Although they produced both military and civilian aircraft, probably the best known product of the Great Lakes Aircraft Corporation is the sport trainer 2T biplane. The design first took flight in 1929 and about 250 of the highly maneuverable little trainers were built before the Great Lakes Aircraft Corporation became another victim of the depression in 1933. Even on the relatively modest power of a Cirrus engine, for many years a Great Lakes biplane held the world record for consecutive outside loops with a total of 131. After production ceased at the Cleveland, Ohio, factory, the 2T remained a popular aircraft with many airframes being refitted with more powerful engines.
Almost 40 years after production ceased in Ohio, the Great Lakes design was still too good to ignore. In 1972 the rights to the biplane design were in the hands of the late warbird collector/restorer Doug Champlin. Champlin created a new Great Lakes Aircraft Company to produce an updated version of the airplane. The “New” Great Lakes took advantage of modern materials and construction standards which would meet current airworthiness requirements. Over the next decade Champlin produced 143 airframes, including the one on display, before production again ceased.
The type certificate for the Great Lakes 2T was acquired by WACO Aircraft in 2011 and the first WACO Classic Aircraft produced Great Lakes aircraft was rolled out in the summer of 2013, an astounding 84 years after the first model took flight. WACO Classic Aircraft is currently the only company in the world that produces new, FAA certified, open cockpit sport biplanes.
The aircraft on display was built by Champlin’s new Great Lakes Aircraft Company in 1977. The 2T is fully aerobatic and is powered by a 180 hp Lycoming AEIO-360-B1G6 engine. Jim Smith acquired the aircraft in 1988.