Tag Archives: Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft Corporation

26 June 1948

Convair B-36A-1-CF (S/N 44-92004, the first -A model built) in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Convair B-36A-1-CF 44-92004, the first B-36A built. (U.S. Air Force)

26 June 1948: The 7th Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy, at Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth, Texas, received the United States Air Force’s first Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft Corporation (“Convair”) B-36A, a six-engine, very long range heavy bomber. Its mission was to serve as a nuclear-capable deterrent until the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress came into service five years later. A total of 22 B-36As were delivered by February 1949. These were not armed and were used for crew training. Most were later converted by Convair to RB-36E reconnaissance bombers, beginning in 1950.

The B-36A differed from the XB-36 prototype in several areas, but two features were the most apparent: The cockpit had been completely revised and now covered by a large dome. The single-wheel main landing gear was replaced by four-wheel bogies to better spread the airplane’s weight over the runway surface.

A crew of thirteen airmen with their Convair B-36A-10-CF Peacemaker, 44-92014. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas)
A crew of thirteen airmen with their Convair B-36A-10-CF Peacemaker, 44-92013, at Carswell AFB, 1949. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas)

The B-36A was 162.1 feet (49.4 meters) long with a wingspan of 230.0 feet (70.1  meters) and overall height of 46.8 feet (14.3 meters). The wings had 2° dihedral, an angle of incidence of 3° and -2° twist. The wings’ leading edges were swept aft to 15° 5′. The airplane’s total wing area was 4,772 square feet (443.33 square meters). Its empty weight was 135,020 pounds (61,244 kilograms). The combat weight was 212,800 pounds (96,524 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) was 310,380 pounds (140,786 kilograms).

Convair B-36A 44-92015 at Carswell Air Force Base, 26 June 1948.

The initial production version of the Peacemaker was powered by six air-cooled, supercharged, 4,362.5 cubic-inch-displacement (71.489 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major R-4360 Pusher (R-4360-25) four-row, 28-cylinder radial engines rated at 2,500 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. at 37,000 feet (11,278 meters), and 3,000 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. for takeoff. Each engine drove a 19-foot (5.791 meter) three-bladed propeller through a 0.381:1 gear reduction. The R-4360-25 was 9 feet, 1.75 inches (2.788 meters) long and 4 feet, 4.50 inches (1.334 meters) in diameter. It weighed 3,483 pounds (1,580 kilograms).

Convair B-36A 44-92015

The six radial engines gave the bomber a maximum speed of 300 knots (345 miles per hour/556 kilometers per hour) at 31,600 feet (9,632 meters). It took 53 minutes for the giant airplane to climb to an altitude of 20,000 feet (6,396 meters). The service ceiling for the B-36A was 39,100 feet (11,918 meters), and combat ceiling was 35,800 feet (10,912 meters). The ferry range was 9,136 miles (14,702 kilometers).

The B-36As initially carried no defensive armament. The maximum bomb load was seventy-two 1,000 pound bombs (total, 72,000 pounds/32,659 kilograms) carried in four internal bomb bays. With a bomb load of 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms), the B-36A had a combat radius of 3,370 nautical miles (3,878 miles/6,241 kilometers).

Designed during World War II when nuclear weapons were unknown to aeronautical engineers, the bomber was designed to carry up to 86,000 pounds (39,009 kilograms) of conventional bombs. It could carry a single 43,600 pound (19,777 kilogram) T-12 Cloudmaker, a conventional explosive earth-penetrating bomb, or, later, several Mk.15 thermonuclear bombs. By combining the bomb bays, one Mk.17 15-megaton thermonuclear bomb could be carried.

