The Amazing Monocoupe

In the early 1900s many people were becoming interested in flight. Not just in watching birds fly, but in humans taking to the air in machines!

By the time World War I was raging, airplanes were considered necessary aids in winning the war. They carried people, guns, ammunition and bombs. Improvements had been made that allowed planes to travel faster and longer distances than before the war.

Airplanes Built in Backyards

After World War I many home-built airplanes were put together in backyards and empty warehouses. In the basement of his farmhouse in Bristow, Iowa, Clayton Folkerts started building airplanes. After two failures, he finally built an airplane that flew.

In Davenport, Iowa, Don Luscombe had become unhappy with his big, slow drafty plane. So he began to work on a new design. It would be light-weight and small with a covered cabin to protect the flyer and passenger from the wind. Luscombe was sure he could sell such a plane.

The Monocoupe Is Born

Luckily, Luscombe and Folkerts met. Folkerts could build fine airplanes, and Luscombe knew how to design them. So in 1926 the Central States Aero Company got under way. The company rented an empty building in Bettendorf, Iowa, and began manufacturing the Monocoupe. It was a monoplane - a plane with one set of wings - and like the coupe (a popular automobile) it carried two passengers side-by-side.

Many small manufacturers went out of business after six or seven planes had been made. But the Monocoupe was an immediate success.

Word of the plane's good handling and speed spread quickly. Central States Aero could not keep up with the orders. The problem was getting enough good engines to put in the planes. So in 1928 Luscombe went to Willard L. Velie, a Moline, Illinois, automobile manufacturer.

The Velie Company had first started as a buggy manufacturer and later changed over to automobiles. Now Velie agreed to build aircraft engines. Central States Aero became Mono Aircraft, Inc., and operations were moved to Moline, Illinois. The Monocoupe rapidly became one of America's most popular private airplanes.

The Monocoupe Dies

A few years after World War II the demand for small airplanes declined, and many small plane manufacturers went out of business. Monocoupe was one of them. But, to this day, the little Monocoupe that had its beginnings in an old wooden building in Bettendorf is a favorite of antique-airplane flyers.

Adapted from original article in The Goldfinch 2, No. 1 (Sept. 1980). Iowa City: State Historical Society of Iowa.
© State Historical Society of Iowa



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