Tag Archives: Convair Division of General Dynamics Corporation

14 January 1953

Convair XF2Y-1 Sea Dart Bu. No. 137634 during high-speed taxi on San Diego Bay (National Naval Aviation Museum)

14 January 1953: During a high-speed taxi test on San Diego Bay, Convair Chief Test Pilot Ellis Dent (“Sam”) Shannon inadvertently made the first flight of the prototype XF2Y-1 Sea Dart, Bu. No. 137634. The airplane flew approximately 1,000 feet (305 meters) across the bay.

Sam Shannon with the Convair XF2Y-1 Sea Dart. (Image courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

The Sea Dart was a prototype single-seat, twin-engine, delta-winged fighter designed and built by the Convair Division of General Dynamics Corporation at San Diego, California. It was equipped with retractable skis in place of ordinary landing gear to allow it to take off and land on water, snow or sand.

The XF2Y-1 was 52 feet, 7 inches (16.027 meters) long with a wingspan of  33 feet, 8 inches (10.262 meters) and height of 16 feet, 2 inches (4.928 meters) with the skis retracted. The airplane had an empty weight of 12,625 pounds (5,727 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 21,500 pounds (9,752 kilograms).

Convair XF2Y-1 Sea Dart Bu. No. 137634 in flight over San Diego, California. (National Naval Aviation Museum)

The prototype XF2Y-1 was powered by two Westinghouse J34-WE-32 single-shaft axial-flow turbojet engines. The engine used an 11-stage compressor and 2-stage turbine. It was rated at 3,370 pounds (14.99 kilonewtons) of thrust, and 4,900 pounds (21.80 kilonewtons) with afterburner. The J34-WE-32 was 15 feet, 4.0 inches (4.674 meters) long, 2 feet, 1.6 inches (0.650 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,698 pounds (770.2 kilograms).

The YF2Y-1 service test prototypes that followed were powered by Westinghouse XJ46-WE-2 engines. The J46 was also a single-shaft axial-flow turbojet, but had a 12-stage compressor and 2-stage turbine. These were rated at 4,080 pounds of thrust  (18.15 kilonewtons), and 6,100 pounds (27.13 kilonewtons) with afterburner. The J46-WE-2 was 15 feet, 11.7 inches (4.869 meters) long, 2 feet, 5.0 inches (0.737 meters) in diameter and weighed 1,863 pounds (845 kilograms).

The YF2Y-1 service test aircraft had a maximum speed of 695 miles per hour (1,118 kilometers per hour) at 8,000 feet (2,438 meters), and 825 miles per hour (1,328 kilometers per hour)—Mach 1.25— at 36,000 feet (10,973 meters). The service ceiling was estimated at 54,800 feet (16,073 meters), and the range was 513 miles (826 kilometers).

There was one XF2Y-1 and four YF2Y-1 aircraft built, but only two of the service test aircraft ever flew. The XF2Y-1 prototype is in storage at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum’s restoration facility. One YF2Y-1, Bu No. 135763, is displayed at the San Diego Air and Space Museum, and another, Bu. No. 135764, is in the collection of the Harold F. Pitcairn Wings of Freedom Aviation Museum at Horsham, Pennsylvania, about 30 minutes north of Philadelphia.

Convair XF2Y-1 Sea Dart Bu. No. 137634 taxis to the seaplane ramp at the north end of San Diego Bay. (National Naval Aviation Museum)

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 Air Corps, United States Army, in 1929. In 1930, he was stationed at Brooks Army Airfield, Texas.

Lieutenant Ellis Dent Shannon, Air Corps, United States Army

In 1932 Shannon was was assigned as a flight instructor and an aviation 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., Baltimore, Maryland, in 1936 as a test and demonstration pilot. He traveled throughout Latin America, 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 XF-92A, a delta-winged proof-of-concept prototype. 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.

