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April 2016 Mystery Airplane: The Monsted-Vincent MV-1

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Even though there was only one built, VAA aviation historians had no problem identifying the April Mystery Plane.

First correct answer came from Ulrich Rist who correctly identified the four-engine aircraft as the Monsted-Vincent MV-1 Starflight.

Others who supplied correct answers were: Louis Ross, James Riviere, Wayne Muxlow, Dan Shumaker, Brian Baker and Louis Ross who provided this information about the MV-1 Starflight:

“This is the one and only example of the Monsted-Vincent MV-1 airplane. It had four Continental C-85 engines, (later up-dated to four Cont. O-200 engines), in pusher configuration, ala B-36 bomber. With seats for 4 to 6 people and “potty” it was to be the Corporation Executive Transport of the post-WWII era. Designed and built in the late 1940s by Robert Monsted and H. Farley Vincent, (two WWII aviators), at the Michaud plant in Eastern New Orleans, LA, (the site of the plant where they manufacture the Saturn booster rockets). It had several safety features designed into it. With that huge fin and rudder, it had no VMC. It could maintain altitude on any two engines–even both on the same side. With eight hours of fuel it had endurance that would permit riding out or skirting around bad weather. Another feature was the rearward retracting main landing gear, ala the Douglas Mix-Master aircraft. Other specs: wingspan, about 50 feet—gross weight, about 6000 lbs—cruise speed, about 150 mph.

(That looks like H. Farley Vincent in the background, just ahead of the aircraft’s nose).

Unfortunately, before they could get MV-1 certified, it was damaged in a landing accident and some of the financial backers got nervous. Then the Air Force sold off a lot of surplus Beech 18s cheaper than the expected price of the MV-1. That doomed the project. When last seen the carcass of the MV-1 was seen rotting away outside the Wedell-Williams Memorial Aviation Museum, Patterson, Louisiana.”

The MV-1 was featured as a Mystery Plane in VAA’s VINTAGE AIRPLANE magazine’s August 2000 issue with a picture of the aircraft sitting in a hangar. Long time EAA member Clancy Hess, in his response, indicated he had at one time flown this aircraft, also stating the aircraft was built in New Orleans with the first flight made October 1,1948. Harold Swanson, Commander USN (Ret), also wrote that the Vincent family donated the MV-1 to the Wedell-Williams Museum in 1982.

Pusher props are driven by four Continental engines. Engines installed here are C-85's, but these are to be replaced by '90's. Ship flies well on just two engines.

Pusher props are driven by four Continental engines. Engines installed here are C-85’s, but these are to be replaced by ’90’s. Ship flies well on just two engines.

The all metal MV-1 was rather attractive with very satisfactory performance figures for an aircraft of this size and passenger capacity. Engines were four 85 hp Continentals spinning two-position Sensenich props. It was designed by Art Turner a former Lockheed engineer. The MV-1 grew out of a World War II dream of Col. H. Farley Vincent a one-time liaison officer for the Army and Col. Robert M. Monsted a former Air Force officer.

Specs for the MV-1 which was the only 4-engine aircraft produced in Louisiana were: span 48 ft. 5 in., length 34 ft. 6 in., empty weight 3,200 lbs., weight loaded 5,000 lbs., wing loading 17.36 lbs. sq. ft., max speed 160 mph., cruise speed 150 mph., stall speed 57 mph., service ceiling 16,000 ft., range 1,200 miles, take-off distance 920 ft., fuel capacity 172 US gals.

The timing when the MV-1 entered the emerging post war aviation market proved to be disastrous as it paralleled the time when the military offered thousands of surplus multi-engine transport aircraft at ridiculously low prices and these aircraft came with much higher speeds and outstanding operational and performance records.

The MV-1 had an ignoble end. When on display at the Wedell-Williams Memorial Museum it suffered major damage when blown away in hurricane Andrew in 1992. The wreckage was retrieved and stored only to once again be confronted by hurricane Rita in 2005 when the hangar and MV-1 structures were damaged even further. Where these remains are today and what may be planned for the future is questionable.

