This article on the Ryan S-C appeared
in the July 1968 edition of American Aircraft Modeler. The S-C was unique in many ways,
the least of which was its monocoque construction throughout - wing, tail surfaces, and
fuselage. Its production, certain to be a hit, was abruptly halted after just 10 production
models due to WWII requiring the factory be used for military aircraft.
"Designed as an up-market version of the Ryan S-T trainer, the S-C was a low-wing
cantilever monoplane with a fixed tailwheel landing gear. The prototype first flew in
1937 and had a nose-mounted 150 hp Menasco inline piston engine. Production aircraft
were fitted with a 145 hp Warner Super Scarab radial engine. With the company's involvement
in producing trainer aircraft for the United States military, the S-C was not seriously
marketed and only 12 production aircraft were built. One example was impressed into service
with the United States Army Air Force and was designated the L-10."
Here is a great resource for the
The Wonderful Ryan S-C
A trend setter that looks as modern today as it did 30 years ago.
PAUL R. MATT
Photos / Ryan and Historical Aviation Album
SHE was a beautiful ship, just as beautiful and easy
to fly, too - you knew it was a trend setter, and those few that are still flying look
just as modern and at home today as they did 30 years ago." So stated a pilot recently
who had considerable time on the Ryan S-C shortly before WW II and for a couple of years
after. To this we can add that the S-C was more than a trend setter in its class; it
was the first truly successful private plane to pioneer the all-metal, low-wing, enclosed-cabin
concept. A plane that had everything going for it if a nasty war had not intervened and
The 145-hp Warner-powered Ryan S-C prototype flies
over San Diego Bay shortly after conversion from in-lined configuration.
Warner 145-hp radial proved more reliable, rugged,
easier to maintain. Only 12 S-CW's built before military contracts interfered.
Access to the Warner engine was simplified by
an automobile hood type cowling, shown in opened position here on the prototype S-CW
Test pilot John Fornasero runs up the engine
for first flight in early 1937. The design called for 95- to 150-hp Menasco engines.
T. Claude Ryan envisioned the S-C (Sport Cabin) in 1936. Later, in a resume about
its development, he expressed his hopes, intentions and requirements.
"The plane was planned from the first preliminary drawing as a production job," he
stated. "We wanted to develop a type of construction so simple and so practical that
it would lend itself to efficient manufacture in much larger quantities than had been
customary in the past.
"Aircraft designers have for years toyed with the idea of airplanes stamped all at
once in one huge press, or poured out of some synthetic material in a single molding
operation, or somehow fabricated so as to avoid the tedious hand fitting of limitless
numbers of small parts. We believe that in the development of the S-C we approached this
ideal of the one-piece airplane.
"It is a much more difficult assignment to simplify a structure than to 'complexify'
it," he went on, "We feel it (the S-C) is the most simply manufactured metal airplane
and the most adaptable of any yet developed to an efficient production machine."
Ryan achieved the classic S-C through two years of extensive study, experiment and
ingenuity. Every part, with few exceptions, was either a flat sheet or a drop-hammer
stamping. Flat sheets were marked and drilled from steel master templates, while stamped
sheets were formed from dies which accurately reproduced a given part exactly over and
over again. The only major compound curves were in the engine cowling, wheel pants and
fairings. Nearly 90% of the structure and covering was of one gauge aluminum - 24ST.
In producing the S-C a full-scale plaster model was built first. Once the shape was
finalized, lines were transferred from the plaster mock-up directly to metal by means
of progressive steps. Shells were built around the fuselage model at bulkhead points
and a compound curve area. Plaster casts were then made and, from these female castings,
master male plaster casts were made.
The plaster patterns were used to make sand molds into which was poured molten zinc
metal, thus forming one half of the die. The "punch" or female half of the die was made
by pouring lead directly over the zinc die. The complete S-C was built up of a little
more than 200 individual sets of dies from which all the essential parts of the plane's
structure was formed.
The wing structure was greatly simplified and its construction of great interest.
Again, the precision of the drop-hammer die-stamping process was utilized. The wing featured
the monospar principle and each panel was attached to the fuselage by three taper bolts.
The spar did not run as one unit throughout the span. This metal "monocoque spar," as
it was termed, was a Ryan patented development.
In reality, the spar embodied approximately the full forward-third portion of the
wing. This nose portion was assembled as a single unit with major stresses carried by
the outer skin. It was further stiffened by the nose ribs and single vertical webs located
about one-third of the chord. Thus, the entire forward portion of the wing formed a light
but strong tapered box spar.
The master spar swept back from root to tip about 1-1.2 degrees due partially to the
3-degree washout in the wing, to gain added structural strength as the wing thinned near
the tip, and to retain the correct airfoil shape. This method of construction is known
today as the "D" tube spar and is used on the popular Mooney.
The wings were formed and assembled in one continuous operation in a master jig. The
trailing portion was cantilever ribbed. From root to aileron, ribs were built up from
drop-hammer formed cap strips and simple diagonal members. The outer ribs were stamped
in one piece. Final assembly was completed on the master wing panel jig to assure alignment.
The entire S-C was completely assembled and aligned on but three main jigs.
These processes may seem commonplace today and in many cases old fashioned. However,
in 1936/37 such utilization of metal in a low-cost, private light plane was a great advance
in aircraft design and construction. For its simple construction the S-C was beautifully
streamlined and efficient. It quickly gained a reputation as just about the classiest
private plane of its day.
