Tag Archives: Ellis Dent Shannon

18 September 1948

Lieutenant Ellis Dent Shannon, Air Corps, United States Army

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.

The Convair XF-92 on Rogers Dry lake. (U.S. Air Force)
The Convair XF-92A on Muroc Dry Lake. (U.S. Air Force)

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.

Convair XF-92A 46-682 on Muroc Dry Lake, 1948. (U.S. Air Force)
Convair XF-92A 46-682 on Muroc Dry Lake, 1948. (U.S. Air Force)

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 touches down on Muroc Dry Lake, 1948. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
The XF-92A touches down on Muroc Dry Lake, 1948. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

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.

The flight test program of the XF-92A came to an ignonimous colclusion
The flight test program of the XF-92A came to an ignominious conclusion on 14 October 1953. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

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.

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

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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3 July 1942

Martin XPB2M-1 Mars, Bu. No. 1520. (Hans Groenhoff Photographic Collection, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum NASM-HGC-1059)

3 July 1942: Chief Test Pilot William Kenneth Ebel, Ph.D., Vice President of Engineering for the Glenn L. Martin Company, took the  Martin Model 170, s/n 877, for its first flight, lifting off from the waters of Chesapeake Bay. Dr. Ebel’s co-pilot was Ellis Dent Shannon, who would later become the chief test pilot for Convair.

Designated XPB2M-1 Mars, Bureau of Aeronautics serial number (“Bu. No.”) 1520, by the United States Navy, the flying boat was a prototype for a long-range patrol bomber. The first rivets had been driven for the airplane’s keel 22 August 1940, and the Mars was launched 8 November 1941. During a test in December 1941, the prototype had been damaged when a runaway propeller tore away from the No. 3 engine.

 

The Martin Mars prototype was launched 8 November 1941. (Charles M. Daniels Collection, San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, Catalog #: 15_001975)

The U.S. Navy’s experiences early in World War II led it to adopt the Consolidated B-24 Liberator as its long range bomber (PB4Y-1 and PB4Y-2 Privateer). The XPB2M-1 was converted to a transport configuration, the XPB2M-1R, in 1943. The Navy ordered twenty transport versions, designated JRM-1. By the end of the war, only six had been built and the remaining order was cancelled.

Martin Model 170 Mars (XPB2M-1 Bu. No. 1520) at the Glenn L. Martin Co. ramp, near Baltimore, Maryland, 13 May 1942 (United States Navy, National Naval Aviation Museum, NMNA 1985.0481.003)

Crew: 11

The Martin XPB2M-1 was 118 feet, 9 inches (36.195 meters) long with a wing span of 200 feet, 0 inches (60.96 meters), and height of 37 feet, 4 inches (11.379 meters). The hull had a maximum width (“beam”) of 13 feet, 6 inches (4.115 meters). The total wing area was 3,683 square feet (342.2 square meters). The flying boat had an empty weight 75,573 pounds (34,279 kilograms), and gross weight of 140,000 pounds (63,503 kilograms).

The XPB2M-1 prototype was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, cubic-inch-displacement Wright R-3350-4 engines with a compression ratio of 6.85:1. Burning 100-octane aviation gasoline, these engines had a normal power rating of 1,700 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m., and 2,000 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., at Sea Level for Takeoff. They drove three-bladed 16 foot, 6 inch (5.029 meters) diameter Curtiss Electric constant-speed propellers through a 16:7 gear reduction. The R3350-4 was 5 feet, 11.5 inches (1.816 meters) long, 4 feet, 7.12 inches (1.400 meters) in diameter, and weighed 2,450 pounds (1,111 kilograms).

The prototype Mars had a maximum speed of 221 miles per hour (356 kilometers per hour) at 4,500 feet (1,372 meters). It took 27.1 minutes to climb to 10,000 feet (,048 meters), and its service ceiling was 14,600 feet (4,450 meters). The flying boat’s fuel capacity was 10,410 gallons (39,406 liters), with 664 gallons (2,514 liters) of lubricating oil. This gave it a maximum range of 4,945 statute miles (7,958 kilometers)at 135 miles per hour (217 kilometers per hour). The maximum endurance was 37.1 hours at 131 miles per hour (211 kilometers per hour).

In the patrol bomber configuration, the XPB2M-1 could carry bombs or torpedoes. It was armed with machine guns for defense.

Assigned to VR-8, Pax River, 27 Nov 1943; later to VR-2, NAS Alameda. withdrawn from service March 1945, and beached at Alameda. April 1945 returned to Martin Co. for JRM-1 crew training.. Maint trainer til ’49. Broken up

PAX to Natal 4,375 mi w 13,000#

JRM: 0 -lift over drag coefficient 0.0233, max lift over drag 16.4

Martin Mars taxi test (Charles M. Daniels Collection, San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, Catalog #: 15_001976)
Martin Model 170 in flight. (Charles M. Daniels Collection, San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, Catalog #: 15_001977)

Not So Graceful

     It was not so graceful as it was towed from the Martin plant into the misty bay by small auxiliary craft.

