Simanaitis Says

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ED LESHER was a can-do kind of guy. A professor of aeronautical engineering, he used breaks in his academic career to perform design work at Douglas, Stinson and Convair Aircraft.

Attendance at a fledgling Experimental Aircraft Association Fly-In in 1958 inspired Lesher to design and fabricate two aircraft of his own. One of them, the Lesher Teal, set several international records for speed and distance.

Yet, while balancing academe and industry, Ed found time to do set design and act at the Ann Arbor Civic Theater and to sing in the Ann Arbor Civic Chorus.


Edgar J. Lesher, 1914 – 1998, aeronautical engineer, aircraft designer, record-setting pilot. Ed and his wife Margaret had ten children, including four sets of twins.

Lesher earned an undergraduate degree in mathematics during the Great Depression, then did graduate studies in this subject and physics. Prior to World War II, he taught ground school for the Civilian Pilot Training Program and earned his own pilot’s license. Then in 1942 Ed joined the University of Michigan’s Department of Aeronautical Engineering, where he taught until retirement in 1985. Lesher died in 1998.


The 1946 106 Skycoach, one of Stinson’s products during Lesher’s time with this Wayne, Michigan, company.

The four-place Stinson Skycoach was a product of optimism following World War II, when aircraft manufacturers believed returning airmen would want to continue flying. Alas, few did and most didn’t have the cash to satisfy such a whim. The Skycoach’s pusher propulsion, though, intrigued Lesher and he incorporated this feature into his home-built aircraft.

The first was the Nomad, registered N1066Z, which flew in October 1961 after 5000 hours of construction.


The Nomad was Lesher’s first home-built.

The Nomad was an all-aluminum side-by-side two-place pusher. Powered by a 100-hp Continental O-200A air-cooled flat-four, the Nomad made innovative use of a Dodge Flexidyne Coupling to dampen torsional vibration. Lesher and the plane took Grand Prize at the 1964 AC Spark Plug Rally.

The Lesher Teal, registered N4291C, was explicitly designed to break records in the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale Class C1a, for propeller-driven aircraft of less than 500-kg (1102-lb.) gross weight.

The Teal retained the Nomad’s Continental O-200A power and sleek, all-aluminum pusher configuration, this time in a single-seat layout. Its wingspan is a diminutive 23 ft. 10 in. (by contrast, a Piper J3’s span is 35 ft. 3 in.).

At one point of the Teal’s design, Ed, who weighed well over 200 lb., considered using a jockey pilot. Instead, not wanting to miss the fun, he decided this was a good incentive to lose some weight.


The Teal, Lesher’s record-breaking design, first flew in April 1965.

In August 1965, Lesher piloted it to the EAA Fly-In in Rockford, Illinois, where he was honored for his achievements. Then he began attacking the FAI records.


My Microsoft Flight Simulator model of the Lesher Teal.

In 1967, Lesher and his Teal set a Class C1a speed record for a 500-km closed course at 181.55 mph. Later that year, he flew the Teal at 169.20 mph for a new 1000-km closed-course record. Before the year ended, he and the Teal averaged 141.84 mph for a new closed-course record of 2000 km.


Don’t try this at home, kids. We’re professionals.

All was not without drama. In 1968, a loss of power brought the Teal to an emergency landing, and considerable damage, in a Michigan field.

After a rebuild, Lesher and his Teal set another FAI record in 1970, this one for a closed-circuit distance of 1554.29 miles. In 1973, he and the Teal set a 3-km speed record of 173.101 mph as well as a 15-25-km record of 169.134 mph. Finally, the pair set an FAI C1a record for straight-line distance, officially 1835.459 miles, by traveling from Florida to Arizona.

For these record-breaking achievements, Lesher earned the FAI’s Louis Blériot Medal four times, in 1967, 1970, 1973 and 1975. He was inducted into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame in 1988.

The Lesher Teal has resided in the EAA Adventure Museum ( since 2002. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2014

2 comments on “LESHER TEAL

  1. D. Lesher
    June 13, 2015

    Some other interesting features of the aircraft; three fuel tanks, one behind the pilot and one in each wing, held sixty gallons of fuel. The hand operated, fully retractable landing gear required the execution of eighteen separate actions. The rear mounted propeller necessitated an unusual tail configuration, as well as a lower nose then that of one found in a more conventional aircraft. To reduce drag, the plane was constructed without wing flaps which mandated an extra long runway for landings and take-offs.

    • simanaitissays
      June 13, 2015

      Many thanks. I trust others note your surname. I am honored.

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This entry was posted on March 4, 2014 by in Vintage Aero and tagged , , , .
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