Tag Archives: Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 18 779C18BB1

29 September–1 October 1946

The world record-setting flight crew of The Turtle, left to right, Commander Eugene P. Rankin, Commander Thomas D. Davies, Commander Walter S. Reid and Lieutenant Commander Ray A. Tabeling. (FAI)
The world record-setting flight crew of The Turtle, left to right, Commander Eugene P. Rankin, Commander Thomas D. Davies, Commander Walter S. Reid and Lieutenant Commander Roy H. Tabeling, at Perth, Western Australia. (FAI)

29 September–1 October 1946: The third production Lockheed P2V-1 Neptune, Bureau of Aeronautics serial number (Bu. No.) 89082, departed Perth, Western Australia, enroute to the United States, non-stop. The aircraft commander was Commander Thomas D. Davies, United States Navy. Three other pilots, Commanders Eugene P. Rankin and Walter S. Reid, and Lieutenant Commander Roy H. Tabeling, completed the crew.

The purpose of the flight was to demonstrate the long-distance capabilities of the Navy’s new bomber. A memorandum from Chief of Naval Operations, Fleet Admiral Chester A. Nimitz, to the Secretary of the Navy suggested:

“For the purpose of investigating means of extension of present patrol aircraft ranges, physiological limitations on patrol plane crew endurance and long-range navigation by pressure pattern methods, it is proposed to make a nonstop flight of a P2V-1 aircraft from Perth, Australia, to Washington, D.C., with the possibility, weather permitting, of extending the flight to Bermuda.”

Lockheed P2V-1 Neptune Bu. No. 89082, The Turtle, at Perth, Australia. (FAI)
Lockheed P2V-1 Neptune Bu. No. 89082, The Turtle, at Perth, Western Australia. (FAI)

The Lockheed Aircraft Corporation P2V Neptune was a twin-engine, long-range patrol bomber normally operated by a crew of eight. The first production variant, the P2V-1, was 75 feet, 4 inches (22.962 meters) long with a wingspan of 100 feet (30.48 meters) and overall height of 28 feet, 6 inches (8.687 meters). Empty weight was 33,720 pounds (15,295 kilograms) and gross weight was 61,153 pounds (27,739 kilograms).

The P2V-1 Neptune was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged, 3,347.66-cubic-inch-displacement (54.858 liter) Wright Aeronautical Corporation Cyclone 18 779C18BB1  (R-3350-8), two-row 18-cylinder radial engines (also known as the Duplex-Cyclone). These engines were rated at 2,100 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., at Sea Level, and 2,400 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m for takeoff. They drove four-bladed propellers through a 0.4375:1 gear reduction. The R-3350-8 was 6 feet, 5.8 inches (1.976 meters) long, 4 feet, 6.12 inches (12.375 meters) in diameter and weighed 2,796 pounds (1,268 kilograms)

These engines gave the P2V-1 a maximum speed of 303 miles per hour (488 kilometers per hour) at 15,300 feet (4,663 meters). The service ceiling was 27,000 feet (8,230 meters) and range was 4,110 miles (6,614 kilometers).

Standard armament consisted of six .50-caliber machine guns, two torpedoes carried in the internal bomb bay, conventional bombs or up to twelve depth charges. Nuclear weapons could also be carried. Sixteen rockets could be carried under the wings.

The Turtle was modified by Lockheed to achieve the maximum possible range. All armament was deleted, including the nose gun turret. Additional fuel tanks were installed in the bomb bay, rear fuselage and the outer wings. Wing tip fuel tanks were also added. These could be jettisoned when empty to reduce weight and aerodynamic drag. Most electronic and other unnecessary equipment, such as crew oxygen, were also removed. An additional lubricating oil tank for the engines was installed in the nose gear bay.

The standard configuration R-3350-8 engines were replaced with two Wright Cyclone 18 779C18BB2s (R-3350-14). The -14 had the same normal power rating as the -8, but its takeoff power had been decreased to 2,300 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. Its propeller gear reduction was 0.5625:1. The dimensions were the same, but the -14 weighed 65 pounds (29 kilograms) less.

