|Portland International Jetport, 2004.|
|Role||Light fixed-wing aircraft|
|Manufacturer||North American Aviation|
|Primary users||United States Air Force|
United States Army
Uruguayan Air Force
|Variants||Camair Twin Navion|
The Ryan (originally North American) Navion is a 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. It was designed along the general lines of, and by the same company which produced the North American P-51 Mustang.
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). North American built 1,109 Navions in 1946–47, initially selling them at a below cost US$3,995, which later increased to $6,100, although the actual cost of construction was $9,000. These included 83 L-17As for the US Army and National Guard.
Ryan Aeronautical Company acquired the design in the summer of 1947, launching production at its San Diego factory in 1948. Ryan built 1,240 Navions (powered by 205 hp (153 kW) Continental O-470 engines or 250 hp (190 kW) Lycoming O-435 engines), including 163 aircraft for the US armed forces, before production ended in 1951, with Ryan wanting to concentrate on defense production.
Production rights passed to the TUSCO corporation, which flew a prototype of a revised version, the Navion Rangemaster G, on June 10, 1960, and set up the Navion Aircraft Company to build it. The Rangemaster G replaced the sliding canopy of the earlier Navions with a more conventional five seat cabin with access via car-type doors. Production began in 1961, and by mid-1962 was reported to be at a rate of 20 per month, but Navion Aircraft Company went bankrupt, and the rights to the Navion were picked up by the Navion Aircraft Corporation, set up by members of the American Navion Society in mid-1965.
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 2020. 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.
The United States Army Air Force bought 83 L-17As from North American in 1946, as a liaison and staff transport aircraft, with 36 going to the Army and 47 to the National Guard. These were supplemented by 163 L-17Bs from 1948, which were ordered by the United States Air Force on behalf of the Army and National Guard, with 129 going to the Army and the rest to the National Guard. During the Korean War, the US Army's Navions added casualty evacuation and forward air controller to the aircraft's liaison and light transport duties. The Navion was phased out of front line service by 1957, with the aircraft handed over to the Civil Air Patrol or used as hacks.
As of 2010[update], 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, 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. In the meantime Sierra Hotel Aero is carrying out re-manufacturing and upgrading for some owners of Navions.
The Navion is popular with private individuals and companies.