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Douglas XB-31

Douglas XB-31


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Douglas XB-31

The Douglas XB-31 was the designation given to a series of Douglas designs produced as part of the same design contest that produced the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, none of which were ever built.

Some published sources suggest that the Douglas Model 423 was submitted in responce to this design contest. The identification of the XB-31 with the Model 423 is unlikely to be correct. Alan Griffith, who is currently working with the Douglas archives, has provided convincing evidence that the Douglas Model 332 (and in particular the Model 332F) was in fact the aircraft submitted as the XB-31. This was a four engined bomber, powered by the R-3360 Duplex Cyclone engine. Drawings show a high winged aircraft, with notable dihedral on the tapered wings, a circular cross-section fuselage, a standard bomber canopy, glazed nose and a massive vertical tail. This dates to May 1940, the same month in which Boeing submitted their Model 345, the basis for the B-29. Documents also survive that compare the Douglas 332F to the Lockheed entry in the contest. The Model 332F had a wingspan of 140ft 8.5" and a length of 88ft 8.5", making it similar in size to the B-29. The Model 332F didn't progress beyond the design stage.

The later Model 423 would have been similar in size to the massive Douglas XB-19, with a slightly reduced 207ft wing span but a higher maximum loaded weight of 198,000lb. It would have been powered by four 3,000hp Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major engines, giving it much more power than the B-19. It would have had a fuselage with a circular cross section, tapered wings (with tapered leading and trailing edges) and a massive single tail fin. Some sources suggest that the Model 423 was based on the DC-4 Skymaster. If so the connections were rather limited, perhaps only including the circular cross section of the fuselage and general shape of the wings. The Model 423 had a crew of 8. The pilot and co-pilot sat under separate bubble canopies carried side by side near the nose. The aircraft was armed with two 37mm cannon in the tail and four 0.50in guns carried in pairs in remote controlled dorsal and ventral turrets. It would have carried 25,000lb of bombs in two internal bomb bays. Work on the Model 423 came to an end late in 1941, although some of its design features appeared on later aircraft - the double bubble canopies were used on the C-74 transport and the tail on the Douglas A-26 Invader attack bomber (although massively reduced in scale).

The exact use of the Model 423 is unclear. It may have been developed in responce to the 1941 specifications that produced the massive Consolidated B-36, or as an internal Douglas response to the failure to win the B-29 contract, or possibly as an improved version of the Model 332. The Model 423's wingspan of 207ft was nearer to the 230ft of the B-36.


Northrop’s Radical Flying Wing Bomber of the 1940s

One of two Northrop YB-49s built flies over Muroc Army Air Base sometime in the late 1940s. Jack Northrop hoped the U.S. Air Force would select the giant flying wing as its main strategic bomber.

Jack Northrop dreamed big with his futuristic flying wing, but the radical bomber proved too great a technological leap for his company to bridge in the late 1940s.

More than 70 years after the first Northrop YB-49 flying wing prototype took to the skies over Muroc Army Air Base in the Mojave Desert, the echoes of its jet engines still linger. Part of the airplane’s allure stems from its radical design and the tenacity of the brilliant engineer who conceived it. While the story of the short-lived YB-49 and its line of progenitors has been told before, some remarkable facts still emerge from the memory of a key participant in the flying wing program.

The last living pilot to test the flying wings in the late 1940s is retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Cardenas, whose career in Army khaki and Air Force blue spanned 30 years after World War II. The 100-year-old Cardenas, best known as the project manager and B-29 pilot for the Bell X-1 supersonic program in 1947 (see “Dropping the Orange Beast,” ), still vividly recalls his experiences as chief test pilot for the XB-35 and YB-49 flying wings.


Major Bob Cardenas (shown with a war prize Arado Ar-234 jet) served as chief test pilot for the flying wing program. (U.S. Air Force)

Born from the fertile mind of aeronautical engineer John “Jack” Northrop, the flying wing concept was based on the idea that a conventional airplane consisting of wings, fuselage and vertical and horizontal stabilizers was inherently inefficient. Most of its structure contributed nothing to lift but added greatly to parasitic drag. Northrop was determined to design and build a plane that eliminated every component that didn’t contribute to lift and forward thrust. Its structure would consist of one element: the wing. It was aeronautical design reduced to its purest form. It would mean greater fuel efficiency, simpler construction costs and time, and ultimately lead to a revolution in aviation.

