The Interstate Cadet is two-seat tandem, high-wing aircraft similar to better-known aircraft of the day such as the Piper J-3 Cub or Aeronca Champ. The Interstate Aircraft and Engineering Corporation based in El Segundo, California, produced approximately 320 Interstate Cadets between 1941 and 1942. The military designation was the L-6.
The Delaware Valley Wing obtained its first aircraft, an Interstate L-6 named “Cathy O” in August 1994. The unit flew the aircraft for nearly 20 years until it was damaged in a crash on takeoff at an air show in 2013. Fortunately, there were no injuries, but the aircraft suffered substantial damage to the landing gear, engine mount and fuselage, wing tips, and propeller. That fall, the Delaware Valley Wing found an Interstate Cadet project and the decision was made to restore the Cadet using parts from the L-6.
The project aircraft was manufactured on December 6, 1941 – the day before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
Another Interstate Cadet became a footnote to the attack. On December 7, 1941, civilian flight instructor Cornelia Fort inadvertently became one of the first witnesses to the Japanese attach that brought the United States into World War II.
Flying an Interstate Cadet, she was in the air near Pearl Harbor, teaching takeoffs and landings. She avoided attack from a Japanese Zero before landing at a civilian airport where her aircraft was strafed on landing. Fort and her student survived, but the attack killed the airport manager and two other civilian aircraft disappeared during the morning. Fort was later one of the first women accepted into the WAFS (Women’s Air Ferry Service), a precursor to the WASP (Women’s Air Service Program). In 1943, at just 24, she was killed in a mid-air collision in Texas becoming the first American female military pilot to die on active duty. The footnote on her grave is inscribed, “Killed in the Service of Her Country.”
The Delaware Valley Wing plans to restore this Interstate Cadet and fly it to regional air shows to tell Cornelia Fort’s story and the story of the women who flew during WWII.
As of the fall of 2015, the wings have been rebuilt and recovered with new fabric. This winter, unit volunteers will begin to strip the fuselage and empennage (tail section) for cleaning and recovering.
The largest single item remaining in the restoration is the purchase of an engine. The Wing plans to use a Continental O-200, projected to cost $14,000. In addition, motor mounts and a propeller will need to be acquired, estimated to cost another $4,000.