37¢ American Advances in Aviation
Issue Date: July 29, 2005
City: Oshkosh, WI
Printed By: Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd
Printing Method: Lithographed
Perforations: Serpentine Die Cut 10.75 x 10.5
Please note: Due to the layout of the pane, the se-tenant may or may not be provided in Scott Catalogue order.
The first flight of Boeing’s Model 247 on February 8, 1933, ushered in a new era in commercial aviation. Until then, airliners were small, inefficient, single-engine biplanes. The 247 was the first modern passenger airliner, a streamlined monoplane.
The plane’s innovative features included an all-metal skin, twin engines, autopilot, pneumatically operated de-icing equipment, retractable landing gear, and cabin air-conditioning. There was one design quirk. Since the wing’s main support passed right through the cabin area, some passengers had to step over a large, leather-covered hump in the aisle to reach their seats.
The Model 247 took twenty hours to fly between coasts (including seven refueling stops). That was still almost eight hours shorter than any previous airliner.
The 247 was briefly the most advanced air transport in the world – the first “three-mile-a minute” airliner. However, because it carried only ten passengers, the Douglas DC series, with stronger engines and more seating, was soon able to surpass it.
On October 10, 1933, a United Airlines 247 made U.S. and airline history. It was the victim of the first proven case of sabotage of an airliner, destroyed by a timed explosive device over Chesterton, Indiana.
Consolidated Aircraft introduced the PBY Catalina, a durable, long-range flying-boat, in 1936. About 4,000 Catalinas, more than any other floatplane, were built for the U.S. Navy and U.S. allies between 1936 and 1945.
Consolidated continually improved the PBY. They put transparent domes on the waist-gun positions for better viewing. Retractable, tricycle landing gear was added to make the plane amphibian. Other upgrades included optical bomb- and gun-sights and radar.
During World War II, a “Black Cat Squadron” of black-painted Cats flew night bombing missions against Japanese shipping in the Pacific. Equipped with radar and radio altimeters, they skimmed the dark surface of the ocean. Their large size, an easy target in daylight, enabled them to carry great quantities of weapons and sufficient fuel to fly deep into enemy-controlled territory. PBY Catalinas seriously disrupted the flow of Japanese military supplies and personnel to island bases.
By day, Black Cats flew perilous rescue missions, picking up air crews shot down in the sea. The code name for these operations was “Dumbo,” for the big-eared, flying elephant of the Disney feature film. After the war, PBY Catalinas continued to serve as search-and-rescue planes in several countries for many more years.
Grumman Aircraft made the F6F Hellcat fighter to engage the enemy in the Pacific theater of World War II. The basic Grumman design philosophy was “Make it strong, make it work, and make it simple.”
The Hellcat could out-climb, out-dive, and out-run the famous Japanese Zero fighter. Heavily armored, it could absorb more damage and keep flying. One Hellcat ace pilot declared, “If they could cook, I’d marry one!”
Grumman and its work force performed remarkably to manufacture Hellcats. The first units were assembled by stiff-fingered workers in a cold new plant whose heating system was yet to be installed.
To secure enough skilled workers, Grumman recruited and trained women and blacks, farmers and fishermen. More than 30 percent of the Grumman work force were women, many with small children at home. Grumman set up nursery schools to enable the mothers to work full-time.
Between September 1942 and November 1945, Grumman delivered 12,275 Hellcats to the Navy. At their peak, the company produced 20 fighters a day.
Republic Aviation built the P-47 Thunderbolt during World War II as a high-altitude escort fighter. Carrying three external fuel tanks allowed P-47s to accompany U.S. Army Air Force (AAF) bombers far into German territory and to travel the vast distances of Pacific Ocean operations. In a sustained dive, no other aircraft could stay with it.
In addition, Thunderbolts frequently attacked ground targets like tanks, airfields, and trains while returning from escort duty. Fast and heavily armed, the P-47 became the chief Allied low-altitude fighter-bomber.
The P-47 was the largest single-engine aircraft built during World War II. It was nicknamed the Juggernaut, or “Jug,” because of its huge size. Its sturdy construction and air-cooled radial engine enabled the Jug to sustain severe battle damage and keep flying. The rugged Thunderbolt protected the pilot in all but a nose-first crash.
The AAF acquired the P-47 in greater numbers than any other fighter. By the end of the war, more than 15,600 Thunderbolts had been built. During the war, P-47s were active in almost every theater of operations and in the forces of several Allied nations. Thunderbolts served with Air National Guard units until 1955.
In the mid-1930s, the Bureau of Air Commerce held a contest for the design of an easy-to-fly, safe airplane. Fred Weick and colleagues at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics designed a prototype of the Ercoupe 415 in response to that competition.
In 1936, Weick joined the Engineering and Research Corporation (ERCO) as chief engineer. His main job at ERCO was to develop his prototype into a commercial airplane for private use.
Weick designed a two-seat, low-wing, all-aluminum, light monoplane that used a control system linked to the wheel to eliminate stick and rudder pedals. (Later models offered conventional rudder bars, since experienced pilots were often confused by the wheel-control system.)
The Ercoupe was easy to fly and safe; it was almost impossible to spin or stall. A fixed-tricycle landing gear provided great ground handling, and the cockpit provided all-around visibility. The Ercoupe 415 was affordable, inexpensive to operate and maintain, and able to take off and land in small airfields.
Ercoupe 415 production began in 1939, but stopped in 1941 after 112 aircraft had been built; all aluminum was needed then for the war effort. After the war, production resumed and continued for nearly 30 years.
