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Mystery Plane

By Andrew Hoyt, EAA 884474, for Experimenter

Turner T-40
Jim Rice’s Turner T-40

This design has been around for more than 50 years. It’s been through many design changes and includes several options. It can be built with conventional or tricycle landing gear. It was introduced as a single-seat design that later evolved into a two-place by widening the fuselage to fit the occupants next to one another.


This is the Turner T-40 designed and built by E.L. (Gene) Turner from 1958 to 1960, starting out as a single-seat design. In 1962 Gene entered the T-40 into the EAA Design Competition for a one- or two-place airplane with folding wings. The T-40 captured second place!

It was later redesigned into the T-40A which is the two-seater shown in the opening photo. There were many other design changes done by various builders. Gene provides engineering plans for this plane but doesn’t offer a kit. The builders then have discretion to make modifications, but it’s always recommended to converse with Gene on any changes. If Gene approves of and likes the change, he has been known to incorporate the change in the plans for others to use.

Gene Turner
Gene Turner after the first flight of the Turner Model T-40A/B, MojaveAirport 1969. It was the only airplane operating from the MojaveAirport at the time.

So with a large variety of options to choose from, the aircraft is quite a neat design. It allows the builder to choose the style and look he wants to build.

Here are some of the other looks - all the same aircraft.

Prototype T-40A
Prototype T-40A (1969)
T-40A/B wings folded and on trailer
T-40A built by Leighton Mangels
Jim Mandley’s T-40A


  Single-place Side-by-side
Wingspan 22 feet, 3 inches 25 feet, 6 inches
Wing chord 3 feet, 6 inches 3 feet, 6 inches
Wing length 19 feet, 9 inches 20 feet, 6 inches
Wing area 75 square feet 90 square feet
Flaps 9.9 square feet 9.9 square feet
Rudder area 9.6 square feet 9.6 square feet
Elevator area 11.34 square feet 12.0 square feet
Gross weight 1,140 pounds 1,580 pounds
Empty weight 850 pounds 1,105 pounds
Useful load 320 pounds 530 pounds
Fuel 108 pounds (18 gallons) 144 pounds (24 gallons)
Baggage 20 pounds 30 pounds
Height (top of cabin) 6 feet 6 feet
Height with wings folded 7 feet, 10 inches 7 feet, 10 inches
Cockpit width 2 feet 4 feet
Vmax – max speed 170 mph 175 mph
Vcr – cruise speed 143 mph 147 mph
Vs – stall, clean 55 mph 56 mph
Vso – stall, flaps 49 mph 50 mph
Va – maneuvering speed 120 mph 125 mph
Vne – redline 220 mph 220 mph
Range – max, no wind 482 miles 625 miles
Rate of climb at sea level 1,000 fpm 1,300 fpm
Service ceiling 15,000 feet 14,000 feet
Takeoff distance 600 feet 950 feet
Landing distance 470 feet 1,100 feet
Note: Performance figures based on the following—T-40 with conventional landing gear, T-40A with conventional landing gear and 125-hp engine.


Andrew Hoyt
Andrew Hoyt posing in front of his T-40A project he acquired from his uncle, who bought the project partially completed by the original builder

Where Did My T-40A Come From?
Many years ago when I was a teen, I made a family trip to visit an uncle of mine. He purchased a project that had been started by the original builder back in 1979. The plane didn’t really resemble an aircraft at this point. I’ve had my pilot certificate since I was 18 and have always loved airplanes, so I thought this was the neatest thing!
Well, many years had gone by since that time when I saw the plane in my uncle’s basement. I got word that my uncle was considering moving out of the country. That caused me to wonder if he was going to take the plane with him; I gave him a call. He said, “Funny you should ask because I was considering trying to sell it here at the local airport.” I was very excited! I live in Colorado, but my uncle lived in Michigan. So I loaded up the family in my crew-cab truck, and we made a long weekend trip to retrieve the project.

We fit the entire plane in the back of the truck with the fuselage hanging over the cab by a few feet.

After getting back to Colorado, the plane lived in my basement for a few years since I didn’t have a good place to start working on it. We recently moved to a large house that has a huge shop which is perfect for airplane building. I now have my project moving along, slowly but steady.

I’ve built many model aircraft as a kid but nothing quite like this. I had tons of questions! Several years ago I ran across a new group on the Internet that was just getting started. It is a Yahoo! group that allows for members to discuss the T-40, share pictures, and ask questions. The group has really started to take off and has been an excellent resource! We have one member with an operating T-40A and several others that have T-40s in various building stages. Please stop by and check out the T-40 group.

Larger view

You can still get plans from Gene Turner via his website.

A set of plans were printed in three parts in the 1965 issues of Sport Aviation: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3


Little boy’s eyes look up to the sky,
dreaming of the day he would learn to fly.
Building a model, flying a kite,
watching a nearby beacon light.
He joined the Air Corps,
his dreams to fulfill,
and went through college on the G.I. Bill.
Fly he did and moved to fame,
designed and built his beautiful plane.


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