The sixteenth B-36A, 44-92020, after conversion to the RB-36E reconnaissance configuration. (U.S. Air Force)
The sixteenth B-36A, 44-92020, after conversion to the RB-36E reconnaissance configuration. (U.S. Air Force)

The RB-36E reconnaissance bomber carried a crew of 22. The radial engines were upgraded to R-4360-41s which increased takeoff horsepower with water injection to 3,500 at 2,700 r.p.m. at Sea Level. Four General Electric J47-GE-19 turbojet engines were added in two two-engine pods at the outer end of each wing. These changes significantly increased the airplane’s maximum speed and altitude capability and reduced the required takeoff distance by 25%. Fourteen reconnaissance cameras were installed. There were four additional radomes on the belly and numerous external antennas for electronic intelligence gathering.

The empty weight of the RB-36E increased to 164,238 pounds (74,497 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight to 370,000 pounds (167,829 kilograms).

The maximum speed of the RB-36E was 363 knots (418 miles per hour/672 miles per hour) at 38,200 feet (11,643 meters). Its service ceiling was 46,400 feet (14,143 meters).

The reconnaissance bomber carried eighty 188 pound (85.3 kilogram) T-56 photo flash bombs. Defensive armament consisted of sixteen M24A1 20 mm autocannon in five remotely-operated turrets. 9,200 rounds of ammunition were carried.

Between 1946 and 1954, 384 B-36 Peacemakers were built. They were never used in combat. Only five still exist.

The first Consolidated-Vultee B-36A, 44-92004, was flown to Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, for structural testing. Redesignated YB-36A, it was tested to destruction.

Convair YB-36 (B-36A) 004 under structural testing at Wright Field. (U.S. Air Force)
Convair YB-36A 44-92004 under structural testing at Wright Field. (U.S. Air Force)

The name, “Peacemaker,” was suggested by a Convair employee. It is a reference to the Colt Model 1873 Single-Action Army® revolver, the classic “six-shooter” of the American frontier, which is also known as the Peacemaker®.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 April 1959

Convair B-36J-1-CF 52-2220 at NMUSAF, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

30 April 1959: Convair B-36J-1-CF Peacemaker, serial number 52-2220, landed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, completing the very last flight ever made by one of the giant Cold War-era bombers. It is on the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

Convair B-36J 52-2220 was among the last group of 33 B-36 bombers built. It was operated by an aircraft commander/pilot, co-pilot, two navigators, bombardier, two flight engineers, two radio operators, two electronic countermeasures operators and five gunners, a total 16 crewmembers. Frequently a third pilot and other additional personnel were carried.

Crewmebers pose in front of a B-36F, wearing capstan-type partial pressure suites for protection at high altitude. Front (L-R): G.L. Whiting, B.L. Woods, I.G. Hanten, and R.L. D’Abadie. Back (L-R):A.S. Witchell, J.D. McEachern, J.G. Parker and R. D. Norvell. (Jet Pilot Overseas)
Crew members pose in front of a Convair B-36F-1-CF Peacemaker, 49-2669, wearing David Clark Co. S-2 capstan-type partial pressure suits and early K-1 “split shell” 2-piece helmets for protection at high altitude. Front (L-R): G.L. Whiting, B.L. Woods, I.G. Hanten, and R.L. D’Abadie. Back (L-R):A.S. Witchell, J.D. McEachern, J.G. Parker and R. D. Norvell. (Jet Pilot Overseas)

The bomber is 162 feet, 1 inch (49.403 meters) long with a wingspan of 230 feet (70.104 meters) and overall height of 46 feet, 9 inches (14.249 meters). The empty weight is 171,035 pounds (77,580 kilograms) and combat weight is 266,100 pounds (120,700 kilograms). Maximum takeoff weight is 410,000 pounds (185,973 kilograms).

