March 5, 2024
The HAL HUL-26 Pushpak was a light utility aircraft built by HAL Bangalore to meet ther requirements of Indian Flying Clubs. The aircraft was a licensed copy of the Aeronca Super Chief built in the US and first flew in 1958. Aeronca sold the Super Chief Model 11 type certificate to E. J. Trytek of Syracuse, NY. Though Mr Trytek did not manufacture any airplanes, but he did license Hindustan Aircraft of India to build the Chief as the HUL-26 'Pushpak'. 154 'Pushpaks' were built from 1958 to 1968.

Philip Ward narrated this story on the Aeronca Site's Guestbook.

Here's an interesting story by a friend of mine who spent time in India in 1957-63. The Indian government had agreed to license-manufacture the Folland Gnat jet fighter in place of the Venom. There was some sort of delay in delivery of the tooling and jigging for this new plane and this provoked a production crisis as the very large work force ended up with nothing to do. When Venom production discontinued, management panicked to find alternative work, hence the “PUSHPAK” project. This evolved in a very unusual way which requires further digression.

About three years before, the small Bangalore Flying Club had a Aeronca Super Chief single engine high-wing monoplane aircraft that they were using for training purposes. A young Indian student pilot was flying the thing and he overshot the grass field on landing and headed for a gate girded by two gate posts. The gate was open and he headed for it to go out on to the road.

Unfortunately he was wider than the gate opening so he hit the starboard wing tip and sheared off about two feet, starting the plane spinning so that it then hit the port wing tip and sheared off approximately the same amount. The aircraft continued spinning and hit the rudder on the post and badly distorted it in turn. The aircraft spun to a stop in the road outside and the student pilot nipped out smartly and disappeared down the road in a cloud of dust, never to be seen again. He was acting on the assumption that he would have to pay for all the damage!

The aircraft was taken back to a small hangar and the wings were removed and it was stored there awaiting repair. After a long period of time they ordered a set of new wooden main spars (principal beams which gave the wings their strength) for the mainplane. Eventually these did arrive but somewhere along the line, lifting hooks had been used which had damaged the wood and the spars couldn’t be used. So the thing sat there in its dormancy and another Aeronca was purchased to continue the flying training.

H.A.L. were aware that this plane was lying there and so, after a management meeting, they sent a truck out to bring it back to H.A.L. where it was quickly dismantled into its smallest constituent parts and spread out over the manufacturing area. They were told to reproduce all the parts. The fuselage was made out of Renolds steel tubing but, since this was not available, they used household conduit which looked like Renolds tubing but was not seam-welded and didn’t have the strength of Renolds.

The plywood panels were fitted in place and they had a fuselage. The original Aeronca engine was used from the damaged Aeronca and was fitted with a new propeller. That was no problem. But there were problems obtaining other original equipment for example, the flying control surfaces were operated by Morse sprockets and roller chain which were also not available. They therefore used ordinary bicycle sprockets and chain plus the usual cables. The control surfaces again were made from household conduit tubing.

The metal ribs were re-manufactured from copies and it was reassembled and fabric covered. The mainplanes (wings) were manufactured in the same way and the original wood spars that had been damaged by the hooks had some splice-work carried out on them and reinforcements and the damaged main spars were used. The ribs were copied, fabric covered of course. The original Aeronca had a very deep molded front wind screen. The original windscreen was removed, a light film of oil applied on the inside and then plaster of Paris and straw were dropped onto it to make a very quick mold and this was then sent to the perspex division where they produced an exact copy of the windscreen. Another good example of this procedure was the manufacture of the aluminium brake pedals. The original pedals had ribs which over the course of time had become worn down somewhat. These were sent into the pattern shop and when they came out, they had the same worn markings that were on the old pedals!

The aircraft was completely assembled and then did one flight only, a very shallow take-off, a very limited turn around the airfield, one landing, and it never flew again. This event was notified up the ladder to Air Force Headquarters in New Delhi. The Farnborough Air Show was due to start in a few weeks after this. At the Farnborough Show the Indian Government made an announcement that Hindustan Aircraft Ltd. had designed, built and test-flown the Pushpak aircraft in six weeks! Nevertheless, the Pushpak trainer was born and was produced thereafter for use in India. So there are a lot of facsimiles of Super Chiefs in India to this day!

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