The Interstate Cadet-Pearl Harbour Survivor

By Willie Bodenstein

The little Interstate Cadet may not be the most well-known of the tandem high wing rag and tube Continental powered light aircraft that was manufactured during the 1940s, but it has the distinction of being one the first aircraft to be shot at and survive the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941.

Photo National Museum of the USAF

At 07h49 that morning the first wave of aircraft of the Japanese Imperial Navy were given the order to launch their attack on Pearl Harbour. Completely unaware of the impending danger, Cornelia Clark Fort, an instructor in the Civilian Pilot Training Programme at John Rodgers' Airport near Honolulu and a student were practising touch-and-goes at John Rodgers' Airport. Suddenly, out of the blue, Cornelia Fort saw a silver military-type airplane approaching her Cadet at high speed with guns blazing.

She instantly took over the flight controls and put the cadet into a steep climb. Their attacker passed so close underneath her that she was able to see the Japanese rising sun insignia on its wings. Diving down she headed for her home field, which was already under attack and where she managed to land safely. Cornelia, her student and the Cadet survived the attack.

The Cadet had its first flight in 1940 and 574 were built, eventually finding their way into the military where they served as the L-6A in the liaison and reconnaissance role. Like most light aircraft of the time it was of welded steel tube fuselage, wood wing structure with metal ribs and fabric covering.Almost three times the price of Piper's J-3 Cub the Cadet did not sell well in the civilian market. However, the type was far more rugged and was faster than its competitors.

Interstate built 320 Cadets between 1941 and 1942 and in 1945 sold the rights and tooling to the Harlow Aircraft Company. In 1946, Harlow sold the 'rights to and the tooling' to the Call Aircraft Company that built 254 with upgrades to the airframe, with improved brakes and larger engines.The Cadet had a second lease in life when between 1970 and 1980 a strengthened and modernised version with upgraded structural elements of the fuselage, landing gear and wings and powered by a Lycoming O-320 160 HP engine and a McCauley propeller was produced by the Arctic Aircraft Company. Designated the S-1B2 and certified in 1975, the Artic Tern was produced in small numbers as a bush plane for use in Alaska.

General specifications:
Length: 23 feet 5 in (7.14 m)
Wingspan: 35 feet 6 in (10.82 m)
Height: 7 feet (2.1 m)
Empty weight: 1,103 lb (500 kg)
Max take-off weight: 1,650 lb (748 kg)
Powerplant: 1 ◊ Continental A65-8, 65 hp (48 kW)
Maximum speed: 114 mph (183 km/h; 99 knots)
Cruise speed: 105 mph (91 knots, 169 km/h)
Range: 540 miles (469 nmi, 869 km)
Service ceiling: 16,500 feet (5,029 m)

Classic Aircraft

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