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The Great Great Lakes!
GREAT LAKES BIPLANE HOME
Welcome to my Great Lakes 2T
Sport Trainer website. This is not an official Great Lakes
company website. Just my fun website with info and
the Great Lakes Sport Trainer. The greatest biplane ever
(In my humble opinion). Click on the links above to visit
parts of this website. Thanks for visiting! God
Mike Townsley webmaster
of the Great Lakes Sport Trainer
This page starts with a
little history of the Great Lakes Trainer came out in the 1920's
1930's. Then we will talk about the later history of the
plane. In the 1970-80's the plane came BACK INTO
The original was
by Great Lakes Aircraft engineers. The airfoil was a NACA M-12
by Dr. Max Munk. This gave the plane better inverted flight than
contemporaries. The planes were built from 1929-about 1932. The
engine the factory installed was a American Cirrus Mark III
American Cirrus Engines, Inc (A.C.E.) which had 80 horse power.
first plane had a small tail and it was called the 2T-1. The
2T-1s had a straight upper wing. But to help solve some spin
all the later planes had a swept top wing. Later models used the
improved 85 HP Cirrus engine and they were called the 2T-1A. The
2T-1A's came out with a big tail and other mods but still called
2T-1A. Then the final 1930's version had a big tail and an
HP Cirrus High Drive or "Ensign" engine. It was designated
Let me share with you some
Lakes background sent to me by Harvey Swack, the "Great Lakes
"Over the years I have
many questions about the Great Lakes Sport Trainer and still
questions arise to add to the luster of the name and the mystery
surrounding this fine airplane. Also some people hear
stories, so this explanation for the airplane and it;s
to be explained and explored for the benefit of those interested
"First, let me explain that it was designed by people who had
employed by Glen L. Martin, so the engineering skill of
biplanes was clearly evident in this design. The project
was Cliff Leisy who had been with the Martin organization for
years. Other very qualified engineers were employed to
him and the basic design was done in 90 days. A wooden
was first produced and when approved, the first aircraft was
produced. Then engine selected was the 90 h.p. American
produced in the United States. It was identical to the
Cirrus, except for the engine rotation was opposite of the
version. The holding company for Great Lakes owned the
rights and that is why it was used. Actually the first few
experimental models used English Cirrus engines until the
company could supply them. The Great Lakes Company never
or sold any Great Lakes Sport Trainers with any other engine
installed! Yes, they tried several engines, all under 100
but never sold any airplanes with these engines installed.
fact, they converted them back to the standard configuration
selling them. "
"Everyone knows the story of
the top wing was swept back so I won't repeat it here.
was done for Center of Gravity reasons) The critical thing
know is that the Munk M-12 Airfoil was used and a 3 degree
was incorporated. This was done to satisfy the fact that a
1/2 degree deck angle had to be used with this configuration to
the 40 mph landing speed. "
"Every effort was made to
minimize weight as the selected engine produced 90 h.p.
every part of the requirements was that this was to be an
designed to a G load factor of positive 9 and a negative
That meant every trick in the book was used to bring this about
including the following: "
Wing spars routed to save 16 lbs.
All nuts and bolts were made to the exact size needed. This
Outside the wing spars very little wood was used. Wing ribs
17 ST .016 aluminum
Everything was designed to weight the least yet still meet the +9
The size of the airplane was
to carry people who were 5'3" to 5'5" tall and weighed 135 to
pounds, as that was the average weight of men in 1929!
Martin made all their own nuts
and bolts and Great Lakes continued to do so after they took
plant until 1931 or 32. Then the Army and Navy required
government contractors to use AN nuts and bolts.
"The question is asked, why
selected the American Cirrus engine? The answer is they
producing an airplane to replace the Curtis Jenny which had been
grounded and had been used as a trainer using the 90 hp OX-5
engine. There certainly was a market for this kind of
the time, and once introduced proved to be a real winner.
supercharged Cirrus engine was tested but never produced for the
market. The inverted Cirrus powered Great Lakes were
2T-1E (E stood for "Ensign"). The upright American Cirrus
powered Great Lakes was called the 2T-1A (A abbrevated the
of American Cirrus Engine company or "ACE".)".
"In examining the six years of
company records, I found no hint that they ever tried to use
90 hp because the airplane was designed to CAA part 7.
corresponds to Part 23 today and the most interesting thing is
several of these airplanes built in 1929 were analysed and found
they were strong enough to meet Part 23 when 180 hp was
"The question of why people want to put a 220 hp Jake
220 hp Continental in these airplanes baffles me because they miss
the airplane is all about. A 90 hp Cirrus powered Great
held the outside loop record for many years. The total
131 and the record was held by Tex Rankin. If you ever had
tried to do an outside loop, you would find that you need
plenty of horsepower. I personally fell out of many
it in the Stearman I took my aerobatic training in. I always
ended up doing a split S in the 220 hp Stearman. I never did
until the Ohio State University put a 330 Lycoming in one of these
trainers and converted it to a crop duster. What I am
is that this airplane will do wonders with no more than 160 hp
0-320. They are plentiful and not in such great
Keeping this plane light with out burdening it with big iron
front will give you more pleasure for your time, effort and money!
