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Baby Great Lakes

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Welcome to my web page about the Baby Great Lakes biplane designs.



SOME HISTORY ON THE BABY LAKES BIPLANE AND THIS WEBSITE


I have compiled these pages after corresponding with Mr. Harvey Swack who sold plans for the Baby Great Lakes for many, many years. Harvey Swack sold the plans rights to Aircraft Spruce and Specialty, who owns the rights to the design now. Please note: This webpage is not endorsed by Aircraft Spruce and Specialty. Since I have been a fan of this design since I started to build on in the 1970's, I wanted to share some about this neat little airplane with you. God bless.....M. Townsley



The Baby Great Lakes designs also goes by other names: Baby Lakes,  Oldfield Baby Lakes, Baby Great Lakes, Super Baby Lakes, Super Baby Great Lakes, and Buddy Baby Lakes.  The Baby Great Lakes, Oldfield Baby Lakes and Baby Lakes are names for the same design.  The Super Baby Great Lakes and Super Baby Lakes are names for the same design also.

The Baby Great Lakes was designed by Barney Oldfield in the 1950's. It was not designed by the Great Lakes Aircraft Company and Barney Oldfield did not work for Great Lakes. According to Barney's, daughter, Barney built the original Baby Great Lakes (he called it Baby or Midget) in the 1950's.

Here is a photo of it when it was first built:

N9Y when it was first built


Barney flew it for a time and then sold it.

Here is a photo of it after Barney sold it:
Champane Performance on a Beer Pocketbook


It was then damaged in an accident and Barney got it back. Barney got ill with cancer.  Barney's daughter believes it was then  (late 1960s? ) that Dick Lane came to help.  Here is some history according to Alan Lane (Dick Lane's son)


" my father (Dick Lane) was called to his friend’s, Barney Oldfield's place in Waterloo, NY, to “help” Barney work on a Baby Lakes  (Ed. Note..., according to Barney's daughter it was probably to rebuild N9Y or build the another Baby Lakes )  when he fell grievously ill with stomach cancer. (Ed. Note: According to Barney's daughter Barney died in Sept. of 1970 from cancer)    My father, (and sometimes I would accompany him, at about 8 or 9 years old), would travel from Trumansburg to Waterloo on weekends, and work on the airplane, finally completing it just before Barney died. Shortly after this airplane was done, Harvey Swack came on board.

Anyway, the next one built, entirely by my father, was N11311, which currently resides in the EAA museum in Oshkosh, WI, after my dad and I dragged it out there somewhere in the 1970s. That one was painted red, with black trim in the traditional “swoops” in between the ribs, etc. May 2013 note...We understand that N11311 has been moved to the Western North Carolina Air Museum.  Thanks for Joeseph Lilley for the information.  Click here to see the current photo of N11311.


THEN, comes N181H, or as we always called it, “The Butterfly Baby”.  That is the one that my Dad, David Hamm and I built in about two weeks in a mad dash to get it to Oshkosh, for Harvey, to show it to the aviation community. Besides helping weld, cut parts, stitch wing ribs, etc., my primary job was to come up with a “striking” paint job.  Harvey wanted a real “eye catcher”.    As is shown in a video we have of the construction of the plane, a Monarch Butterfly was always hovering  around as we were building, and I just thought, OK, that’s the paint scheme. I guess it was OK, as it made the front cover of the Sport Aviation magazine covering the Oshkosh fly-in.

Next, came the Buddy Baby. This was both designed and built by my father. He conceived the idea, having ridden motorcycles in his youth, as a way to get close to your flying buddy. It took him about three years to complete the airplane, and he still owns it and it is flight ready in a hanger in Ohio, even though he will never fly it again, age taking that possibility away. Hopefully, it will be coming east, again, and I will take possession of it this summer.  One quick note: Dad finished and flew the airplane in “silver”, just the prime coats and the silver dope that protects the fabric covering from UV damage from the sun. THEN, he talked me into painting it.   Never again, as the surface was covered in a light coating of oil, grime, dust, dirt, etc., that made getting the paint to stick almost impossible, and surely twice the work! I was, again, given free rein in the design and decided to do another butterfly theme, although more stylistic this time.  Guess it worked out, ‘cause it ended up on the cover again, after the Oshkosh showing that my son accompanied his Grandfather to.  I think it was like 12 hours of flying time in that cramped little airplane for my then close to 6’ tall son! Ah, to be young……………………………."

End of quote from Alan Lane.


(Ed. Note 2012 Harvey Swack passed on to me that N9Y has been sold to a man in California, it will be restored we hope and students in a class at a museum will participate in the rebuilding of the wing and complete the rebuild.)

So the original Baby Great Lakes was a roughly scaled down Great Lakes Sport Trainer to be a fun and safe airplane to fly. It is designed to 9 g's plus or minus when it is built according to plans and in the design weight limits. The original Baby Great Lakes had an A-80 Continental engine. The plans from the 1970's recommended that the Baby Great Lakes be powered by 65-85 hp engines. The Volkswagen engine was not recommended by Harvey Swack because of the small prop and less thrust.

Here is a weblinks to an 1969 EAA article (pdf format) with history about the Baby Great Lakes: Part 1 and Part 2

Here is a list of
EAA publications about the Baby Lakes designs.

  Click here to see a 3 view of Baby Great Lakes


The Super Baby Lakes is basically a Baby Great Lakes with a larger engine and longer landing gear.  It has a 100 plus  horse power engine. Some have been built with a 0-200 Continental, a 0235 Lycoming or 0-290 Lycoming. Click to see 3 view of Super Baby Lakes

The Buddy Baby Lakes is a stretched Baby Great Lakes, designed by Harvey Swack and Dick Lane. It was designed to carry two people or one big person. The fuselage is modified with a steel tube center section and used the Baby Great Lakes wings. Click to see- 
3 view of Buddy Baby Lakes

Be sure to check out the other web pages on the Baby Great Lakes by clicking on the links at the top of the page.

Problems or corrections or contact the web master-  
email me