Letters From Readers – March 2011 Aviation History

Skunk Works Canard
I read Peter Garrison’s “Skunk Works Days” article in the January issue about the rapid development of the XP-80 with more than a little interest. As a curator at Seattle’s Mu­seum of Flight in the mid-’80s, I heard rumors about Palmer’s logbook and wondered whether it really existed. Apparently it did, and what Garrison has gleaned from it is extremely insightful stuff! It’s nice to see a highly competent author given the opportunity to articulate its essence so well for the general reader.

I noted Garrison’s contention that apparently Lockheed’s L-133 canard “had nothing in common with the XP-80.” In the early 1950s I came across an article in which the author alluded to Lockheed’s canard and suggested that Johnson had borrowed liberally from it for his P-80. He went on to im­ply, as does Garrison, that Johnson at length rejected the earlier radical airframe, reasoning that movement from the known to the unknown in the propulsion department promised travail enough, let alone introducing aerodynamic mysteries in the bargain. That author declared that Johnson’s quick path to a workable jet was simply to mount the canard’s cockpit to the rear of the airframe, turn it around 180 degrees and motor away with a finished product!
A bit of hyperbole, perhaps, and because the article contained no photos, diagrams or sketches of the canard, one was left with little more than the author’s unsupported word on the matter. However, now that I see a picture of the model some 55 years later, it seems that author’s contention may have been more truth than poetry. He did mention that the canard’s wing was donated intact to the P-80.
I also recall that he discussed the canard’s jet exhausts and their similarity to the air intake configuration on the prototype, Lulu Belle. Of course, it’s all speculation, but once I saw the similarity in overall shapes of wings and orifices, one possible reason why Johnson was able so quickly to cut metal and begin fabrication on his XP-80 leapt to mind: He may already have had one in his back pocket!

Michael McCrath
Seattle, Wash.

Peter Garrison responds: As Mr. McCrath writes, the thinking that went into the design of the L-133 certainly affected the design of the P-80, if only in suggesting what not to do. But it is an exaggeration to say that if you turned the L-133 around and moved the cockpit, you got a fair approximation of the P-80. Within the limits of what a single-engine jet can possibly be, the two designs could hardly have been more different.

One Vindicator Remains
Regarding the “Briefing” article in the January 2011 issue on the recovery of an SB2C-4 Helldiver, which stated that there were no surviving Vought SB2U Vindi­cators: Actually, a Vindicator was recovered from Lake Michigan in 1990. Since restored, it is on display at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Fla., where I saw it during a visit last September. The recently recovered Helldiver had just been delivered, and was on a skid next to the restoration hangar.

John F. Brugger
Cincinnati, Ohio

Northrop Floatplane
Robert Guttman’s “Restored” article on the Northrop N-3PB (January) was very well done, but he incorrectly states that the staff of the Western Museum of Flight restored the plane found in Norway. In fact it was re­stored by a group of Northrop’s Aircraft Division employees, some of whom had worked on the N-3PB production line, at a Northrop hangar in Hawthorne, Calif.

WMOF and the Darrel G. McNeal Resto­ration Facility are part of the Southern Cali­fornia Historical Aviation Foundation, founded in 1979 by Richard W. Hillar and Northrop personnel, and dedicated to preserving and honoring aviation advancements by Southern California’s aero­space companies. Originally based at the John Northrop Airport in Hawthorne, WMOF is now located in Torrance.

Hy R. Joseph
Chief Docent and Restorer
Western Museum of Flight

Thunderscreech on a Stick
I read with interest the “Extremes” article in the November issue on the Republic XF-84H turboprop. In January 1998 I took a picture of one that was serving as a gate guard in Bakersfield, Calif., at the time. Nobody I asked at the base seemed to know what it was.

I thought some wag had just stuck a prop on an F-84 and stuck it on a pylon as a joke. Well, now we know.

J.R. Moran
Terra Bella, Calif.

DC-2 Restoration
On P. 11 of the January issue, a “Briefing” article incorrectly attributed the restoration of a 1934 Douglas DC-2 that won the Howard Hughes Trophy in Reno last year to Pete Regina. Having spent several thousand hours over 15 years taking that plane from basket case to airworthiness, I can assure you that all the heavy lifting on the DC-2 restoration was accomplished by volunteers of the Douglas Historical Foundation.

John W. McWilliams
Long Beach, Calif.

Thanks for the clarification. The National Aviation Heritage Invitational website lists the airplane as having been “restored by Pete Regina,” but that should in no way detract from the efforts of the Douglas His­torical Foundation volunteers who worked to bring this DC-2 back to life.

Send letters to Aviation History Editor, World History Group, 19300 Promenade Drive, Leesburg, VA 20176-6500, or e-mail to aviationhistory@weiderhistorygroup

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