1932 Franklin Sport 90

This two-seat open cockpit biplane was originally designed in 1930 and featured a 55 hp Velie engine. Later upgraded to a 70 hp LeBlond, the “Sport 90” was finally introduced in 1932 with a 90 hp Lambert 5-cylinder radial engine.

Designed as a sport trainer, the 90 was close-coupled with excellent control response, and had to be firmly flown from the time it left the ground until landing. Introduced during the Great Depression, only a handful were built and few survive. Al Kelch acquired s/n 105 in 1969 and flew it for many years. The aircraft remains airworthy in the museum today.

Engine: 90 hp. 5-cylinder Lambert R-266Price New: $3,350
Empty Weight: 885 lbs.Cruise Speed: 95 mph
Max Gross Weight: 1,424 lbs.Max. Speed: 115 mph
Upper wing span: 26'
Lower wing span: 24'
Ceiling: 10,000

Al Kelch with his Franklin Sport 90 sometime in the 1970's.

Al Kelch with his Franklin Sport 90 sometime in the 1970’s.

Al Kelch flies his Franklin Sport 90 from his grass strip near Mequon, Wis. in the 1970s.

Al Kelch flies his Franklin Sport 90 from his grass strip near Mequon, Wis. in the 1970s.

Al Kelch's Franklin Sport 90.

Al Kelch’s Franklin Sport 90.

The Museum's Franklin Sport 90 just prior to Al Kelch acquiring it, late 1960s.

The Museum’s Franklin Sport 90 just prior to Al Kelch acquiring it, late 1960s.

Franklin Sport 90

Franklin Sport 90 s/n 104, N11601, date unknown.


Following is an article from Robert Hegge that appeared in the March, 1975 issue of Sport Flying magazine.

1 of a Kind Sport Biplane

When an antique aircraft enthusiast has everything going his way, excellent facilities, lots of spare time, plenty of old barns in the area, he is bound to come up with something remarkable.

By Robert Hegge

Up in the wonderful state of Wisconsin lives a fellow after my own heart. His enthusiasm for antique aircraft reaches back to when he was but six years of age.
Al Kelch, Jr. of Mequon, Wisc, is the president of his own firm, in ‘this small town north of Milwaukee. He owns ten antique airplanes in various stages of restoration and six old classic cars. Al lives on a 186-acre piece of land with his own grass landing strip as well as a picture book type stone barn that, among other things,
contains a wealth of aircraft and auto parts.

Al Kelch was six years of age when his uncle brought a WWI Jenny to Al’s home town in Iowa. As few people in that area had come in contact with a live airplane, Al was king of the street to his playmates. What other little boy could boast of having an uncle with his very own airplane? One day his uncle cracked the Jenny up on the main street of the town. For years the wrecked ship was parked on the Kelch farm and the cockpit served as a hopping off ship for Al and his many flights about the make believe world of aviation.

The flying uncle returned when Al was in high school, this time with the popular OX-5 powered Curtiss Robin. “I learned to fly in this ship! I mean at that age a kid learns in about five minutes. However, my uncle did allow me to take over the controls now and then. You know? I was really bitten by the flying bug.”

Iowa had no flying schools at this time and Al was forced to forget the flying game as he grew older. He was doing some flying with his uncle of course but passing all the required tests was another matter.

When World War II broke out, Al figured it was time to get serious about flying. He was crushed when the Air Force flunked him out telling him he would never fly. Some years after the war, however, Al became an antique Airplane Association. He quickly became an antique car buff and while attending a meet learned about the Antique Airplane Association.

He quickly became a member and through a trade paper purchased a used Cub for $250. He rebuilt the little craft and learned to fly picking up his ticket in 1967. He now has a total of over 500-hours in sport/classic aircraft. Time has passed and Al’s antique stable of ship’s now numbers ten, most of them Cubs.

“They make fine trading bait, Bob. When I locate an old plane in some barn the owner is always going to restore the darn thing. He knows he never will and I know he never will but he won’t give it up. When I come up with a Cub in flying condition an old ship will often change into my hands.” Not only does Al have his Cubs and the Franklin pictured here, he is also rebuilding a rare Travel Air 12-Q model, an E-2 Taylor Cub prototype with a Salmson AD-9 engine and the American “Eaglet” B-31. When complete, Al will have a remarkable fleet of rare aircraft.

The story on the Franklin Sport 90 began on New Year’s Eve 1968 when Al received a call from a friend in upper New York State that he had just made the purchase, sight un-seen, of a 1932 Franklin “Sport 90” biplane.

