A Look at Bush-Planes: The P&W R-985 Powered Bellanca CH-300 “Pacemaker”

The Bellanca CH-300 Pacemaker was a six-seat utility aircraft, built primarily in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s. It was a development of the Bellanca CH-200, fitted with a more powerful engine and, like the CH-200, soon became renowned for its long-distance endurance.


  • Bellanca CH-300 “Pacemaker”
  • Role: Civil utility aircraft
  • Manufacturer: Bellanca
  • First flight: 1929
  • Number built: approximately 35
  • Developed from: Bellanca CH-200
  • Variants: Bellanca CH-400


Bellanca Pacemakers were renowned for their reliability and weight-lifting attributes, which contributed to their successful operation in the Canadian bush. Canadian-operated Bellancas were initially imported from the United States, but later six were built by Canadian Vickers in Montreal and delivered to the RCAF, which used them mainly for aerial photography.

Many long-distance records were set by Bellanca monoplanes. Charles Lindbergh commissioned the Spirit of St. Louis only when he failed to acquire the second prototype Bellanca WB-2. This Bellanca, named Columbia, flew from New York to Germany only two weeks after Lindbergh’s famous flight. In 1931, a diesel-powered Bellanca set an unrefuelled endurance record of 84 hours and 33 minutes. A distinguishing feature of all Bellancas was the airfoil shape of the wing struts , which contributed additional lift and stability.

Current Location:

Bush flying Exhibition, Canada Aviation and Space Museum

Design and Development

Bellanca further developed the earlier CH-200 to create the CH-300 Pacemaker. The CH-300 was a conventional, high-wing braced monoplane with fixed tailwheel undercarriage. Like other Bellanca aircraft of the period, it featured flying struts. While the CH-200 was powered by 220-hp Wright J-5 engines, the CH-300 series Pacemakers were powered by 300-hp Wright J-6s. Late in the series some CH-300s were fitted with 420-hp Pratt & Whitney Wasps, leading to the CH-400 Skyrocket series.

Operational History

Pacemakers were renowned for their long-distance capabilities as well as reliability and weight-lifting attributes, which contributed to their successful operation throughout the world. In 1929, George Haldeman completed the first nonstop flight, New York to Cuba in 12 hours, 56 minutes, flying an early CH-300 (c. 1,310 miles, 101.3 mph). In 1931, a Bellanca fitted with a Packard DR-980 diesel, piloted by Walter Lees and Frederick Brossy, set a record for staying aloft for 84 hours and 33 minutes without being refueled. This record was not broken until 55 years later.

In Alaska and the Canadian bush, Bellancas were very popular. Canadian-operated Bellancas were initially imported from the United States, but later six were built by Canadian Vickers in Montreal and delivered to the RCAF (added to the first order of 29 made in 1929), which used them mainly for aerial photography.

Record Attempts

On June 3, 1932, Stanislaus F. Hausner flying a Bellanca CH Pacemaker named “Rose Marie” and powered by a 300-hp Wright J-6, attempted a transatlantic flight from Floyd Bennett Field, New York to Warsaw, Poland. The attempt failed when he made a forced landing at sea; he was rescued by a British tanker eight days later.

A CH-300 named “Lituanica” (NR688E) gained international fame when it was used by Steponas Darius and Stasys Girenas in an attempt to fly non-stop from the New York City to Kaunas, Lithuania. Departing on July 15, 1933, they spent 37 hours in the air before crashing in bad weather on the German-Polish border. A replica of Lituanica is in the Lithuanian Technical Museum while the wreckage of the original is at the Vytautas the Great War Museum.


Hawaiian Airlines owns the world’s only CH-300 known to be in flying condition. The aircraft, which was acquired new in 1929 by Inter-Island Airways (which was renamed Hawaiian Airlines in 1941), was used for sightseeing flights over the island of Oahu for two years before being sold in 1933. Acquired from an aviation enthusiast in Oregon in early 2009, the aircraft was restored at the Port Townsend Aero Museum and was unveiled at the Honolulu International Airport on October 8, 2009.

One CH-300 “Pacemaker” is displayed at the Canada Aviation Museum (see above photos). This aircraft formerly served with Alaska Coastal Airlines. Another example is owned by the Virginia Aviation Museum, but this aircraft has been modified to CH-400 “Skyrocket” configuration and painted to resemble WB-2 Columbia, which made two pioneering transatlantic flights.



The Museum’s aircraft is one of only two surviving Bellanca CH-300/CH-300 Pacemakers in the world. Built in 1929 by Bellanca Aircraft Corporation, it was sold to El Paso Air Service in Texas. Its Wright engine was replaced with a more powerful Pratt & Whitney Wasp Jr. engine in 1945. This CH-300 operated commercially in Texas, Mexico and Alaska almost without interruption between 1929 and 1964. It was still airworthy when the Museum purchased it in 1964, after twenty-eight years of bush flying in Alaska.

Technical Information:

Wing Span14.1 m (46 ft 4 in)
Length8.5 m (27 ft 9 in)
Height2.5 m (8 ft 4 in)
Weight, Empty1,032 kg (2,275 lb)
Weight, Gross1,847 kg (4,072 lb)
Cruising Speed177 km/h (110 mph)
Max Speed225 km/h (140 mph)
Rate of Climb355 m (1,100 ft) /min
Service Ceiling5,490 m (18,000 ft)
Range1,368 km (850 mi)
Power Plantone Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp Jr., 450 hp, 9-cylinder radial engine


  1. Shupek, John. Photos via The Skytamer Archive, copyright © 2009 Skytamer Images. All Rights Reserved
  2. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Bellanca CH-300
  3. Ingenium:

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