By 1938, after a series of successes with other companies, Jack Northrop was ready to follow his dream. In 1940, while Hitler’s legions were running rampant across Europe, Northrop’s new company produced the first true flying wing, the N-1M “Jeep,” featuring a laminated wooden wing. But after more than two dozen flights over the dry lake beds near Rosamond, Calif., it was obvious the N-1M was too unstable on the vertical or yaw axis. In time, a series of more advanced experimental wings led to the successful N-9M, four of which were built. With twin pusher propellers driven by two six-cylinder Menasco engines, the N-9M flew at 200 knots with ease. Its 60-foot wing was a smoothly configured airfoil based on National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics specifications. The plane proved that a large, all-metal wing was not only feasible but an aeronautical inevitability.


Northrop (right) and test pilot Moye Stephens show off the N-9M, predecessor of the XB-35. (Bettmann/Getty Images)

Fears that Great Britain would fall to Nazi Ger­many led the U.S. Army Air Corps to consider a very-long-range heavy bomber that could fly from the continental United States to Germany and back. The specifications, issued in late 1940, called for an airplane with a range of 10,000 miles carrying five tons of bombs. As far as Northrop was concerned, those numbers were tailor-made for his flying wing. His design team went to work and by 1943 had demonstrated their concept to the Army Air Forces. Northrop came up with the radical idea of a combined elevator and aileron (elevon) for both longitudinal and lateral control.

Northrop test pilot Max Stanley was at the controls when the XB-35 first lifted off from Califor­nia’s Hawthorne Airport on June 25, 1946, and headed east toward Muroc. The plane flew like a dream as its four Pratt & Whitney radial engines drove contrarotating propellers that droned like a tsunami of angry bees. The XB-35 flew at more than 300 knots and had a potential range of 8,000 miles, very close to what the AAF wanted.

Problems with the flying wing’s control drive and contrarotating propellers soon led Northrop to switch to standard single props, reducing top speed and rate of climb. With the AAF already favoring the huge conventional Convair B-36 bomber, he needed to find a way to increase the XB-35’s performance.


Problems with the propeller-driven XB-35 led to a switch to jet propulsion. (U.S. Air Force)

In early 1947 Colonel Albert Boyd, head of the bomber test section at Wright Field in Ohio, sent Major Bob Cardenas to California to evaluate the XB-35 and other experimental aircraft. A highly skilled bomber pilot and engineer, Cardenas was the right man for the job. “Mister Northrop was very happy that I was on the team,” he said. “I really respected and liked him.”

After Stanley checked him out in the XB-35, Cardenas quickly developed some opinions about the flying wing. He was among the first to suggest switching to jet engines.

“I made one flight in it,” recalled Cardenas, “and in addition to my report, I said, ‘As to flight characteristics, you have good vertical stability on takeoff, but frankly speaking, it’s a dog. It needs more power for its size than the propellers can provide. If you put jets in it, it will improve its capability.’”

Cardenas’ opinion carried weight with North­rop. The eventual result was the YB-49, which utilized the same airframe but incorporated eight Allison J35 turbojets in the wing, four on each side. The first prototype’s maiden flight was on October 22, 1947, from Hawthorne to Muroc. The jet version performed well, and proved to be easier to fly than its propeller-driven predecessor.

With a wingspan of 172 feet, the YB-49 was 30 feet wider than a B-29. The cockpit bubble was 15 feet off the ground. The crew was to consist of a pilot, copilot, bombardier, flight engineer and two gunners.

Cardenas began testing the new YB-49 in Jan­u­ary 1948. “It was a beautiful plane, a lovely design,” he noted. After a series of taxiing tests he flew it with Major Daniel Forbes as copilot. He found that the switch to jet engines had created some undesirable characteristics. “They had not reckoned with the higher acceleration of the jets,” he explained. “It was slow at first, but then rapidly increased. The gear doors had not been modified and would not close fast enough to compensate for the faster airspeed. I had to pull up steeply to compensate.”

The early jet engines were prodigious fuel hogs, and the YB-49 consumed fuel so fast that its range was cut in half. Gone was any hope of competing with the long-range B-36 as an intercontinental bomber. But on April 26, 1948, Max Stanley set an unofficial endurance record in the YB-49, staying aloft for more than 9 hours, 6½ of which were above 40,000 feet. The flight was a triumph for Northrop, but his joy would be short-lived. The Air Force was not in the market for a medium-range bomber, no matter how advanced its design.

The YB-49 pilot’s position was in a bathtub-shaped compartment set dead center in the upper forward surface of the wing under a bubble canopy. The copilot was to the right and below, inside the actual hull of the wing’s leading edge. “Visibility was pretty good from the pilot’s seat,” noted Cardenas, “but the copilot could only see ahead and down, but not very well to the left.”

Each pilot had a control wheel that transmitted input to the elevons on the wing. Foot pedals had dual functions: They activated drag clamshells on either wingtip to act as rudders or were used in tandem as speed brakes. Despite the unusual arrangement, how the wheels and pedals controlled pitch, roll and yaw would have been familiar to any pilot. The throttle quadrant was set well above the flight controls.