The B-36J has ten engines. There are six air-cooled, supercharged 4,362.49 cubic-inch-displacement (71.49 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major C6 (R-4360-53) four-row, 28-cylinder radial engines placed inside the wings in a pusher configuration. These had a compression ratio of 6.7:1 and required 115/145 aviation gasoline. The R-4360-53 had a Normal Power rating of 2,800 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. Its Military Power rating was 3,500 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m., and 3,800 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. with water injection—the same for Takeoff. The engines turned three-bladed Curtiss Electric constant-speed, reversible propellers with a diameter of 19 feet, 0 inches (5.791 meters) through a 0.375:1 gear reduction. The R-4360-53 is 9 feet, 9.00 inches (2.972 meters) long, 4 feet, 7.00 inches (1.397 meters) in diameter, and weighs 4,040 pounds (1,832.5 kilograms).

Four General Electric J47-GE-19 turbojet engines are suspended under the wings in two-engine pods. The J47 is a  single-shaft axial-flow turbojet engine with a 12-stage compressor section, 8 combustion chambers, and single-stage turbine. The J47-GE-19 was modified to run on gasoline and was rated at 5,200 pounds of thrust (23.131 kilonewtons).

The B-36J had a cruise speed of 203 miles per hour (327 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 411 miles per hour (661 kilometers per hour) at 36,400 feet (11,905 meters) . The service ceiling was 39,900 feet (12,162 meters) and its range was 6,800 miles (10,944 kilometers) with a 10,000 pound (4,536 kilogram) bomb load. The maximum range was 10,000 miles (16,093 kilometers).

Convair B-36J-1-CF Peacemaker 52-2220. (San Diego air and Space Museum Archives)

Designed during World War II, nuclear weapons were unknown to the Consolidated-Vultee engineers. The bomber was built to carry up to 86,000 pounds (39,009 kilograms) of conventional bombs in two bomb bays. It could carry the 43,600 pound (19,776.6 kilogram) T-12 Cloudmaker, a conventional explosive earth-penetrating bomb, or several Mk.15 thermonuclear bombs. By combining the bomb bays, one Mk.17 25-megaton thermonuclear bomb could be carried.

For defense, the B-36J had six retractable defensive gun turrets and gun turrets in the nose and tail. All 16 guns were remotely operated. Each position mounted two M24A1 20 mm autocannons. 9,200 rounds of ammunition were carried.

Between 1946 and 1954, 384 B-36 Peacemakers were built. They were never used in combat. Only five still exist.

Convair B-36J-1-CF 52-2220 being moved from Building 1 to Building 3 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, October 2002. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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18 April 1952

Consolidated-Vultee YB-60-1-CF 49-2676. (U.S. Air Force)
Consolidated-Vultee YB-60-1-CF 49-2676. (U.S. Air Force)

18 April 1952: Piloted by Chief Test Pilot Beryl A. Erickson, and Arthur S. Witchell, the prototype Consolidated-Vultee YB-60-1-CF, serial number 49-2676, made its first takeoff at Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth, Texas.

As a proposed competitor to Boeing’s B-52 Stratofortress, the YB-60 (originally designated B-36G) was developed from a B-36F fuselage by adding swept wings and tail surfaces and powered by eight turbojet engines. Its bomb load was expected to be nearly double that of the B-52 and it would have been much cheaper to produce since it was based on an existing operational bomber.

Test pilot Beryl A. Erickson waves from the cockpit of the YB-60. (Convair, via Jet Pilot Overseas.)
Test pilot Beryl A. Erickson waves from the cockpit of the YB-60. (Jet Pilot Overseas.)

The Associated Press reported:

New Jet ‘Rides Like Cadillac’, Crew Says After Test Flight

     FORT WORTH, April 18 (AP)—The all-jet YB-60 bomber “rides like a Cadillac” and “touched at fighter speed,” crew members said Friday after the ultra-secret global bomber completed its first test flight.

   “I came back with very little perspiration, B.A. Erickson, chief test pilot for Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corp. said. “That’s the answer to any pilot.”

  Erickson tried the YB-60’s performance and capabilities only “modestly,” he said. The flight was made at a moderate altitude—”a couple of Texas miles,” Erickson said.

