During the early 1930s, the United States Navy (USN) held an eye towards modernization amidst a backdrop of emerging threats. This resulting in Specification No.96 being drawn up calling for a new, all-modern shipborne fighter capable of performance on par with contemporaries - though the secret lay in a USN ambition to develop a lightweight "parasite" fighter for its airship fleet. The General Aviation Corporation (GAC) was one of the entrants into a competition which also went on to include the Berliner-Joyce "XFJ-1" and the Curtiss "XF9C-1". The company had origins in 1924, founded by Anthony Fokker himself, and ended as the predecessor to North American Aviation (makers of the World War 2-era P-51 "Mustang" and B-25 "Mitchell" classic aircraft.
The General Aviation brand label, itself, followed the U.S Fokker Aircraft Corporation (Atlantic Aircraft / Atlantic-Fokker).
The 1930s presented aeronautics students with a chance to evolve old-school design. While biplanes, fixed undercarriages, and open-air cockpits remained en vogue, development now allowed for metal internal structures and all-metal skinning on surfaces - enhancing tolerances and promoting greater speeds/performance.
The XFA-1, as presented to USN authorities, was largely conventional in its design arrangement: the engine was seated at the nose, the pilot positioned over midships, and the relying on a single vertical plane with low-set horizontal planes. A biplane wing arrangement was in play in which the upper member was of wider span than the lower and both joined by N-type struts creating a single-bay, unequal-span appearance. The upper wing was also joined into the upper line of the fuselage and not made of a single structure as was typical. Again the pilot sat in an open-air cockpit which offered view out over the upper wing member - but vision out-of-the-cockpit was still restricted by the biplane wings. The fixed undercarriage had a pair of wheeled main legs under the forward mass of the aircraft with a tailwheel positioned under the rear.
The fighter was powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1340-C "Wasp" series air-cooled radial piston engine developing an impressive 450 horsepower and driving a two-bladed propeller unit at the nose. This same powerplant went on to be used in the Boeing P-26 "Peashooter" USAAC fighter of 1932, the soon-to-come North American T-6 "Texan" military trainer, and the future Sikorsky H-19 "Chickasaw" utility helicopter. With nearly 35,000 units eventually built, the Wasp engine series stood as the predecessor to the famous R-985 "Wasp Junior".
All-metal construction was used where possible though wing and tail surfaces remained skinned in fabric.
Armament centered on 2 x 0.30 caliber medium machine guns fitted over the nose, synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades - enough offensive firepower to contend with any threat of the day.
Dimensions included a running length of 22.1 feet, a wingspan of 25.5 feet, and a height of 9.2 feet. Empty weight was 1,835lb with a gross rating of 2,510lb.
The USN tested the XFA-1 during March of 1932 and subsequent trials showed the type lacking in key areas when compared to its rivals. Controlling was deemed poor for a fighter which necessitated structure changes by General Aviation. The modifications did not help and throttle/nose up issues were consistent - resulting in an aircraft that was more dangerous to its pilot than to any enemy of the day.
As such, the design was ultimately rejected by the USN and General Aviation discontinued work on the type thereafter. The challengers of the standing USN requirement all saw rather limited success - a single XFA-1 was completed and flown while the Curtiss XF9C-1 won out and was evolved to become just seven operational examples of the F9C "Sparrowhawk" parasite fighter for the USN - these given up as soon as 1937 - and a single prototype of the Berliner-Joyce XFJ was tested/flown.
The XFA-1, as tested, managed a maximum speed of 170 miles-per-hour, a range out to 520 miles, and a service ceiling up to 20,200 feet. Rate-of-climb was 1,470 feet-per-minute.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Air-to-Air Combat, Fighter
General ability to actively engage other aircraft of similar form and function, typically through guns, missiles, and/or aerial rockets.
✓Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR), Scout
Surveil ground targets / target areas to assess environmental threat levels, enemy strength, or enemy movement.
✓X-Plane (Developmental, Prototype, Technology Demonstrator)
Aircraft developed for the role of prototyping, technology demonstration, or research / data collection.
22.1 ft (6.75 m)
25.5 ft (7.77 m)
9.2 ft (2.80 m)
1,841 lb (835 kg)
2,513 lb (1,140 kg)
+672 lb (+305 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the General Aviation XFA-1 production variant)
1 x Pratt & Whitney R-1340-C "Wasp" air-cooled radial piston engine developing 450 horsepower driving a two-bladed propeller unit at the nose.
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