The following article by author Don Andrews appeared in the February 1949 issue of SKYWAYS magazine and gives some insight into the initial objectives sought when designing the light transport MV-1.

Airliner… Jr. Size

By Don Andrews

A few years ago, just prior to World War II in fact, a young man sat at the controls of a twin-engine airplane bound for the West Coast. The ship’s “cargo” was a business executive, his three assistants, and numerous briefcases filled with papers important to what later became a vital war effort.

In the words of seasoned air travelers, the trip was uneventful. Uneventful, that is, if you want to discount bad weather. It was during a two-hour stint of weather, with the plane flying over rugged mountainous terrain, that the executive pilot began to consider the possibility of emergency procedure. The thoughts were not pleasant. Fortunately, however, the ship had been perfectly maintained, its two engines purred unfalteringly, the pilot knew his business, and the instruments on the panel provided all the information necessary to the completion of the flight. The VIP’s were delivered to the West Coast destination . . . and according to ETA, too.

But the pilot of that plane didn’t let his thinking stop there.

If two engines provide more flight assurance than one, reasoned Pilot H. Farley Vincent, then four engines would provide at least twice that assurance. From just such a practical bit of reasoning eventually evolved the Starflight, a four-engine executive ship designed to meet the all-weather needs of the businessman flyer.

In January 1946, a group of ex-GI’s, one of whom was Major Vincent, formed a corporation in New Orleans. Purpose of the corporation was the design and development of an executive airplane for today’s air traveling businessman. Ideas were pooled, opinions aired, analyses made and finally, specifications laid down.

How aircraft designers and engineers arrive at decisions regarding plane specifi­cations is illustrated in the development of this four-engined airplane.

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Pusher props are driven by four Continental engines. Engines installed here are C-85’s, but these are to be replaced by ’90’s. Ship flies well on just two engines.

First item under consideration was the ship’s engines: The powerplant decided upon was the Continental C-85 – four of them, each with fuel injection system. This would be a simpler installation, the group decided, than that of 360-hp in one package. The Continental C-85 (later to be replaced by the C-90) would give absolute freedom from carburetor icing, and would mean fewer controls – i.e., no mixture controls and no carburetor heat controls. There would be four throttles, four prop controls (two-position) and four switches, but to offset these, there’d be no need for manifold gauges, no head temperature gauges and no carburetor temperature gauges for a pilot to watch.

Range was the next consideration. In going over this problem, it was decided that ”to look at weather with a chance of running for the clear,” nothing less than eight hours of gasoline, at economical cruise, would be sufficient. So 43-gallons per engine was the requirement, with integral tanks installed in the outboard wing panels. Gasoline carried outboard of all engines would mean a better weight distribution, and with the weight of both the engines and fuel distributed along the entire span of the wing, a saving of weight in construction would be effected.

Executive Starflight, powered by four pusher engines, is a junior-size airliner with range of eight hours.

Executive Starflight, powered by four pusher engines, is a junior-size airliner with range of eight hours.

This matter of range, however, produced a secondary problem. Apropos of the old and true saying that the ”range of an airplane is the distance between comfort stations,” it became readily apparent to the designers that a small rest room would have to be built into the ship if the eight-hour range was to be an honest one. That’s how a small and compact all-metal rest room was designed into the ship this early in development.

As far as construction material was concerned, it was not difficult to make a choice here. There being no more practical, durable, corrosion-resistant and fire­ proof material than 24ST Alclad, the men decided to make the ship an all-metal one. Following that came the high-wing versus low-wing debate. Analysis showed that if a low wing were used, the prop clearance would necessitate the wing’s being at least four feet above the ground. And that would mean the fuselage, too – quite a long step up! Therefore, a high-wing was decided upon. The practical bonus to that decision was the fact that it permitted a cabin entrance so near the ground that even a hobble-skirted executive of the so-called favored sex could climb aboard the plane without undue exposure.

