Aircraft Way Ahead of Their Time Part I

Human nature is a strange and contradictory litany of benevolence and outright cruelty! We will go to any lengths to save creatures headed for extinction even if it means cutting off vital resources to human agriculture and housing. We will covet puppies, dogs, cats, and domesticate potentially dangerous wildlife yet we will condone the abortion of human fetuses by the hundreds of thousands! We will brilliantly engineer machines with uncanny capability, yet their purpose is for destruction and killing. Anyone who proclaims that human nature is inherently kind is sadly mistaken. However, let us examine the genius of man’s ability to defend and destroy in the skies of the world!

The odd and the few

There are few legacies in modern day aviation that the United States industry and military have not dominated in or been the chief innovator of. Quite fortunately those attributes have been instrumental in the United States liberating the world in two world wars over the course of the 20th Century as well as interdicting major conflicts in the Middle East. Yet, the difficulty of quelling “Police Actions” such as the Korean conflict and the Vietnam War have presented specific problems that caused loss of valuable aircraft and the pilots that flew them.

Futuristic concepts

Although such aircraft as the venerable F-86 Sabre, the F-100 Super Sabre, the F-101 Voodoo, and the F-4 Phantom manufactured under license by US contractors were the standards of aviation in their time rarely do we see past prototypes or designs that would have been functional today or that should have been perfected and brought into future use as the state of the art produces obsolescence quite rapidly. Yet, there are those rare birds that were overlooked, too far ahead of their time, or simply out competed by rival manufacturers who fit into the vision of the Pentagon better at that time.

Jet age emerges

Below we will discuss some examples of those exceptional aircraft that might have saved lives and defeated the enemy much more handily than the aircraft that were procured at the time in their era of operation and world conflict status. By 1943 the P-80 Shooting star was already under development faster than the German Me262 the first battle ready fighter jet in history, Lockheed’s first jet fighter never saw action against its enemy counterpart. Although it was demonstrated in Italy and Great Britain US generals preferred the piston engine aircraft they were familiar with.

Missed WWII

At more than 600 miles per the P-80 was already a world beater, but World War II was winding down and it would not be until the Korean conflict that the P-80 would be unleashed for combat. Unfortunately, by the then the Russian Mig-15 was wreaking havoc over the skies of Korea and even though it was a P-80 that scored the first air to air victory against a MIg-15 the P-80 was soon relegated to a ground attack role unable to climb fast enough and dog fight with the Mikoyan model jet. That task would be taken up by the North American built F-86. In a number of variants like the T-33 the P-80 would live on until the early 1970’s as a trainer for rookie pilots. Another variant was the all-weather interceptor “Scorpion” used by SAC (Strategic Air Command) as an interceptor in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Global conflict

In the early 1940’s as the US struggled with the emergence of World War II and early defeats of the Pacific Fleet at the hands of the Japanese Imperial Fleet as well as the US Merchant Fleet suffering terrible losses at the hands of the German “Wolf Pack” of U-Boats sinking US Navy ships off the Atlantic Coast many new propeller driven fighter aircraft and bombers were being pressed into service, yet new experimental models were under development as well! Such was the case with Jack Northrop and his “Flying Wing”! With Germany far ahead of the Allies in rocketry and jet engine research a race against time and deployment was feverishly underway.

Revolutionary Design

Northrop was developing a revolutionary bomber without the aerodynamic drag of nacelles, cowlings, extended fuselage or tail, the YB-35 could fly higher and faster than conventional propeller driven bombers while using much less material and size. As a result the flying wing stood with less height for servicing on the runway and could be trundled into a much smaller hangar for storage. The YB-35 achieved 25% greater fuel efficiency, could store more payload, travel further, and yet do it with more internal storage as well. Little did the Allies know that the Horton Brothers were developing aircraft along the same lines of evolution as Northrop! However, after problems with the initial push propeller configuration the design team adapted a counter rotating system for more stability in flight.