The cramped and decidedly odd cockpit configuration was a reflection of the flying wing’s radical design and hasty development. The narrow, tube-like ingress from the aft ventral hatch meant that an emergency bailout would be nearly impossible.

Early in flight testing, Cardenas and Forbes faced a sudden emergency. “One of the first things you do on any new aircraft is to find out at what speed it stalls—that one certain point when the wing drops off and the nose drops down,” Car­denas explained. “We did our stall tests at 15,000 feet. Without any warning the nose quivered, went down, and it kept going and we ended up in a negative tumble.”

For Cardenas, the horizon suddenly rose sharply as the YB-49 pitched forward, tumbling “ass over teakettle.”

“My rear end was off the seat,” he recalled. “My arms were way up, but that was wonderful! The throttles were above me and I could reach them. I waited until the nose was level with the horizon and applied power to the right-side engines. I was hoping to ‘cartwheel’ the aircraft and from that it would turn into a spin. That’s how I recovered. Danny Forbes was with me. He saw how I recovered from that tumble.”

That May Cardenas was going to be married and attend the Uni­versity of Southern California to pursue an advanced engineering degree. Asked by Boyd to appoint a replacement, he suggested his good friend Captain Glen Edwards. Edwards and Forbes began the next phase of the test program, which involved advanced stability and control tests. “Glen had helped to write the book on stability and control,” said Cardenas. “I felt he would be better for this phase of the testing.”

On June 5, 1948, Forbes was in the pilot’s seat of the second YB-49 with Edwards as copilot, along with three crew members. As they were flying high over the dry lake the flying wing went into another violent tumble, but this time evidently it was positive, not negative. The horizon before them suddenly dropped as the leading edge rose to point at the sky, then the wing fell back and pointed down. The big aircraft flipped over and over. But unlike the forward tumble in which Cardenas was lifted up by centrifugal forces, Forbes and Edwards were virtually glued to their seats. Neither would have been able to reach up those few precious inches to grab the throttle controls. As they fell, their airspeed increased past the point of control and the airframe overstressed outboard of the engine nacelles. The wing tore, snapping steel frames and folding the aluminum skin.

The YB-49 fell out of the sky like a brick and impacted on the desert floor. All five crew members were killed.

Boyd ordered Cardenas to take up the first YB-49, find out what had happened and finish the tests. “I was not directly involved in the crash investigation,” Cardenas said, “but I have some strong opinions as to what happened. I never read the final report on the crash. I was told to stay out of it.”

Cardenas is still in possession of a six-inch-long steel bar, U-shaped in cross-section and torn at one end. “This is a piece of the wing longeron,” he explained. “That’s where the wing folded.” Pointing at the twisted steel, he asserted, “It shows that the aerodynamic force was from a positive tumble.” To this day Cardenas’ voice still betrays emotion when discussing the crash that killed his friend and four others. “I envision Danny trying to reach for the throttles, trying to do what I had done. But he couldn’t do it.”

Cardenas reported his opinions to Northrop. The designer flatly informed him that a positive tumble was impossible. That was the first break in what had been an amicable relationship.

Northrop, for his part, was upset and depressed by the crash, but he still believed in his flying wing and refused to accept that there were any serious stability problems. Tests resumed, though certain realities were becoming apparent. The YB-49 proved to be an unstable bombing platform. A series of flights using a Norden bombsight revealed that it took a great deal of time and effort to stabilize the flying wing on a bomb run. The Air Force needed a bomber that could quickly line up on a target for an accurate strike. But the YB-49 remained prone to yaw instability. While the problem might eventually be corrected, by November 1948 the truth was evident to Cardenas, and by extension, the Air Force.

In a last-ditch effort to fix the stability problem, Northrop urged the Honeywell Corporation to modify the YB-49’s autopilot to help dampen yaw. While it did improve yaw stability, it didn’t solve the pitch instability that had been encountered with such disastrous results.

After writing his report to the Air Force, Car­denas summarized his opinions in a meeting with Northrop and his team. He was concise and frank, and backed up his conclusions with hard engineering facts. Most accounts say that Jack Northrop took it stoically, but in fact he was not ready to accept defeat. He had already received an order for 30 YRB-49 reconnaissance versions, to be fitted with six jet engines. While that was encouraging, Northrop was hoping for more. He wanted the flying wing to be the Air Force’s main strategic bomber. But in addition to Convair’s huge B-36, Boeing had developed the sleek medium-range B-47, a six-engine conventional subsonic jet bomber. Ultimately it would be the last nail in the flying wing’s coffin.

