Cunningham-Hall GA-36

The Cunningham-Hall GA-36 was one of a series of planes built by Cunningham-Hall Aircraft Company of Rochester, New York, in the late 1920s and 1930s, which were designed to improve the short field capabilities of small planes. The high lift airfoil and interconnected flaps gave the GA-36 good capability in short field operations, but the complications of the system and the development of other flap systems doomed it. This plane was found at a small airport in Michigan and was restored by a group of volunteers at the Amherst Museum.

This one-of-a-kind airplane was designed by Randolph Hall of the Cunningham-Hall Aircraft Company in Rochester, New York. It was built as a prototype and first flown in January, 1936.

The pictures below show the unique Cunningham-Hall interconnected flap design.  Although the two photos below are not of the GA-36, but of another Cunningham-Hall aircraft, they show the features of the the flap design.

It is the first plane to feature double motion wing flaps devised to lower landing speeds and not flying speeds. The GA-36 featured two cockpits and fixed landing gear. Cunningham-Hall tried to sell this design to the Army and Navy. Both declined, saying the aircraft was too expensive to produce.

Cunningham-Hall GA-21
Predecessor of the GA-36 with side by side cockpit

In 1941, the GA-36 was sold to an aircraft company in Tecumseh, Michigan, which wanted only the engine. The plane sat outside for 28 years. In 1969, a Rochester man bought the GA-36 and preserved it while doing research on the airplane. He had to sell the aircraft before he could finish restoration work.

It was purchased by the Amherst Museum’s Niagara Frontier Aviation and Space Museum. Restoration began in 1991 and was completed in November, 1994, thanks to the long hours and dedication of crew chief Ernie Panepinto and the volunteers who worked on the GA-36.

As many as 10 men came to the Michael F. Steffan Technology Building three days a week for three years. The refinished the plane’s exterior, did extensive sheet metal repair, and rebuilt the mechanical systems. Each part of the plane was brought back to its original condition with slight modifications to make the wing structure visible. The plane you see in the museum today is the fully assembled GA-36.

  • Waiting for recovery Waiting for recovery How the plane was found in Michigan, c. 1955
  • Waiting for recovery Waiting for recovery How the plane was found in Michigan, c. 1955
  • Fuselage waiting restoration Fuselage waiting restoration As originally stored after recovery.

While the Cunningham-Hall GA-36 will never fly again, the appearance has been brought back to its original luster and preserved for its place in Western New York’s illustrious aviation history.

The Cunningham-Hall GA-36 volunteer restoration crew:

Ernie Panepinto, Crew Chief
Ed Banaszak
Jack Benzel
Nelson Faso
Joe Forys
Stan Kasper
Dick Klemann
Tom Lawson
Ed Marek
Kim Reeves
Greg Swartz
Ray Warmuz
Phil Tasch
In Memory of Phil Bassett

The crew of the
The Cunningham-Hall GA-36
Restoration Project
offer thanks to the following suppliers

Roy Wolbert, Service Steel Corp.
Don Chatwin, Tri-Metal Industries
Steve Gorcheck – Frontier Auto Glass
Gary Schrader, Absolute Automotive
Dave Martin, Grimes Aerospace Industries

Special Thanks to:
Al Belcher
Al Rowswell
Clem Turansky
Bob Palmatier
Andy Weiss
Bob Brown
Nelson Baier