WB-2 Columbia
Bellanca wb 2.jpg
Transatlantic flight June 4–6, 1927 from New York to Eisleben in Germany
Other name(s) Miss Columbia, and later Maple Leaf
Type Wright-Bellanca WB-2
Manufacturer Wright Aeronautical
Manufactured 1926
Registration NX237
First flight 1926
Fate Destroyed in a hangar fire in 1934

The sole Wright-Bellanca WB-2, named Columbia, Miss Columbia, and later Maple Leaf, was the second in a series of aircraft designed by Giuseppe Mario Bellanca, initially for Wright Aeronautical then later Columbia Aircraft Corp.


Wright-Whirlwind J-5
Wright-Whirlwind J-5

In 1925, Clarence Duncan Chamberlin was friends with, and worked as chief test pilot for, the aircraft designer Giuseppe Mario Bellanca. A flight instructor in World War I, Clarence was an early customer of Bellanca designs, purchasing the only Bellanca CE, built when he was working for the Maryland Pressed Steel Company. Through Clarence, Bellanca secured a position as a consultant for the Wright Aeronautical company to produce a 5–6 passenger aircraft to demonstrate their new Wright Whirlwind J-4 engine. Bellanca built an all-wood aircraft, the WB-1 in 1926, which crashed at Curtiss Field in an attempt on the world non-refueled endurance record. The WB-2 follow-on aircraft, made of fabric-covered steel tubing, was already in development to test the updated Wright Whirlwind J-5.[1] The aircraft had some features intended for long-distance overseas flights built in. The landing gear could be dropped off, to prevent flipping in a water landing. Once on the water, the large gas tanks could provide flotation, and a saw was carried to drop the dead engine weight if needed.[2]

Operational history

Lindbergh trumps Levine
Lindbergh trumps Levine

The WB-2 Columbia was introduced at the 1926 National Air Races flown by Lieut C.C. Champion, where it won both efficiency records.[3] Wright Aeronautical chose to continue to develop the Whirlwind engine, but discontinue aircraft operations to avoid competition in profitable engine sales with rival aircraft manufacturers. Bellanca left Wright Aeronautical, with the rights to the WB-2, and the WB-2 prototype purchased for $15,500 and formed a new interest, Columbia Aircraft Company, with the investor Charles Levine.[4] Levine became a millionaire at the young age of 28 by reselling surplus armaments to the United States government. When partnering with Bellanca, he had plans to put the WB-2 in production. The plans never came through, and the aircraft would not see production until Bellanca manufactured an updated version later in 1928 with his own company.

Shortly after the record flight, on April 24, 1927, the WB-2 was christened in Prohibition-era ginger ale the Columbia by Levine's 8-year-old daughter. Later that day, Chamberlin safely landed the plane with two children on board with a broken landing gear.[1]

The second meeting in New York was attended by Levine, Bellanca, and Chamberlin. With check in hand, Levine added a stipulation that Columbia Aircraft would select the flight crew, to which Lindbergh objected. Reminding Lindbergh that the WB-2 was the only plane that could make the flight at the time, they made him leave to reconsider and call back the next day. The terms did not change, and Lindbergh returned to St. Louis without an airplane.[5] Lindbergh then approached Travel Air Manufacturing Company, asking for a Travel Air 5000 modified with a Wright Whirlwind motor and was declined.[6] Lindbergh also inquired what it would cost to buy a Fokker for the attempt; he was given a quote of $100,000 for a custom trimotor, and was told that Fokker would not build a single-engine craft for a transatlantic flight.[7] Lindbergh instead purchased a single-place aircraft from Ryan aircraft, the Spirit of St. Louis, for $6000.[8]

On December 30, 1927, Bellanca left Columbia aircraft, to form Bellanca Aircraft Company, taking with him again the rights to the WB-2 series of aircraft.[17]

In 1929 Columbia placed second in a race from New York to California piloted by Commander John Iseman, Lieut. J Farnum.

A Sperry Horizon
A Sperry Horizon

Maple Leaf was destroyed January 25, 1934 in a hangar fire at the Bellanca factory in Newcastle, Delaware.[15]



Wright-Bellanca WB-1
The all-wood forerunner to the WB-2, Using a Wright Whirlwind J-4
Wright-Bellanca WB-2
The record-setting Columbia, (later Maple Leaf) developed from the WB-1

Specifications (Wright-Bellanca WB-2)

Bellanca WB-2 Columbia 3-view drawing from L'Aérophile July,1927
Bellanca WB-2 Columbia 3-view drawing from L'Aérophile July,1927

Data from Avistar, The Lindbergh of Canada: the Erroll Boyd story

General characteristics



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  25. ^ "Ashtray, Wright-Bellanca WB-2". Retrieved 17 November 2010.
  • "WB-2". Retrieved 17 November 2010.