Namesakes: aircraft

Many aircraft have been named after bird species. Here’s a look at some of the models and manufacturers named condor.

To prepare this post, I reviewed the online Directory of Airplanes available on the Smithsonian Institution’s website. This directory is an updated version of The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Directory of Airplanes Their Designers and Manufacturers, edited by Dana Bell and published in 2002.

I did not find any aircraft named “California condor”. But several models named condor were made in North America, even in California. So it’s likely that the California condor is the namesake for at least some of these aircraft.

Not surprisingly, sailplanes have been given the condor name, including the Akron Condor and Schweizer Condor. The Directory of Airplanes also lists a German-made sailplane called the “Hannover Grief”. Presumably, that’s a misspelling of Greif, which translates into English as griffin or vulture. The directory translates this name into condor.

Germany is the home of several more “condor” manufacturers, including Dittmar, Focke-Wulf, Schleicher, and Udet. The latter chose the spelling Kondor for its model. Aircraft named condor have also been made in the Czech Republic by Inter Work, in France by Druine, in Russia by Antonov, and in the UK by Rollason.

The Directory of Airplanes does not provide dates of manufacture for most models. Of those with dates, the oldest condor-named aircraft is the Burke Condor Wing Airplane, made in Los Angeles circa 1911. Other aircraft made in the USA include the Curtiss Condor and Sorrell Golden Condor.

There are 2 manufacturers that adopted the name condor: Condor Aero and Condor Aircraft.

Perhaps the most famous aircraft turned up in my search is the Gossamer Condor, built by Paul McCready in California. This was the first human-powered airplane to meet the criteria for the Kremer Prize: flying a figure-8 course totalling a little over a mile in length.

Speaking of human-powered aircraft, I will end by noting the “Northrop Condor”, described in Kim Stanley Robinson’s utopian novel Pacific Edge (1988). This pedal-powered “flyer” takes 2 friends on an aerial tour of Orange County, California in 2065.

Previous posts concerning aircraft are Flying observations, Flying to the birds, and Military symbolism.

P.S. Tomorrow (7 September 2019) is International Vulture Awareness Day. Half of the world’s “vulture” species are endangered. Please help raise awareness by passing this information along to friends and family.