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Capelis XC-12

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Title: Capelis XC-12  
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Subject: List of aircraft (C), Five Came Back, Flying Tigers (film), King of the Zombies, Passport to Destiny
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Capelis XC-12

Role Transport
Manufacturer Capelis Safety Airplane Company Ltd.
Designer John Younger
Introduction 1933
Status Scrapped
Number built 1

The Capelis XC-12 was a failed 1933 aircraft design that most notably was used as a prop in the 1939 film Five Came Back with Chester Morris and Lucille Ball, the 1942 movie, The Flying Tigers, starring John Wayne,[1] and the 1942–1943 movie, Immortal Sergeant with Henry Fonda, Thomas Mitchell and Maureen O'Hara. It resembled a Beech 18 and featured unusual twin horizontal tail structures supported by several vertical surfaces.

Design and development

The original design by Socrates H. Capelis was issued U.S. patent #1,745,600 in 1930. The patent comprised a modified application with a half-span dorsal wing mounted rearward, and on top of the cabin with two additional engines mounted on the wings. The project was funded by local Greek restaurateurs as a promotional aircraft, and constructed with help from University of California students.[2]

A less radical design by Dr. John E. Younger featured all-metal construction, and was built as an all-metal low-wing, retractable gear twin engine airliner with a triple vertical stabilizer supporting a dual (biplane arrangement) horizontal stabilizer. The wing used a large box-spar construction with corrugated skin panels. The partly retracting gear, extended automatically when the throttle was closed.[3]

Following a 1938 incident, the XC-12 was modified at Glendale, California. The forward slanting eight-piece windshield was modified to a four piece that slanted rearward, and the passenger windows were squared off to look more like a Douglas DC-3.

Operational History

On April 15, 1938, the XC-12 suffered minor damages from a forced landing after running out of fuel over Fresno, California. The aircraft was bought by RKO in March 1939.

The main spar was bolted together, and much of the skin attached with P-K screws rather than rivets. These tended to vibrate loose, requiring tightening or replacing every few flights, and constituted a safety hazard that grounded the airplane. Promotional tours were soon abandoned, and its career ended as a movie prop, appearing in ground roles in a number of motion pictures during World War II, when flyable aircraft had more important uses. Flying shots in films were of a model; the aircraft itself was grounded by the studio's insurance company and was thought to have been scrapped in 1943, becoming a backlot relic, the model was used in several later films.[4]


Specifications (XC-12)

Data from skyways

General characteristics
  • Capacity: 12
  • Length: 42 ft (13 m)
  • Wingspan: 55 ft (17 m)
  • Height: 12 ft (3.7 m)
  • Wing area: 500 sq ft (46 m2)
  • Airfoil: Modified USA 45
  • Empty weight: 6,500 lb (2,948 kg)
  • Gross weight: 9,500 lb (4,309 kg)
  • Fuel capacity: 145 gal
  • Powerplant: 2 × Wright Cyclone R-1750 Radial, 525 hp (391 kW) each
  • Propellers: 2-bladed


  • Maximum speed: 191 kn; 354 km/h (220 mph)
  • Cruise speed: 165 kn; 306 km/h (190 mph)
  • Stall speed: 53 kn; 98 km/h (61 mph)
  • Service ceiling: 28,000 ft (8,500 m)

See also

  • Photo of the XC-12

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era




  • Farmer, James H. Broken Wings: Hollywood's Air Crashes. Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Pub. Co., 1984. ISBN 978-9-999926-515.
  • Gunston, Bill. World Encyclopaedia of Aircraft Manufacturers: From the Pioneers to the Present Day. Annapolis, Maryland: US Naval Institute Press, 1994. ISBN 978-1-55750-939-0.
  • Hughes, Howard. When Eagles Dared: The Filmgoers' History of World War II. London: I. B. Tauris, 2012. ISBN 978-1-84885-650-9.
  • Wynne, H. Hugh. The Motion Picture Stunt Pilots and Hollywood's Classic Aviation Movies. Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., 1987. ISBN 0-933126-85-9.

External links

  • Capelis on Aerofiles
  • August 1934
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