International Aircraft Corporation
Posted On: 07/27/2017 - 11:58am, Posted By: Scott Gampfer, Associate Vice President for Collections & Preservation
Illustration of International F-17 aircraft from 1928 company catalog.
The 1920s saw tremendous advancements in aviation technology. Advances in airframe and engine design, aircraft instruments, and new manufacturing techniques, led to greater performance and reliability of aircraft and improved safety. Numerous aircraft companies sprang up during the decade of the twenties, many lasting for only a short period and often sharing the same designers, engineers, factory workers, and test pilots as earlier ventures. The decade of the 20s saw increased public interest in aviation, sparked in part by the many record setting exploits of military and civilian flyers of the era. Newspapers picked up the excitement and started regular reporting on national and international developments. Many of the designers, test pilots, stunt flyers, and record breakers of the era became household names. Some of the major aircraft companies that later played an important role in WWII and beyond, like North American, Grumman, Sikorsky, and Douglas, could trace their start to the decade of the 20s.
One aircraft manufacturer that was established in the 1920s was International Aircraft Corporation. Chief designer for International was Edwin M. Fisk who had begun designing airplanes before the First World War. Fisk was eventually joined by J. W. Catron to form Catron & Fisk Airplane and Engine Company in Santa Monica, and later Long Beach, California. Fisk became known for his innovative bi-plane and tri-plane designs that featured octagonal plywood fuselages. Catron & Fisk was reorganized in 1925 to become International Aircraft Corporation.
Some of Fisk’s designs achieved a degree of public notice such as an example of his CF-10 Tri-Plane airliner nicknamed “The Pride of Los Angeles.” Modified for record setting attempts with different engines and increased fuel capacity, “The City of Los Angeles” was entered in the 1927 Dole Air Derby. The Derby was an air race from California to the territory of Hawaii. Unfortunately, the pilots Giffin and Lundgren crashed “The City of Los Angeles” into San Francisco Bay en route to the race. Both pilots survived.
In 1927 the International Aircraft Corporation relocated from California to Cincinnati, Ohio. The company selected a site for its manufacturing facility and airfield at Ancor, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati. International’s new facility included four concrete and steel buildings on a 200 acre site, built during World War One as the United States Nitrate Plant No.4. The former nitrate production facility already had its own waterworks, sewer system, and firefighting equipment. There was ample space for the company to establish an airfield on the site. Although the airfield was privately owned and intended for the company’s purposes including test flying, it was also open to “visiting planes.”
Catalog illustration of International’s new manufacturing facility and flying field at Ancor, Ohio.
To promote the newly relocated company to the local business community, International produced a high quality sixteen-page catalog in 1928 that explained the history of the company, the background of its chief designer Edwin M. Fisk, and details of their construction techniques and current designs. Their motto was that they were builders of “Planes That Fly Themselves.” The company sent the catalogs with a cover letter signed by company treasurer Clarence Ogden to local business leaders who had expressed an interest in aviation.
Front cover of International Aircraft Corporation catalog, 1928.
Illustration of International Aircraft’s fuselage production department at their Long Beach, California facility prior to shipping their equipment to Cincinnati.
The promotional letter noted that International had already begun production at their new facility and that the first “all Cincinnati made” plane had made its first flight on Saturday, April 7, 1928. The company claimed to have orders “on hand” for nearly 180 planes and boasted that “The management of International have sufficient financial means at their disposal to provide any amount of working capital required.”
Despite the initial optimism for the company, it appears that they only produced five or six planes at the new facility in addition to work on a prototype for a new design. According to the July 20, 1929 issue of the weekly journal Air Transportation, International Aircraft was sold to a group of investors from Jackson, Michigan who had plans to move the company to an airfield there and continue production. It appears that Crosley Aircraft Manufacturing Division of Crosley Radio & Electronics Company, bought the company from them around 1930. It seems that International was one of many aviation companies that did not survive the Great Depression.
The 1928 International Aircraft Corporation illustrated catalog and a copy of the associated promotional letter to area business leaders, are a part of the collections at Cincinnati Museum Center.