JULY 2003 NEWSLETTER US DIVISION
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Members will have noticed that the US pages carry an earlier date than the main newsletter. This is because the US page is added to the main paper newsletter when it is circulated in the US in arrear of the UK edition, so it is actually published between UK paper editions. So this month we have US pages dated July
THE LAST WRIGHTS
THE WRIGHT NAME IN AVIATION 1903-1983
Some inventors names become synonymous with their products, like Hoover. Others survive for many years in major companies that bear their name like Daimler and Benz. In Aviation many pioneers founded companies that, in many cases under new ownership, survived them. Among the French pioneers Bleriot and Farman only survived until the 1920’s, in Britain the name of Avro (A.V Roe) and survived to the 1960s and the former was revived as a brand-name by BAE Systems for the B.Ae146 and, as the Avro RJX was the last complete airliner to be built in the UK (Islander variants excluded). In the US the names of Wright and Curtiss survived to the 1950s, although for most of the time the Wright name was not associated with aircraft but engines. But these engines, named for winds like Whirlwind and Cyclone, in competition with Pratt & Whitney Hornet and Wasp series powered every high power US aircraft that used the radial engine – and that meant most of them.
The Wright Manufacturing business was known as the Wright Aeronautical Company. The other great US pioneer Glenn Curtiss founded his Curtiss Motor Co in 1907. It expanded by numerous acquisitions and in 1929 the Curtiss-Robertson Airplane Manufacturing Co merged with Wrights to form the Curtiss-Wright Airplane Co in St Louis. The history of the Curtiss company is difficult to trace in many ways due to the number of acquisitions and mergers. In particular the type designations of its products are inconsistently recorded. So although all its activities were under the umbrella of the Curtiss-Wright name, Curtiss-Wright was not always used in a type name, or CW associated with a number. It seems that the Curtiss-Wright designation for aircraft was only used for a short time in the late thirties which covered the types CW-20, 21 and 22. The former became better known as the C-46 Commando. This one operates post-war for Cuban carrier Aerovias Q advertising 3 flights daily to Havana from Florida locations.
The latter were fighter and trainer designs being used by the Dutch Air Force and the US Navy respectively. Both CW21 and 22 had Wright engines but the CW-20 and C-46 had Pratt & Whitneys. This CW-22 Falcon (US Navy SNC) trainer was Wright Whirlwind powered. Real Photographs Ltd 1953.
The Hawk fighter, Curtiss 75 for the USAAF and French Air was supplied with both Wright 1000 h.p Cyclone and Pratt & Whitney power. 1940 artist card of a French Air Force example.
Its contemporary the Brewster Buffalo consisted of a Wright Cyclone 9 cylinder 850 h.p engine and not much else but was totally outclassed by the Mitsubishi 00 (Zero) which it met over Singapore. For more links between the Zero and Wright power see “What Do You Know”. Also by Valentine 38A-87
Although Wright was part of the Curtiss-Wright group there seemed to be no assumption that Curtiss aircraft would use Wright engines. One that did was the Helldiver, where a Curtiss airframe combined with Wright 1,650 h.p 14 cylinder Cyclone power in the SB2C-1 Helldiver for the US Navy plus a few A-25 versions for the Army like this on Real Photographs 1949 .
In the early 30s the Wright Whirlwind Engine competed with Pratt & Whitney’s Hornet, with Wright going ahead with the launch of the Cyclone which powered the first DC-3 s, Boeing B-17 Fortress and Stratoliner. Later model DC-3s C-47 and the Douglas four-engined models however adopted Pratt & Whitneys, as did Boeing for the B-29 Super Fortress. Douglas returned to Wrights for the C-117 Super DC-3 and the DC-7 series. The Lockheed Constellation series however stayed with Wright through to the Turbo Compounds used in the L1649 Starliner. Lockheed also used Wrights on the P2V Neptune. Other significant types to be Wright powered were the Grumman Avenger, Wildcat and much later Tracker/Tracer and, also for the US Navy, the Douglas Skyraider. In the transport field Wrights powered the Fairchild C-119 Packet.