Rides Like Cadillac

     “The YB-60 rode like a Cadillac with no noise like a B-36—no prop noise or vibration,” Arthur S. Witchell Jr., the co-pilot, said.

“This is the Queen Mary coming in gracefully,” Erickson said.

     The YB-60, an eight-jet bomber sometimes called a jet version of the B-36, was in the air one hour and six minutes. Erickson said it “touched at fighter speed.”

The plane is about the same size as the B-36, Erickson said. “Most any B-36 pilot would feel right at home,” he said.

Higher Speed Tests

     Witchell said tests would probably be made soon at higher speeds and higher altitudes.

The plane took off with a deep roar, with a shrill, whining overtone. Several thousand spectators, including Air Force personnel from Carswell Air Force Base, home of the B-36, lined the left side of the Carswell runway and stood on rooftops.

     The spectators were able to distinguish little more than the YB-60’s extreme, almost-triangular swept-back shape.

     The YB-60 made a rendezvous in the air with a B-25 Air Force camera plane from which highly secret photographs were taken.

Valley Morning Star, Volume XLII, No. 271, Saturday 19 April 1952, Page 1 at Columns 3 and 4.

Consolidated-Vultee YB-60 (Jet Pilot Overseas)
Consolidated-Vultee YB-60 49-2676. (Jet Pilot Overseas)

The YB-60’s first flight was three days after that of the Boeing YB-52 Stratofortress. In testing, it was 100 miles per hour (161 kilometers) slower than the B-52 prototype, despite using the same engines. A second B-60 prototype was cancelled before completion, and after 66 flight hours the YB-60 test program was cancelled. Both airframes were scrapped in 1954, with the second prototype never having flown.

The Convair YB-60 was 171 feet (52.121 meters) long with a wingspan of 206 feet (62.789 meters) and overall height of 60 feet, 6 inches (18.440 meters). The wings were swept at a 37° angle. It had an empty weight of 153,016 pounds (69,407 kilograms) and gross weight of 300,000 pounds (136,078 kilograms).

The prototype jet bomber was powered by eight Pratt & Whitney Turbo Wasp YJ57-P-3 turbojet engines. The J57 was a two-spool, axial-flow turbojet developed from an experimental turboprop engine. It had 16-stage compressor section (9 low- and 7-high-pressure stages), 8 combustors and a 3-stage turbine section (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages). The YJ57-P-3s were rated at 8,700 pounds of thrust (38.70 kilonewtons), each. The YJ57-P-3 was 183.5 inches (4.661 meters) long, 41.0 inches (1.041 meters) in diameter and weighed 4,390 pounds (1,991 kilograms). These were the same engines used in the YB-52, and were similarly mounted in four 2-engine nacelles below the wings.

Right profile of the first prototype YB-60. Note the tail landing gear strut. (Jet Pilot Overseas)
Right profile of the first prototype YB-60. Note the tail landing gear strut. (Jet Pilot Overseas)

Maximum speed was 0.77 Mach (508 miles per hour, 818 kilometers per hour) at 39,250 feet (11,963 meters) and the combat ceiling was 44,650 feet (13,609 meters). The YB-60 could reach 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) in just over 28 minutes. Takeoff required 6,710 feet (2,045 meters) and 8,131 feet (2478 meters) were required to clear a 50-foot (15.24 meters) obstacle. Maximum range was 8,000 miles (12,875 kilometers) but the combat radius was 2,920 miles (4,699 kilometers) with a 10,000 pound (4,536 kilograms) bomb load.

The maximum bomb load was 72,000 pounds (32,659 kilograms). Defensive armament consisted of two M24A1 20 mm autocannon in a remote-controlled tail turret. The second YB-60 retained the upper forward and lower aft retractable gun turrets of the B-36, adding eight more 20 mm cannon.