Four Jet Assisted Take Off (JATO) rockets were added, with two on each side of the fuselage.

The Turtle, Lockheed P2V-1 Neptune Bu. No. 89082 demonstrates a JATO takeoff. The airplane is not carrying wingtip fuel tanks in this photograph. (U.S. Navy)
The Turtle, Lockheed P2V-1 Neptune Bu. No. 89082 demonstrates a JATO takeoff. The airplane is not carrying wingtip fuel tanks in this photograph. (U.S. Navy)

The flight began at Pearce Aerodrome, six miles inland from the Indian Ocean, north of Perth, Western Australia. Because of concerns that the landing gear might collapse with the extreme overloaded condition, The Turtle was only partially fueled when it taxied to Runway 27. Once there, the fueling was completed, bringing the Neptune’s all-up weight to 85,561 pounds (38,810 kilograms)—24,408 pounds (11,071 kilograms)—12 tons beyond its normal gross weight.

At 6:00 p.m., the two Cyclone 18 engines were started and warmed up. With Commander Davies flying in the left seat and Commander Rankin in the right, the engines were advanced to takeoff power while Davies stood on the brakes. With instruments reading normal, he released the brakes and The Turtle began its takeoff roll. The time was 6:11 p.m., local.

As indicated airspeed reached 87 knots (100 miles per hour/161 kilometers per hour) the four JATO rockets were fired. Reaching 115 knots (132 miles per hour/213 kilometers per hour) the nose wheel lifted off the runway followed a few seconds later by the main wheels. With just 5 feet (1.5 meters) altitude, the landing gear was retracted. By the time the JATOs burned out, the P2V-1 had climbed to 20 feet (6 meters) and reached 130 knots. (150 miles per hour/241 kilometers per hour) Once over the Indian Ocean the four JATO rockets were jettisoned.

This was the heaviest takeoff by a two-engine airplane up to that time.

The overweight airplane very slowly gained altitude as it crossed over Australia and then the Coral Sea. The planned route was a Great Circle Course over New Guinea and then the Solomon Islands.

With four pilots aboard, the crew rotated positions every two hours.

U.S. Navy Lockheed P2V-1 Neptune, Bu. No. 89082, The Turtle. (U.S. Navy)
U.S. Navy Lockheed P2V-1 Neptune, Bu. No. 89082, The Turtle. (U.S. Navy)

By dawn of the second day airborne, The Turtle crossed over the Hawaiian Islands chain at Maro Reef, between Midway and Oahu. Headwinds were pushing the patrol bomber southward of the intended course, but Commander Davies elected to allow the airplane to drift as correcting for it would have slowed their flight by turning more directly into the wind and would use more fuel. The planned route would have crossed the West Coast of the United States near Seattle, Washington, but the actual landfall was several hundred miles to the south, along the northern California coast.

The empty wing tip tanks were jettisoned before they crossed the shoreline just north of San Francisco at 9:16 p.m., 30 September.

As The Turtle flew across the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains, and the western United States, it encountered severe weather with turbulence, freezing rain, snow and ice. They passed Salt Lake City, Utah, at dawn of the third day. Weather conditions had improved.

The adverse weather had cost additional fuel and calculations indicated that the planned destination of Washington, D.C., was now beyond their range. Commander Davies decided that the flight would end at NAS Columbus, Ohio.

The Lockheed Neptune’s wheels touched down at 1:28 p.m, 1 October. The four Naval Aviator’s and their bomber had flown 18,081.99 kilometers (11,235.63 miles). This set a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Distance in a Straight Line Without Landing.¹ The duration of the flight was 55 hours, 17 minutes.

The Turtle taxiing. (U.S. Navy)
The Turtle taxiing. (U.S. Navy)

Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal awarded each pilot the Distinguished Flying Cross.

P2V-1 Bu. No. 89082 was used as a test aircraft until it was retired in 1953 and put on display at NAS Norfolk, Virginia.

