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Wyoming People

Cow Country Plane: Call Aircraft Company fills unmet needs

Afton – Call Aircraft Company was created when Reuel Call of Afton resolved to build an airplane suited for private or family flying in rugged mountain country. Call was an early aviation pioneer. Seeing an unmet need, he decided to fill it.

In 1942, when Reuel Call, his uncle Ivan Call and his brother Spencer Call sat down to design an airplane that would perform well in high mountain country, they could hardly have known history was in the making. 

At that time, World War II was raging in the South Pacific and Europe. The trio barely had enough materials to build the first prototype airplane. After the war, sustained production went into full swing at CallAir when steel, surplus engines and parts were available. 

Passenger planes 

The CallAir A-3 passenger plane was born from these modest beginnings. CallAir built about 50 A-3s, which became the mountain plane built for farmers and ranchers, coyote hunters and anyone needing to fly over the rugged Rocky Mountains.

The A-3 operated with an extra wide gear, 186 square feet of wing area and a 125-horsepower engine. It was advertised to take off in 500 feet or less, climb 1,000 feet the first minute and cruise at 105 miles per hour, with a service ceiling at 17,500 feet. The plane could seat three average-size people.

WWII test pilot and Reuel Call’s cousin, Barlow Call, joined CallAir after the war. His flying skills showed the world what the CallAir could do. He used the plane for hunting, herding wild horses, ferrying and measuring snow. He took off from remote mountain slopes and pastures and landed his plane on a dime. Like the CallAir he flew, Barlow Call is a legend.

In 1947, Kenneth Arnold from Boise, Idaho purchased a new CallAir. While flying his A-3 searching for a downed aircraft near Mt. Rainier in Washington, he sighted a series of bright lights skipping through the sky. Arnold was the first to use the words “flying saucers” when he reported his sightings. Arnold and his CallAir would become household words among UFO enthusiasts.

Snowmobile beginnings

The SnowCar was the predecessor to the snowmobile. It was a tri-ski, with two skis on the back and one in front, a steering wheel and mechanism. The cabin was enclosed and, in some cases, heated by the engine, much like an airplane. SnowCars used airplane engines, but the propeller, mounted on the back, pushed rather than pulled.

 Up to this point, anyone who wished to put skis on an airplane had to remove the wheels and attach skis to the axles. Reuel Call designed and built a cradle that fit around the tire. The airplane was dropped into the cradle and secured by snap-over straps and bungee cords to stabilize the ski in flight. This simple invention served as a great improvement for people utilizing aircraft during the winter.

 A 1950s ad for a CallAir SnowCar read, “For fast economical winter travel, buy a SnowCar.” 

At the time, a four-passenger 125-horse power model started at $1,985, while two-passenger models started at $1,550. The SnowCar weighed 450 to 550 pounds.

Utilized by park rangers and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the SnowCar was also used by ranchers, sportsmen and others.

 A rebuilt SnowCar is on display in the CallAir Museum in Afton.

Ag uses

In the 1950’s, CallAir converted it cabin plane into a crop-duster, or agriculture spray plane. The first of these, the A-5, rolled out of production in 1954. Over the next decade, about 170 A-5s and its big brother, the A-6s, were built.

 Reuel Call sold CallAir in the early 1960s. New owners Doyle Child and Ted Frome replaced the A-5s and A-6s with the CallAir A-9, a larger version of the previous crop-duster, and sold about 850 of these planes. Later, they built a bigger spray plane, the B-1, and sold about 35 of these high-performance planes.

 CallAir employed hundreds of residents in Star Valley starting in the 1940s. Workers achieved high skill levels working with metals, wood, fabric, fiberglass and paints. 

The factory is still in operation today, owned by Aviat Aircraft, Inc. Aviat is engaged in the development, manufacture and servicing of sport and utility aircraft sold under the Aviat trade names of Husky, Pitts Special and the Eagle II.

