1929 Kreutzer Air Coach K-5



The good looking Kreutzer Air Coach K-5 was a "baby tri-motor" high wing monoplane that was powered with 3 five cyl. Kinner K5 engines of 100 hp each. The was ample room and good comfort for six in a spacious and well appointed cabin, offering heat and ventilation, the safety of shatter-proof glass, with a promise for an extra margin of safety and performance provided by three 100 hp engines. It was designed for smaller airlines operating over rugged and desolate country. The Air Coach was used initially by airlines in Arizona and Louisiana. Production of the Air Coach was suspended in the early thirties.  This is the only surviving example of the Kreutzer Air Coach with an incredible pioneering history. The aircraft was recovered in Mexico over eight years ago by between 22­25 men using 25 pack animals and hacked a road through the jungle to get the aircraft out.



Treasure from the Sierra's Saga of the Lost Kreutzer Air Coach


Some years ago, when the late Doug Rhinehart spun his fascinating flying stories at various fly-ins, we often talked of tri-motors, large and small. One of his projects was to climb Mt. Taylor near Albuquerque, New Mexico, to salvage the remains of a Ford Tri-Motor that crashed there in the 1930s. Another story revolved around a small, possibly a Bach Tri-Motor, that he was sure still existed somewhere in northern Mexico. Doug's tragic accident prevented any further efforts along such lines, but a small Tri-Motor did come to light near Casa Grande (old Mexico) in northern Mexico. This aircraft, originally a S/N 102, NC-612, was the second Kreutzer Air Coach built by the Joseph Kreutzer in Venice, California. It was first a K-2 model, modified to a K-3, and finally as a K-5 with three Kinner 100 h.p. K-5 engines. It was once reported to be called Star of the South and sold in Mexico in 1931 to the mining company, La Frizco, for its subsidiary the La Compania Aeronuticia De La Sierra S.A.. This company took the Kreutzer to South America in 1935, returning it a year later to Mexico. It was registered XB-AHO and was flown on routes from Parral to Chichuaha, Guadalupe, Caluo, and Batopilas. The Kreutzer was brought to Mexico by Harold Bromley (possibly Bromley), and was flown in Mexico by Leopoldo "Leo" Lopez Tarango. The Kreutzer carried merchandise and supplies to the mines and flew out ore concentrates. It was sold in 1939 to Heimpel Investment Company, owned by Gerardo Heimpel. The pilot at that time was Desiderio "Chalelo" Varela. It’s route was Chichuaha to Huizopa, San Pedro, Madera, and the U.S.A.


In 1940, it suffered a ground loop at the Huizopa airstrip, at some 7,000 feet elevation, damaging the left wing, the center prop, and center engine crankshaft. Parts were ordered in January of 1941 from the Airplane Parts and Supply Company of Glendale, California. Work was suspended when the owner, Gerardo Heimpel, became a P.O.W. due to his German nationality. The Kreutzer remained in its hangar at Huizopa until 1980.


At this point in time Captain, aviator pilot, and mechanic of aviation, Hernando Garcia Contreas, became the new owner. His efforts to acquire and salvage the Kreutzer is a story of persistence and ingenuity. His foresight in saving the Kreutzer will certainly add to the historical dimensions of the antique airplane movement.


On May 8, 1980, he flew to Huizopa Mineral at 7,000 feet elevation in the rugged Tarahumera Sierras, and inspected the Kreutzer for the first time. On September 7, 1980, he purchased the Kreutzer from the Heimpel family. From periods of November 9th to December 20th, 1980, he visited Huizopa and started planning his recovery of the Kreutzer. At this date, snow and strong winds defeat any further action.


From May 13th to July 15th, 1981, a work party of 25 men and 20 animals open up 8 kilometers of road, and the engines, gas tanks, oil tanks, tail wheel, controls, and other items are taken down the mountain. The recovery was then suspended due to torrential rains. From November 17th to December 15th, 1981, again, 22 people and 19 animals are hired to move more of the aircraft. The fuselage is moved 3 kilometers, and again the snows halt the project.


From November 18th, 1982, to January 16th, 1983, with 34 persons and 25 animals, the recovery is completed and after breaking through the jungle paths with machetes from El Caracol to El Paraiso, and on through El Saucito, Arroyo Del Agua, Las Cachanas, Yepachi, Tomochi, finally to Casa Grande (old Mexico). The preliminary rebuilt was done at Casa Grande, and in early 1986, the Kreutzer Tri-Motor was hauled to Santa Theresa, New Mexico Airport, west of El Paso, in the U.S., where was completed and prepared for its first flight in 46 years.


We have been in regular contact with Arturo Acosta a Mexican National of Chichuaha, Mexico, who have been the representative of the owners. The great problems that this group overcame in recovering and restoring this rare airplane has been most admirable. It is for sale and can be inspected at the Santa Theresa Airport.  It is believed that 14 Kreutzers were built, plus possibly 8 or 10 subsequent Air Transport Company versions built in the mid 1930s at Glendale, California.


This type of Tri-Motor is not well known in the U.S., as only one airline, to our knowledge, utilized the type, this being Wedell-Williams Air Service in Patterson, Louisiana. Most of those built went to Central and South America, with two possibly going to Africa.


It is our hope that this rare machine will find a home in the U.S., and it will be seen on the fly­in circuit, where it will finally achieve recognition and fame for its pioneering work in Mexico. Think of it! Regular operations for years in and out of in airfield at 7,000 feet elevation with three Kinner K-5 are carrying gold ore. In the pilot’s compartment in the Kreutzer, note the power console with trim tab crank. The co-pilot’s side has unusual arrangement with additional tubing on brake pedals for some purpose not readily apparent to us. The control stick is long and husky.


This Kreutzer also has the Heywood air starters and the AAA Tech Library came up with the diagrams for the Tri-Motor installation for the Heywood starters. The airplane is very solidly built, yet has an empty weight of less than 3,000 pounds. The cabin area has surprising head room. The specs in the July 1929 Aero Digest report indicate good performance on limited horse power. The past flying history of NC­612 (XB-AHO) seems to validate that these figures had some substance to them. The antique airplane world is fortunate to have the Ford Tri-Motors still around in limited quantity. We can add to that, the two Stinson T models and one Stinson A model flying plus a more substantial number of junkers and CASA JU-523M Tri-Motors. We believe this to be the only Kreutzer Tri-Motor left. Now if someone can just find a Bach or Ogden to restore!





Fuel capacity…90                                gallon Oil capacity …9 gallon

Weight empty…2,760 lbs.                    Fuel consumption …18 gallon per hour

Pay load …1,117 lbs.                           Gross weight loaded …4,500 lbs.

High speed …115 mph                         Cruising speed …100 miles per hour

Landing speed …43 mph                      Climb (sea level) …900 feet per minute

Service ceiling …16,000 feet                Absolute ceiling …. 18,000 feet

Cruising range …500 miles


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