Despite Its Slow Speed, The OS2U Rescued, Spotted, and Observed Its Way Across World War II.
Vought’s OS2U Kingfisher first took flight on March 1st 1938. This observation floatplane, conceived as a replacement for the Curtiss SOC Seagull biplane floatplane, operated from American Navy battleships, cruisers, and even a few destroyers via catapult and from shore bases around the world during World War II. In so doing the slow but steady Kingfisher earned the sobriquet “Eyes of the Fleet.” While the every single one of the 1,519 OS2Us Vought and the Naval Aircraft Factory built was so slow it had trouble getting out of its own way, some elements of its design and the methods used to build them were radically advanced and would be seen on tens of thousands of subsequent aircraft. Continue reading Vought’s R-985 Powered Kingfisher Floatplane Was Slow, But It Saved Many WWII Crews→
The best indication of how good a trainer the AT-6 Texan was/is can be seen by the fact that here we are forty years into the jet age and there are still countries around the world using the North America aerial classroom as first-line trainers. As recently as five years ago, major air forces still used it and it is the updating of those air forces which has pumped so many surplus T-6s into the American civilian market.
Gene McNeely started flying airshows in 1986 and has been a stalwart presence on the AeroShell aerobatic team, flying a Wasp-powered North American T-6. He can only guess at his total flying time behind the engine: “I would say 15,000 hours…probably more than that.” He does remember exactly how he got there, though. “I got out of the Navy and…started cropdusting, and the first engine I sat behind was the [Pratt &Whitney] R-985, which we’d adapted to the Stearman,” he recalls.
Pratt & Whitney Canada reached a significant milestone in April of this year, when it produced its 100,000th engine, a testament to the company’s longevity and leadership in the global aerospace market.
When the press release on Cessna’s new twin turboprop came pixeling into my inbox Tuesday morning, my first reaction was: a new skydiving airplane! Woo-hoo! This further proves that self-interest easily overpowers rational thought, but in a more sober moment, I realized that in aviation as in everything else, history repeats.
Advances in propulsion are what drive aviation development. Innovative airplanes almost always start with innovative engines, and the airframes follow. In 2016, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers celebrated just such an engine. The society designated the Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp a technology landmark, the organization’s highest award, because the Wasp singlehandedly brought about a leap forward in aircraft performance and economics. The tale of its development is still fascinating.
The story can be told as a series of meetings among ambitious young designers, dealmakers with burning needs, and inflexible government contractors. The Wasp’s manufacturer, Pratt & Whitney, was at the time a humble machine tool company with no connection whatsoever to aviation. Thanks to a risky bet on an unproven technology, today it’s one of the world’s dominant builders of airplane engines.
At the center of the Wasp’s creation was Frederick Rentschler, scion of a well-connected Ohio industrial family. The family probably assumed that the dutiful son, who’d grown up working in their foundry, would one day inherit and run the family automobile engine manufacturing firm. And he might have done just that if it had not been for World War I. The Princeton graduate enlisted, and in 1917, as a first lieutenant in the aviation section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, he was tasked with inspecting Hispano-Suiza engines built under license from France by the Wright-Martin Company in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and Long Island City, New York.
Young Rentschler found the work fascinating. These engines were not that different from those he was familiar with in automobiles: reciprocating pistons and cylinders arranged in rows, with liquid coolant circulating through the engine block and a radiator to dump excess heat. As the war wound down, Wright-Martin’s output tapered off, and Rentschler rejoined civilian life. For a time he ran Wright Aeronautical Corporation as president, until the board of directors, mostly bankers, decided not to reinvest profits for future engine development as he wished. In his mind, without investment in product development, the company was doomed. He resigned and spent months, including some time in a hospital due to illness, pondering the aircraft propulsion industry and how to jolt it from complacency.
The industry was at that time deeply invested in liquid-cooled engines, primarily large V-12s producing in excess of 400 horsepower. It was the conservative, low-risk solution for an aircraft engine, despite its well-known drawbacks: The required cooling system added weight and complexity, and radiators and coolant lines were vulnerable to battle damage, leakage, and subsequent engine failure.
Read more at http://www.airspacemag.com/flight-today/why-the-wasp-is-wonderful-180967115/#efYeFtu5fj6dueul.99
When Piper Aircraft announced its plans to build a big-cabin turboprop in late 1977, time was of the essence – only, we didn’t know it. It took another three years to get the airplane certificated, during which time the robust state of the general aviation manufacturing economy had begun to unravel. The Cheyenne III’s main competition, the Beech Super King Air 200, introduced in 1974, had an established head start, and industry sales volume was no longer the rising road to riches during the 1980s that it had been in the 1970s.
When the Pilatus PC-12 first landed on the scene back in 1989, expectations were fairly modest. Earmarked for sales in the 200 region, nobody would have been surprised if the PC-12 had come in, served its purpose, and been resigned to history along with a plethora of similar aircraft.
In honor of Air Canada’s 80th anniversary, Air Canada’s Lockheed 10A vintage aircraft took to the skies across Canada. After taking from Vancouver, BC, the L-10A made overnight stops as well as fuel stops at airports across Canada, and was on public display at the Royal Aviation Museum in Winnipeg on September 13 and 14. More information is at: http://www.royalaviationmuseum.com.