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Saturday
Jul302011

Aviation Ancestry - August 2011

Buff: Part II

By Scott Schwartz

On March 18, 1954, the first Boeing B-52A was rolled of the company’s Seattle plant.  It differed from the X/YB-52 in several ways – besides the replacement of the tandem cockpit with side-by-side seating.  An Electronics Warfare Officer (EWO) was added to the crew.  This crewmember was placed on the upper flight deck with the pilot and co-pilot.  The bombardier’s and navigator’s positions were placed on the lower deck, and the tail gunner sat in his own position in the rear of the fuselage (from which he could fire four .50 caliber machine guns).

That wasn’t all.  Water injection systems were added to the J-57 engines, and small doors were installed on the top of the fuselage, aft of the cockpit, which covered the air-to-air refueling receptacle.

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Tuesday
Jul052011

Aviation Ancestry - July 2011

Buff: Part 1

By Scott Schwartz

The XB-52 had the pilot and co-pilot sitting in tandem, under a fighter-like canopy. Then-SAC Commander Gen. Curtis LeMay objected to this arrangement, and production models had side-by-side seating for the pilots. (Photo courtesy of the National Museum of the United States Air Force)With a wary eye on Nazi aggression, the U.S. was in need of a bomber that could fly directly to targets in Europe from bases on the North American continent.  This was the early 1940s, and several long-range bomber programs were launched.  None came to fruition until just after the end of the war, when Convair rolled out its piston-engine XB-36, and Northrop presented its XB-35, which was also powered by piston engines.  Nevertheless, the U.S. Army Force had already set its sights on more modern, post-war designs as early as 1945.  By the end of that year, the desired specifications for a high-speed/high altitude bomber had coalesced into an official requirement.  The new bomber had to be able to carry ten thousand pounds of bombs, be able to carry those bombs for 5,000 miles, and it had to cruise at 300 mph while flying at 35,000 feet.  At the time, the new Consolidated-Vultee  B-36 could fly high and far, but not fast enough. 

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Thursday
Jun022011

Aviation Ancestry - June 2011

Hole Sucking Air, The Republic F-84, Part Three

By Scott Schwartz

This F-84F was one of the General Motors-built examples, and it was delivered to the USAF in 1954. It last saw service with the Indiana Air National Guard and was retired in 1971. The aircraft is currently on display at the March Field Air Museum in Moreno Valley, CA.(Scott Schwartz)Naturally, the damage caused by salt corrosion during the trip overseas required extensive repairs.  Once the repairs were completed, the F-84Es were sent into combat.  The 27th Fighter Escort Group, under the command of Lt. Col. Don Blakeslee (who was a famous P-51 pilot during WWII) was dispatched on its first combat mission on December 6, 1950.  This was supposed to be an armed reconnaissance mission, but between it, and the next day’s mission, the 27th had fired 7,200 rounds of machine gun ammunition and thirty two rockets. The net result of all this was the strafing of a North Korean village and damage to several locomotives.  Although one is tempted to sneer at the results of these missions, it should be remembered that none of these pilots had ever flown ground-attack missions before – with the exception of Blakeslee and one other pilot.  

By August of 1951, the first of the F-84Gs had been delivered to the Air Force.  Once again, airplane production outpaced delivery of the Allison J-35 engines, and the 27th Fighter Escort Group – which had now returned from Korea – had received only 36 F-84Gs. 

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Tuesday
May032011

Aviation Ancestry - May 2011

Hole Sucking Air – The F-84 Thunderjet, Part Two

By Scott Schwartz

A restored Republic F-84C at the March Field Air Museum; after being dropped from the Air Force inventory, this aircraft served as an instructional air-frame at a community college for 27 years. (Scott Schwartz)Deliveries of the first P-84B’s began during the summer of 1947.  Right after these aircraft became operational, it was noticed that the aluminum skin on their wings was wrinkling.  Because this was attributed to the high “G” loads occurring during maneuvers, airspeeds in excess of .8 Mach and loads in excess of 5.5 G’s.  Wing failures occurred even after these restrictions were put in place.  This meant that the P-84’s had to be grounded until actual wing cracks could be ruled out.  If none were found in a particular P-84B, it was put back on flight status – with the previously mentioned flight restrictions until it could be modified. 

Although a newer model, the F-84C (readers will remember that the “P” for “Pursuit was changed to “F” for “Fighter” with the creation of the independent U.S. Air Force) was being produced by June of 1948, the structural problems were still unresolved – which is not surprising.  After all, the F-84C was virtually identical to the F-84B, except for improvements to the fuel and hydraulic systems.  One other difference was that the “C” model was powered by a more reliable early version of the J-35 engine.  

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Wednesday
Apr132011

Aviation Ancestry - April 2011

Hole Sucking Air: Republic F-84 Thunderjet

By Scott Schwartz

Republic P-84B; note the small engine air-intake in the nose. (USAF Photo)Conceived during the closing days of World War II,  Republic’s F-84 Thunderjet was conceived in response to a U.S. Army Air Force requirement for a new interceptor/escort fighter/fighter-bomber that would be able to fly fast and far.  This was a tall order given the fuel-guzzling jet engines of the time. 

Initially, Republic’s chief designer – Alexander Kartveli – envisioned a jet-powered version of the P-47 Thunderbolt.  In order to obtain the highest speeds possible, the P-47 was re-designed (on paper) to have as narrow a cross section as possible.  The problem was that the centrifugal-flow jet engines originally intended for use in the new airplane were large in diameter.  Even after a narrower axial-flow engine was decided upon, the fuselage had to be fairly wide.  The result was an aircraft with a fuselage that was slender at the front (with a relatively small engine air-intake) and “barrel-chested” in the middle, in order to accommodate the engine.  Aft of the cockpit, the fuselage tapered to the tail pipe, with the jet exhaust gases exiting underneath the empennage.   

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