Smithsonian Displays Smallest Airplane

Tiny flyable biplane moves into Udvar-Hazy Center's big Boeing Hangar.

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia, recently got an addition to its immense collection in the Boeing Aviation Hangar. Unlike some of the massive airplanes on display there, such as the Space Shuttle, SR-71 and Concorde, this new member of the Smithsonian family is tiny and looks more huggable than flyable. The Stits SA-2A “Sky Baby” was the first airplane with the claim of being the smallest airplane capable of carrying a human in flight.

The airplane was developed by amateur airplane designer Ray Stits in Riverside, California. Measuring 7 feet, 2 inches from wingtip to wingtip and 9 feet, 10 inches from prop to tail, the Sky Baby weighs in at 666 pounds, according to an article by R.P. Boal published in_ Flying_’s November 1952 issue. Because of the lack of space on the wings, the airplane’s flaps are mounted on the top wing while the ailerons are attached to the bottom. Despite its miniature size, the Sky Baby was capable of flying at more than 200 mph thanks to a modified Continental engine producing 112 horsepower.

The Sky Baby took off on its maiden flight in 1952 with Robert H. Starr at the controls. It turned out, however, that Starr wanted all the glory and turned around and built a smaller airplane, which he named the Bumble Bee and, later, the Bumble Bee II. Stits’ son Donald in turn built the smallest monoplane, named the Baby Bird, which has been recognized as the smallest flyable monoplane. The smallest twin-engine airplane is the Colomban Cri-Cri, designed in the 1970s in France.

View our Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center photo gallery here.

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