpower is expensive. So it makes sense to put together a plane from more-expensive parts if it saves labor costs. Obviously there is a balance point. A plane like a HummelBird takes about 1,300 hours to build, but uses relatively inexpensive materials. For a homebuilder it makes a lot of sense to spend time instead of money. A plane like a BD-6 (which is all aluminum angles with bonded aluminum wings) takes about half that time, but uses more expensive materials. For a manufacturing point of view the BD-6 makes more sense, even if the materials cost is high because it saves about 50% on labor. Flivver 2017 would probably look about the same, but would have a completely different structure - if Henry had not lost interest after his friend died... and if he had LSA back then. #### Turd Ferguson ##### Well-Known Member The direction of aviation sometime changes due to events beyond the control of participants who have to settle for going along for the ride. Regardless of the amount of interest at the time, the Great Depression, WWII and what followed changed the direction of aviation and light planes forever. The all metal Tri-motor was king of aviation transport from 1925 to 1933. A production run of 200 airplanes and the Tri-motor was essentially obsolete, through no fault of the plane. Had the Flivver made it into production, would that have continued through the depression? Not likely - who would have purchased them? Henry Ford would have wisely pulled the plug. The plane would have languished during the war effort and after WWII, numerous manufacturers built light planes based on what was learned during wartime production. A few pre-war models hung in there but had to compete with post war designed light planes that were superior for that era. The predicted post war market never materialized and the flood of newly produced light planes sat around unsold while manufacturers closed the doors to the factory. Can't imagine a pre-war single place being resurrected and having a lot of appeal to the masses. Today the Flivver is a curio for a few enthusiast and historians, a very limited market. Last edited: #### Tiger Tim ##### Well-Known Member Ford built a B-24 every hour during WWII. It's important to remember that Ford completed a B-24 every hour. They took significantly longer than sixty minutes each to build. #### Victor Bravo ##### Well-Known Member For a mass-production airplane, I always look the the AA-1. 1. No rivets (almost all bonded structure) 2. Left and right wings are interchangeable. 3. Horizontal Stabs and Vertical stab are all interchangeable. 4. Cockpit is bonded aluminum honeycomb. 5. Spar is a tube (no build-up) that is also the gas tank. Somewhat irrelevant or "TMI" to the main discussion, I beg forgiveness, but... The AA-1 was very innovative, but it has its flaws like any other "compromise" airplane. I'm not sure if you meant the left and right wings were interchangeable by rolling one wing up over the fuselage and back down on the other side "upside down", but this would not be correct. The early AA-1 wing airfoil was semi-symmetrical, not fully symmetrical. I do believe you might have been able to slide the left wing horizontally over to the right, so that the left wing root rib becomes the new right wing tip rib. But even then, the landing gear mount and fuel tank setup would have had to be switched around. So it is probably fair to say that the components and sub-assemblies were identical, but they had to at least partly be assembled as a left or right wing. After the handling and performance flaws of the AA-1 became apparent, the horizontal and vertical stabilizers and control surfaces were no longer interchangeable. The later AA-1A or B models increased the size and shape of the H-stab in addition to changing the wing airfoil to a more benign section. On all of the AA-1 series, the clever "combination tube spar and fuel tank" was actually pretty much inadequate. An STC was developed to add another tubular fuel tank similar tot he spar in the next (aft) lightening hole in the wing ribs. A reasonable excuse for this problem could be made that Bede originally designed the airframe and fuel system for a C-90 or O-200, which used less fuel than the later O-235 and the (far more appropriate) O-320. The flaps and ailerons were identical or nearly so, but this resulted in the flaps being "decorative" rather than truly functional. You won't see too many AA-1's being used as bush planes in Alaska... and that includes both their stellar landing and takeoff capability The AA-1 used a really innovative fiberglass leaf spring landing gear which really did work fairly well. It would certainly not perform as well as a more complex trailing arm air-oil oleo strut, but it was cheap, easy to manufacture, corrosion proof, and needed little or no maintenance. The AA-1 that I owned for a year or two had the 150HP upgrade, and the early (fast) wing, the extra fuel tanks, and was a delightful little sportplane. Poor man's RV-6A as far as I'm concerned. But it was a b**ch to work on! To bring this back to the part of the thread about designing an airplane for efficient manufacturing, take a look at the Republic Seabee. Tremendous innovations and efforts were made in the design of the airplane to reduce parts count, labor hours, etc. The Seabee fell victim to the post-war light aircraft market collapse, and the inadequacy of the original engine to provide enough oomph for a usable airplane. However, there have been upgrades developed to make it a twin engine aircraft, and experimental installations of aluminum V-8 engines, that make it a genuinely capable airplane for the purpose. #### ironnerd ##### Well-Known Member It's important to remember that Ford completed a B-24 every hour. They took significantly longer than sixty minutes each to build. Agreed. Just like we "build" a C-130 every 10 (working) days - it takes a lot longer than 10 days to put a Herc together. We just complete one every 10 days. Last edited: #### ironnerd ##### Well-Known Member I've never been in a plane that could not use more power or bigger gas tanks, but for the O-235 at 6GPH, the 20 gallon spar tanks are fine. Three hours at a 120 mph cruise is quite acceptable. Besides, the AA-1A is a lot of fun to fly. Of course that's totally missing the point of the post, which is the Flivver. If something much like a Flivver were built using the methods put together in the AA-1 series, it could be manufactured at a reasonable cost. If Ford were able to complete one every five minutes, he could never sell them all. If he made a couple per week, he might be able to compete with Snowmobiles, Motorcycles, ATV's, and personal Water Craft. The end goal is not a replica Flivver, but something that looks a lot like it, flies well, and is affordable. #### Topaz ##### Super Moderator Staff member Log Member ... The end goal is not a replica Flivver, but something that looks a lot like it, flies well, and is affordable. This. I really like the Flivver but, in the end, it's still a relatively "ancient" design. I certainly appreciate how much easier it seems to just "pick up" an old design and "just build it cheaper with modern methods," but that's no way to actually accomplish a quick-and-inexpensive design. You add "quick-and-inexpensive" when you design the airplane to be manufactured and assembled quickly and inexpensively. It's not something you can "add later" and have any real benefit over what's already out there. There aren't going to be any giant factories turning out little inexpensive airplanes once an hour or even once a month. Not going to happen. You have to do the design work up-front to make an airplane that's inexpensive and quick-to-build within the limits of the modern homebuilder, their likely tools, and their likely skills. No more, no less. #### TFF ##### Well-Known Member Why would you want to build one with modern methods? First its not the same, just a look alike plane. Most of the old designs can use simplification. Look at Bucker Jungmeister, my favorite biplane, and a Skybolt. You could build two maybe even three Skybolts per one Jungmeister. Same general construction; get rid of the old fiddly stuff. The WW1 dilemma for full size is replica or look a like. 4130 or aluminum tube takes years off the build but also come up like a little cheating. A new design that is not stellar, gets no traction today. If you are not building for yourself, you are probably building something you don't like. #### jedi ##### Well-Known Member And in true Ford tradition, there could have been some hype in there. The plane was very conventional for the day, tube, stick and fabric. Requires building techniques that don't favor mass production. As far as building one for$20k today using mass production techniques, if it were made from aluminum just the aluminum stock would run somewhere in the neighborhood of $5k. Add stamping cost, assembly, engine, prop, some instruments, upholstery and paint, which is what the average consumer would demand and$20k is but a spec in the review mirror.

