Simanaitis Says

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HOME FIELD for my Microsoft Flight Simulator is Santa Ana, California; formally SNA. (See And, sure enough, in the late 1920s there was a Santa Ana Aircraft Company designing and building (at least one) innovative aircraft, the Model VM-1 Santa Ana Monoplane.

The aircraft gets a full page in the Arno Press Classic Airplanes of the 30’s and Aircraft of the Roaring 20’s, its details gleaned from the February 1928, issue of Aero Digest.


Classic Airplanes of the 30’s and Aircraft of the Roaring 20’s, James Gilbert, Advisory Editor, a Volume in Flight—Its First Seventy-Five Years, Arno Press, 1980. The book is listed at

The Santa Ana Model VM-1 is a three-place enclosed-cabin high-wing monoplane, a common enough layout for the era but with innovations designed to enhance production and performance.


A particularly airy cabin was part of the VM-1’s charm. This and other images from Classic Airplanes of the 30’s and Aircraft of the Roaring 20’s.

Its wing is made of two interchangeable panels, with separately fabricated wing tips. At the tail, its balanced elevators, left and right, are interchangeable with its vertical rudder. Both sides of the split-arch landing gear use interchangeable hardware. These design features offered low-cost manufacturing and upkeep and also translated into a minimum investment in spares on the part of a dealer.


Interchangeability of elements was a key feature of the Santa Ana.

The VM-1 was fitted with an 80-hp Anzani six-cylinder radial engine. This was something of a rarity, in that most radials have an odd number of cylinders for reasons of dynamic balance. The earliest of Anzani engines (one powering Louis Blériot’s 1908 Type XI, for instance) was a three-cylinder, though arranged fan-fashion, not spaced at 120 degrees. (See The Santa Ana’s powerplant was designed, in a sense, as a pair of these.


Evident here are the VM-1’s interchangeable landing gear and six-cylinder radial engine.

The Santa Ana’s motor mount was detachable. According to technical specifications, “almost any new type radial air-cooled engine up to 150 horsepower can be fitted.”

Performance data, “while given as estimates, have mostly been proven in actual flight tests.” With Anzani power, “the time required for take-off with a 140-pound pilot and two passengers of 140 and 165 pounds was just 20 seconds.”


The Santa Ana, sans propeller spinner. Image from

The Santa Ana’s wingspan of 38 ft. 3 in. is just a little larger than a modern Cessna 172R’s 36 ft. 1 in. The aircraft’s empty weight was given as 850 lbs.  (The Cessna’s is about twice this, with twice the power as well.)

Maximum speed of the VM-1 was 90 mph; its cruising range, 500 miles. Corresponding data for a modern Cessna 172R are beyond 180 mph and 800 miles, respectively.


A work in progress; my GMax Santa Ana Monoplane over its namesake airport.

Somehow, though, a Cessna lacks the charm of the Santa Ana. Plus, returning momentarily to my Flight Simulator aeroplane-building hobby, I note that Microsoft has already provided a Cessna as a default aircraft. Hence, the 1928 Santa Ana VM-1 Monoplane is my latest GMax time-gobbler. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2014

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