Development of the Model 71During the latter 1920s, the Fairchild Airplane Manufacturing Corporation of Farmingdale, Long Island, together with its associated branches in Canada, was the leading manufacturer of utility aircraft in the western hemisphere. Fairchild built the aerial equivalent of the small pickup truck, and these were of inestimable benefit to many small airlines, from the deserts of Peru to the frozen wastes of Alaska.
The first production model, the FC-2 (Fairchild Cabin Model 2) was powered by one Wright J-5 Whirlwind engine, of 220 horsepower. It made its first flight on 20 June 1927. Its wings, with a span of 44 feet, could be folded back, permitting easy transport by road, rail, or ship. The FC-2C was a version built for the Curtiss Flying service, with Curtiss engines.The FC-2W, first flown in the fall of 1927, was better known and more widely used. The 410 horsepower of its Pratt & Whitney engine provided a marked improvement in performance over the FC-2, and the wing span was increased to 50 feet. Production of the FC-2 and FC-2W totalled about 175, of which perhaps 15 were of the latter model. Exact numbers are difficult to assess, as many aircraft were converted from one model to another, not a difficult process in those days.
A further production version, the FC-2W2, was a FC-2W stretched by two feet. This provided space for six passenger seats instead of the predecessors' four. About 35 FC-2W2s were produced. PANAGRA was an important customer, and full details are shown on page 15.
Best known of the Fairchild utility range was the Model 71, introduced towards the end of 1928. This was a cleaned-up version of the FC-2W2, with oval rear windows and a smoother-looking fuselage. The new designation was derived from a numbering system adopted in 1929, and was at first intended to indicate the number of seats, including the pilot. It did not represent a new design. The significant change in the series was from the FC-2W to the FC-2W2. The Fairchild 71 retained the same Pratt & Whitney Wasp engines as the FC-2W2 and almost 100 were built.
Fairchild FC-2Most of PANAGRA's Fairchilds were the 450 hp Pratt & Whitney Wasp-powered FC-2W2 version of the earlier FC-2, whose 220 hp Wright Whirlwind was not up to the stringent operating performance standards required in South America. The aircraft which inaugurated the first service, from Lima to Talara, was an FC-2, of Peruvian Airways, but the remainder were of the second series of the FC-2W. This was a "stretched" version, designated the FC-2W2, and was fitted with six passenger seats instead of four. The better-known Fairchild 71, incidentally, was a neater version of the FC-2W2, and not, as is sometimes assumed, a different design.