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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 was born into an affluent family in Nashville, Tennessee, 5 February 1919. She was 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 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. She 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. She was 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 the morning of 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 Interstate 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.
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.
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.
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 (1.85 meters) tall and weighed 159 pounds (72 kilograms). At the time of the collision, he had approximately 250 hours flight time. Stamme was released from military service 16 January 1947. He died 19 February 1987 at San Pablo, California.
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.
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.
Members of the bomber’s flight crew included Marvin Rea Weller, Robert Vencil Skala, Clifford Polson Bengston, and Rans Raymond Estis.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
18 September 1948: The first delta-winged aircraft took flight for the first time when Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft Corporation test pilot Ellis D. “Sam” Shannon lifted off from Muroc Dry Lake with the prototype delta-wing XF-92A, serial number 46-682. For the next 18 minutes he familiarized himself with the new aircraft type, before landing back on the lake bed.
Later, with Captain Chuck Yeager flying, the XF-92A reached Mach 1.05. Yeager found that the airplane’s delta wing made it nearly impossible to stall, even with a 45° angle of attack. He was able to land the airplane at nearly 100 miles per hour slower than the designers had predicted.
The XF-92A was a difficult airplane to fly. NACA test pilot Scott Crossfield commented, “Nobody wanted to fly the XF-92. There was no lineup of pilots for the airplane. It was a miserable flying beast.” Scotty made 25 flights in the experimental delta-winged aircraft. On its last flight, 14 October 1953, the airplane’s nose gear collapsed after landing. The XF-92A was damaged and never flew again.
The XF-92A (Consolidated-Vultee Model 7-002) was a single-place, single-engine prototype fighter. The airplane was 42 feet, 6 inches (12.954 meters) long with a wingspan of 31 feet, 4 inches (9.550 meters) and overall height of 17 feet, 9 inches (5.410 meters). It had an empty weight of 9,078 pounds (4,118 kilograms) and gross weight of 14,608 pounds (6,626 kilograms).
The prototype was originally powered by It was powered by an Allison J33-A-21 centrifugal-flow turbojet engine with a single-stage compressor and single-stage turbine. It produced 4,250 pounds of thrust at 11,500 r.p.m. at Sea Level. This was later replaced by a more powerful J33-A-29 (7,500 pounds thrust).
The XF-92A had a maximum speed of 718 miles per hour (1,156 kilometers per hour) and a service ceiling of 50,750 feet (15,469 meters).
The XF-92A was not put into production. It did appear in several motion pictures, including “Toward The Unknown” (one of my favorites). It is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. This was the first of several Convair delta-winged aircraft, including the F2Y Sea Dart, F-102A Delta Dagger and F-106A Delta Dart supersonic interceptors, and the B-58A Hustler four-engine Mach 2+ strategic bomber.
Consolidated-Vultee XF-92A 46-682 is displayed at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
Ellis Dent Shannon was born at Andalusia, Alabama, 7 February 1908. He was the third of five children of John William and Lucy Ellen Barnes Shannon.
He was commissioned as a second lieutenant the Alabama National Guard (Troop C, 55th Machine Gun Squadron, Cavalry) 21 May 1926. He transferred to the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1929. In 1930, he was stationed at Brooks Army Airfield, Texas.
In 1932 Shannon was employed was assigned as a flight instructor and an advisor to the government of China.
On 24 December 1932, Shannon married Miss Martha Elizabeth Reid at Shanghai, China. They had son, Ellis Reid Shannon, born at Shanghai, 24 August 1934, and a daughter, Ann N. Shannon, born at Baltimore, Maryland, in 1940.
Shannon and his family returned to the United States in 1935 aboard SS Bremen, arriving at New York.
He was employed by the Glenn L. Martin Co., at Baltimore, Maryland, in 1936 as a test and demonstration pilot. He travel throughout Latin America for the company, demonstrating the company’s aircraft. As a test pilot he flew the Martin Model 187 Baltimore, the B-26 Marauder, PBM Mariner and the Martin JRM Mars.
In February 1943, Shannon started working as a Chief of Flight Research for the Consolidated Aircraft Company at San Diego, California. While there, made the first flights of the Consolidated XB-24K, a variant of the Liberator bomber with a single vertical tail fin; the XR2Y-1, a prototype commercial airliner based on the B-24 Liberator bomber; the XB-46 jet-powered medium bomber; the XP5Y-1 Tradewind, a large flying boat powered by four-turboprop-engines; the Convair 340 Metropolitan airliner; and the XF2Y Sea Dart, a delta-winged seaplane powered by two turbojet engines. Shannon also participated in the flight test program of the YF-102A Delta Dart.
After retiring from Convair in 1956, Ellis and Martha Shannon remained in the San Diego area. Ellis Dent Shannon died at San Diego, California, 8 April 1982 at the age of 74 years.