In 2019, a generous fan donated N26R (“two-six-Romeo”) to Jessica. She uses N26R to advocate for inclusive disability culture in the US and inspire children with limb differences around the world.
This 1946 ERCO 415-C Ercoupe was originally built in College Park, MD. It spent its early life on the east coast of the US before working on a farm in Iowa. In the early 2000s, it made its way to California before receiving a new engine in 2016 along with several upgrades.
A team in Tucson helps maintain N26R. You can usually find it taking to the skies of Oro Valley in Northwest Tucson in the early morning before the intense heat of the desert kicks in. N26R’s home base is La Cholla Airpark (57AZ).
In 2020, N26R met an unintentional architect of the Ercoupe’s popularity among disabled pilots. Jessica, with the help of a team of ferry pilots, took N26R across the country to Washinton, DC to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The flight also intended to thank pilot and retired Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) who submitted the ADA to the US Senate.
Originally designed in the late 1930s, the Ercoupe was built to solve a glaring problem in early aviation: how to fly safely. The challenge was taken up by aeronautical engineer Fred Weick who settled on the Ercoupe’s defining characteristic of interconnected rudder and ailerons.
All three axes of control are connected to the yoke. To pitch up or down, pilots pull the yoke back or push forward. To turn left or right, unlike most airplanes that require both hand inputs as well as pushing on peddles on the floor, in an Ercoupe pilots simultaneously roll the wings and yaw the rudder simply by turning the yoke.
This innovation along with several other groundbreaking designs made the Ercoupe one of the easiest airplanes to fly and one of the safest of its day. After World War II, the Ercoupe was sold in mass numbers and included some unconventional outlets like the men’s suite section at Macy’s.
These days, the “C” model Ercoupe is popular for pilots with disabilities. The simplified controls make it easy to maneuver and the 1,320 takeoff weight capacity qualifies it as a Light Sport Aircraft.
LSA airplanes in the US can be flown without the stringent medical requirements that otherwise require a Statement of Demonstrated Ability (SODA) for a private or commercial pilot. US Sport Pilots only need a valid driver’s license to meet the medical requirements of LSA.