The last operational antisubmarine warfare flight by a Lockheed Neptune, an SP-2H, was flown 20 February 1970. The co-pilot on the mission was Rear Admiral Thomas D. Davies.

The Turtle, Lockheed P2V-1 Neptune Bu. No. 89082 is a part of the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. It is on loan to the National Naval Aviation Museum, NAS Pensacola, Florida.

Lockheed P2V-1 neptune Bu. No. 89082 at the Naval Aviation Museum, NAS Pensacola, Florida. (Greg Goebel)
Lockheed P2V-1 Neptune Bu. No. 89082, The Turtle, at the National Naval Aviation Museum, NAS Pensacola, Florida. (Greg Goebel)
This cartoon and the name, The Turtle, was painted on each side of the nose of Lockheed P2V-1 Neptune Bu. No. 89082. (U.S. Navy)
This cartoon and the name, The Turtle, was painted on each side of the nose of Lockheed P2V-1 Neptune Bu. No. 89082. (U.S. Navy)

Note on the name of the airplane: The Turtle was named after Operation Turtle,  a joint U.S. Navy/Lockheed project to maximize the range and endurance of the P2V Neptune patrol bomber. The name with a cartoon of a turtle with a naval officer’s cap and a cape, smoking a pipe and pedaling to turn a propeller was painted on the airplane’s nose. U.S. Navy press releases called it “The Truculent Turtle” and newspapers picked up this nickname, by which the airplane is generally referred to. There is no evidence that the airplane’s crew ever described the airplane as “truculent”:

“. . . having a bad state of mind, or behaving in a threatening manner. . . .”

 Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary.

A more detailed account of the flight of The Turtle can be found at :

http://www.maritimepatrolassociation.org/documents/heritage/Truculent_Turtle_1946.pdf

¹ FAI Record File Number 9275

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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18 March 1945

LaVerne Brown, Director of Flight Test, Douglas Aircraft Company, in the cockpit of the first XBT2D-1 Dauntless II prototype, Bu. No. 9085. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)
LaVerne Ward Browne, Director of Flight Test, Douglas Aircraft Company, in the cockpit of the first XBT2D-1 Dauntless II prototype, Bu. No. 9085. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

18 March 1945: At the Naval Airplane Factory, El Segundo, California (at the southeast corner of Los Angeles Airport, now best known as LAX), Douglas Aircraft Company Director of Flight Test LaVerne Ward (“Brownie”) Browne took the prototype XBT2D-1 Dauntless II, Bu. No. 9085, for its first flight.

He later commented, “I wish I could tell of some dramatic incident that occurred. There wasn’t any. I just floated around up there for an hour and a half and brought her down. But I did do something that’s unprecedented, I believe, for a first trip. The airplane handled so well that I put it through rolls and Immelmanns to check it for maneuverability.”

The first prototype Douglas XBT2D-1 Dauntless II, Bu. No. 9085. In this photograph the airplane has a propeller spinner. (San Diego Air and Space Museum archive)
The first prototype Douglas XBT2D-1 Dauntless II, Bu. No. 9085. In this photograph the airplane has a propeller spinner. (Douglas Aircraft Company)

The XBT2D-1 would be ordered into production as the Douglas AD-1 Skyraider.

Designed by Douglas’ Chief Engineer, Edward Henry Heinemann, the XBT2D-1 was a single-place, single-engine attack bomber capable of operation from the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers. The prototype was 39 feet, 5 inches (12.014 meters) long with a wingspan of 50 feet, ¼ inch (15.246 meters) and overall height of 15 feet, 7½ inches (4.763 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 10,093 pounds (4,578 kilograms) and maximum weight of 17,500 pounds (7,938 kilograms).