Chief Test Pilot Beryl Arthur Erickson. (Convair)
Chief Test Pilot Beryl Arthur Erickson. (Convair)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 March 1943

Cornelia Clark Fort, with a Fairchild PT-19A Cornell trainer. (U.S. Air Force)
Cornelia Clark Fort with a Fairchild PT-19A Cornell trainer. (U.S. Air Force)

21 March 1943: Cornelia Clark Fort, a pilot in the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (the WAFS), was ferrying a new Vultee BT-13A Valiant basic trainer, serial number 42-42432, from the airplane factory at Downey, California, to an airfield in Texas. She was leading a flight of five BT-13s with the others being flown by inexperienced military pilots.

A flight of Vultee BT-13A Valiant basic trainers, 41-22226, 41-22666 and 41-23050. (Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum NASM A19600288000a)

The left wing of Fort’s airplane was struck from behind by another airplane, BT-13A 42-42450, flown by Flight Officer Frank E. Stamme, Jr., U.S. Army Air Corps. Frank Stamme had approximately 250 flight hours. Apparently trying to impress Miss Fort, Stamme attempted to perform a barrel roll around her airplane, but struck her wing.

Fort’s BT-13 crashed approximately 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of Merkel, Texas, and Cornelia Fort was killed. Her body was found in the wreckage of the airplane. The canopy latches were still fastened.

The Associated Press reported:

Woman Ferry Pilot Killed

     LONG BEACH, Calif., March 22. (AP)—The army air transport command’s ferrying division has announced the death of Cornelia Fort, twenty-three-year-old Nashville, Tenn., pilot.

Miss Fort was killed, the command said, on a routine ferrying flight yesterday at Merkel, Tex. She was the second woman to sign up with the women’s auxiliary ferrying squadron, and had had 1100 hours in the air.

Cause of the accident has not been learned, the command reported.

     Fifteen months ago, a private flying instructor, Miss Fort was giving a lesson over Honolulu when the Japs attacked. Her surprised student almost piloted their plane into an enemy ship before she grabbed the controls, she related later.

Following her evacuation  from the Hawaiian islands, she joined the auxiliary ferrying squadron and was stationed here. Miss Fort was the daughter of Cornelia Clark Fort of Fortland farms, near Nashville.

Reno Evening Gazette, Vol. 77, No. 69, Monday, 22 March 1943, Page 7, Column 5

Cornelia Clark Fort was the first female pilot killed while on active duty with the United States military. She was 24 years old. Miss Fort was buried at the Mount Olivet Cemetery, Nashville, Tennesee.

Cornelia Clark Fort. (Tennessee State Library and Archives)
Cornelia Clark Fort. (Tennessee State Library and Archives)

Cornelia Clark Fort was born into an affluent family in Nashville, Tennessee, 5 February 1919, the fourth of five children of Dr. Rufus Elijah Fort and Louise Clark Fort. Her father was a prominent surgeon who co-founded the National Life and Accident Insurance Company. The family lived at Fortland, an estate east of Nashville.

Cornelia Clark Fort. (1936 Milestones)

Cornelia attended the Ward-Belmont School in Nashville, then studied at the Ogontz School in Philadelphia. (Amelia Earhart had also attended Ogontz.) In 1937, Miss Fort transferred to Sarah Lawrence College, Yonkers, New York, where she studied Literature. Miss Ford graduated 10 June 1939.

After taking a flight with a friend, Jack Caldwell, in January 1940, she pursued an interest in aviation, starting flight lessons the following day.  Miss Ford had earned her pilot certificate and flight instructor certificate by June 1940, which made her the first woman to become an instructor at Nashville. With the Civilian Pilot Training Program, she first went to Fort Collins, Colorado, where she taught for about three months, then went on to Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii.

On 7 December 1941 Cornelia Fort was practicing touch-and-goes with a student at John Rodgers Airport, near Honolulu.

Shortly before 8:00 a.m., Miss Fort saw a silver military-type airplane approaching her Cadet at high speed. She took over the flight controls from Mr. Suomala and put the trainer into a steep climb. The other airplane flew directly under, close enough that she felt the vibrations of its engine. She saw that its wings carried the “rising sun” insignia of the Empire of Japan.