Not soon enough

The Northrop team could never get beyond the prototype stage before World War II drew to a close and neither could the Horton Brothers as Germany was overrun by US and Russian ground forces in the end. Now as the US government fought with budgets, lending money to Europe for recovery efforts, and scaling back wartime personnel numbers Northrop continued his research and development for a long range strategic bomber now that the Atomic Bomb had been created. With the introduction of the jet age and higher requirements for speed, once again the YB-35 had to be refitted with axial flow jet engines rather than the counter rotating propeller motors that had just been installed.

Stiff Rivalry

Now the Pentagon was sending out bids for a new long range bomber competition.  Such builders as Boeing with extensive knowledge of large aircraft capable of long distance flight carrying heavy bomb loads but with a conventional aircraft configuration were being allowed to introduce their designs regardless of Northrop’s baby. Generals with ties to other aircraft manufacturers were leaning toward what they were already familiar with and perhaps what might bring jobs and money to their cities.

Conventional Competition

The flying wing was now tasked with flying faster with jet engines on a 400 mph. frame and being a stable enough platform at high altitude for precision bombing. Conventional aircraft with extended fuselages and tails had already demonstrated their worth as precise bombing platforms even if they weren’t as fast or high flying and took more material and maintenance to operate, yet many generals were still leaning toward aircraft like the B-36 Peacekeeper, a gigantic prop driven strategic nuclear capable bomber! Boeing would soon be introducing the early prototypes of the B-47 and B-52 jet engine bombers. The Pentagon budget was stretched while also needing reliability for the new role of a “Cold War” deployment.

Disaster

Problems plagued the program and Bob Cardenas, one of two test pilots on the project, was nearly killed when undergoing a stall maneuver that sent the aircraft tumbling in mid-air and did not recover like a typical airplane. Some quick thinking by Cardenas saved the flying wing and his life once he figured out how to master the controls out of the stall with only a thousand feet between him and the ground! However, even after warning Captain Edwards, the other test pilot partner, about that danger in 1948 the YB-49 and a crew of 5 crashed and lost their lives! Muroc Air Base would be renamed Edwards AFB and the program was in a crisis now. Even after a record setting transcontinental speed flight had succeeded from Edwards AFB to Andrews AFB in just over 4 hours and President Truman being so impressed that he was sold on buying several of the YB-49’s the program was finally scrapped and all aircraft on the Northrop airfield were destroyed by Air Force personnel as Boeing was awarded the coveted contracts.

Exoneration

Northrop’s genius appeared to be too far ahead of his time and during the 1950’s 60’s and 70’s he continued on other aviation projects still convinced of the feasibility of the flying wing design. In 1989 Northrop’s dream once again came to fruition as the corporation that had continued after he had gone secretly developed a stealth flying wing strategic bomber. The B-2 was like nothing the world had ever seen, undetectable, ultraprecise, and able to reach any target in the world while still having the same dimensions as the original design. The aging Jack Northrop sat in a wheel chair at the unveiling ceremony, receiving a model of the aircraft while getting to witness its takeoff from the runway. Jack Northrop’s design had at long last been vindicated.

In Part II we will see another example of mercurial aviation design simply too far ahead of its time to be implemented when it was most needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Views: 102

Comment by J.P. Hart on May 17, 2018 at 1:38pm

& the fighter still remains!

from time to time exclamation points! remind me of billy clubs or CC (crowd-control). I'm watching/hearing Robert Kennedy Funeral (1968) British Pathe.

Doc V., your 'gonna fly now' avionics work herewith prompted me to an electronic read of the Marshall Plan...wonderfully the most constructive use of aircraft capacities on a humanitarian relief mission: {sic} 'George C. Marshall was the Secretary of State in the Truman Administration in 1947. Dur­ing the war he had been Army chief of staff and central to the military planning that had led to the defeat of the Axis Powers, particularly in Europe. He was considered indispensable in European affairs and he enjoyed considerable prestige with the United States Congress. In a speech to the graduating class at Harvard University on June 5, 1947, he proposed a solution for the European economic situation that was centered on the con­cept that the European countries would them­selves set up a program for reconstruction, with the assurance of American assistance. The prob­lem, he said, was: The truth of the matter is that Europe’s requirements for the next three or four years for foreign food and other essential prod­ucts—principally from America—are so much greater than her present ability to pay that she must have substantial additional help or face economic, social, and political deterio­ration of a very grave character.