The Ryan was a remarkable plane, highly maneuverable, responsive to the controls under
all conditions, yet stable enough to be flown hands off. Careful choice and use of the
right airfoil provided a stable center of pressure which made the natural center of gravity
coincide with the center of pressure throughout the wing. Tests showed the wing as near
perfectly balanced and free from flutter under all conditions as possible. Stalls were
mild, the nose dropping only slightly below the horizon and aileron control was positive
throughout. Forced loops and spins were possible with the S-C's but they were placarded
against any violent maneuver. They were not intended as aerobatic machines.
of the S-C was based on the popular acceptance of the model ST low-wing open-cockpit
training plane and interests expressed by dealers and owners for a companion cabin model.
Engineering was placed under the direction of Millard Boyd and Will von der Meer who
previously designed the ST. The mock-up was built during the spring of 1937 and the flying
prototype completed by mid-summer
Once the shape was finalized, lines were transferred from the plaster mock-up directly
to metal by means of progressive steps. Shells were built around the fuselage model at
bulkhead points and at compound curve areas. Plaster casts were then made and, John Fornasero
did the initial flight test work. He was also chief test pilot for Ryan on the ST series.
The S-C was originally designed to employ the complete line of Menasco inline air-cooled
engines, ranging from the 95-hp B-4, 125-hp C-4 and the 150-hp C-4S as optional customer
choice. The prototype had the C-4S installed and proved most adaptable from the standpoint
of operational costs versus performance compromise. Trials continued throughout the summer
with the little aircraft turning in an ideal and enviable performance. The recorded facts
and figures along with its sleek appearance made headlines in all the leading aviation
journals. By late summer the S-C had received its ATC (No. 651) and the NX 17372 license
was changed to NC.
As fall approached, the S-C was put into service at the Ryan School of Aeronautics
in San Diego. Here it served as a primary trainer, being used for indoctrination into
the "first feel of flight." Several months later a re-evaluation of the S-C was undertaken.
A review of upkeep costs, flight hours, maintenance problems, and what bearing these
would have on the owner of such a plane, was made. The original S-C was brought back
to the factory, the Menasco engine removed and a seven-cylinder Warner 145-hp radial
installed. This change was dictated purely by engine studies and considerations by engineers.
With the Warner engine, fuel consumption was only slightly less than with the Menasco
but it proved more reliable, rugged, easier to maintain and cost less per unit to install.
With the radial engine as power, the entire series of tests had to be carried out again
and the only change found necessary was an added wing-to-fuselage fairing. This was done
in order to retain spin characteristics for the airplane to be CAA certified. John Fornasero
once again did the early flight work, but most of the later wringing out was done by
Paul Wilcox, who succeeded Fornasero.
The prototype now sported the S-CW designation and in October 1937 became NC 17372
all over again under ATC 658. Production tooling got underway immediately and material
was procured for an initial lot of 25 aircraft with deliveries to start in the spring
S-C production was just underway when Claude Ryan announced a new contract for aircraft
parts, putting the company in the position of having over $300,000 backlog of work. Within
a few months of this, Ryan received overwhelming orders for the STM, military version
of the ST trainer. These orders came in from the U. S. as .well as many foreign governments.
Only 12 S-CWs were built before production had to be stopped in order to keep up with
the more pressing military schedules. It was hoped the S-C could be brought back but,
when war broke out, any possibilities of resuming commercial production was forgotten
for the duration.
Initial retail price for the standard S-C was $6,885 but with extra equipment, which
most customers chose to have installed, the cost was around $7,500. No Menasco or inline
powered S-Cs were delivered to customers. Only the NX prototype employed this engine
for only a few months.
The Ryan S-C had a top speed of about 140 mph at 5,000 ft. and a cruising speed of
125 mph. Landing speed was 45 mph. The metal perforated landing flap, situated between
the landing gears, attached at the main spar line and manually controlled by a lever
in the cockpit, was effective in giving good glide control during approach but had little
effect upon the plane's speed. It in no way changed the stability nor was there any correction
necessary when it was extended. It also provided a slight assist in short takeoff runs.
The sliding cockpit canopy could be adjusted in flight through intermediate positions
between closed to fully open. No buffeting occurred and there was no change in trim necessary.
Because of their similarity in planview, with long tapered wings, fixed spatted undercarriage
and general silhouette, several Ryan S-Cs were used in war movies to represent early
Japanese Nakajima fighters. Many S-Cs played their own war-time role in the hands of
the C.A.P. and one has been unofficially credited with spotting and sinking or disabling
of a German U-Boat off the Atlantic coast in 1942. Of the 12 S-C's built, one was sold
to Brazil and one was flown to a customer in Mexico City. The other ten were initially
purchased by customers in the U. S.
Considerable analysis was made after the war as to the economics of resuming production
of the S-C model. Two versions were to be offered, the standard S-C145W and an improved
S-C165W model with the Warner 165-hp Super Scarab engine. However, when the opportunity
arose to purchase the rights for the North American Navion, the S-C was abandoned. The
S-C had a comparatively short production life but its appearance in the late 1930's will
long be remembered as just about one of the classiest private planes to ever flex its
wings in flight.
(The author wishes to express his sincere appreciation to Mr. William Wagner, Vice
President, Public Relations, Ryan Aeronautical Company for his valuable time and assistance
with this article.)
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Posted September 17, 2011