Military Wiki
Portland International Jetport, 2004.
Role Light fixed-wing aircraft
Manufacturer North American Aviation /
Ryan Aeronautical
Introduction 1948
Status Active
Primary users United States Military
Private owners
Number built 2,634 (Simpson, p.261)
Variants Camair Twin Navion

Navion with a Continental IO-520 engine.

Navion with open canopy

Ryan Navion at Delta Air Park 1988

The Navion is a United States single-engine, 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, generally regarded as one of the best Allied fighter aircraft.

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).[1] 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 As 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.[2] The Model 72 was not mass-produced but, was instead, used as flying test bed for future modifications to the Navion line.[citation needed]

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 liter) 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

Ryan L-17B Navion on USS Leyte (CV-32), 1950.

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 2009. 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.[3] 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 2015, 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,[4] design data, molds and tooling, and says, as of Jan. 2013, that it is two to three years away from bringing the aircraft back into production.[5]

A pair of highly-modified Navions were flown by Princeton University as the Variable-Response Research Aircraft (VRA) and the Avionics Research Aircraft (ARA).[6] 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 L-17A, flown by the Commemorative Air Force, Camarillo Airport.

A twin Navion conversion

North American NA-143
Two prototypes.[7]
North American NA-145 Navion
North-American-built production aircraft, 1027 built.[7]
North American NA-154 Navion
Military version for the United States Army as the L-17A, 83 built.[7]
Ryan Navion
Ryan-built production aircraft, 600 built.[7]

1947 Navion A

Ryan Navion A
Improved Navion with a 205hp Continental E-185-9 engine, 602 built.[7]

1950 Ryan Navion B

Ryan Navion B
Same as a Navion A but powered by a 260hp Lycoming GO-435-C2 engine, also known as the Super Navion 260, 222 built.[7]
Tusco Navion D
Conversion by Tulsa Manufacturing Company with a 240hp Continental IO-470-P engine and tip tanks.[7]
Tusco Navion E
Conversion Tulsa Manufacturing Company with a 250hp Continental IO-470-C engine and tip tanks.[7]
Tusco Navion F
Conversion Tulsa Manufacturing Company with a 260hp Continental IO-470-H engine and tip tanks.[7]
Navion G Rangemaster
Redesigned aircraft by Navion Aircraft Company with 260hp Continental IO-470H engine, integral cabin and tip tanks, 121, some buitl as the Rangemaster G-1 with a modified fin.[7]
Navion H Rangermaster
Navion G with a 285hp Continental IO-520B engine, 60 built, an additional aircraft was built by the Navion Rangemaster Aircraft Company in 1974.[7]
Ryan Model 72
One Navion B was modified as two-seat trainer for a United States Navy competition with the Temco Model 33 Plebe.[7]
Camair Twin Navion
twin engine conversion
X-16 Bi-Navion
One twin-engined (130hp Lycomings) prototype designed and built by Dauby Equipment Company in 1972, production by Riley and later by Temco.[7]
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.[7]
Temco D-16A
Improved D-16 conversion with a 160hp Lycoming O-340-A1A engines, 45 conversions.[7]


Military designation for NA-154s delivered to the United States Army, 83-built, re-designated U-18A in 1962.[7]
Six L-17As modified by TEMCO as remote=controlled drones for the United States Air Force.[7]
Military designation for Ryan-built Navion As delivered to the U.S.Army, 163-built, re-designated U-18B in 1962.[7]
L-17As modified by Ryan with improved brakes and increased fuel capacity, 35 modified, re-designated U-18C in 1962.[7]
Three former XL-22As for evaluation.[7]
Two Ryan-built Navion Bs for the U.S.Army, re-designated XL-17D.[7]
Former L-17As re-designated in 1962.[7]
Former L-17Bs re-designated in 1962.[7]
Former L-17Cs re-designated in 1962.[7]



The Navion is popular with private individuals and companies.


Massachusetts Air National Guard[10]

Specifications (L-17)

General characteristics

  • Crew: one, pilot
  • Capacity: three passengers
  • Length: 27.25 ft (8.3 m)
  • Wingspan: 33.38 ft (10.17 m)
  • Height: 8.53 ft (2.60 m)
  • Wing area: 184 ft² (17.09 m²)
  • Loaded weight: 2,750 lb, (1,247 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Continental E185 flat-6 piston engine, 185/205 hp (138/153 kW)


  • Never exceed speed: 165 knots (190 mph / 306 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 135 knots (155 mph / 250 km/h)
  • Stall speed: 56 knots (64 mph / 103 km/h) gear and flaps up, 43 knots (50 mph / 80 km/h) gear and flaps down
  • Service ceiling: 15,000 ft (4,572 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,250 ft/min (381 m/min)
  • Wing loading: (estimated) 11.4 lb/ft² (55.7 kg/m²)
  • Power/mass: 13.4 lb/hp [11] (8.1 kg/kW)

See also



  1. Taylor 1980, p. 929.
  2. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". January 1954. p. 40. 
  3. Laert 1989, pp. 67–68.
  4. Aircraft specification NO. A-782 Revision 51." Federal Aviation Administration, March 2003. Retrieved: 18 April 2010.
  5. By Benét J. Wilson (2006-11-30). "Holder of Navion type certificate targets new aircraft production". Retrieved 2013-01-30. 
  6. Stengel, Robert F. Flight Dynamics. Publication. N.p.: Princeton UP, 2004. FLIGHT DYNAMICS. Princeton University Press, 2004. Web. 30 Jan. 2013
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 7.14 7.15 7.16 7.17 7.18 7.19 7.20 7.21 7.22 7.23 7.24 Simpson 1991, pp. 276-278
  8. Harding 1990, pp. 190–191.
  9. Swanborough and Bowers 1963, p. 522.
  10. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". Spring 2004. p. 72. 
  11. estimated, Navion A modelbb


  • 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.
  • R.W.Simpson, Airlife's General Aviation, Airlife Publishing, England, 1991, ISBN 1 85310 104
  • Simpson, Rod. The General Aviation Handbook. Hinckley, UK: Midland Publishing, 2005. ISBN 1-85780-222-5.
  • 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.

External links

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