Then hope dawned in the form of a request from Secretary of the Air Force Stuart Syming­ton and President Harry Truman to fly the remaining YB-49 from Muroc (soon to be renamed Edwards Air Force Base in Glen Edwards’ honor) to Andrews AFB in Washington, D.C. The president, well known for supporting the Air Force, wanted to be shown this remarkable piece of aviation technology.


President Harry Truman came to inspect the YB-49 at Andrews Air Force Base in February 1949, after which he had Cardenas fly it down Pennsylvania Avenue and over the Capitol in a demonstration that the pilot described as “kind of hairy.” (Courtesy of Jim Busha)

On February 9, 1949, Cardenas and copilot Max Stanley flew nonstop from California to Washington in a record 4 hours and 5 minutes. At Andrews Truman climbed aboard, and Cardenas, who was still up in the cockpit, saw the gray-haired, bespectacled, grinning president emerge from the aft hatch. “I saw him looking around and being very impressed,” recalled Cardenas. “He said, ‘Major, this looks pretty good to me in spite of the horrible cockpit layout. I think I’ll buy some.’ I had already submitted my report that the plane was unstable and inherently dangerous, so I kept my mouth shut.”

Truman asked Air Force chief of staff General Hoyt Vandenberg to have “this young whippersnapper” fly the YB-49 down Pennsylvania Avenue at “rooftop” level. He wanted the people to see what he was buying for them.

Still shaking his head at the memory, Cardenas said, “I was told to do it. I was cruising down Pennsylvania Avenue at 200 knots and watching for radio towers when I saw the Capitol dome looming ahead of me. I pulled up and cleared it, but that was kind of hairy.” It would be the flying wing’s last moment of triumph.

In March 1950 disaster struck again when the first YB-49 crashed and burned during taxiing tests with test pilot Russ Schleeh at the controls. Although the accident did not result in any deaths, it was the last straw for the program. Despite the supreme efforts of the Northrop team, Secretary Symington had already decided to cancel the YB-49. The remaining XB-35s that were undergoing jet conversion were to be scrapped.

Jack Northrop was convinced that there had been a high-level conspiracy by Symington to stop the flying wing in favor of the Convair and Boeing bombers. But in truth its shortcomings were just too great to overcome given the technology of the time. With the Cold War looming and the Air Force needing good, reliable bombers, Northrop’s dream of a flying wing fleet was impractical. It was simply a bomber too far.

B-2 Spirit: Descendant or Inheritor?

At first blush it’s easy to assume that the B-2 Spirit “stealth bomber” is the direct technical descen­dant of the YB-49, which it superficially resembles. The B-2 is almost exactly the same size and is built by Northrop Grumman, descendant of the original company. But even allowing for the huge advances in avionics, materials, computers and low-observable stealth technology, the Spirit is a wholly different aircraft than what Jack Northrop envisioned in 1943.

Northrop strongly believed that every system and component of the airframe should be inside the smooth airfoil curvature and span of the wing itself, and that any fuselage undermined a true flying wing. But the B-2 does have a fuselage, albeit a vestigial one. The distinctive humpbacked shape of the smoothly configured hull contains the flight deck and engines. Moreover, the B-2’s cockpit is traditionally configured, without the YB-49’s peculiar interior arrangement.

There is another obvious difference: the B-2’s thin wing. The Spirit’s wing is an independent if integral component of the entire aircraft. In combination with the nominal fuselage it resulted in a more stable design. Additionally, the B-2 relies on computer-assisted elevons for control. The Spirit is an entirely original aircraft, not a direct descendant of the YB-49. When the B-2 prototype lifted off from the Northrop Grumman plant in Palmdale, Calif., in May 1989, almost exactly 40 years had passed since Bob Car­denas flew the YB-49 to Washington and back.

The next-generation Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider, expected to fly in 2021, is an even more advanced extreme long-range stealth bomber. Only time will reveal its place in the story of the flying wing.

Frequent contributor Mark Carlson is the author of Flying on Film and The Marines’ Lost Squadron. Further reading: Northrop Flying Wings, by Peter E. Davies, and The Flying Wings of Jack Northrop and Northrop Flying Wings, both by Garry R. Pape.

This feature originally appeared in the July 2020 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe click here!


