The Luscombe Phantom was once one man’s dream for a sleek plane for a brand new era. Today, restoring a rare Phantom to fly again is the dream of Andrea and Kevin Eldridge. MotoArt had the opportunity to learn more about their restoration project and get some material for PlaneTags.
The years between World Wars One and Two were an exciting time in aviation history. Wood and fabric-covered biplanes reached their performance limits, leading the way to the evolution of all-metal monoplanes. They were not only more efficient with less drag, but as time went on, improvements in structure and weight made them faster and more maneuverable.
Civil aviation expanded. Distance and speed records were made and broken. Here are just a few of the aviation headlines of the day.
Donald A. Luscombe took his first airplane ride in France, where he had served as an ambulance driver during World War I. That ride in a Voisin III stayed with him and inspired his love of aviation. When he returned to the U.S. after the war, he learned to fly in a Curtiss JN-4 and began to envision an aircraft design of his own. Luscombe formed the Central States Aero Company with several business partners, and in 1927 produced the “Monocoupe” - a two-seater light plane for personal use.
In 1933, he left to form another company, Luscombe Aircraft Development Corporation, which began producing an all-metal monocoque fuselage aircraft. Its Model 1 was the Luscombe Phantom. It first flew in 1934 and was then manufactured until 1937. It was of all metal construction and featured a side-by-side, two seat luxury cabin and was powered by a single 145 hp Warner “Super Scarab” 7 cylinder radial engine. Only 25 Model 1s were built.
Empty Weight: 960 LBS
Max Takeoff: 1,725 LBS
Range: 486 NM
Ceiling: 15,000 FT
Max Cruise Speed: 123 KTS
Engine: 1 x Warner “Super Scarab” Radial Engine @ 145 HP
This plane was the 14th of the 25 original Phantoms built, with serial number 114 (numbering began with 100). It was built at the Luscombe production site in Trenton, New Jersey. It was test flown for the first time by Edgar S. Davis on December 21, 1936. It last flew in 1955; Now it is being restored and its owners Andrea and Ken Eldridge expect it to fly again in 2023. It will be the third of the original 25 Phantoms to return to the skies.
While Kevin was a mechanic for Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino, California, he learned to fly in a Luscombe. The Eldridges bought their first Luscombe in 2000. A few years later, they bought another project that took two years to rebuild out of parts lugged in a U-Haul truck. The couple flew those two planes for a while until Kevin felt the urge for a new project.
They chose the Phantom for their next project because of its rarity. At the time, only one of the original 25 was flying. Another especially unique feature is its distinctive Watters cowl and round engine, and its luxury Golden Age design. They have spent over ten years painstakingly restoring their Phantom. Most everything replaced has to be fabricated since parts cannot be purchased out of a catalog for a Phantom.Through much research and hard work, it has been returned to its original beauty. For example, it was reunited with the original Super Scarab 145 hp radial engine that was installed at the factory. It also recently received its landing gear for the first time in 47 years. The Eldridges hope to fly the Phantom to aviation events like Osh Kosh and Blakesburg in 2023.
Andrea is a former TWA pilot prior to the merger with American Airlines and a Designated Pilot Examiner who gives licenses to new private, instrument, commercial, and instructor pilots. Kevin is also a pilot, flying warbirds for several museums and collectors around the country, as well as being one of the USAF Heritage Flight Foundation civilian demo pilots. They are also both American Airlines pilots and often get to fly trips together in the Boeing 737.
Thank you Andrea and Kevin for sharing your story and the Phantom with us all.
MotoArt owner Dave Hall was stoked when he had the opportunity to get the original skins from the Phantom restoration. Like many aviation enthusiasts, he has incredible appreciation for the aviators, barnstormers, and dreamers like Luscombe who made it possible for us to soar. “It’s a real honor to offer a small piece of an aircraft that we will never see again,” says Hall.
The team was able to create a very limited run of 950 PlaneTags. Each one has been stamped from the original Phantom material which was provided by the Eldridges from the restoration. They are cleaned and polished by hand, imprinted by laser etching, and attached to a beautiful display card that tells about the plane and the restoration. The rarity of the Phantom and its important role in those early exhilarating years of flight make this a wonderful memento of the Golden Age of Aviation. They are available at www.planetags.com.