Fort landed the Cadet at John Rogers Airport, which was being attacked by Japanese airplanes. Another trainer on the ground was destroyed by machine gunfire and its instructor killed.

“WAFS WELCOMED—Mrs. Nancy H. Love (left), commander, is shown in this photo greeting Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Command recruits at New Castle, Del. The fledglings are, left to right, Cornelia Fort, Helen Clark, Aline Rhonie and Betty Gillies.” (AP Wirephoto, The Evening Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), Vol. 65—No. 137, Thursday, 24 September 1942, Page 28, Columns 5–8)

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, all civilian aircraft were grounded. Cornelia Fort was able to return to the mainland United States in early 1942. In September she was one of the first 25 women accepted into the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron. Miss Fort was assigned to the 6th Ferrying Group based at Long Beach, California.

Pilots of the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron at Long Beach Army Airfield, 7 March 1943. Left to right, Barbara Towne, Cornelia Clark Fort, Evelyn Sharp, Barbara Erickson and Bernice Batten. The airplane is a Vultee BT-13 Valiant. (Texas Women’s University)
Pilots of the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron at Long Beach Army Airfield, 7 March 1943. Left to right, Barbara Towne, Cornelia Clark Fort, Evelyn Sharp, Barbara Erickson and Bernice Batten. The airplane is a Vultee BT-13 Valiant. (Texas Women’s University)

Air & Space/Smithsonian quoted from a letter written by Fort in a January 2012 article:

“I dearly loved the airports, little and big. I loved the sky and the airplanes, and yet, best of all I loved the flying. . . I was happiest in the sky at dawn when the quietness of the air was like a caress, when the noon sun beat down, and at dusk when the sky was drenched with the fading light.”

—Cornelia Clark Fort, 1942.

Cornelia Clark Fort’s military identification card. (Nashville Public Library)

Frank Edward Stamme, Jr., was born at Dorchester, Illinois, 3 January 1920. He was the first of four children of Frank Edward Stamme, a machinist, and Bertha Catherine Peters Stamme.

Stamme enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army Air Corps at San Francisco, California, 5 November 1941. He had brown hair, gray eyes, was 6 feet, 1 inch ( meters) tall and weighed 159 pounds. Stamme was released from military service 16 January 1947. He died 19 February 1987 at San Pablo, California.

Vultee BT-13A Valiant 42-43130, the same type aircraft flown by Cornelia Fort and Frank Stamme, 21 March 1943. (U.S. Air Force)

The Vultee BT-13A Valiant was an all-metal, two-place, single engine, low-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear. The airplane was 28 feet, 10 inches (8.788 meters) long with a wingspan of 42 feet, 0 inches (12.802 meters) and height of 11 feet, 4-3/8 inches (3.464 meters). It had an empty weight of approximately 3,375 pounds (1,531 kilograms) and “maximum recommended flying weight” of 4,745 pounds (2,152 kilograms).

The BT-13A was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 986.749-cubic-inch-displacement (16.170 liter) Pratt & Whitney R-985-AN-1, -AN-3, or R-985-25 nine-cylinder radial engine. These engines had a compression ratio of 6:1, with Normal Power ratings from 420 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. at Sea Level to 450 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m., and 440 horsepower to 450 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. for Takeoff. They were direct-drive engines which turned a two-bladed variable-pitch propeller. These engines were 3 feet, 6.38 inches (1.076 meters) long, 3 feet, 9.75 inches (1.162 meters) in diameter and weighed from 648 to 685 pounds (294–311 kilograms).

The BT-13A had a maximum speed (VNE) of 230 miles per hour (370 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 21,650 feet (6,599 meters) and range was 725 miles (1,167 kilometers).