History

1920s

The company was founded by Donald Wills Douglas Sr. on July 22, 1921 in Santa Monica, California, following dissolution of the Davis-Douglas Company. Ώ] An early claim to fame was the first circumnavigation of the world by air in Douglas airplanes in 1924. In 1923, the U.S. Army Air Service was interested in carrying out a mission to circumnavigate the Earth for the first time by aircraft, a program called "World Flight". ΐ] Donald Douglas proposed a modified Douglas DT to meet the Army's needs. Α] The two-place, open cockpit DT biplane torpedo bomber had previously been produced for the U.S. Navy. Β] The DTs were taken from the assembly lines at the company's manufacturing plants in Rock Island, Illinois, and Dayton, Ohio, to be modified. Γ]

The modified aircraft known as the Douglas World Cruiser (DWC), also was the first major project for Jack Northrop who designed the fuel system for the series. Δ] After the prototype was delivered in November 1923, upon the successful completion of tests on 19 November, the Army commissioned Douglas to build four production series aircraft. Ε] Due to the demanding expedition ahead, spare parts, including 15 extra Liberty L-12 engines, 14 extra sets of pontoons, and enough replacement airframe parts for two more aircraft were chosen. These were sent to airports along the route. The last of these aircraft was delivered to the U.S. Army on 11 March 1924. Β]

The four aircraft left Seattle, Washington (state) , on 6 April 1924, flying west, and returned there on 28 September to great acclaim, although one plane was forced down over the Atlantic and sank. After the success of this flight, the Army Air Service ordered six similar aircraft as observation aircraft. Ζ] Η] The success of the DWC established the Douglas Aircraft Company among the major aircraft companies of the world and led it to adopt the motto "First Around the World – First the World Around". ⎖]

Douglas initially used a logo that combined two letter Ds and wings, and two Ds joined as a heart as a reference to the Clan Douglas. After the success of the DWC, the company adopted a logo that showed three airplanes circling a globe. The logo eventually evolved into an aircraft, a missile, and a globe. This logo was later adopted by McDonnell Douglas in 1967, and became the basis of Boeing's current logo after their merger in 1997. ⎗] ⎘]

Pre-war

Douglas Aircraft designed and built a wide variety of aircraft for the U.S. military, including the Navy, Army Air Forces, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard.

The company initially built torpedo bombers for the U.S. Navy, but it developed a number of different versions of these aircraft, including reconnaissance planes and airmail aircraft. Within five years, the company was building about 100 aircraft annually. Among the early employees at Douglas were Ed Heinemann, "Dutch" Kindelberger, Carl Cover, and Jack Northrop, who later founded the Northrop Corporation. ⎙]

The company retained its military market and expanded into amphibian airplanes in the late 1920s, also moving its facilities to Clover Field at Santa Monica, California. The Santa Monica complex was so large, the mail girls used roller skates to deliver the intracompany mail. By the end of World War II, Douglas had facilities at Santa Monica, El Segundo, Long Beach, and Torrance, California, Tulsa and Midwest City, Oklahoma, and Chicago . ⎚]

In 1934, Douglas produced a commercial twin-engined transport plane, the Douglas DC-2, followed by the famous DC-3 in 1936. The wide range of aircraft produced by Douglas included airliners, light and medium bombers, fighter aircraft, transports, reconnaissance aircraft, and experimental aircraft.

The company is most famous for the "DC" (Douglas Commercial) series of commercial aircraft, including what is often regarded as the most significant transport aircraft ever made: the Douglas DC-3, which was also produced as a military transport known as the C-47 Skytrain or "Dakota" in British service. Many Douglas aircraft had long service lives.

World War II

During World War II , Douglas joined the BVD (Boeing-Vega-Douglas) consortium to produce the B-17 Flying Fortress. After the war, Douglas built another Boeing design under license, the B-47 Stratojet turbojet-powered bomber, using a government-owned factory in Marietta, Georgia. ⎚]

World War II was a major boost for Douglas. Douglas ranked fifth among United States corporations in the value of wartime production contracts. ⎜] The company produced almost 30,000 aircraft from 1942 to 1945, and its workforce swelled to 160,000. The company produced a number of aircraft including the C-47 Skytrain, the DB-7 (known as the A-20, Havoc or Boston), the SBD Dauntless dive bomber, and the A-26 Invader. ⎝] ⎞] ⎟]

Post-war

Douglas Aircraft suffered cutbacks at the end of the war, with an end to government aircraft orders and a surplus of aircraft. It was necessary to cut heavily into its workforce, letting go of nearly 100,000 workers.

The United States Army Air Forces established 'Project RAND' (Research ANd Development) ⎠] with the objective of looking into long-range planning of future weapons. ⎡] In March 1946, Douglas Aircraft Company was granted the contract to research on intercontinental warfare. ⎡] Project RAND later become the RAND Corporation.

Douglas continued to develop new aircraft, including the successful four-engined Douglas DC-6 (1946) and its last propeller-driven commercial aircraft, the Douglas DC-7 (1953). The company had moved into jet propulsion, producing its first for the U.S. Navy — the straight-winged F3D Skyknight in 1948 and then the more "jet age" style F4D Skyray in 1951. Douglas also made commercial jets, producing the Douglas DC-8 in 1958 to compete with the new Boeing 707.