Next came the problem of engine placement – whether to have the engines pusher or tractor installed. With tractor engines, the group decided, the weight and balance consideration would seat the passengers under the wing. This seating location would result in noisy little propellers Hailing around near the skin between the pilots and their passengers. Not good! So the most radical decision in the design of the ship was made . . . the installation of pusher engines. At first it was planned to install the engines so that the props would be just behind the trailing edge. Weight and balance consideration came into the picture again, however. The length of the nose of the ship with this arrangement would have to be much too long, abnormally long, in fact. So the wing was designed around a conventional box beam, and the accessory side of the engine was placed as near the rear spar as possible, with the prop just behind the trailing edge. This meant a short drive shaft would be necessary. However, with the engine semi-buried in the wing and with only a small amount protruding beneath the wing, cowling would be an easy proposition.

Since the ship was being designed to fly on instruments, its having to sit, with engines running, at the end of a runway waiting for ARTC clearance would be inevitable. This meant there’d have to be an excellent ground cooling system. Therefore, a cooling fan was incorporated. Attached directly to the extension shaft, the engineers reasoned, it would cool the engine by drawing air through the baffling system. In the air, the fan would float while ram pressure into the front of the cowling would do the work.

In the landing gear category, the tricycle arrangement was the choice. The gear was designed and the installation made so that the nose wheel would re­ tract into a box located between the pilots. The main gear, however, was set up so that it would retract into the rear of the fuselage instead of into the wings. The engineers preferred this arrangement be­ cause it eliminated breaking up the structure of the wings and, instead, left the basic wing structure uninterrupted from wing tip to wing tip.

Establishing proper balance, in the final analysis, provided the ship with a moderately long nose which promised to provide more than ample room for five people.

Pilots Vincent (above right) and Monsted check data before taking the Starflight up for its first test flight.

Pilots Vincent (above right) and Monsted check data before taking the Starflight up for its first test flight.

With such decisions made, work went forward on the actual construction of the prototype. Two years later, in October 1948, the ship was finally flown. It has been flown many times since that date, and thus far has lived up to the expectation of both its designers and engineers. In fact, the high aspect ratio (eight to one) wing of the ship has resulted in climb and load characteristics that are even better than those anticipated when the ship was on the drawing board.

Complete tests are now being flown with the Starflight. From the study of the figures so far obtained, the pilots who’ve flown the ship list its cruising speed at 145 mph; its two-engine performance, 90 mph; and the range, eight hours.

Wing span of the ship is 48 feet, and ship is 34 feet long from nose to tail. Gasoline tanks hold 172 gallons.

Wing span of the ship is 48 feet, and ship is 34 feet long from nose to tail. Gasoline tanks hold 172 gallons.

The ship has a gross weight of 4,800 pounds, and an empty weight of 3,200 pounds. This is expected to be reduced to 3,050 pounds in the second model. Its wing span is 48 feet and its length, nose to tail, is 34 feet. Gasoline tanks each hold 43 gallons of gasoline, 172 gallons in all, thus giving the eight-hour range.

Asked by skeptics why he’d gone into the development of a four-engine private airplane, H. Farley Vincent, President of Monsted-Vincent Aeronautical Inc., put it this way: ”In aviation we are in the transportation business. Our transportation medium is the air ocean. Every rock in the desert, every tree in the forest, every spot on the sea is washed by this medium. There is no place on earth that cannot be reached by air. It is a safe assumption, therefore, that transportation which can navigate this medium cannot help but make spectacular progress. And this has been proved so. Within the span of a few years, our airlines have gone from the single-engine open­cockpit biplane stage to the huge four­engined skyliners which serenely and safely cross the vast sea and land masses on the earth, and with complete acceptance from the traveling public.

”In the matter of short-haul transportation, it is difficult for an airplane to compete with an auto. But for business fixing, the aircraft of the future must be long range . . .and this is the great undeveloped field, i.e. fast transportation over long distances. When long-range, safe, comfortable and economical flying is available on a private-plane basis for the business public, there will develop a field in aviation which will surpass anything ever done by the airlines or the military.

”There are some people in business who have not yet thought in terms of aircraft for business. But let their competitors begin to use their own planes, let them begin to corral the available business, and see what this fellow will do. He’ll be there with a business plane! We think the Starflight will be the air travel ticket for that businessman.”

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