To build the plane today would most certainly require modernization (and improvements) as the originals had several shortcomings. I always ask this question: Who wants to fly a plane that's not any fun to fly?
A 600 pound empty weight, less 100 pound engine is 500 pounds of aluminum. Figure $2 per pound if you own the factory, as Ford did for steel. I figure$1,000 for raw material. Double that if you like but steel is less expensive while leather is considerably greater but this is a Model T not a BMW. With a $1,000 markup that still leaves$17,000 for manufacturing, sales, development, etc.

No certification costs or LSA regulations to be concerned about in 1926. No insurance required by regulation either. That is still true for a FAR 103 aircraft.

OK, the flivver is not a 103 but it would be if Henry were here today.

Henry's goal was to replace the horse. The equivalent today would be to replace the car. How would you replace the horse if not with a car? Anybody remember the Texaco Flying Red Horse.

PS. There are thousands of UL pilots who will verify that ULs are "fun to fly". It is required by the regulations. "For recreational purposes only".

#### Turd Ferguson

##### Well-Known Member
Completely redesign the airplane, change the construction materials and processes, the only connection to the original would be to name it Flivver.

Or, one could just select from one the many already proven designs.........oh wait, I think I said that back in the beginning. The only thing missing is customers. Who wants to fund an enterprise where sales might reach 155 units per yr? The Ford F-150 plant can churn out 1200 trucks per day. Or put another way, they would have to run the Flivver assembly line 3 hrs to produce a yrs worth of inventory. For some reason I can't see Bill Ford, or the aviation enthusiast of the family, Edsel B. Ford II getting excited about that.

#### ironnerd

##### Well-Known Member
I might actually look that up if I get time. We buy aluminum in bulk, so I might be able to figure out what a factory would pay for aluminum, versus us mortals.