Douglas was a pioneer in related fields, such as ejection seats, air-to-air missiles, surface-to-air missiles, and air-to-surface missiles, launch rockets, bombs, and bomb racks.

The company was ready to enter the new missile business during the 1950s. Douglas moved from producing air-to-air rockets and missiles to entire missile systems under the 1956 Nike missile program and became the main contractor for the Skybolt air-launched ballistic missile program and the Thor ballistic missile program. Douglas also earned contracts from NASA, most notably for designing the S-IVB stage of the Saturn IB and Saturn V rockets.

Mergers

In 1967, the company was struggling to expand production to meet demand for DC-8 and DC-9 airliners and the A-4 Skyhawk military attack aircraft. The company was also struggling with quality and cash flow problems and DC-10 development costs, as well as shortages due to the Vietnam War. Under the circumstances, Douglas was very receptive to an offer from McDonnell Aircraft Corporation. On April 28, 1967, after almost four years of merger talks, the two companies merged as McDonnell Douglas Corporation.

The two companies seemed to be a good match for each other. McDonnell was a major defense contractor, but had almost no civilian business. Douglas' commercial contracts would allow McDonnell to withstand any downturns in procurement. ⎢] Conversely, McDonnell had enough revenue to help solve Douglas' financial problems soon after the merger was announced, McDonnell bought 1.5 million shares of Douglas stock to help Douglas meet "immediate financial requirements." ⎣]

The merged company was based at McDonnell's facility in St. Louis, Missouri. It adopted a modified version of Douglas' logo. Donald Douglas became honorary chairman of the merged company, a post he would hold until his death in 1981. Douglas Aircraft continued as a wholly owned subsidiary of McDonnell Douglas, with Douglas' son, Donald Jr., as president. ⎢] Later, former McDonnell president David Lewis became chairman of Douglas Aircraft. His successful turnaround of the division allowed him to become president of McDonnell Douglas in 1969. Meanwhile, Douglas' space and missiles division became part of a new subsidiary called McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Company.

McDonnell Douglas later merged with its rival Boeing in 1997. ⎤] Boeing merged Douglas Aircraft into the Boeing Commercial Airplanes division, and the Douglas Aircraft name was retired after 76 years. The last Long Beach-built commercial aircraft, the Boeing 717 (third generation version of the Douglas DC-9), ceased production in May 2006. By 2011, the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III was the last aircraft being assembled at the Long Beach facility the final C-17 was assembled in late 2015. ⎥] However, the Douglas' former logo is preserved on the facility though no longer used by Boeing. ⎦] ⎧]


Douglas XB-31 - History

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My grandpa's hand-written instructions for starting a B-29 engine while serving on USS Ranger Aircraft Carrier in the early 60s.

This is great! Just an FYI the plane he was probably servicing was an A-1 Skyraider. They used this same engine and would have been aboard the Ranger during the 60s.

Oh good to know, thanks for the clarification! I can actually ask him too, in fact I think I'll give him a call later tonight and ask :)

edit: I wasn't able to get him before bed last night, but I called just now and we spoke for about 40 minutes. The man is a living encyclopedia, I swear he remembers every little detail of everything. I'll have to just record him talking about his time on the ship one of these days.

Anyway, here are some random notes I took during the call:

The note in the second image I posted ( https://i.imgur.com/SXZEP02.jpeg ) is an engine used in the f3 demon. He said this is how he lost a lot of his hearing. They called it screaming demon, had nothing to do with speed, it was the sound. It was unbelievably loud and super high pitched.

You were correct, the engine was in a Skyraider. I googled the engine when I got home and the first thing that came up was the B29. Kinda had a duh moment when it was pointed out that a B29 is much larger than anything that would be on an aircraft carried :P.

He told he about how they first tried the Skyraider engine in the b29 but it kept failing and pilots came back not being able to keep them all running. I guess they just threw it in there initially out of necessity and it kept giving them issues for a while.

he worked with F4s as well, said he stood down the runway and the wheels were already coming up as it passed him. The thing would turn around after takeoff and heɽ time it with his stopwatch. You couldn't see it 28 seconds later. If they used their afterburners, it would need to be re-painted every single time it came back just from air friction.

As for the notes in the picture, he said this was what he wrote down as he was being taught, and then he added additional notes over time.