The first four XBT2D-1 prototypes were powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, direct-fuel-injected 3,347.662-cubic-inch-displacement (54.858 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division R3350-8 (Cyclone 18 779C18BB1) twin-row 18-cylinder radial engine rated at 2,100 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., and 2,400 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m., for takeoff. The next 20 airplanes built utilized the R3350-24W (Cyclone 18 825C18BD1) which had a takeoff power rating of 2,500 horsepower at 2,900 r.p.m.

Test pilot Brown in teh cockpit of Douglas XBT2D-1 Dauntless II Bu. No. 9085 during a test flight. (Douglas Aircraft Company)
Test pilot LaVerne Brown in the cockpit of Douglas XBT2D-1 Dauntless II Bu. No. 9085 during a test flight. (Douglas Aircraft Company)

The XBT2D-1 had a maximum speed of 375 miles per hour (604 kilometers per hour) at 13,600 feet (4,145 meters) and normal cruise speed of 164 miles per hour (264 kilometers per hour).

The first XBT2D-1, Bu. No. 9085, was sent to NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, for further testing. The second, 9086, went to NACA Ames at Moffet Field, California, where it underwent testing from 11 March 1946 to 4 September 1947.

The second prototype XBT2D-1, Bu. No. 9086, was tested at the NACA Ames Research Center, Moffet Field, California, from 11 March 1946 to 4 September 1947. (NASA)
The second prototype XBT2D-1, Bu. No. 9086, at the NACA Ames Research Center, Moffet Field, California, 18 June 1946. (NASA)

3,180 Skyraiders in 11 variants were built at the Douglas Aircraft Company’s El Segundo, California, plant from 1945 to 1957. The attack bomber was widely used during the Korean War and the Vietnam War. It was utilized for many purposes but is best known for its close support missions during combat rescue operations. After 1962, the AD-series aircraft still in service were redesignated A-1E through A-1J.

Douglas XBT2D-1 Skyraider Bu. No. 9086 at NACA Ames Research Center, 18 June 1946. (NASA)

The most numerous Skyraider variant was the AD-6 (A-1H), of which 713 were produced by Douglas. The AD-6 was 38 feet, 10 inches (11.836 meters) long with a wingspan of 50 feet, 9 inches (15.469 meters) and overall height of 15 feet, 8¼ inches (4.782 meters). Its empty weight was 11,968 pounds (5,429 kilograms) and gross weight was 18,106 pounds (8,213 kilograms). The maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) for the AD-6 was 25,000 pounds (11,340 kilograms).

Douglas AD-4 Skyraider of VA-195 taking off from USS Princeton (CV-37) circa 1950–52 (U.S. Navy)
Douglas AD-4 Skyraider of VA-195 taking off from USS Princeton (CV-37) circa 1950–52 (U.S. Navy)

The Douglas AD-6 was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, direct-fuel-injected, 3,347.662-cubic-inch-displacement (54.858 liter), Wright Aeronautical Division R-3350-26WA (Cyclone 18 836C18CA1) twin-row 18-cylinder radial engine, with water/alcohol injection. This engine has a compression ratio of 6.71:1. The R-3350-26W has a Normal Power rating of  2,300 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m., and a Takeoff/Military Power rating of 2,700 horsepower at 2,900 r.p.m., using 115/145 aviation gasoline. The engine drives a four-bladed Aeroproducts constant-speed propeller with a diameter of 13 feet, 6 inch (4.115 meters) through a 0.4375:1 gear reduction. The engine is 4 feet, 7.62 inches (1.413 meters) in diameter and 6 feet, 6.81 inches (2.002 meters) long. It weighs 2,848 pounds (1,292 kilograms), dry.

The AD-6/A-1H Skyraider had a cruise speed of 198 miles per hour (319 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 322 miles per hour (518 kilometers per hour). The ceiling was 29,400 feet (8,961 meters) and its combat radius carrying 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms) of ordnance was 275 miles (443 kilometers).