Vultee built 9,525 BT-13 and BT-15 Valiant basic trainers between 1940 and 1945. Of these, 7,037 were the BT-13A and SNV-1 variant. By the end of World War II, the Vultee Valiant was considered obsolete and was replaced in U.S. service by the North American AT-6 Texan.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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22 November 1944

Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer. (U.S. Navy)
Consolidated Vultee PB4Y-2 Privateer. (U.S. Navy)

22 November 1944: At Lindbergh Field, San Diego, California, a brand new Consolidated Vultee PB4Y-2 Privateer, Bu. No. 59554, took off on its first test flight. A company crew of six men were aboard.

Shortly after takeoff at 12:20 p.m., the left outboard wing of the airplane separated. The airplane immediately went out of control and crashed near a residential area in Loma Portal, a short distance west of the airfield. The wing panel struck the roof of a house at 3121 Kingsley Street. All six crew members were killed. The house was occupied but there were no persons injured inside.

The wreck of Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer, Bu. No. 59554, burns on a hillside west of Lindbergh Field, 22 November 1944. (U.S. Navy)
The wreck of Consolidated Vultee PB4Y-2 Privateer Bu. No. 59554 burns on a hillside west of Lindbergh Field, 22 November 1944. (U.S. Navy via EAA Warbirds of America)

Members of the bomber’s flight crew included Marvin Rea Weller, Robert Vencil Skala, Clifford Polson Bengston, and Rans Raymond Estis.

The left outer wing panel of PB4Y-2 Bu. No. 59554 struck the roof of the residence at 3121 Kingsley Street, Loma Portal, San Diego. It came to rest in the front yard. (U.S. Navy)
The left outer wing panel of PB4Y-2 Bu. No. 59554 struck the roof of the residence at 3121 Kingsley Street, Loma Portal, San Diego. It came to rest in the front yard. (U.S. Navy via EAA Warbirds of America)

The wing section was recovered and the cause of the separation was quickly discovered. 98 of the 102 bolts which secured it to the inner wing section had never been installed. Two workers who were responsible for installing these missing bolts, and two inspectors who had signed off the work as having been properly completed, were fired.

This photograph of 59544's outer left wing shows the position of the 98 missing attachment bolts. (U.S. Navy)
This photograph of 59544’s outer left wing shows the position of the 98 missing attachment bolts. (U.S. Navy via EAA Warbirds of America)

The Consolidated Vultee PB4Y-2 Privateer was a long range heavy bomber produced for the United States Navy during World War II for patrol, anti-shipping/anti-submarine and bombing missions against Japanese installations on the remote islands of the vast Pacific Ocean area. The Privateer was developed from the Consolidated B-24 Liberator (which was designated PB4Y-1 in U.S. Navy service).

The PB4Y-2 was normally operated by a combat crew of 11–13 men. It was 74 feet, 7 inches (22.733 meters) long with a wingspan of 110 feet (33.528 meters) and overall height of 30 feet, 1½ inches (9.182 meters). The bomber had an empty weight of 39,400 pounds (17,872 kilograms) and its maximum takeoff weight was 64,000 pounds (29,030 kilograms).

A Consolidated Vultee PB4Y-2 Privateer in flight. The aft dorsal turret is aiming directly at the camera. (United States Navy)
Consolidated Vultee PB4Y-2 Privateer, Bu. No. 59602, in flight. The aft dorsal turret is aiming directly at the camera. (United States Navy)

The PB4Y-2 was powered by four 1,829.39-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liter) air-cooled, supercharged Pratt & Whitney R-1830-94 two-row 14-cylinder radial engines. The turbosuperchargers installed on B-24s were deleted, as high altitude operation was not required by the Navy. The R-1830-94 had a Normal Power rating of 1,100 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. to 7,500 feet (2,286 meters), and 1,000 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m., at 14,700 feet (4,481 meters). The Military Power rating was 1,350 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. to 2,000 feet (610 meters), and 1,100 r.p.m. at 2,800 r.p.m. to 13,750 feet (4,191 meters). The engines drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard propellers through a 16:9 gear reduction. The R-1830-94 was 4 feet, 0.40 inches (1.229 meters) in diameter, 4 feet, 11.63 inches (1.515 meters) long and weighed 1,573 pounds (714 kilograms).

