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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedThorpedo LSA to be built in China
Story and photo by Peter Lert
 
The late John Thorp played a pivotal role in several areas of American aviation—marks that continue to influence today.

Now an evolved version of one of his classic designs is getting a new home in its quest to survive in the LSA market. Production of the Thorpedo is moving to China from India.

IndUS Aviation has entered into an agreement with a Chinese firm, IPI, to put the Thorpedo into large-scale production to meet anticipated major demands in Asia.

The Thorpedo uses the 120-hp Jabiru 3300 for a 115-knot top speed, and will be offered with optional ePod or Dynon glass panels.

Seating two pilots side by side, it can be flown with its sliding canopy open if desired. It retains the Thorp hallmarks of a rectangular wing and all-flying stabilator; the corrugated skins of its flying surfaces replace most internal wing ribs and greatly simplify construction, as well as reducing empty weight.

A familiar flier…
Sounds sort of like a Piper Cherokee, doesn’t it? That’s hardly surprising; there’s a relationship behind that similarity.

In 1958, Piper engineer Fred Weick, designer of the Ercoupe, saw and liked a Thorp design called the Sky Skooter and asked Thorp to enlarge it to a four-seater.

While an engineer at Lockheed during WWII, Thorp designed a very small single-place airplane, the “Air Trooper.”

Conceived as an aerial motorbike for U.S. soldiers, it could take off in 100 feet and fly a couple of 100 miles at 90 mph.

Lockheed toyed with the idea of producing it—as the “Little Dipper” for the civilian market—and though it flew well, only two prototypes were built.

It was clear to Thorp, however, that there would be a postwar market, so he enlarged the design to a tri-gear two-seater, the Sky Skooter, which in 1946 received CAR 3 certification from the CAA. The Sky Skooter featured elements typical of Thorp designs, including a simple-to-build rectangular “Hershey Bar” wing and an all-flying stabilator tail.

Working together, John, Weick and Karl Bergey designed the first Cherokee in a line that would grow over the decades to include everything from a two-place basic trainer to six-place twins.

Roots of a Thorpedo
John, meanwhile, continued his own prolific design career, including utility airplanes, light twins, and the classic homebuilt T-18 in 1963; in 1976, Don Taylor’s T-18 became the first homebuilt to fly around the world, starting and finishing here in Oshkosh. Meanwhile, although the handful of Sky Skooters built in the late 1940s continued to fly, interest in the nifty little design dwindled.

It revived briefly in the 1970s, when five Skooters were built in the USA and UK, after which kits remained available for a few years.

Then it languished once again until the US/Indian collaboration of IndUS Aviation was formed in 1994 to build the little ship and today offers both LSA (85-hp Jabiru) and certificated (100-hp Continental O-200) versions.

Components and subassemblies are manufactured in India, with final assembly in Texas; some 30 aircraft are flying in the United States at present.

With the move to China, the company expects to up the ante.

India and China are both rapidly-growing economies; China, in particular, has minimal general-aviation infrastructure at present, but the central government is moving quickly to change this.

An entire city, Weinan in central China, has been designated to host the “LuHangYu General Aviation Development Zone,” including a large airport, industrial facilities, residential areas for workers, and even an aviation theme park.

After setting up with IPI, initial production is planned to ramp up to 100 units a year.

While much of the anticipated market is in Asia, the Thorpedo will also be available in the United States from the Dallas, Texas, factory.
For details: www.indusav.com
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