"However when the first
first started to build the new Great Lakes in the 1970's they
required to beef up in several areas to meet new certification
requirements. For example, the original Sport
an empty weight of 1016 lbs. and the new production ones (180hp
weighed empty at 1250 lbs. Of course more equipment like
systems, more and modern instruments, wheels, brakes, and
speed props all add up to higher empty weights. For comparison
the weights and performance figures of the original and new
"To set the record straight
Charlie Myers was the company test pilot, NOT the designer of
Lakes Sport Trainer! Further, I do not recommend using
200 hp on the Great Lakes Sport Trainer. Bigger horsepower
more weight and that detracts from the performance. When
almost get the same performance as a newer 180 hp Great Lakes
125 hp 0-290 or a 0-320 Lycoming of 140 to 160 hp in a homebuilt
weighs only 1025 lbs, then why bother overpowering this fine
with more horsepower?"
Harvey Swack is the man who
given a lot of his life to keep the Great Lakes Sport Trainer
alive. He and some friends built a Great Lakes for a
Clevelend Oh. He had plans drawn up and sold them to
for many years (still does sell them!) Harvey has done
research on the Great Lakes and its history. He helped see
Great Lakes into production in the 1970's and continues today to
specialize in selling Great Lakes Sport Trainers. If you have
about the Great Lakes Sport Trainer, email them to me and I will
forward them to Harvey. He will be glad to answer questions.
Great Lakes Sport Trainer
Because of the Great
many aircraft companies went under. Great Lakes was one of
them. So by the mid 1930's the only Great Lakes you could
a used one. It wasn't until the 1960's that Harvey Swack
hold of the factory plans and spearheaded building an airplane
Cleveland Museum. Harvey decided to start marketing the
homebuilt Great Lakes Sport Trainers were birthed.
a homebuilt GLST is a major undertaking, but many have done
Some are powered by Warner engines, Ranger engines, Continental
Lycoming engines. Check out the photo's pages for
In the 1970's a man by the
of Doug Champlin of Enid, Oklahoma with Harvey's help decided to
the airplane back into production. It was reworked to meet
government requirements, fitted with new Lycoming engines and
walla! A person could buy a Great Lakes Sport Trainer new
the factory! The Great Lakes wasn't a memory any more.
Great Lakes came out with two
models. The 2T-1A-1 (140 hp fixed pitch prop and two
and the 2T-1A-2 (180 hp constant speed prop and 4
ailerons). Later the company was sold and
several times and production continued for around 6 years or
See specs by clicking here.
The original paint job was an
attractive with strips of red black and white or blue
I understand the airplane went
out of production in the mid 1980's when the factory at that
Clearmont, New Hampshire, wanted to move and was denied by the
Chris Hanisko sent me the following picture.
click on pic to see a larger view
He writes: "This photo of all
Wichita employees was taken spring of
78. Although I was not working on the biplane at that time I got
the photo. I'm the one right behind the forward cockpit. The guy
right of me in the photo is Stogie (the one with the cigar in
mouth). This was how the airframe left Wichita, structurally
control cables loose installed and sitting on it's gear. The
went a specially built open trailer with the wings in racks on
side. Then it was towed to Enid, about a two hour drive. All
and paint was then done there prior to final assy."
Great Lakes Sport Trainer
Waco Classic is now manufacturing factory certified Great Lakes Sport Trainers! Click here to see all about this beauty.
The Debate-- 2 or 4 Ailerons?
You may see a Great Lakes with
ailerons (bottom wings only) or one with 4 ailerons (bottom and
wings). Why the difference? The original 1920's-30's had 2
ailerons only. Then Tex Rankin modified one to 4 ailerons
seeing and flying the Jungmeister. Several others followed
example. They were trying to get a faster roll rate with 4
ailerons. When the new generation Great Lakes came out in
1970's they produced 2 models. One had 4 ailerons (180 hp
I believe) and some had 2 ailerons (150 hp models I
Some homebuilders have built their Lakes with 2 ailerons only
have built their Lakes with 4 ailerons. According to
Swack, Nick D'Appuso did a test between the 4 and 2 aileron
versions. Nick said there was not much advantage in the 4
versions in roll rate. Harvey says that a 2 aileron
good cuffs on the lower N struts will produce good roll rates
the 4 aileron version.
The Great Lakes Today
acquired the manufacturing rights of the Great Lakes 2T Sport
and the Warner Radial aircraft engine. He worked with Waco
Classic to bring the Great
Lakes back into production.
You can visit his
Or you can visit the Waco Classic website here: http://www.wacoaircraft.com/great-lakes