The remedy lies in breaking the vicious circle and restoring the confidence of the European people in the economic future of their own countries and of Europe as a whole...'*
*Aviation and the Role of Government
Where'd we be without our brave and marvelous men & there flyin' 'chines? An interesting visual would be say, 700' over and around the equator with a looped sound track of Eric Burton and the Animals' Sky Pilot . . . at Mach II it would be approximately a 203 minute movie . . .And if I'd spin the song's long version: 7.31 minutes --- the audience would enjoy 30.6 continuous 'soundings' of Sky Pilot before a screen with a unique montage; and at Mach III the feature would be abbreviated to 1.88714286 minutes with appattoxly .25815908 plays .-,- . Of course at that speed I must question what the film would look like other than a dream.

Comment by Doc Vega on May 17, 2018 at 3:43pm

Sky pilot a very cool song! One problem I have with Marshall! THis was as Chiang Kai Chek and his nationalist forces fought Mao the war lord and his Communist forces for control of China! During the war Chiang had fought the Japanese and suffered grave losses but at least had American backing yet once the civil war started George Marshall with his big bad pan stated that he could cut off aid to the Nationalist Chinese with a stroke of his pen and in doing so guaranteed the existence of Red China and several million Chinese murdered by the Communists in their "Agricultural Revolution"! Agricultural as they planted millions! Had Marshall been more visionary and humanitarian we wouldn't be on the footing we are today and might not have suffered the ravages of the Korean War which my dad served tours of duty in!

Comment by J.P. Hart on May 18, 2018 at 7:12am

& the fighter still remains!

from time to time exclamation points!remind me of billy clubs or CC (crowd-control). I'm watching/hearing Robert Kennedy Funeral (1968) British Pathe.

Doc V., your 'gonna fly now' avionics work herewith prompted me to an electronic read of the Marshall Plan...wonderfully the most constructive use of aircraft capacities on a humanitarian relief mission: {sic} 'George C. Marshall was the Secretary of State in the Truman Administration in 1947. Dur­ing the war he had been Army chief of staff and central to the military planning that had led to the defeat of the Axis Powers, particularly in Europe. He was considered indispensable in European affairs and he enjoyed considerable prestige with the United States Congress. In a speech to the graduating class at Harvard University on June 5, 1947, he proposed a solution for the European economic situation that was centered on the con­cept that the European countries would them­selves set up a program for reconstruction, with the assurance of American assistance. The prob­lem, he said, was: The truth of the matter is that Europe’s requirements for the next three or four years for foreign food and other essential prod­ucts—principally from America—are so much greater than her present ability to pay that she must have substantial additional help or face economic, social, and political deterio­ration of a very grave character.

The remedy lies in breaking the vicious circle and restoring the confidence of the European people in the economic future of their own countries and of Europe as a whole...'*
*Aviation and the Role of Government
Where'd we be without our brave and marvelous men & their flyin' 'chines? An interesting visual would be say, 700' over and around the equator with a looped sound track of Eric Burton and the Animals' Sky Pilot . . . at Mach II it would be approximately a 203 minute movie . . .And if I'd spin the song's long version: 7.31 minutes --- the audience would enjoy 30.6 continuous 'soundings' of Sky Pilot before a screen with a unique montage; and at Mach III the feature would be abbreviated to 188.714286 minutes with antietamly 25.815908 plays .-,- . Of course at that speed I must question what the film would look like other than a dream.

