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Rohr R.M. 1 “Guppy”

Frederick H. “Pappy” Rohr designed and built the fuel tanks for the Ryan NYP, in which Charles A. Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris nonstop in May 1927. On August 6, 1940, he established the Rohr Aircraft Corporation in Chula Vista, Calif., with help from Reuben Fleet, whom he had approached for a job. The firm was primarily engaged in producing airframe components, becoming a major supplier throughout World War II.

After the conflict Rohr made its first attempt at creating an airplane for the postwar civilian market. Designed by chief engineer Frank McCreary, the M.R.1 (whose letters stood for the designer and the manufacturer) was of aluminum construction with forward-swept wings, a butterfly tailplane and a 36-hp Aeronca E-113 two-cylinder air-cooled engine. It flew only once, in 1948, after which test pilot Doug Kelley declared it unsafe to fly. Rohr tried to modify it with a ventral fin and a Continental C-65 engine, but how much of an improvement that would have been is unknown, because it never flew.

The M.R.1 was displayed in the San Diego Air and Space Museum until it was destroyed in a fire on February 22, 1978. The wings were recovered and were last reported to be stored in York, Pa. The plane’s almost cartoonish appearance led to its being widely known—among the few who remember it—as the Guppy, although nobody involved in the project ever called it that at the time.