|1946 Aeronca 7AC Champion - HB-ETD (sn 7AC-3490)
Photo taken Aug. 22, 2009 @ the Kestenholz Oldtimer Airshow "Oldtimerflugtage Kestenholz" 2009 - Switzerland
|Photo © Marcel Siegenthaler
The Aeronca Model 7 Champion, more commonly known as the Champ, is a single-engine, two-seat, fixed conventional gear airplane. Designed for flight training and personal use, it entered production in the United States in 1945.
To take advantage of the new light-sport aircraft category, the Champion was returned to production in 2007.
Design and development
Like the Piper Cub with which it competed, the Champ features tandem seating. While the J-3 model of the Cub is soloed from the rear seat, the Champ can be soloed from the front, giving improved forward visibility on the ground and during takeoffs, landings, and climbs. The Champ has a wider cabin than the Cub and offers better visibility.
As with many light aircraft of the time, the Champ's fuselage and tail surfaces are constructed of welded metal tubing. The outer shape of the fuselage is created by a combination of wooden formers and longerons, covered with fabric. The cross-section of the metal fuselage truss is triangular, a design feature which can be traced all the way back to the earliest Aeronca C-2 design of the late 1920s.
The strut-braced wings of the Champ are, like the fuselage and tail surfaces, fabric covered, utilizing aluminum ribs. Most Champs were built with wooden spars. American Champion has been using aluminum spars in the aircraft it has produced and has, as well, made the aluminum-spar wings available for retrofit installation on older aircraft.
The landing gear of most Champs is in a conventional arrangement, though a model with tricycle gear was produced, and a model with reversed tricycle gear was tried. Conventional-gear Champs feature a steerable tailwheel and most have steel tube main gear which use an oleo strut for shock absorption; one variant utilized spring steel main gear, and American Champion is using aluminum gear legs in its production model of the Champ. The tricycle-gear Champs use the steel tube and oleo strut main gear, mating these with an oleo strut nose gear.
Models 7AC, 7CCM, 7DC, and 7EC were approved as seaplanes, with the addition of floats and vertical stabilizer fins; the seaplane versions were designated the S7AC, S7CCM, S7DC, and S7EC, respectively. Float and supplemental fin installations are also approved for models 7ECA, 7GC, 7GCB, 7GCBC, and properly modified 7HC's.
Built by Aeronca Aircraft Corporation, the Champ first flew in 1944, having been designed in tandem with the 11AC Chief—the Champ with tandem seating and joystick controls, and the Chief with side-by-side seating and yoke controls. The intention was to simplify production and control costs by building a pair of aircraft with a significant number of parts in common; in fact, the two designs share between 70% and 80% of their parts. The tail surfaces, wings, landing gear, and firewall forward—engine, most accessories, and cowling, are common to both airplanes.
Selling for $2,095, the Champ outsold the Chief by an 8 to 1 margin. Engine upgrades in 1948 and 1949 resulted in the Models 7DC and 7EC. Between 1945 and 1950, Aeronca was producing 50 light aircraft per day and by the time production ended in 1951, the company had sold more than 10,000 Champions.
Aeronca ceased all production of light aircraft in 1951, and the Champ design was sold in 1954 to Champion Aircraft.
Champion Aircraft was acquired in 1970 by Bellanca Aircraft which continued production of their Champ-derived Citabria and Decathlon designs. In 1971, Bellanca introduced the 7ACA version of the Champ as a more basic complement to their other designs. Only a handful of 7ACA's were built between 1971 and 1972. Bellanca ceased all production in the early 1980s.
American Champion Aircraft Corporation acquired the Champ and related designs in 1989. In 2001, they were rumored to be considering a reintroduction of the Champ design as a 7EC powered by a Jabiru Aircraft engine. While a test version was flown, this combination was not put into production. With the creation of the Light Sport category of aircraft in the United States by the FAA, American Champion in late 2007 began producing a revised version of the 7EC powered by the 100 hp (75 kW) Continental O-200-A. The new production aircraft are type certified, but also qualify to be flown by sport pilots in the United States.
Various versions of the Champ have been tested and produced since 1944. The derivative Citabria designs — models 7ECA, 7GCAA, 7GCBC, and 7KCAB — are discussed in a separate article, as is the twin-engined 402 Lancer.)