Wright, like Curtiss , never made the transition through to jet power, and will always be associated with the air cooled radial piston engine. It made 20,000 between 1919 and 1939 but from 1939-45 production, almost entirely of Cyclone variants, numbered 200,000. Curtiss did build a jet fighter – the 4 engined XF- 87 which understandably lost out to the Northrop Scorpion for USAF orders. Wrights developed a turboprop the XT-35, flown n the nose of a B-17 test bed but not proceeded with. An arrangement was made to build the UK Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire and Bristol Olympus jets under licence and the Sapphire was used in the Republic F-84F and the Martin B-57 Canberra derivative.
last Wright engines to enter airline service powered the DC-7C and Lockheed
L.1649A Starliner with 4 3500 h.p 18 cylinder R-3350 Turbo-Compounds.
DC-7C is of Mexicana at Los Angeles LAX on Plastichrome P22745
and the Starliner is a Lufthansa official issue.
its peak in WW2 the Curtiss-Wright company had 3
aircraft plants in Buffalo, NY,
with others at Columbus OH, St Louis MO and Louisville, KY. Engine plants were
in Paterson and Wood Ridge, New jersey and Cincinnatti, OH. The Curtiss-Wright
company sold its aircraft manufacturing business and designs to North American
around 1957. The St Louis plant had been sold to McDonell in 1946.
was a brief revival of Curtiss aircraft construction with experimental vertical
take off designs in 1959 which produced the VZ-7(X-100) and X-19(X-200), designs
with 4 tilt prop/rotors. The crash
of the X-19 in 1965 ended the Curtiss involvement in aircraft design, but the
concept is still around in the Bell-Boeing XV-22 Osprey. Finally
The Wright business was sold to agricultural machinery group John Deere
in 1983 but the Curtiss-Wright Group still survives as a component
Engines as such rarely feature on postcards and none of those known seem to feature Wrights. In this issue all Constellations in Cards are Out There and What do you Know are Wright powered, as also is the early DC-3 at Albuquerque in Desert Airports as well as the types shown in this section.
After crossing the Mediterranean, the empire air routes of European powers all involved crossing desert. The British and French had to cross the western and eastern Sahara respectively to access their African colonies and both and the Dutch had to cross the middle east to India and the Far East. Initially military facilities were used. In the case of the route across Jordan and Iraq, this extended to the provision of a furrow ploughed as a substitute for the rail lines used to assist navigation in Europe but absent in the desert. Later special facilities were built – most of which reflected the kind of building to be found in those regions. Interestingly a similar style of building was employed in the South West of the USA. All had many features in common with the desert-fort associated both the French Foreign Legion and the US 6th Cavalry. The Imperial base at Sharjah in the gulf was actually in the form of a fort – for a view of life therein there is an Imperial film, now available on Video in the British Airways Archive series. Sharjah is described as an Arab town of 15,000 inhabitants primarily engaged in fishing, boat building and pearl fishing. It is now part of the United Arab Emirates with its own very successful airline, Emirates (see Editorial). The film shows passengers arriving from England via Alexandria and Baghdad and being accommodated in rooms in the fort while HP.42 Hanno is serviced with the aid of searchlights. Although similar to scenes in the film this Tuck Imperial card of Horsa seems more likely to be in India (Karachi ?) by the local dress.
A similar, airliner outside a walled compound, is shown on the next card of Tiznit in then, French Morocco. Although in this case the walled area is the city of Tiznit and the airliner, a Fokker FVII/3m is EC-AUA - of Spanish Carrier LAPE. This card by Photo Landrin.
Again in Morocco, with a similar hangar to that at Tiznit is this card by photographer Bertou, Alhambra of a Lignes Latecoere Breguet 14 - one of the 104 operated at some time by this airline
desert fort look is preserved in airports built in British administered
territories in the Middle east in the 1930s, although the form of buildings at
the airports for established cities was more traditional, tower, terminal and
hangars. Possibly designed by the same hand are the airports at Basra in
Iraq (cards by Salmin, Basra & Bromfoto– Leonardo Pinzauti collection)
and Lydda in then Palestine,
Across the Atlantic the desert style flourished n the south-west USA where the airports at both Albuquerque, New Mexico and El Paso, Texas were built in the local “Adobe” style. This card by Curteich for local distributor Southwest Postcard of Albuquerque shows a TWA DC-3. Like many cards of this airport at the time it also shows local colour in the form of Navajo Indians. The card back claims that the Navajo for an aeroplane is “chi-di-nah-tah-ee”, literally a “ the wagon that files” which seems particularly apt for a DC-3. Unfortunately the card itself insists on saying that it is “ a mammoth Stratoliner”.
Another DC-3 in the desert forms the subject of Worth a second Glance in this issue.
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