A U.S. Marine Corps Douglas AD-2 Skyraider of VMF-121 parked at airfield K-6, Pyongtaek, South Korea, 1952. The hard points under the wings are fully loaded with bombs.
A U.S. Marine Corps Douglas AD-4 Skyraider, Bu. No. 127874, of VMF-121 is parked at airfield K-6, Pyongtaek, South Korea, 1952. The hard points under the wings are fully loaded with bombs. The aircraft is painted overall glossy sea blue. (Navy Pilot Overseas)
Douglas AH-1H Skyraider 52-137593 (U.S. Air Force)
Douglas AH-1H Skyraider 52-137593 of the 602nd Special Operations Squadron. (U.S. Air Force)

The AD-6 Skyraider was armed with four 20mm AN-M2 autocannons, with two in each wing, and 200 rounds of ammunition per gun. The guns fired explosive projectiles with a muzzle velocity of 2,850 feet per second (869 meters per second), and had a rate of fire of 600–700 rounds per minute. The AD-6 could carry 8,000 pounds (3,629 kilograms) of bombs, rockets, gun pods and external fuel tanks from the 15 hard points and pylons under the wings and fuselage.

A Douglas A-1H Skyraider of the 6th Special Operations Squadron dive bombing a target during a close air support mission, Vietnam, 1968. (U.S. Air Force)
A Douglas A-1J Skyraider, 52-142016, of the 6th Special Operations Squadron dive bombing a target during a close air support mission, Vietnam, 1968. (U.S. Air Force)

Many United States Navy and Marine Corps Skyraiders were transferred to the U.S. Air Force. The Air Force retained the Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics serial numbers (“Bu. No.”) but added two digits corresponding to the fiscal year in which each airplane was originally contracted. This resulted in serial numbers similar, though longer, than customary in the Air Force and Army numbering system.

The oldest Skyraider in existence is XBT2D-1 Bu. No. 9102. Formerly on display at NAS Oceana, Virginia Beach, Virginia, the airplane was transferred to The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City for restoration and preservation.

This is the Douglas A-1H Skyraider flown by LCOL Jones, 1 September 1968. Though it was extensively damaged by anti-aircraft gunfire and the subsequent fire, 52-139738 was repaired and returned to service. On 22 September 1972, -738 was shot down over Laos. It was the last Skyraider shot down during the Vietnam War.
Douglas A-1H Skyraider 52-139738, 1st Special Operations Squadron. Lieutenant Colonel William A. Jones III, commanding the 602nd Special Operations Squadron, flew this airplane on 1 September 1968 during a Combat Search and Rescue mission for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor. On 22 September 1972, -738 was shot down over Laos. It was the last Skyraider shot down during the Vietnam War. (U.S. Air Force)

LaVerne Ward Browne was born at Orange, California, 9 December 1906. He was the third child of Edwin J. Brown, a farm worker, and Phebe Alice Proctor Brown. He studied law at the University of Southern California (USC).

“Mystery Plane” poster. (Monogram Pictures Corporation)

In 1928, Brown learned to fly at the Hancock College of Aeronautics, Santa Maria, California. He then worked as a pilot for Transcontinental and Western Airways, flying the Douglas DC-2. He was also commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army Air Corps Reserve.

Browne married Miss Dorothy Leonore Bach at Los Angeles, California, 28 January 1926. They had a daughter, Barbara May Browne, born 6 December 1926, but later divorced. One 12 June 1933, Browne married Harriette Fitzgerald Dodson at Norfolk, Virginia.

From 1931 to 1941, under the pseudonym “John Trent,” Browne performed in sixteen Hollywood movies, including “I Wanted Wings,” with William Holden, Ray Milland and Veronica Lake. He played the character “Tailspin Tommy Tompkins” in four: “Danger Flight,” “Sky Patrol,” “Stunt Pilot,” and “Mystery Plane.”

Browne worked for Douglas Aircraft Company from 1942 to 1957. He died 12 May 1966 at Palos Verdes, California, at the age of 59 years.

“John Trent” (LaVerne Ward Browne) portrayed “Tailspin Tommy Tompkins” in four Hollywood movies. (Monogram Pictures Corporation via IMDb)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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