Early life

MacArthur was the third son of Arthur MacArthur, later the army’s senior ranking officer, and Mary Hardy MacArthur, an ambitious woman who strongly influenced Douglas. He was graduated from West Point in 1903 with the highest honours in his class and served the next 10 years as an aide and a junior engineering officer, following this with four years on the general staff. He spent several months with the U.S. troops that occupied Veracruz, Mexico, in 1914.

On the 42nd Division’s staff in 1917–19, MacArthur was variously chief of staff, brigade commander, and divisional commander during combat operations in France during World War I and in the Rhine occupation that followed. During the 1920s he initiated far-reaching reforms while superintendent at West Point, served on William (“Billy”) Mitchell’s court-martial, held two commands in the Philippines, commanded two U.S. corps areas, and headed the 1928 American Olympic Committee.

Having advanced in rank to brigadier general in 1918 and to major general seven years later, MacArthur was promoted to general when he was selected as army chief of staff in 1930. His efforts as military head for the next five years were largely directed toward preserving the army’s meagre strength during the Great Depression. MacArthur was widely criticized in mid-1932 when he sent regular troops to oust the Bonus Army of veterans from Washington. In 1935–41 he served as Philippines military adviser (and field marshal), endeavouring, despite inadequate funds, to build a Filipino defense force. He retired from the U.S. Army in December 1937.

MacArthur married Louise Cromwell Brooks in 1922, but the childless union ended in divorce seven years later. In 1937 he married Jean Faircloth Arthur, their only child, was born in Manila the next year.


Freeport Doctrine

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Freeport Doctrine, position stated by Democratic U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas that settlers in a U.S. territory could circumvent the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision—which held that neither states nor territories were empowered to make slavery illegal—simply by failing to provide for police enforcement of the rights of slave owners to their slaves. The doctrine was first presented during the second of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, in Freeport, Illinois, on August 27, 1858.

Douglas was elected as a U.S. Representative from Illinois in 1843, and three years later he successfully ran for the Senate. As chairman of the Committee on Territories, he was deeply involved in the bitter debate about whether slavery should be extended westward into the new territories. He developed the theory of popular sovereignty, which held that residents of a territory (rather than Congress) had the right to decide whether to permit slavery. At the time of his election, the Missouri Compromise (1820), which had allowed Maine to enter the Union as a free state and Missouri as a slave state, banned slavery in the remaining part of the Louisiana Purchase north of latitude 36°30′.

The Compromise of 1850, proposed by Senator Henry Clay, allowed California, which straddled that boundary line but was west of the Louisiana Purchase, to enter the Union as a free state. It also established the new territories of Utah and New Mexico under charters that were silent as to the issue of slavery, thus allowing their legislatures to determine whether they would become slave or free states. Douglas then introduced what became the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. This legislation extended to Kansas and Nebraska, previously required by the Missouri Compromise to ban slavery, the right to choose for themselves whether to allow slavery. Abolitionists saw this as a step backward, and the new law resulted in near civil war in Kansas. In addition, antislavery leaders established the Republican Party partly in response to the 1854 act. The law was overturned, however, by the Dred Scott decision, handed down in 1857, in which the Supreme Court ruled that no African American could be a citizen of the United States and that the Constitution does not allow a state or territory to ban slavery.

Abraham Lincoln, the Republican candidate contesting Douglas’s reelection to the U.S. Senate in 1858, suggested a series of debates. At Freeport, Lincoln asked Douglas to reconcile the Dred Scott decision with his preferred policy of popular sovereignty. Douglas responded that territories could effectively ban slavery by failing to make laws that supported it—the Freeport Doctrine:

It matters not what way the Supreme Court may hereafter decide as to the abstract question whether slavery may or may not go into a Territory under the Constitution, the people have the lawful means to introduce it or exclude it as they please, for the reason that slavery cannot exist a day or an hour anywhere, unless it is supported by local police regulations. Those police regulations can only be established by the local legislature, and if the people are opposed to slavery they will elect representatives to that body who will by unfriendly legislation effectually prevent the introduction of it into their midst. If, on the contrary, they are for it, their legislation will favor its extension.

While Douglas’s Kansas-Nebraska Act had infuriated Northern Democrats who were opposed to the spread of slavery, his Freeport Doctrine was acceptable to many Northern Democrats. However, it angered those in the South who favoured the continuation of slavery. Although Douglas was returned to the Senate in 1858, his stature as leader of the increasingly divided Democratic Party was diminished, and the Freeport Doctrine played a role in the ascendancy of the antislavery Republican Party and in Douglas’s loss to Lincoln in the presidential election of 1860.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Jeff Wallenfeldt, Manager, Geography and History.


Historical Snapshot

The McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet was designed for aircraft carrier duty and was the first tactical aircraft designed to carry out both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. The U.S. Marines ordered it as an F-18 fighter and the Navy as an A-18 attack aircraft. It can switch roles easily and can also be adapted for photoreconnaissance and electronic countermeasure missions.

