Ryan Navion

The Ryan (originally North American) Navion is a United States single-engine, unpressurized, retractable gear, four-seat aircraft originally designed and built by North American Aviation in the 1940s. It was later built by Ryan Aeronautical Company and the Tubular Steel Corporation (TUSCO). The Navion was envisioned as an aircraft that would perfectly match the expected postwar boom in civilian aviation, since it was designed along the general lines of, and by the same company which produced the North American P-51 Mustang.

Portland International Jetport, 2004.
Role Light fixed-wing aircraft
Manufacturer North American Aviation
Ryan Aeronautical
Tusco Corp.
Introduction 1948
Status Active
Primary users United States Military
Private owners
Number built 2,634[1]
Variants Camair Twin Navion
Temco D-16

Design and development

The Navion was originally designed at the end of World War II by North American Aviation as the NA-143 (but produced under the NA-145 designation).[3] It was designed for the civilian market but also attracted the interest of the United States Army Air Forces. The Army Air Force ordered 83 of the NA-154 version, designated the L-17A, to be used as a liaison aircraft, personnel and cargo carrier, and trainer for the university-based Reserve Officers Training Corps flight training program, 35 of which were later converted to L-17C standard by the Schweizer Aircraft Company by fitting them with L-17B model features such as an auxiliary fuel tank.

Ryan Aeronautical Company acquired the design in 1948, and built approximately 1,200 examples over the following three years. Ryan designated the aircraft the Navion A with a 205 hp (153 kW) Continental E-185-3 or -9 and, later, the Navion B with 260 hp (194 kW) engines of either the Lycoming GO-435-C2, or optionally the Continental IO-470 engine. The "Navion A" became the basis for the military L-17B.

A single prototype Navion Model 72 was developed to compete for the US Air Force trainer aircraft procurement that was awarded to Beechcraft and resulted in the T-34. The prototype featured two-seat side-by-side seating, and twelve windows intended to be replaced with a bubble canopy.[4] The Model 72 was not mass-produced but, was instead, used as flying test bed for future modifications to the Navion line.

TUSCO took over production of the Navion in the mid-1950s, manufacturing D, E and F models with a variety of enhancements including tip tanks and flush rivets. Navion Rangemaster aircraft were manufactured from 1961 to 1976. Their production followed that of earlier canopy-model Navion aircraft. In addition to the 39.5-gallon (150 litre) main fuel tanks, the Rangemasters added tip tanks with 34 gallons (128 l) each. The total fuel capacity of 107.5 gallons (407 l) gave these Navions the range for which they are named. TUSCO also introduced the Navion Rangemaster G model in 1960, which incorporated all previous advancements, replaced the Navion's sliding canopy with a side door, enlarged the cabin, created five separate seats, and standardized use of tiptanks and larger, late-model Continental engines. An H Model was produced as well, very nearly the same as the G Model except for a few minor enhancements. The last few Navions were manufactured (all H Models) by Navion Aircraft Company during a short production run ending in 1976 during one of several attempts to restore the airplane to commercial viability.

Operational history

Pre-World War II, light civilian aircraft such as the Piper J-3 Cub and Aeronca Champion typically were made of wood or steel-tube fuselages with wooden wings. These pre-war designs were also marketed after the war, but did not sell well. While Republic offered an amphibious aircraft, the Seabee, Cessna offered the 195, and Beechcraft offered by far the most successful type Bonanza, which remains in production in 2019. All of these aircraft, including the Navion were significantly more advanced than prewar civilian aircraft and they set the stage for aircraft built from aluminum sheets riveted to aluminum formers. It was thought that wartime pilots would come home and continue flying with their families and friends under more peaceful conditions, but the postwar boom in civilian aviation did not materialize to the extent the manufacturers envisioned.[5]

Sales of the Navion were helped by the visibility of several celebrities who flew them, including Veronica Lake, Arthur Godfrey, Mickey Rooney and Bill Cullen. Retired Utah Senator Jake Garn is a current Navion owner.

