Friday, September 16, 2011

Air & Space Magazine 2009-07

IN 1941, WHEN IT APPEARED that Britain's battle against Germany might fail, the U.S. Army Air Forces called for a bomber that could fly 10,000 miles with a 10,000-pound payload. Northrop responded with the XB-35 Flying Wing; Consolidated offered the XB-36 Peacemaker. In 1947, my boss, Colonel Albert "Bullet" Boyd, chief of the Army Air Forces Flight Test Division at Wright Field in Ohio, sent Glenn Edwards, Danny Forbes, and me�"los tr�s amigos"�to the barren California wasteland known as Muroc Army Air Field, along with civilian flight test engineer Richard Smith. We shared Danny as copilot. We had all the fun of flying, and Dick Smith had all the work of reducing our collected data into readable form. I was supposed to have flown the propeller-driven version of the Flying Wing, the XB-35. But I had told Colonel Boyd that any engineer who put a propeller on the trailing edge of a wing did not deserve his diploma. The air flowing over the top of the wing has a different temperature, velocity, and dynamic pressure than the air flowing under it, so those little propeller blades had to cut through two different air masses in microseconds, and the difference caused flutter.