“In January 1969 I hitched up a trailer to my car and hauled off for New York. The ship was brought here to my home with no problems and I soon had it in the air. All I had to do was install a new set of floorboards, a paint job and top off the engine. I flew it around for about one year when it was hit by a violent hail storm and I had to put 500 patches on the skin. I majored the engine that same year.” Al told me that it seemed as if the FAA wasn’t all that happy about him flying around in a ship with all those patches. He removed the fabric and at the same time decided to go the full route and take the ship down to the bare metal. This included sandblasting all metal portions of the bipe. During the following three years, 70-73, Kelch was a very busy man. He did the complete job himself and being a very careful worker, it took much time. The ship was completed in time for the EAA Fly-In at Oshkosh 1973.

Not knowing too much about the history of the attractive sport design Al filled me in with a few facts from the past. The Franklin Sport first rolled out in February 1930 in Franklin, Penn. The sporty design came from the head of Jos. P. Bauer of Rockford, Illinois and Vener Eichultz of Zelianople, Penn. The venture was backed by W. E. Barrow of Franklin, Pa. The original two-holer mounted a five-cylinder 55-hp Velie aircooled.engine and was introduced on the market as a small sport-type biplane. The Model A prototype being improved, six more ships were built using the 65-hp M-5 Velie engine. A “Sport 90” model was brought out in 1931 introducing a stronger air frame and featuring the popular Lambert 90-hp engine. The production of this model continued into 1933 when the depression brought construction to a halt.

The Sport 90 was a moderately priced, attractive little ship designed around the needs of the sport pilot including students as well as the ever growing number of business pilots. The firm, aiming to meet the requirements of this group of pilots, brought out the design that they considered an ideal two-place dual control small open biplane. Configuration of the Sport 90 fuselage includes tandem type construction using welded chrome-moly 1025 SAE steel tubing. The wing spars and ribs are solid Sitka Spruce while the interior wing structure is braced with MacWhyte tie rods and safe lock terminals. A split-axle type gear is used with a pair of Oleo shock struts with Goodyear Air-wheels. The last models came out with 4×8 wheels but the owner could mount 4 x 9 or 4 x 10 rubber. Brakes were an optional item. On the Al Kelch model a wood prop is mounted but the “90” also offered a Hamilton-Standard stick. A Heywood starter was also offered at the time as an extra in the ’30s. The Kelch owned antique is propped by the owner.

The “Sport 90″ airplane is really not a large ship for a crew of two. The upper wing span is 26 ft., lower wing is 24’ and the overall length comes to 19’6″. Height is 7’P”. The wing area works out to 185 sq. ft. with a loading of 7.64 pounds per sq. in. The ship only weighs 845 pounds with a gross of 1415 lbs. It will carry a useful load of 570 pounds. According to Al Kelch his ship has a top speed of il5-mph and will cruise at 85-mph with a range of 430 miles. Landing speed is about 35-mph. The ship gets out at 900 fpm reaching 8000 feet in ten minutes. Service ceiling is 12,000 feet.

The Lambert R-266 engine is a five-cylinder radial air-cooled type developing 90-hp at 2385 rpm. The compression ratio is a low 5.55. The engine uses a Stromberg NAR-3 carb with dual Scintilla mags. The lubrication system is the pressure and dry sump type operating from a two-gallon tank. The engine design called for the use of two Silchrome valves per cylinder for less trouble in overheating. Two spark plugs per cylinder were also used with all accessories and drives mounted at the rear of the engine.

“I have always loved small cars and small planes,” says Al. “When you get into something larger it just becomes transportation. It’s no fun anymore. No fun to fly. Of course it will get you from here to there but where is the fun? You know what I mean? Every afternoon when I get home from work I hop in a Cub and just fly around for about an hour. It’s very relaxing.

Some persons might laugh at the Cub, but to me that is what flying is all about. Get up there and make like a bird.”

And speaking of birds, I questioned the Wisconsin antiquer about how the old Franklin flies? Some of these old designs can get to be a handful from-what I have been told.

“Bob, I’ll have to admit the ship can get a little tricky on occasion. The ship is rather short and fat but as you know it was designed as a sport plane. It was built around a short aero moment arm and -bears watching. I just love to fly it but I have to be firm with it. I won’t fly hands off or anything like that. It has to be piloted from take off, through the clouds you might say, and back down again. Now don’t get me wrong. It’s a fun ship to take up, but you have to make it perfectly clear who’s in charge. I guess old planes are like old cars. Some of them can be sort of cranky now and then.”