Turd, you miss the point again...
It's a pretty simple concept; replicate the character, not the characteristics. There are several P-51's out there that are not built the same way North American built them - at least one is wood, and another is composite and has a turbine engine - they still look like a P-51, and some even fly like a P-51, but they sure as heck ain't P-51's. There is even a guy who built a B-17! It is a lot smaller, and carries 2 people instead of 10, but it still has a lot of cool factor. Is it still a B-17... nah, but I would still take a ride in it.
Like the Mustang folks did, the idea would be to start with a plane with some character, then design and build a plane that is mostly similar but debugged using the knowledge gained over the past 90ish years with the goal of an "affordable" plane that is producible and fun to fly.

Where the Flivver was fabric over a welded steel tube fuselage, the new Flivveroid might be a gusseted aluminum angle fuselage with a fabric covering. As with the BD-4, this fuselage would carry all loads, and the skin is just to smooth the air-flow and to look pretty. Wings would be tube spar with aluminum honeycomb ribs (formed on a water-jet machine) and bonded aluminum skin. Tail would be the same, but with aluminum spars ("U" channel).

Most fixtures and jigs could be created on 3D printers (we did something like that already for some leading edges-saved a LOT of time and money). For instrumentation, use Off-the-shelf units designed for the kit market (Grand Rapids Tech, Dynon, etc...). Engines... we have options. If the size and weight are kept low, then HP can be down in the 30-40 hp range. That brings back the possibility of a 3-cyl radial.

Ford would be the wrong company for such an endeavor. Even if the plane sold as well as the Flight Design, the need would be for something like 100 planes completed per year, or two a week, which could be enough to keep the doors open and ramen on the table for a small operation. Right now there are LSA's going for \$140,000 for a Piper Cub (a really nice design from the 1930's...that piper stopped building because they had something better).

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#### choppergirl

##### Banned
Why would you want to build one with modern methods? First its not the same, just a look alike plane..
Oh, I don't know, I like Robert Baslee's planes. It really sucks though you can't do aerobatics in them. What is an antique dogfighter if you can't do aerobatics... still, a modern replica is one way for some people to live the fantasy of having the plane they want without an utter lifetime of work.

#### BBerson

##### Light Plane Philosopher
HBA Supporter
It sounds like you are advocating "factory producibility".
That's much different than " home producibility".

One of the biggest problems for factory built "affordable" sport planes is liability. Which tends to discourage low cost, high sales units to unskilled flyers. Home assembled kits usually have somewhat less additional liability costs.

The topic has been reviewed here many times.
Most here are trying every idea imaginable.
I hope you find a solution.

#### Toobuilder

##### Well-Known Member
Log Member
So take a look at the RV series for example. The design is heavily biased towards a "design to cost" and the resulting airplane has all the "character" of a Cessna 172. Yet it is one of the sweetest flying series around. They are the airplane every homebuilder hates to love (including me).

So is it better to have a quirky flying airplane with character, or a boring airplane that is a delight to fly?

#### Turd Ferguson

##### Well-Known Member
So take a look at the RV series for example. The design is heavily biased towards a "design to cost" and the resulting airplane has all the "character" of a Cessna 172. Yet it is one of the sweetest flying series around. They are the airplane every homebuilder hates to love (including me).

So is it better to have a quirky flying airplane with character, or a boring airplane that is a delight to fly?
I think that might can be partially answered by looking at the time in service for the RV fleet. They probably rack up more hrs than any other homebuilt design ever sold.

#### Turd Ferguson

##### Well-Known Member
I might actually look that up if I get time. We buy aluminum in bulk, so I might be able to figure out what a factory would pay for aluminum, versus us mortals.

Turd, you miss the point again...
It's a pretty simple concept; replicate the character, not the characteristics. There are several P-51's out there that are not built the same way North American built them - at least one is wood, and another is composite and has a turbine engine - they still look like a P-51, and some even fly like a P-51, but they sure as heck ain't P-51's. There is even a guy who built a B-17! It is a lot smaller, and carries 2 people instead of 10, but it still has a lot of cool factor. Is it still a B-17... nah, but I would still take a ride in it.
I can tell you a P-51 replica story. Many years ago, company on the Gulf Coast built a scaled down P-51 replica. The plan was to sell kits. They were so proud because it was true to the original in every way, except for except for dimensions of course. It definitely ranked 10 on "cool" factor. Somehow, they got "the" P-51 guy interested in the project. So when it was ready to fly they invited him to make the first flight. Or I should say when they "thought" it was ready to fly. The first thing Bob did was look it over, look over the static testing and say "have you done a canopy pull test yet?"
Ok, so fast forward a few months until those details were cleaned up and it finally got airborne. In the most gracious way possible, the test pilot said it was the worst plane he had ever flown. He never flew it again.

Apparently I'm not the only one that misses the point. Characteristics are more important than character and apparently a lot harder to replicate.