A Consolidated Vultee PB4Y-2 Privateer in flight, circa 1945. (U.S. Navy)
Consolidated Vultee PB4Y-2 Privateer, Bu. No. 59602, in flight, circa 1944. (U.S. Navy)

The PB4Y-2 Privateer had a cruise speed of 158 miles per hour (254 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 249 miles per hour (401 kilometers per hour) at 12,000 feet (3,658 meters). Its service ceiling was 18,300 feet (5,579 meters) and maximum range of 2,900 miles (4,667 kilometers).

Defensive armament for the Privateer consisted of twelve .50-caliber Browning M2 machine guns mounted in six powered turrets. The maximum bomb load was 8,000 pounds (3,629 kilograms).

The most distinctive visual difference between the B-24/PB4Y-1 Liberator and the PB4Y-2 Privateer is the substitution of a single tall vertical fin for the two outboard oval-shaped fins and rudders of the earlier design. Those two fins blocked the view of gunners as they scanned the skies and oceans. Testing by Ford, the major producer of B-24 Liberators, found that a single large vertical fin also provided better stability. A second identifying characteristic of the Privateer are the gun turrets. A large, spherical, Engineering and research Corporation (ERCO) ball turret was installed in place of the B-24’s Emerson turret at the nose. Two Martin turrets were placed on top of the fuselage rather than one on the B-24. Two teardrop-shaped ERCO power turrets replaced the open waist gun positions of the Liberator and because they could converge directly under the bomber, eliminated the need for a belly-mounted ball turret.

739 PB4Y-2 Privateers were accepted by the U.S. Navy in 1944–1945. Bu. No. 59544 was deleted from the production contract and payment for that airplane was deducted from the total paid to Consolidated Vultee. The Privateers remained in service with the U.S. Navy until 1954 and with the United States Coast Guard until 1958. Five remain airworthy today.

This aerial photograph of Lindbergh Field, San Diego, California, shows the location of the PB4Y-2 crash site, and nearby, the position where the outer wing panel was found. (U.S. Navy)
This aerial photograph of Lindbergh Field, San Diego, California, shows the location of the PB4Y-2 crash site, and nearby, the position where the outer wing panel was found. (U.S. Navy via EAA Warbirds of America)

The pilot of the Privateer was Marvin Rea Weller. Weller had a ruddy complexion, brown hair and eyes, was 5 feet, 10 inches (1.78 meters) tall, and weighed 143 pounds (65 kilograms). He was born at Augusta, Virginia, 8 August 1919, the fourth of five children of Walton Tobias Weller, a farmer, and Mayna Rea.

Weller graduated from Mt. Sidney High School in Fort Defiance, Virginia, and then attended the Augusta Military Academy, 1937–38.

Marvin Weller was taught to fly by H. P. Grim, Jr., at Staunton Airport, a small airfield five miles northeast of Staunton, Virginia, in 1937. He was then employed as an assistant instructor and flew for a locally-based airline. Later, Weller worked as a flight instructor at Georgia Aero Tech in Augusta, and the Ryan School of Aeronautics at San Diego, California. Both schools provided basic and primary flight instruction for the U.S. Army Air Corps.

Weller married Miss Audrey Lorraine Brubeck of Staunton, 27 April 1941, at Fort Defiance, Virginia. They lived in San Diego.

Marvin Weller had been employed as a test pilot and aircraft commander by Consolidated-Vultee for two-and-a-half years at the time of his death.

The funeral of Marvin Rea Weller was presided by Rev. J.M. McBryde, who married Mr. and Mrs. Weller three years earlier. His remains were interred at the Thornrose Cemetery, Staunton, Virginia.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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