Travel Air 2000, 3000 and 4000

Travel Air 2000, 3000 and 4000
2000, 3000, 4000, CW-14, Sportsman, Osprey
Travel Air 4000, built in 1929, airworthy at Carlsbad, CA, in 2008
Role biplane aircraft
Manufacturer Travel Air, Curtiss-Wright
Designer Lloyd Stearman
First flight 13 March 1925[1]
Introduction 1925
Primary user private owners, aerial sightseeing businesses
Produced 1925-1930
Number built approx 1,300[2]

The Travel Air 2000/3000/4000 (originally, the Model A, Model B and Model BH)[3] and later marketed as a Curtiss-Wright product under the names CW-14, Speedwing, Sportsman and Osprey), were aircraft produced in the United States in the late 1920s by the Travel Air Manufacturing Company. Travel Air produced more aircraft during the period from 1924-1929 than any other manufacturer[4].

Overall design features

The types shared a common structure of a conventional single-bay biplane with staggered wings braced by N-struts. The fuselage was of fabric-covered steel tube and included two open cockpits in tandem, the forward of which could carry two passengers side-by-side.

Like other aircraft in the Travel Air line, it was available with a variety of different, interchangeable wings, including a wing shorter and thinner than the rest known as the "Speedwing" designed, as the name suggests, for increased performance. Travel Air entered a specially-modified Model 4000 (designated 4000-T) in the Guggenheim Safe Aircraft Competition of 1930, but it was disqualified.

In 1933 a Travel Air 2000 was modified by George and William Besler where the usual inline or radial gasoline piston engine was replaced by an oil-fired, reversible steam engine, which became the first airplane to successful fly using a steam engine, with a 90º angle V-twin compound engine of their own design. [5][6]

Curtiss-Wright production

Following Travel Air Manufacturing Company purchase in August 1929[7] by Curtiss-Wright, the Model 4000 continued in production into the early 1930s as the CW-14, and the range was expanded to include a military derivative dubbed the Osprey. This was fitted with bomb racks, a fixed, forward-firing machine gun, and a trainable tail gun. These aircraft were supplied to Bolivia and used during the Gran Chaco War, which eventually led to Curtiss-Wright's successful prosecution for supplying these aircraft in violation of a U.S. arms embargo.

Travel Air survivors

A small number of Travel Air 2000/3000/4000s remain flying along and a few examples preserved in museums. Exhibited examples include those at the National Air and Space Museum, the EAA AirVenture Museum, the Reynolds-Alberta Museum, the Virginia Aviation Museum, and the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.[8]

An airworthy Travel Air 4000 resides in the collection of Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, Florida. In 1997, this aircraft was used by the U.S. Postal Service to help commemorate the first day issue of a series of airplane stamps. With the local Postmaster on board, owner Kermit Weeks delivered the first ever airmail in the history of Polk City; probably the last as well.[9]


  • Model B - Travel Air Model A fitted with a Wright J-6 piston engine.

Like other Travel Air aircraft, Model 4000 variants were distinguished by letters prefixed (or occasionally affixed) to the basic designation to denote different engine and wing fits. These letter codes included:

Travel Air 2000 with Curtiss OX-5 engine airworthy at the Historic Aircraft Restoration Museum, Dauster Field, Creve Coeur, Missouri, in June 2006
Travel Air 3000
Travel Air 4000
Travel Air 4000 at Fantasy of Flight.
  • A - original wing with "elephant-ear" ailerons
  • A - Axelson engine
  • B - "standard wing" with Frise-type ailerons and three fuel tanks
  • C - Curtiss engine
  • D - "speedwing"
  • E - revised "standard wing" with a single fuel tank
  • K - Kinner engine
  • L - Lycoming engine
  • Travel Air 2000 - first production model
  • SC-2000 - powered by a 160-hp (119-kW) Curtiss C-6 engine
  • Travel Air 3000 - powered by a 150-hp / 180-hp (112-kW / 134-kW) Hispano-Suiza Model A or Model engine.
  • A-4000 - powered by a 150-hp (112-kW) Axelson engine
  • B-4000 - powered by a 220-hp (164-kW) Wright J-5 engine
  • BC-4000 - floatplane version
  • B9-4000 - powered by a 300-hp (224-kW) Wright J-6-9 engine
  • C-4000 - powered by a 170-hp (127-kW) Challenger engine
  • E-4000 - powered by a 165-hp (123-kW) Wright J-6-5 engine
  • K-4000 - powered by a 100-hp (75-kW) Kinner K5 engine
  • SBC-4000 - floatplane version
  • W-4000 - powered by 110-hp (82-kW) Warner Scarab engine

Curtiss-Wright models built included:

  • CW-14C Sportsman - version with Curtiss Challenger engine (1 built)
  • CW-A14D Deluxe Sportsman - three-seat version with Wright J-6 engine and NACA cowling (5 built)
  • CW-B14B Speedwing Deluxe - version with Wright J-6 engine (2 built)
  • CW-B14R Special Speedwing Deluxe - single-seat racer built for Casey Lambert with supercharged Wright R-975 engine (1 built)
  • CW-C14B Osprey - militarized version with Wright R-975E engine
  • CW-C14R Osprey - militarized version with Wright J-6-9 engine
  • CW-17R Pursuit Osprey - CW-B14B with uprated engine; possibly not built

Specifications (CW-A14D)

General characteristics

  • Crew: One pilot
  • Capacity: 2 passengers
  • Length: 23 ft 7 in (7.17 m)
  • Wingspan: 31 ft 0 in (9.44 m)
  • Height: 9 ft 2 in (2.78 m)
  • Wing area: 248 ft2 (23.0 m2)
  • Empty weight: 1,772 lb (804 kg)
  • Gross weight: 2,870 lb (1,302 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Wright J-6-7, 240 hp (180 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 155 mph (249 km/h)
  • Range: 600 miles (966 km)
  • Service ceiling: 16,000 ft (4,880 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,000 ft/min (5.1 m/s)


  1. ^ Simpson 2007, p. 553
  2. ^ Simpson 2007, p. 553
  3. ^ Simpson 2007, p. 553
  4. ^ Wings Over The Prairie, Ed Phillips, 1994
  5. ^ "World's First Steam Driven Airplane" Popular Science, July 1933, detailed article with drawings
  6. ^ George & William Besler (April 29, 2011). The Besler Steam Plane (YouTube). Bomberguy. 
  7. ^ Simpson 2001, p. 553
  8. ^ Ogden 2007, p. 541
  9. ^ [1]
  • Ogden, Bob (2007). Aviation Museums and Collections of North America. Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. ISBN 0-85130-385-4. 
  • Simpson, Rod (2001). Airlife's World Aircraft. Shrewsbury: Airlife Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-84037-115-3. 
  • Taylor, Michael J. H. (1989). Jane's Encyclopedia of Aviation. London: Studio Editions. pp. 288. 
  • World Aircraft Information Files. London: Bright Star Publishing. pp. File 891 Sheet 54. 
  • NASM website
  • AirVenture Museum website
  • Virginia Aviation Museum website

See also

  • Aerial operations in the Chaco War

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