Ellis Dent Shannon, Convair Chief Test Pilot, circa 1953. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

© 2018 Bryan R. Swopes

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11 November 1956

Convair XB-58 55-0660 in its original paint scheme. (Unattributed)

11 November 1956: At Fort Worth, Texas, Convair’s Chief Test Pilot, Beryl Arthur Erickson, takes the first prototype XB-58, serial number 55-0660, on its first flight.

“Pilot B.A. Erickson is interviewed by NBC after a flight as part of a B-58 Press Show Demonstration. July 10, 1957″—Code One

The B-58 Hustler was a high-altitude Mach 2 strategic bomber which served with the United States Air Force from 1960 to 1970. It was crewed by a pilot, navigator/bombardier and a defensive systems operator, located in individual cockpits. The aircraft is a delta-winged configuration similar to the Convair F-102A Delta Dagger and F-106 Delta Dart supersonic interceptors.

The Hustler is 96 feet, 10 inches (29.515 meters) long, with a wing span of 56 feet, 10 inches (17.323 meters) and an overall height of 31 feet 5 inches (9.576 meters). The fuselage incorporates the “area rule” which resulted in a “wasp waist” or “Coke bottle” shape for a significant reduction in aerodynamic drag. The airplane’s only control surfaces are two “elevons” and a rudder, and there are no flaps.

The B-58’s delta wing has a total area of 1,542.5 square feet (143.3 square meters) and the leading edges are swept back at a 60° angle. The wing has an angle of incidence of 3° and 2° 14′ dihedral (outboard of Sta. 56.5).

The B-58A had an empty weight of 51,061 pounds (23161 kilograms), or 53,581 pounds (24,304 kilograms) with the MB-1 pod. The maximum takeoff weight was 158,000 pounds (71,668 kilograms).

Convair XB-58 Hustler 55-0660. (U.S. Air Force)

The B-58A was powered by four General Electric J79-GE-5 axial-flow afterburning turbojet engines, suspended under the wings from pylons. This was a single-shaft engine with a 17-stage compressor and 3-stage turbine. It had a Normal Power rating of 9,700 pounds of thrust (43.148 kilonewtons). The Military Power rating was 10,000 pounds (44.482 kilonewtons), and it produced a maximum 15,600 pounds (69.392 kilonewtons) at 7,460 r.p.m., with afterburner. The J79-GE-5 was 16 feet, 10.0 inches (5.131 meters) long and 2 feet, 11.2 inches (0.894 meters) in diameter. It weighed 3,570 pounds (1,619 kilograms).

Convair XB-58 Hustler 55-0660 rotates during a high-speed taxi test. (Code One)

The bomber had a cruise speed of 544 knots (626 miles per hour/1,007 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 1,147 knots (1,320 miles per hour/2,124 kilometers per hour) at 67,000 feet (20,422 meters). The B-58A had a combat radius of 4,225 nautical miles (4,862 statute miles/7,825 kilometers). Its maximum ferry range was 8,416 nautical miles (9,685 statute miles/15,586 kilometers).

The B-58 weapons load was a combination of Mark 39, B43 or B61 thermonuclear bombs. The weapons could be carried in a jettisonable centerline pod, which also carried fuel. The four of the smaller bombs could be carried on underwing hardpoints. There was a General Electric M61 20 mm rotary cannon mounted in the tail, with 1,200 rounds of ammunition, and controlled by the Defensive Systems Officer.

FAI altitiude record setting Convair B-58A-10-CF 59-2456, showing the bomber’s weapons capability. (U.S. Air Force)

116 were built and they served the Strategic Air Command until January 1970 when they were sent to Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Arizona for long-term storage.

Convair XB-58 55-0660 was transferred to Kelly Air Force Base, Texas, 15 March 1960, for use as a ground instruction airframe. It was scrapped some time later.

