The sole surviving General Aristocrat, NC278H, is the latest addition to the growing Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum (WAAAM) collection at Hood River, Oregon. Some 45 examples of this three-seater cabin monoplane were built by the General Airplane Corporation of Buffalo, New York between 1928 and 1931, when the company closed down as a result of the Great Depression.
Most Aristocrats were powered by a 110hp Warner Scarab radial engine, but NC278H has been fitted with a 220hp Continental de-rated to 165hp. Although a relatively small number were produced, one of the prototypes was supplied to noted polar explorer Admiral Richard Byrd. Another was used by NACA (the predecessor of today’s NASA) to test full-span ‘Zap Flaps’ at Langley Field. In December 1928, one was loaned to long-distance flyer Lady Mary Heath — the first woman to hold a commercial pilot’s licence in the UK — for a flight in Canada. She later penned a glowing report of its flying characteristics.
This last Aristocrat has been rebuilt several times, and was last based in northern California with the estate of the late Bud Field. In late January it was awaiting the weather to clear before being flown northwards to Hood River.