Present day

As of 2010, many Navions are still flying and there is an active Navion owners community. On 18 March 2003 Sierra Hotel Aero Inc of South St. Paul, Minnesota purchased the type certificate,[6] design data, molds and tooling. Company stated in January 2013, that it was two to three years away from bringing the aircraft back into production.[7] In the meantime Sierra Hotel Aero is carrying out re-manufacturing and upgrading for some owners of Navions.[8]

A pair of highly modified Navions were flown by Princeton University as the Variable-Response Research Aircraft (VRA) and the Avionics Research Aircraft (ARA).[9] The VRA was given a pair of vertical side-force-generating surfaces mounted midway between wing roots and tips and a digital fly-by-wire (DFBW) control system, first installed in 1978, that parallels the standard Navion's mechanical control system and the fast-acting wing flaps that produce negative as well as positive lift. With these, the VRA can simulate the motions of other aircraft types through independent, closed-loop control of all the forces and moments acting on the airplane. Having completed over 20 years of research at Princeton University's Flight Research Laboratory, the VRA and its sister ship, the Avionics Research Aircraft (which is virtually identical to the VRA but does not have side-force panels) currently are owned and operated by the University of Tennessee Space Institute .


North American NA-143
Two prototypes.[10]
North American NA-145 Navion
North-American-built production aircraft, 1027 built.[10]
North American NA-154 Navion
Military version for the United States Army as the L-17A, 83 built.[10]
Ryan Navion
Ryan-built production aircraft, 600 built.[10]
Ryan Navion A
Improved Navion with a 205hp Continental E-185-9 engine, 602 built.[10]
Ryan Navion B
Modified for the higher powered 260hp Lycoming GO-435-C2 engine, also known as the Super Navion 260, 222 built.[10]
Tusco Navion D
Conversion by Tulsa Manufacturing Company with a 240hp Continental IO-470-P engine and tip tanks.[10]
Tusco Navion E
Conversion Tulsa Manufacturing Company with a 250hp Continental IO-470-C engine and tip tanks.[10]
Tusco Navion F
Conversion Tulsa Manufacturing Company with a 260hp Continental IO-470-H engine and tip tanks.[10]
Navion G Rangemaster
Redesigned aircraft by Navion Aircraft Company with 260hp Continental IO-470H engine, integral cabin and tip tanks, 121, some built as the Rangemaster G-1 with a modified fin.[10]
Navion H Rangemaster
Navion G with a 285hp Continental IO-520B engine, 60 built, an additional aircraft was built by the Navion Rangemaster Aircraft Company in 1974.[10]
Ryan Model 72
One Navion B was modified as two-seat trainer for a United States Navy competition with the Temco Model 33 Plebe.[10]
Camair Twin Navion
twin engine conversion Camair 480, 2 Continental O-470-B, 240 hp each. Camair 480C, 2 Continental IO-470- 260 hp each. 25+- built.
X-16 Bi-Navion
One twin-engined (130hp Lycomings) prototype designed and built by Dauby Equipment Company in 1952, production by Riley and later by Temco.[10]
Temco Riley 55
Initial version of the twin engined Navion conversion.
D-16 Twin Navion
Production version of the X-16 with two 150hp Lycoming O-320 engines and strengthened wings, 19 conversions by Riley and 46 by Temco.[10]
Temco D-16A
Improved D-16 conversion with two 170hp Lycoming O-340-A1A engines, nacelle tanks and 20 gallon each tip tanks, 144 gallons fuel total. 45 conversions.[10]


Military designation for NA-154s delivered to the United States Army, 83 built, re-designated U-18A in 1962.[10]
Six L-17As modified by TEMCO as remote-controlled drones for the United States Air Force.[10]
Military designation for Ryan-built Navion As delivered to the U.S.Army, 163 built, re-designated U-18B in 1962.[10]
L-17As modified by Ryan with improved brakes and increased fuel capacity, 35 modified, re-designated U-18C in 1962.[10]
Three former XL-22As for evaluation.[10]
Two Ryan-built Navion Bs for the U.S.Army, re-designated XL-17D.[10]
Former L-17As re-designated in 1962.[10]
Former L-17Bs re-designated in 1962.[10]
Former L-17Cs re-designated in 1962.[10]



The Navion is popular with private individuals and companies.


