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

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