     Through the mists from following craft it looked like as large gray whale.

     It was moved slowly by the power boats down Dark Head Creek from the plant and into the channel of the bay, 15 miles north of the mouth of the Patapsco River.

     At the controls was William K. Ebel, chief test pilot and vice-president in charge of engineering at the Martin Company.

Maneuvered Slowly

     He maneuvered the Mars slowly. When the towing boats cast off and while fireboats stood by, he started each engine separately.

     It was at this point last December, during a water test, that the No. 3 propeller tore away.

     No such mishap occurred yesterday. As the motors warmed, Ebel took the flying boat in half circles, first right, then left.

     Then he “gunned” her and the Mars sailed through the water down the bay to meet boats carrying naval officials, executives of the Martin Company and Washington officials.

Twenty-Man Crew

     With the twenty-man crew headed by Pilot Ebel, Co-Pilot Ellis E. Shannon, Capt. Harold Gray of Pan American Airways and Flight Engineer Benjamin Zelubowski, the ship warmed up for thirty minutes.

     Brig. Gen. James H. Doolittle sat with Glenn L. Martin in the observer’s boat.

     Out of the sky came a not-so-small navy amphibian plane. It paced the huge flying boat down the Chesapeake and hung over its right wing as the four largest propellers in the world lifted the ship from the water.

     Together, the two planes disappeared toward the southwest. Within thirty minutes the Mars was back. It “bumped” easily four times and sat down just as easily in the water.

Martin Jubilant

     Within a few minutes it was off again. This time it met the water evenly as it landed, then was immediately taken off again.

     Its manufacturer, Glenn L. Martin, was jubilant over the flying boat’s maiden performance.

The Sun, Baltimore, Maryland, Vol. 211, No. 42, Saturday, 4 July 1942, Page 18, Columns 3 and 4, and continued on Page 4, Column 6

Martin XPB2M-1 Mars with a 1941 Piper J3C-65 Cub, NC40743. (Hans Groenhoff Photographic Collection, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum NASM-HGC-1073)

William Kenneth Ebel was born at Orangeville, Illinois, 2 January 1899. He was teh son of Willam Henry Ebel, a farmer, and Nora Agnes Rubendall Ebel.

One 1 October 1918, Ebel was enlisted as a private in the Student Army Training Corps (SATC). He was trained at Heidelberg College, Tiffin, Ohio. With the end of the War, Private Ebel was discharged 20 Dec 1918.

Ebel continued his education at Heidelberg, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in 1921, and in 1923, he completed a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (B.S.M.E.) at the Case School of Applied Science, Cleveland, Ohio.

Also in 1921, Ken Ebel joined the 104th Observation Squadron, Maryland National Guard, based at Baltimore. He was assigned as an aviation cadet from 11 September 1923 to 3 June 1924. He was trained as a pilot at the National Guard Primary Flying School.

On 12 January 1925, William K. Ebel was commissioned as a second lieutenant, Air Service, Officers Reserve Corps. He was promoted to first lieutenant, Air Corps, 21 December 1926. He continued to serve with the Maryland National Guard

Also in 1926, Lieutenant Ebel began his career as an engineer and test pilot for the Glenn L. Martin Company.

Effective 15 February 1929, Ebel’s reserve officer’s commission was converted to first lieutenant, Air Corps.

On 21 October 1929, William Kenneth Ebel married Miss Florence E. Sherck at Seneca, Ohio. The would have two children.

Ebel was promoted to captain, Air Corps, 5 January 1935.

The first Martin Marauder, B-26-MA 40-1361, takes off for the first time at Middle River, Maryland, 25 November 1940. (U.S. Air Force)

On 25 November 19840, Ken Abel made the first flight of the Martin B-26 Marauder twin-engine medium bomber.

Ebel earned a doctorate degree in engineering (Ph.D.) from Case.

After the War, Ebel left Martin. In 1948, he became the director of the airplane division Curtiss Wright Corporation at Columbus, Ohio. In 1950 he was appointed vice president of engineering for Canadair Ltd., a Canadian aircraft manufacturer owned by the General Dynamics Corporation. After serving as a consultant for General Dynamics in Washington, D.C., Ken Ebel retired.

Mrs. Ebel died in 1968. He later married Ms. Helene H. Topping

Walter Kenneth Ebel died at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Baltimnore, 12 July 1972.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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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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