 United States

Specifications (Super 260 Navion)

Data from Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1951–52[14]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Capacity: 3 passengers
  • Length: 27 ft 6 in (8.38 m)
  • Wingspan: 33 ft 5 in (10.19 m)
  • Height: 8 ft 8 in (2.64 m)
  • Wing area: 184 sq ft (17.1 m2)
  • Empty weight: 1,930 lb (875 kg)
  • Gross weight: 2,850 lb (1,293 kg)
  • Fuel capacity: 40 US gal (33 imp gal; 150 L)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Lycoming GO-435-C2 air-cooled flat-six engine, 260 hp (190 kW) (take-off power)


  • Maximum speed: 174 mph (280 km/h, 151 kn)
  • Cruise speed: 170 mph (270 km/h, 150 kn)
  • Range: 595 mi (958 km, 517 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 18,000 ft (5,500 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,250 ft/min (6.4 m/s)
  • Take-off run: 400 ft (120 m)
  • Landing run: 468 ft (143 m)

See also

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists



  1. Simpson, Rod. The General Aviation Handbook. Hinckley, UK: Midland Publishing. p.261
  2. "N512SH" Archived 2015-06-26 at the Wayback Machine Navion.com Retrieved: June 25, 2015.
  3. aylor, Michael, J.H., ed. Jane's Encyclopedia of Aviation. Danbury, Connecticut: Grolier Educational Corporation, 1980. p. 929.
  4. Flying Magazine', January 1954, p. 40.
  5. Laert 1989, pp. 67–68.
  6. "Aircraft specification NO. A-782 Revision 51." Federal Aviation Administration, March 2003. Retrieved: April 18, 2010.
  7. Wilson, Benét J. "Holder of Navion type certificate targets new aircraft production." Aopa.org, November 30, 2006.
  8. "About Us" SierraHotelAero.com Retrieved: June 25, 2015.
  9. Stengel 2004
  10. Simpson 1991, pp. 276-278
  11. Harding 1990, pp. 190–191.
  12. Swanborough and Bowers 1963, p. 522.
  13. AAHS Journal, Spring 2004, p. 72.
  14. Bridgman 1951, pp. 286c–287c.


  • Bridgman, Leonard. Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1951–52. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Company, Ltd., 1951.
  • Harding, Stephen. U.S. Army Aircraft Since 1947. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife Publishing, 1990. ISBN 1-85310-102-8.
  • Lert, Peter. "Globe/Temco Swift & Ryan Navion." Vintage Aircraft Buyer's Guide & Price Digest. Challenge Series, Volume 3, 1989.
  • Ryan Aeronautical Company. Navion Operation Manual 3rd ed., February 1, 1949.
  • Simpson, R.W. Airlife's General Aviation. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife Publishing, 1991. ISBN 978-1-8531-0577-7.
  • Simpson, Rod. The General Aviation Handbook. Hinckley, UK: Midland Publishing, 2005. ISBN 1-85780-222-5.
  • Stengel, Robert F. Flight Dynamics. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0-6911-1407-1.
  • Swanborough, F. G. and Peter M. Bowers. United States Military Aircraft since 1909. London: Putnam, 1963.
  • Taylor, Michael, J.H., ed. Jane's Encyclopedia of Aviation. Danbury, Connecticut: Grolier Educational Corporation, 1980. ISBN 0-7106-0710-5.
  • Used Aircraft Guide. Norwalk, Connecticut: Aviation Consumer magazine (Belvoir Media Group LLC), 2010.
  • U.S. Bureau of Aeronautics. Technical Order 1L-17A-1: Flight Handbook USAF Series L-17A, L-17B, and L-17C Aircraft, October 1, 1948.
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