Convair XB-58 55-0660 touches down on the runway following a test flight. (Unattributed)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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1 July 1954

The last Peacemaker, Convair B-36J-10-CF 52-2827, comes to the end of the assembly line at Fort Worth, Texas.(University of North Texas Libraries)
The last Peacemaker, Convair B-36J-10-CF 52-2827, comes to the end of the assembly line at Fort Worth, Texas, 1 July 1954. (University of North Texas Libraries)

1 July 1954: The final Convair B-36 Peacemaker, B-36J-10-CF 53-2727, a Featherweight III variant, completed assembly at Convair Division of General Dynamics plant at Fort Worth, Texas. The last B-36 built, this was also the very last of the ten-engine very long range heavy bombers in service. It was retired 12 February 1959, and is now in the collection of the Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona.

Convair B-36J 52-2827 is one of 14 Featherweight III high altitude variants. It was built without the six retractable defensive gun turrets of the standard B-36, retaining only the two 20 mm autocannons in the tail. This reduced the crew requirement to 13. The bomber is 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). The B-36J III has an empty weight of 166,165 pounds (75,371 kilograms) and its maximum takeoff weight is 410,000 pounds (185,973 kilograms).

The B-36J has ten engines. There are six air-cooled, turbosupercharged 4,362.494 cubic-inch-displacement (71.488 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 engines incorporated an internal single-stage supercharger, but were also each equipped with two General Electric BH-1 turbosuperchargers. The R-4360-53 had a Normal (continuous power) rating of 2,800 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m., and Military Power rating of 3,500 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m., with a 30 minute limit. Its maximum rating was 3,800 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. with water/alcohol injection for takeoff, with a 5 minute limit. The engines turned three-bladed Curtiss Electric constant-speed, reversible pitch 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 outboard of the radial engines 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. It had a continuous power rating of 4,730 pounds of thrust (21.040 kilonewtons) at 7,630 r.p.m., and Military Power rating 5,200 pounds of thrust (23.131 kilonewtons) at 7,950 r.p.m., 30 minute limit (5 minutes for takeoff). The J47-GE 19 was 3 feet, 3 inches (0.991 meters) in diameter, 12 feet, 4 inches (3.658 meters) long, and weighed 2,495 pounds (1,132 kilograms).

Convair B-36J-10-CF 52-2827 at the Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona. (B-36 Peacemaker Museum)
Convair B-36J-10-CF 52-2827 at the Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona. (B-36 Peacemaker Museum)

The B-36J Featherweight III had a cruise speed of 202 knots (232 miles per hour/374 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 375 knots (432 miles per hour (695 kilometers per hour) at 38,000 feet (11,582 meters). The service ceiling was 43,700 feet (13,320 meters). It had a combat radius of 3,465 nautical miles (3,987 statute miles/6,417 kilometers) with a 10,000 pound (4,536 kilogram) bomb load. The maximum ferry range was 8,200 nautical miles (9,436 statute miles/15,186 kilometers).

The B-36J III had a maximum bomb load of 72,000 pounds (32,659 kilograms), carried in four bomb bays. The bomb bay capacity was limited by the physical size of each type weapon, rather than its weight. This ranged from as many as 132 500-pound bombs, 28 2,000-pound bombs, or  4 12,000-pound bombs. It could carry a single 43,600 pound (19,777 kilogram) T-12 Cloudmaker, a conventional explosive earth-penetrating bomb, or several nuclear fission or thermonuclear fusion bombs. By combining the bomb bays, one 41,400 pound (18,779 kilogram) Mk.17 15-megaton thermonuclear bomb could be carried.

Los Alamos Scientific Laboaratory-designed Mk.17 two-stage radiation implosion thermonuclear bomb.

For defense, the B-36J Featherweight III two M24A1 20 mm autocannons in a remotely operated tail turret, with 600 rounds of ammunition per gun.

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

Convair B-36J-10-CF Peacemaker, 52-2827, the last B-36 built. (U.S. Air Force)
Convair B-36J-10-CF Peacemaker, 52-2827, the last B-36 built. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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