Starting in 1933, Al Meyers went barnstorming with Martin Jensen, famed for coming in second, and last, in the 1927 Dole Race to Hawaii. Jensen had designed an airplane called the Jensen Sport Trainer, a two-place open biplane, with equal-span wings made of Jenny parts, and an aluminum monocoque fuselage. It was not a very good airplane and Jensen later bought it back and set fire to it. However, something in it appealed to Al, and in 1934 he began to fabricate an airplane of his own design, with some features inspired by the Jensen Sport Trainer. It took two years, but on May 10, 1936, Al made the first flight. Only nine hours of flight time later, he learned that his mother had been badly burned in an accident back at the family farm in upstate New York, and he unhesitatingly flew home to be with her. (She recovered.) The airplane received “Group 2” approval, but as war loomed Al saw the possible market for a trainer for the military (and, as it happened later, for the Civilian Pilot Training program) and worked to get a full Approved Type Certificate. The ATC and CPT approval both came in 1939, and Al’s new plant in Tecumseh, Michigan, was a busy place. Ultimately, 101 airplanes were made, and out of leftover parts Al later assembled No. 102, his personal runabout, now at the EAA Museum in Oshkosh.
Unlike the Jensen Trainer, which inspired Al, the OTW was a very good airplane indeed. It is reputedly the only airplane that never killed a cadet during World War II. Originally powered by a 125 horsepower Warner Scarab, its power was increased with a 145 hp Warner Super Scarab, and when they were all gone, with a 160 hp Kinner R-55, later R-56. Other variants included a one-off with a Ken-Royce. Later owners re-engined the OTWs with Continental 220s and even a Continental O-470.
The OTW may look spindly because of the large gap between the wings, five feet. Actually, the chord, stagger and gap are all five feet. But it is far from delicate: as Meyers owners love to boast, there has never been an AD on a Meyers airframe and nothing has ever fallen off a Meyers. Around the Meyers factory, it was said that the OTW “would do anything you were man enough to do,” and it is true, although the airplane does it all at the same leisurely and measured pace. With its low wing loading of just 6.5 pounds per square feet (at gross), the ship seems more to levitate off the ground than to take off.
Of the 102 airplanes made, 52 are still on the FAA registry. At least one is in Canada, and some of the museum examples are not registered. Overall, the survival rate is extraordinary, and a tribute to the sterling character of the mighty OTW.
Incidentally, one topic sure to rouse a lively discussion among OTW owners is the origin of the model name. It is generally said to mean “Out to Win,” and this is an appealing story, too good to ruin with mere factual quibbles. However, some sources say the Kinner-powered job was called the “OTK,” and that the real origin of the term is that Al’s brother Otto, who always financially supported Al’s dreams, was honored by having the ship named “Otto’s Trainer – Warner,” and later “Otto’s Trainer – Kinner.
Al Meyers Produced - 1936 - 1944
Below listed are the total number of aircraft produced and each models unique modifications.
Meyers OTW - Production variants had from 120hp to 160hp Engines
Specifications (Meyers OTW)
Length: 22 ft 6 in ( m)
Powerplant: 1 × Kinner R-5, 160 hp (119 kW)
Maximum speed: 120 mph ( km/h)
Range: 275 miles ( km)