Introduced in 1945, the 7AC was the first version of the design and used the Continental A-65-8 engine of 65 horsepower (48 kW). It featured a conventional landing gear configuration, with shock absorption in the main gear provided by oleo struts, 7200 built.
Aeronca began building the 7BCM in 1947. This version upgraded the engine to a Continental C85, and featured a "no-bounce" version of the main landing gear. All of the 7BCM production went to the military as model L-16A. These served with the United States Air Force, Army, and National Guard. In 1956, many L-16s were transferred to the United States' Civil Air Patrol. Many L-16As ultimately made their way back into civilian use as 7BCMs.
Militarized version – Army L-16B
An improved version of the L-16, the L-16B/7CCM featured a 90 hp (67 kW) Continental C90-8 engine, an enlarged vertical tail, hydraulic brakes, and a gross weight increased to 1,300 lb (590 kg). Unlike the L-16A not all production went to the USAF. Due to an early cancellation of the production contract some aircraft went directly to the civilian market as 7CCM Champions. The military L-16B featured hydraulic brakes and the "no bounce" landing gear while civilian 7CCM models retained the hydraulic brakes but were fitted with the standard Aeronca oleo landing gear. The L-16A and B featured an enlarged "greenhouse" canopy glazing whereas the civilian 7CCM had the original type windows and headliner. Many USAF and Civil Air Patrol L-16Bs returned to the civil market as 7CCMs after their military service.
Continental C85 engine. 85 hp (63 kW) similar to the 7AC except the vertical stabilizer is extended forward to accommodate the increase torque from the more powerful engine, and the aircraft was now fitted with a basic electrical system including starter, generator, battery, and radio.
1950 brought the introduction of the Aeronca 7EC, which featured the Continental C90 engine of 90 horsepower (67 kW). Based on the 7CCM with an increased gross weight, 773 built.
The last Champ produced at Aeronca was a 7EC, and when Champion reintroduced the Champ in 1955, it was with their version of the 7EC, very little changed from Aeronca's. Champion's version did replace the mechanical brakes with hydraulic. It was also produced with luxury details as the Champion Deluxe.
In late 2007, American Champion introduced a revised version of the 7EC, featuring the Continental O-200-A engine of 100 horsepower (75 kW). Differing in a number of ways from earlier 7ECs, this new version in particular replaces the wood-spar wings of the earlier versions with a metal-spar wing, and it uses aluminum gear legs. To fit within the Light Sport requirements, the maximum weight is reduced to 1,320 pounds (599 kilograms).
In 1957, Champion brought out the 7FC, a design sharing many parts, including the engine, with their version of the 7EC. The most significant difference in the 7FC was its tricycle landing gear arrangement. The main gear and the nose gear utilized oleo struts, 472 built.
7GC Sky Trac
A 7EC with a 140 hp Lycoming O-290-D2B engine and three seats, 171 built.
7GCA Sky Trac
Agricultural variant of the 7GC with a 150 hp Lycoming O-320-A2B engine, 396 built.
In 1971 Bellanca introduced the 7ACA, a modernized version of the design which made it a variant of the Citabria line. The 7ACA is powered by the two-cylinder Franklin 2A engine of 60 horsepower (45 kW), a change which required a cowling redesign. The oleo-strut main gear are replaced by steel legs like those used on the later Citabria models, and the rear side windows are squared-off versions, again matching the Citabrias.
Crew: 1 pilot
Capacity: 1 passenger
Length: 21 ft 6 in (6.7 m)
Wingspan: 35 ft 2 in (10.7 m)
Height: 7 ft (2.3 m)
Wing area: 170 ft² (15.8 m²)
Empty weight: 740 lb (325 kg)
Max. takeoff weight: 1,220 lb (533 kg)
Powerplant: 1 × Continental A65-8 piston engine, 65 hp (50 kW)
Never exceed speed: 129 mph
Maximum speed: 100 mph (160 km/h)
Cruise speed: 85 mph (137 km/h)
Stall speed: 38 mph (62 km/h)
Range: 460 miles (740 km)
Service ceiling: 12,400 ft (4,100 m)
Rate of climb: 370 ft/min (1.8 m/s)