Sunday, October 6, 2013

Windshield Installation for the Bell P-39 Aircobra

One of the items we found in my dad's footlocker was a photographic analysis of the assembly of the windshield for the Bell P-39 Aircobra.  Dad put a lot of credence in keeping and understanding manuals for the installation and maintenance of parts on any vehicle that he had.  He always stressed that a manual would save you a lot of grief when you had to repair something.

<---- This is the title page for a photo analysis of the installation of windshields on the P-39.  It is illustrative of the skill and hand labor involved in the assembly of aircraft and how complex it was to put them together.  The stereotype that the assembly line manufacture of aircraft was robotic in nature couldn't be further from the truth.

The installation of the windshield was done at assembly line station 12.  The assembly line was a series of stops or stations where either the plane was assembled progressively from parts or where equipment was installed.  You will also notice that it is operation 9 which implies that several parts were installed at the station before it moved on to the next step in the assembly line.  We will be looking at how the windshield was installed as a way to show how an airplane was assembled.  Dad probably kept it as a reference in case he had to repair a windshield tat was damaged on a P-39 if he was assigned the task.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Working on the P-39

One of the aircraft that dad worked on during the war was the Bell P-39.  For its time period it was a complex machine with many high technology parts.  To make sense of the airplane and aid mechanics in  the job of maintaining the aircraft Bell published repair and installation manuals.  The image you see here is the cover of the windshield installation manual.  The manual shows in great detail the interior construction of the cockpit and how an amazing amount of hand labor went into the installation of the window glass.  The front cover features an engraving of the propeller and front of the aircraft.

Installation of Windshield Glass on Airacobra Airplanes
Bell Aircraft Corporation

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Bub and His Notebooks - 1942

One of the things we found in Bub’s footlocker were notebooks.  Seemingly they looked to be the ordinary kind one has when they are in school but in these notebooks the class information was not of the ordinary kind.  When the air corps expanded to meet the demand of World War II there were not enough skilled mechanics and flight crew members to service the expanding fleet of aircraft that was being assembled to fight the war. 

Although Dad was already a good mechanic, his background was mainly automotive.  He had told me of his experience in working on Model T and Model A Fords.   He was particularly fond of the Ford flathead V-8 engine and was quite skilled in modifying the engine to get the maximum horsepower out of the basic design.  He had also modified Model T’s to run on just the frame with minimal body, these he called skeeters as they were faster than the standard Model T.

Dads automotive experience was self taught and broad based. However, he did not have the technical background or the theoretical training to handle more complex machines.  The Air Corps for Dad was an opportunity to learn the technical skills he needed to handle the high technology of his time period in aircraft.  This training instilled in Dad the habit of keeping notebooks of what he was working on or to keep handy technical information.   He always emphasized that before working on any mechanical device that having a technical or repair manual was essential to make a successful repair.

With the outbreak of the war in December 1941 the need for more training meant that Dad was sent to a technical school at an Air Corps base at Chanute Field Illinois.   Later in life he mentioned this base but said little of what he was doing there.   But his notebook spoke volumes of what he did.

The first page is the cover of  one of his technical school notebooks   On it he wrote: 
Nathan H. Moran
1B Section
17th School Squadron
January 20, 1942

On the second page are the notes he made of lectures on aircraft technology with drawings he made from what the lecturer put on the chalkboard at the head of the classroom.  At this time of the war printed material to educate airmen was probably in short supply so they were encouraged to take notes and assemble their own references from the lectures they were receiving in class. 

What Dad diagrammed was the electrical circuits for tachometers that  indicated the revolutions per minute (rpm) of a twin engine aircraft.  He showed the relevant equipment in the circuit and what their role was in indicating the rpm’s.  He also noted that if the connections were reversed the gauges would read backward and give an erroneous  reading.  He also charted the different circuits that would be encountered with one and two generators in the diagram and the problems that might be encountered.  Dad would keep notebooks like this until the end filled with notes and manuals for any repair contingency.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Martin and the Aircuda

One of the things my dad loved was cameras and taking photographs, When he joined the Air Corps he was fascinated by what he saw and snapped photos of the airfield at Eglin or Orlando to send home so that his mother and father could see where he worked and what he worked on. In one of these photos is the flightline
with several different pre war aircraft that were still on the inventory of the 23 rd Composite Group even though they were obsolete. In the photo you see two bombers of the pre war Air Corps that had service lives of differing duration.

The plane on the left was the Martin B-10, this bomber was in service in from the mid 1930s until becoming obsolete prior to dad going into the service. The B-10 in the picture has its front gun turret taken out and was probably the B-10M variant that was used for target towing. One of dads tasks while in the Air Corps was to act as a crew man on target towing missions. The towing aircraft would tow a disposable target that aircraft or anti aircraft guns could shoot at. This at times could be a hazardous duty as sometimes the aim of the the aircraft or gun doing the practice was poor and the plane stood as good a chance of getting hit as the target.  Dad’s flight log shows he flew many hours of time on these target tow missions and thankfully they were without incident.

The aircraft in the middle of the photograph was an experimental aircraft called the Aircuda. This aircraft was produced by the Bell aircraft corporation as a experimental destroyer aircraft. It was not quite a fighter or a bomber. The idea was to put as many cannons on it to destroy whatever was in front of it in the air.  The propellers were at the back of the wing on both sides with the front of the nacelles occupied by gun positions. In theory it was a formidable aircraft but in practice it was a failure. The engines could not get enough air to cool properly, the aircraft was too slow to catch what is was supposed to destroy and mechanically it was unreliable. By the time the photo was taken this aircraft was stripped of armament and was being used as a test vehicle for other projects. The Aircuda never saw active service and shortly after this photo was taken they were taken to be used as airframes to train mechanics at another Air Corps base. Dad’s relation to Bell aircraft was close during the war. He was trained to repair several types of aircraft they produced and was very familiar with their operation. This example however might have soured dad on them as he had a poor opinion of any mechanical device that did not work right.

For more detailed information on both aircraft here are some links

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

moms birthday

A hearty happy birthday to my mom. Won't say the year but she is eternally young to me and my family.  This picture was taken shortly after she met my dad in Germany.  A copy of it we found annotated with all of the family birthdays and was considered a keepsake by my dad.