The F/A-18 Hornet was also the first aircraft to have carbon fiber wings and the first tactical jet fighter to use digital fly-by-wire flight controls. Variants included a two-seater, an improved fighter, a reconnaissance aircraft and a night-attack fighter.

Hornets entered active duty in January 1983. In 1986, Hornets on the USS Coral Sea flew their first combat missions. During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, while performing an air-to-ground mission, Hornets switched to fighter mode and destroyed two Iraqi MiG-21s in air-to-air combat, then switched back to attack mode and successfully completed their air-to-ground mission. During 2001, Hornets provided around-the-clock battlefield coverage in the Afghanistan Theater of operations.

The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet made its first flight in November 1995. The Super Hornet is a low-observable aircraft that performs multiple missions, including air superiority, day-and-night strike with precision-guided weapons, fighter escort, and close air support. It is operational in 10 U.S. Navy Carrier Air Wings (25 squadrons) and the Royal Australian Air Force.

The Super Hornet is produced in the single-seat E model and the two-seat F model. The F/A-18E/F is 25 percent larger than the original Hornet and has increased maneuverability, range, and payload, and more powerful engines. It entered operational service with the U.S. Navy in 1999, after Boeing had merged with McDonnell Douglas, won the Collier Trophy for that year and flew its first combat missions in 2002.

In April 2005, Boeing delivered the first Block II Super Hornet, an upgraded Super Hornet with the world&rsquos first tactical multimode active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.

In 2008, the EA-18G Growler joined the Navy&rsquos aircraft fleet. A Super Hornet derivative, the EA-18G provides tactical jamming and electronic protection for U.S. and allied forces, delivering full-spectrum airborne electronic attack capability along with the targeting and self-defense capabilities of the Super Hornet.

On April 22, 2010 &mdash Earth Day&mdash an unmodified, Boeing-built F/A-18F Super Hornet took off from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., powered by a sustainable biofuel blend of 50 percent camelina and 50 percent JP-5 aviation fuel. Boeing had worked with the Navy on laboratory testing of fuel properties and engineering evaluations of fuel system compatibility. Nicknamed Green Hornet, the F/A Super Hornet has won seven consecutive awards for environmental excellence from the U.S. Navy.

In August 2013, Boeing and Northrop Grumman began flight tests with a prototype of an Advanced Super Hornet aircraft with conformal fuel tanks, an enclosed weapons pod and signature enhancements.


Operational History

World War II

The B-29 Superfortress was the most technologically advanced bomber of World War II. The first combat operations for the Superfortress began with the raid on Bangkok on June 5th, 1944. It turned out that the B-29 was the only long-range bomber able to reach and bomb Japan and return safely. It was quickly learned that the B-29 was a real winner.

During wartime, the B-29 Superfortress flew at altitudes of 40,000 feet at speeds of 350 mph. What was so great about that was the Japanese fighters could barely reach altitudes like that and once there had a real tough time catching the fast Superfortress. Hitting one with the heaviest of anti-aircraft weapons was next to impossible because at the time the Axis forces did not have proximity fuses.

Early in 1945, the role changed from a high altitude day bomber to a low altitude night bomber. The defensive armament was removed to carry greater fuel and bomb loads.

For the first time in history, crews enjoyed a fully pressurized cabin in the bomber. A long tunnel spanned over the two bomb bays to the tail section allowing the crew to crawl back and forth. This leaving the bomb bays un-pressurized eliminating the need to depressurize them for the bombing.

The most famous of the B-29’s in the well known “Enola Gay”, which dropped the first atomic bomb used in wartime. The atomic bomb known as “Little Boy” was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945. Another B-29 called “Bockscar” dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki three days later. It was these actions along with the Soviet invasion of Manchuria on August 9th of 1945 that cause the Japanese to surrender and the official end of World War II.

The Soviet Copy

Individual B-29s made several emergency landings in Soviet territory during 1944, after bombing raids on Japanese Manchuria and Japan. The Soviets interned and kept the bombers in accordance with Soviet neutrality in the Pacific War. The Tupolev OKB dismantled and studied them, despite American requests for their return. Soon afterward, Tupolev and his design bureau received from Stalin the order to copy the B-29s down to their smallest details, and produce as soon as possible a design ready for quantity production.

The Soviets debuted in 1947 both the Tupolev Tu-70 transport variant and the Tupolev Tu-4 “Bull” copy of the B-29. Many later bombers and transports would have incorporated tail-gunner positions similar to the B-29.


Watch the video: Diabolini xb-31 250 (July 2022).


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