P-80 Shooting Star
The Shooting Star was the first U.S.Air Force plane to exceed 500 miles per hour in level flight and the first American mass-produced turbojet aircraft.
Wary of German advances in jet propulsion, the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) was anxious to get a jet flying. On June 24, 1943, the USAAF gave Lockheed Aircraft an order to deliver a jet within 180 days. Led by engineer Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, a Lockheed team went to work.
With the factory floors heavily engaged in wartime production, Johnson set up shop in a parking lot, using packing-crate walls and a circus-tent ceiling. In just 143 days, the prototype Shooting Star was ready to fly.
The P-80 was a streamlined, low-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear. The pressurized cockpit was fitted with a sliding bubble canopy and the first ejector seat in a U.S. warplane. World War II ended, however, before P-80s could enter battle.
In the Korean War, Shooting Stars (now called F-80s) flew as interceptors and as escorts for transports. On June 26, 1950, four F-80s shot down four North Korean aircraft, the first combat victories for a U.S. jet. In November 1950, an F-80 shot down a Russian-built MiG-15 in the first jet-to-jet battle in history.
Prior to U.S. entry into World War II, Consolidated Aircraft designed the B-24 Liberator, a bomber whose wing had less drag than that of the earlier B-17. The deep, slab-sided fuselage (body) held an 8,000-pound bomb load, two tons more than that of the B-17. The B-24 also had a greater range than the B-17.
Because of its long range, the Liberator was able to perform missions over the Pacific Ocean and to patrol the North Atlantic Ocean where German submarines preyed on Allied ships.
The Liberator is best remembered for “Operation Tidalwave” in August 1943. In a daring, low-altitude daylight attack by 177 aircraft on oil refineries in Romania, massive damage was inflicted on the targets at a cost of 54 planes.
The B-24 was the most numerous American bomber of World War II. By the end of the war, a total of 19,203 Liberators had been manufactured.
Though primarily a heavy bomber, the Liberator was also a fighter, transport, tanker, reconnaissance, patrol, and anti-submarine aircraft. The B-24 Liberator served the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army Air Force throughout World War II, in addition to various British Commonwealth air forces.
Boeing’s B-29 was called Superfortress with good reason. It had a gross weight of more than 100,000 pounds, was 99-feet long, and had a wingspan just over 141 feet. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, four huge factories were built to produce B-29s.
The airplane was the most technically advanced bomber of World War II. It had remote-controlled guns and pressurized tail-gunner and crew areas, allowing the plane to fly very fast at high altitudes.
The B-29 flew mainly in the Pacific during World War II. Hundreds of Superfortresses at a time attacked mainland Japan. Its great range, more than 3,200 miles, enabled it to make the long flight from Chinese airstrips to Japan and back.
Finally, on August 6, 1945, a B-29 named Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Between 70,000 and 100,000 people were killed in the blast. Three days later, a B-29 named Bockscar, dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, killing 39,000 people instantly. Japan surrendered shortly afterwards.
Post-war, B-29s were used for various peacetime purposes. They saw military action again in the Korean War (1950-53). The last Superfortress in squadron use was retired from service in September 1960.
The Beech Aircraft Corporation built more than 7,000 combat aircraft during World War II. After the war, Beech introduced the 35 Bonanza, a modern, high-performance, personal airplane. At a time when most light planes were still made of wood and fabric, the 35 Bonanza was all-metal. It was very fast, with retractable gear, and a distinctive V-shaped tail to reduce drag.
Beech sponsored two flights to showcase its airplane. Captain William P. “Bill” Odom set two distance records in the Waikiki Beech, a 35 Bonanza modified with extra fuel tanks.
Odom set one record with a 2,900-mile flight from Hawaii to the continental U.S. Then, as his log book states for March 6-8, 1949: “X-country record-breaking flight: 36 hours 01 minutes, Honolulu to Teterboro, New Jersey.” The flight was 5,273 miles. At 19.4 miles per gallon, the trip cost less than $75 for fuel and oil.
As he flew over Ohio, Odom used an electric razor and put on a clean shirt. When he arrived at Teterboro, he was clean-shaven and neatly dressed.
More than 1,400 orders for Bonanzas were placed even before the start of production, at a price of $7,975. Variations of the original 35 Bonanza design continued in production to modern times.
YB-49 Flying Wing
Jack Northrop, founder of Northrop Aircraft, first designed a flying wing in 1928. In the 1940s, Northrop developed two propeller-driven, flying-wing bombers.
The futuristic design, with no fuselage (body) or tail, minimized drag and maximized lift. The Flying Wing could carry heavier weight faster, farther, and cheaper than conventional aircraft at that time.
In 1947, Northrop modified the propeller-driven wing with jet engines to create two YB-49s. During test flights in California, the YB-49 attained speeds of more than 500 miles per hour, a ceiling of 42,000 feet, and a range of 4,450 miles.
The flying-wing design was found to have serious stability problems. Test pilot Captain Glenn Edwards confided that it was “quite uncontrollable at times.” Descending from 40,000 feet, on June 5, 1948, Edwards’ YB-49 disintegrated, killing the entire crew.
Testing resumed with the other YB-49. During a high speed taxi, the nose landing gear collapsed, and the plane broke in two. The YB-49 project was cancelled because of its persistent stability problems.
In the 1980s, the flying wing reappeared in the B-2 stealth bomber. New computer controls solved the problems that had defeated the YB-49 Flying Wing.