For more information log onto aftonwyoming.net/index.cfm?ID=25. Echo Renner is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and may be reached at 307-250-9723 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Afton – Call Aircraft Company was created when Reuel Call of Afton resolved to build an airplane suited for private or family flying in rugged mountain country. Call was an early aviation pioneer. Seeing an unmet need, he decided to fill it.

In 1942, when Reuel Call, his uncle Ivan Call and his brother Spencer Call sat down to design an airplane that would perform well in high mountain country, they could hardly have known history was in the making. 

At that time, World War II was raging in the South Pacific and Europe. The trio barely had enough materials to build the first prototype airplane. After the war, sustained production went into full swing at CallAir when steel, surplus engines and parts were available. 

Passenger planes 

The CallAir A-3 passenger plane was born from these modest beginnings. CallAir built about 50 A-3s, which became the mountain plane built for farmers and ranchers, coyote hunters and anyone needing to fly over the rugged Rocky Mountains.

The A-3 operated with an extra wide gear, 186 square feet of wing area and a 125-horsepower engine. It was advertised to take off in 500 feet or less, climb 1,000 feet the first minute and cruise at 105 miles per hour, with a service ceiling at 17,500 feet. The plane could seat three average-size people.

WWII test pilot and Reuel Call’s cousin, Barlow Call, joined CallAir after the war. His flying skills showed the world what the CallAir could do. He used the plane for hunting, herding wild horses, ferrying and measuring snow. He took off from remote mountain slopes and pastures and landed his plane on a dime. Like the CallAir he flew, Barlow Call is a legend.

In 1947, Kenneth Arnold from Boise, Idaho purchased a new CallAir. While flying his A-3 searching for a downed aircraft near Mt. Rainier in Washington, he sighted a series of bright lights skipping through the sky. Arnold was the first to use the words “flying saucers” when he reported his sightings. Arnold and his CallAir would become household words among UFO enthusiasts.

Snowmobile beginnings

The SnowCar was the predecessor to the snowmobile. It was a tri-ski, with two skis on the back and one in front, a steering wheel and mechanism. The cabin was enclosed and, in some cases, heated by the engine, much like an airplane. SnowCars used airplane engines, but the propeller, mounted on the back, pushed rather than pulled.

 Up to this point, anyone who wished to put skis on an airplane had to remove the wheels and attach skis to the axles. Reuel Call designed and built a cradle that fit around the tire. The airplane was dropped into the cradle and secured by snap-over straps and bungee cords to stabilize the ski in flight. This simple invention served as a great improvement for people utilizing aircraft during the winter.

 A 1950s ad for a CallAir SnowCar read, “For fast economical winter travel, buy a SnowCar.” 

At the time, a four-passenger 125-horse power model started at $1,985, while two-passenger models started at $1,550. The SnowCar weighed 450 to 550 pounds.

Utilized by park rangers and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the SnowCar was also used by ranchers, sportsmen and others.

 A rebuilt SnowCar is on display in the CallAir Museum in Afton.

Ag uses

In the 1950’s, CallAir converted it cabin plane into a crop-duster, or agriculture spray plane. The first of these, the A-5, rolled out of production in 1954. Over the next decade, about 170 A-5s and its big brother, the A-6s, were built.

 Reuel Call sold CallAir in the early 1960s. New owners Doyle Child and Ted Frome replaced the A-5s and A-6s with the CallAir A-9, a larger version of the previous crop-duster, and sold about 850 of these planes. Later, they built a bigger spray plane, the B-1, and sold about 35 of these high-performance planes.

 CallAir employed hundreds of residents in Star Valley starting in the 1940s. Workers achieved high skill levels working with metals, wood, fabric, fiberglass and paints. 

The factory is still in operation today, owned by Aviat Aircraft, Inc. Aviat is engaged in the development, manufacture and servicing of sport and utility aircraft sold under the Aviat trade names of Husky, Pitts Special and the Eagle II.

For more information log onto aftonwyoming.net/index.cfm?ID=25. Echo Renner is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and may be reached at 307-250-9723 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..