The Keystone/Loening, model K-84 Commuter, was the last of a line of amphibious aircraft
designed by Grover Loening. Loening was the first to
design a practical amphibious aircraft. Leroy Grumman was
employed by Loening when this aircraft was designed.
When Keystone Corp. acquired the Loening Co, Leroy Grumman resigned and formed Grumman Engineering Corp.
The Keystone-Loening Amphibian Commuter is a four-place, single engine biplane.
The hull was constructed mostly of aluminum alloy fastened together with machine screws.
The water tightness of the hull allows taking off and landing in shallow water.
The original application for airplane license shows the date of manufacture as 19 February 1930.
The aircraft was originally equipped with a Wright R-975A engine, rated at 300 horsepower.
Throughout its life, this plane had engine changes normally increasing the horsepower.
Also known as "The Duck", the plane was purchased by Texaco
from Embree H. Hunt of Houma, Louisiana on March 19, 1936 for the amount of $14,690.75. During the years 1936
through 1938 the plane was operated in the Houma District by the Louisiana-Arkansas Division of the Producing Department.
It was occasionally used in the New Iberia District. On July 24, 1944 the plane was sold to
Speed Boat Sales, Inc. in Greenwich , Connecticut.
On June 27, 1946 Lee Nemeti of Syracuse, New York sold it to Jay Hammond.
It had a 400 HP Jacobs engine and was bought for $4,000. After some wheel landings Jay decided to try
a water landing. He hand-cranked the wheels up, and the indicator said "Wheels Up".
The nose pitched violently down and the plane flipped over in the water. Inspecting the plane,
they found out that a worm-gear in the retraction mechanism had jumped the track, preventing
the gear from fully raising, no matter what the indicator said.
It took 6 weeks to repair the plane. It was christened "Old Patches" and they headed north to Alaska.
The Loening's tanks only held two hours of fuel, cruised at 80 MPH, so it's range was less than 200 air miles.
In the late 70's, as the Governor of Alaska, Jay Hammond
was largely responsible for the creation of the Alaska Permanent Fund.
In 1946, the plane was 17 years old and was considered an antique, yet today no one bats an eye at
50 year old planes being flown around Alaska. The plane might also have attracted attention
because it had two wings and a skid instead of a tail wheel. Most airport managers don't like tail skids.
A month or so after arriving in Alaska, the Loening's engine blew up in the air and dumped Hammond
in the trees bordering Shirley Lake near Rainy Pass. It sat there for years before being salvaged by helicopter.
Some of this history is paraphrased from Chapter 6 of Jay Hammond's book, "Bush Rat Governor".
The aircraft is currently owned by the Alaska State Museum, located in Juneau AK.
It is on loan to the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum.
"With The Sky Police", January 1932 Popular Mechanics
This photo and description courtesy of Dan Shumaker
Visit Dan's hangar at www.shu-aero.com
1930 Keystone Loening K-84 "Commuter" NC63K sn 305
300 hp Wright J6-9-300
Photo by Lloyd R. Jarman from Jim Ruotsala
Operated by Alaska Southern Airway photo at Katalla AK June 1934
One would expect an aircraft of this vintage to be mainly constructed of wood. However, the hull
framework was built up of dural frame members that were bolted together into a rigid structure.
The hull bottom was covered with 1/16" duralumin plate. The wings were made up of
spruce spars with stamped Alcad ribs.
In 2003 this was the only K-84 on the FAA records, registered to Yellowstone
Aviation of Jackson WY. There were a total of 30 built.
Golden Wings Flying Museum, Blaine, MN - Keystone Loening
NC-63K c/n 305, "Kruzof" presently resides at Greg Herrick's Golden Wings Flying Museum in Minneapolis, Minnesota.