By Hardy D. Cannon (c. 1980)

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The L-2 Taylorcraft was designed and built by the man who originally designed and built the E-2 Taylor Cub. It was in 1930 that C. Gilbert Taylor and his brother organized the Taylor Aircraft Corporation at Bradford, Pennsylvania. The company reorganized in 1931 but it was still known as the Taylor Aircraft Corporation. The only real change was the addition of William T. Piper as Secretary-Treasurer of the new company.

The Taylorcraft story really begins in 1935 when designer C. Gilbert Taylor sold his share of the Taylor Aircraft Company to his partner, oilman William T. Piper. From 1931 to 1935 Piper had financed the very successful “Taylor Cub”. This was a single engine, two seat, monoplane that prospered because of its economy, low price and ease of maintenance. This truly was a creation of the world economic depression. Mr. Taylor felt that the “Cub”, with a few changes, could be made more comfortable and even possibly go a little faster. This difference of opinion, and others, led to the parting of the partnership. Mr. Piper kept the Company, the Cub and all the manufacturing rights.

There were some who felt that Mr. Taylor was a genius, there were some who felt him to be an eccentric, but all had to admit that he was a designer of outstanding ability. This ability established a following of “Taylorcraft” fans that remain even to this day.

Taylor was not going to stop the building of airplanes so he formed the Taylor Aviation Company and began production in a shop in Butler, Pennsylvania. Taylor used his basic Cub design, streamlined it, placed the seats side-by-side, used a wheel instead of a stick for control and thus the first Taylorcraft known as Model A was built. The 40 hp Continental engine that Mr. Taylor used was the same engine that had been used in the E-2 Cub. The Model A Taylorcraft was a few miles an hour faster than Mr. Pipers E-2 Cub.

This little Model A Taylorcraft became an immediate success. So much so that the factory had to be expanded in order to keep up with the orders. Having worked on a close margin of profit and with the depression on there was no extra money to make such a move. The city of Alliance, Ohio, offered Taylor the Hess “Argo” plant rent free. This was an offer that could not be refused, so the factory was moved to Alliance, Ohio. A Mr. W.C. Young had bought into the company and by August, 1937 the 200th Taylor-Young Model A had been sold. In 1938 production reached 75 units per month.

The new Model B came out in 1938 with a 50 hp. Continental engine. This engine was soon upgraded to 65 hp. Soon the New model could be purchased with a 65 hp Continental, 65 hp. Franklin or 65 hp. Lycoming engine. The Model B seemed to perform a little better than the Model A had. This little plane received very high praise and was a success for its builder from the beginning.

With the war clouds in Europe and the unprepardness of the U.S. Army Airforce, the airplane factories were soon mobilized into war production. Taylorcraft built trainer versions known as 0-57 and L-2.

Taylorcraft’s side-by-side could not compete with the newly expanded market of the 1940s. The Civilian Pilot Training Program trained pilots in the military way, tandem seated with stick controls. Although Piper was able to capture the lion’s share with its “Cub”, there was still the need for more planes. Aeronca and Taylorcraft hastily went into production to build a tandem trainer.

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The new Taylorcraft was designated the Model D and it was a matter of use what you have and go from there. In this case, the Model B wings and tail group were fitted to a new and more simple fuselage. The tandem seating made the fuselage nine inches longer, some sections were reinforced, a new landing gear was added, an open engine cowl and dual stick controls and you have the new Taylorcraft Model D. Rather than use the “Cub” flap door and raised window entry, Taylor used a wide single door with entry to both seats. This plane was designed as a “bare bones” trainer and not aimed at the civilian market. Some of the cockpit comforts and details were done away with.

For the 1941 Army manoeuvers, Aeronca, Piper and Taylorcraft virtually forced their planes on the Army for testing and trails. These planes were accompanied by sharp company pilots and mechanics. In spite of the initial, strong resistance from the Army officials, the performance of each company’s tandem-seat model was outstanding. Their operation from roads, unprepared areas and small clearings was sufficiently convincing for the Army to order four test models of each design. The T-Craft became the YO-57; the Aeronca, the YO-58; the Piper, the YO-59, and were collectively given the nickname “GRASSHOPPER”.

Early in 1942 the Army changed the designation O (for Observation) and replaced it with L (for Liaison). The Taylorcraft 0-57 became known as the L-2 Grass.

In order to increase the field of view for the rear seat occupant, Taylorcraft cut off the superstructure to create a low flat deck level with the upper longerons. The enlarged windows were streamlined into a transparent fairing behind the rear seat and the rear observer was placed on a small swivel chair that allowed him to face the back of the plane.

In the early part of 1942 the Army glider pilot training program was confronted with a serious shortage of training gliders. Charles Stanton of the Civil Aeronautics Administration was asked for ideas as to how to break the bottleneck. With a ready answer at hand, he suggested the conversion of light planes into gliders. Removal of the engine and replacing it with a third seat, the installation of new controls, a change in the landing gear and you had a training glider.

While Piper and Aeronca bolted new noses on the engine mount, Tayloreraft cut the frame back to the wing strut attach point and used a different nose. The new craft was designated the ST-100 for Stanton Taylorcraft. The Army ordered 250 and the Navy also evaluated the glider and decided to use the ST-100.

<pic of N24086 or N48847 with two men>

When World War II ended, the Big Three went back into production of their pre-war models. The Champion 7AC was a modernized version of the Aeronca’s L-3 Defender and Piper resumed its production of its J-3. On the other hand Taylorcraft dropped the tandem seat Model D and revived its production of its side-by-side BC-12 model.

The Taylorcraft Tandem was not through because many of the L-2s went on the surplus market. The surplus L-2s could be licensed under the original A.T.C. Some of them were changed or civilianized, some were rebuilt and some were just repainted.

The Taylorcraft glider was useless to the soaring clubs and the factory was not interested in the conversion to airplanes. About 26 small shops and individuals undertook the conversion on their own. The author personally converted ten Taylorcraft gliders for use in a G.I. flying school. One is known to still be flying.

The Taylorcraft Aircraft Company built a total of 1,726 L-2s and 253 ST-100s making a total production of 1,979 units. In 1948 the civil register listed 1,350 DCO-65s and other D models in existence. The total now listed is less than 250 – truly a vanishing breed.

Through much research, study and many interviews, it has been determined that none of the Taylorcraft airplanes were actually used in combat zones during World War II.

by Hardy D. Cannon
author of the soon to be published history of Liaison Aircraft of World War II

Copyright Alamo Liaison Squadron (ALS). Story preserved (text unaltered, i.e. sic) by ALS at Cannon Field, Texas.

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