Comment by J.P. Hart on May 18, 2018 at 7:41am

Doc V:
I've edited my comment(mine of 17 hours ago) (as it was soooooooooo goot) for clarity, correct spelling (caught my way ham-handedness with 'there' and 'their' as well as juxtaposition of decimal pts. Whilst remembering the great Garrison Keillor's Essay to Editorsor sum-such somewhere in the depths of Open Sailon circa 2011? Wherein he mentions that [sic] if 'you don't know what the difference is between 'its' and 'it's' possessive or it is, I kant help you . . . ."
You're as 'fifty's' as Norman Rockwell somedays, Doc V. I look forward to your continued memoir and or fiction regarding your dad.
I apologize for my typos and no, I didn't know all that much about George C. Marshall. Please keep in mind that no one knows where or if we'd be had he taken an interventionist course of acting I mean action. Please allow me to note that there was a post-fallout uber fatigue after the celebrations of VJ Day. As I recollect. '...just a kid...'
JPH
(temporarily lost in a sea of tears)

Comment by Doc Vega on May 19, 2018 at 4:38am

J. P. Hart Do you know what Stevenson's Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde was based upon? When cocaine became a general anesthetic with a strange stimulating quality about it near the end of the 19th Century it was used to treat ailments like tuberculosis. Patients reported strange symptom relief and short lived euphoria along with extreme mood changes. Robert Louis Stevenson was undergoing such ill advised therapy for his tuberculosis and noted the side effects as well which inspired his horror classic. Think about that the next time you roll up a dollar bill and insert it into your nostril.

Comment by J.P. Hart on May 19, 2018 at 8:30am

No Doc.

I've been clean and sober for 47 years.

No need to get presumptuous.

No reason to get excited.

Comment by Doc Vega on May 20, 2018 at 5:41am

J.P. My 50's perception of the world is a mere misperception based upon the fact that I tend to evaluate history objectively according to the relativity of the time and place and not trying to interject the politically correct standards of today as many attempt to do. As a matter of fact, I think we have a real danger of having the past misinterpreted, intentionally reproduced for liberal consumption, it's already happening when our federal orientation for employees portrayed our forefathers as being domestic terrorists during the Obama administration. This classic form of indoctrination destroys the true cause and effect relationship between why we are who we are now and the contributions of those who made those sacrifices so that we could enjoy those freedoms today. The Bolsheviks completely upended Russian heritage and the foundations of their social normality with these same tactics. We today are making the mistake of tainting the past with our current pretensions. 

Comment by Doc Vega on May 20, 2018 at 5:53am

J.P. Forgive for making any rash diagnosis. I think I may be a bit too quick to attribute what I perceive as psychological and drug induced behavior from those around me like wives, family, and friends. One of the biggest sources of delusions of grandeur or mood swings that gravitate between unrealistic highs and suicidal lows is what was once termed as manic depression, hypo manic disorder, or what is now the current colloquial term "Bi-polar" disorder. This is a frequently undiagnosed, unrecognized, situationally caused, or an example of abnormal brain chemistry. The disorder tends to create casualties not only the unfortunate patient, but the loved ones around that tormented individual. We now have a society that enables this behavior readily. Oh, but I'm rambling on and getting philosophical God help me!

Comment by J.P. Hart on May 21, 2018 at 8:05am

Doc V,

Thank you for reaching out. I appreciate your pain. However, I am not a licensed psychiatrist and it wouldn't be fair if I were to render advice. IMHO, your path to recovery is not far, sir. From time to time you appear as the 'resident desperado'. I don't imagine anyone here holds it against you. I applaud your efforts at seeking 'normalcy' and mental stability. 

I do know that the idea is to provoke thought, not violence.

Yesterday I learned: it's one for the dot, one for rue, life is good in Tippecanoe!

Be safe, buds!

Comment by Doc Vega on May 27, 2018 at 9:20am

J.P. I did not reach out to you based upon my personal pain. I merely replied to your seemingly manic comments. Have a great Memorial Day and remember something, if anyone goes to heaven for dying in the service of their country, it will not be those making smart ass remarks on a day that was intended for the observance of their sacrifices. They did not go to hell for a heavenly cause and if you would rather have lived under German or Japanese rule I am sure they would have found a way of accommodating you in more sadistic ways than you can think of.

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