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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

GREAT LAKES AIRCRAFT CO.

GREAT LAKES AIRCRAFT CO.

The GREAT LAKES AIRCRAFT CO. was established in Oct. 1928 after Glenn L. Martin relocated his base of operations from Cleveland to Baltimore (see GLENN L. MARTIN CO.). Great Lakes, headed by William Roberts Wilson (COB); Charles F. Van Sicklen (VP and dir. of sales); Richard Hunter (dir. of advertising); and P. B. "Zeke" Rogers (chief engineer), acquired the entire Martin facility at 16800 St. Clair Rd., along with the rights to manufacture all then existing Martin aircraft designs. Production began on 2 Jan. 1929 and the first carry-over batch of 18 Martin 74 Torpedo Bombers (called the Great Lakes TG-1) was delivered on 30 April. Work was also begun on a "light-weight aircraft . . . that would be more than competitive with [other popular civilian 2-seat sport planes.]" The result was the 2T-1, soon modified into the 2T-1A, arguably one of the best handling sport-trainers ever produced. In 1931 Dorothy Hester, flying her 2T-1A, set a world's record of 62 continuous "outside" loops.

By 1935 the deepening Depression was beginning to make the bankers of Allied Motor Industries, the holding company that controlled Great Lakes, very nervous. The 2T-1 series was doing well, and although several military designs were experimented with, neither the army nor the navy expressed much interest. The lack of hoped-for lucrative government contracts caused several panicky investors to pull out, bringing a premature end to all production in 1935. In the mid-1960s Harvey Swack, of MAYFIELD HTS., acquired the remaining assets of the company. Swack designed a small, single place version of the 2T-1A called the "Baby Great Lakes" that was a favorite of home-builders. During the years 1972-77 Douglas Champlin, of Enid, OK, manufactured licensed, full-size reproductions of the 2T-1A. R. D. Franklin moved manufacturing of the 2T-1A1 to Eastman, GA, in 1978 and production ceased in 1980.