In 1958 Gene Turner started designing a single place all wood airplane with a folding wing. The objective was for a small airplane that could be stored in a single car garage; simple to build, inexpensive, and have good performance and stability. This design followed three design studies, which included a midget racer and a one man helicopter. In fact, the helicopter was started using sheet aluminum and that is when Gene discovered he could not work aluminum. Having been raised in a wood working family it became obvious the airplane should be made of wood. To keep the cost down it was decided to use Douglas Fir and exterior grade Mahogany plywood.
Also in 1958 Gene began working for the Federal Aviation Agency later to become the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)]. At first the FAA claimed building an experimental airplane was a conflict of interest, however the FAA changed its decision when Gene's supervisor argued that an employee building an airplane was no different than building a boat.
It took Gene two years part time to design and build his first airplane, the Model T-40. To avoid making unnecessary design changes a specification of the T-40 was set down. During the design process no changes were allowed unless they affected the airworthiness of the plane or that Gene could not build himself. As a result only two changes were made to the original design The landing gear was changed from a torsion bar spring to a flat spring, and the horizontal tail changed from a conventional tail to an all flying tail.
On April 3, 1961, Gene's birthday, the T-40 made its first flight. On climb out he climbed straight ahead to 1200 feet, leveled out, made a shallow bank to the left, and trimmed for level flight. He next removed his hand from the stick and took his feet off the rudder pedals, the airplane flew straight and level. Sweet success!
After nine months an 85 horsepower engine was installed along with a second fuel tank. Tony Speizo, an FAA mechanic talked Gene into entering the 1962 EAA design completion for a one or two place airplane with folding wings. The T-40 captured second place. With over three hundred hours and five years of flying, the T-40 was actually cut in two down the center of the fuselage and widened into the two place Model T-40A. Dr. Jim Mandley built a T-40 to include a bubble canopy and swept vertical tail. His modification was so great, Gene incorporated the features into the Model T-40A Super.
A letter from the FAA releasing Gene from "a conflict of interest," construction plans for the models of T-40s were made available through Turner Aircraft, However, the company was restricted to the sales of plans only. No kits. Gene could only expand his business by offering plans for variations of the T-40 Airplane; the two-place airplanes, the T-40A, the T-40A, Super (T-40-AS), and the Model T-100, Mariah Ultralight. This was in 1982. The same year Turner Aircraft was incorporated. when Gene started consulting service as an FAA Designated Engineering Representative (DER). He helped several companies obtain modifications to fixed wing aircraft and numerous helicopters. In addition to modifications he approved many repairs for helicopters and over 250 repairs for Petroleum Helicopter Corp.
Gene Turner will continue to support builders of Turner airplanes and sales of Turner T-40 Series Airplane plans on special order.
In 2005 Gene set out to have another T-40. During the years he acquired components and pieces of T-40 airplanes, and a 90 hp Franklin engine, which he used in building a new T-40. The airplane was painted in the color scheme of the U.S. Army Air Force AT-6 instrument trainers of Aviation Cadet Class 45G. This was Gene's class and he dedicated the plane to the memory of that class, which he refers to as the forgotten class of pilots of World War II. A picture of the T-40, named Tail-End Charlie is shown in the Section of T-40 Photographs. (Tail-End Charlie was the formation position Gene generally flew).
CAVU Publishing was created in 2002 as a subsidruary to Turner Aircraft Inc, The purpose was to self publish books written by Gene (Eugene L. Turner) . The first book published by CAVU was: Fabulous Affairs With Aircraft and Federal Aviation Airheads. For more information on this book, click on the CAVU Books link at the left. To order books click on Order Form.
The name, CAVU, is an old aviation acronym meaning Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited. A name well suited for publishing books of aviation stories. Gene has several more books planned.
Other articles written by the author:
Building the Turner T-40, Sport Aviation Magazine, July 1965
The New Look on the “All Flying Tails”, Sports Aviation Magazine, August 1969, co-author John Thorp. (Subject: "Ground vibration and flight flutter tests.")