Martin-Baker MB5 dH front

Martin-Baker MB5 Fighter

By William Pearce

On 12 September 1942, the Martin-Baker MB3 fighter crashed after its Napier Sabre engine seized. Company co-founder Captain Valentine H. Baker was killed during the attempted forced landing. James Martin, the aircraft’s designer, had already designed the MB3A, which was the production version of the MB3 that incorporated several changes to enhance the fighter’s performance. The second MB3 prototype was to be completed as a MB3A. After the MB3 was destroyed and Baker was killed, Martin wanted to further alter the aircraft’s design to improve its safety and performance. Perhaps the paramount change was to replace the Sabre engine with a Rolls-Royce Griffon.

Martin-Baker MB5 Rotol front

The Martin-Baker MB5 was one a few aircraft that sat at the pinnacle of piston-engine fighter development. Here, the aircraft is pictured at Harwell around the time of its first flight. The Rotol propeller is installed but the 20 mm cannons are not.

The British Air Ministry doubted the quick delivery of the two MB3 prototypes still on order and was agreeable to a contract change. They authorized the construction of a single prototype of the new aircraft design designated MB5. The MB5 was given serial number R2496, which was originally allocated to the second and never-built MB3 aircraft. The third MB3 prototype was cancelled.

The Martin-Baker MB5 was officially designed to the same Air Ministry Specification (F.18/39) as the MB3. Also, the aircraft’s construction closely followed the methods used on the MB3. The aircraft’s fuselage was made of a tubular steel frame with bolted joints. Attached to the frame were formers that gave the fuselage its shape. Aluminum skin panels were attached to the formers, and detachable panels were used wherever possible. A rubber seal attached to the formers ensured the tight fit of the detachable skin panels, which were secured by Dzus fasteners. The large and easily removed panels helped simplify the aircraft’s service and maintenance.

Martin-Baker MB5 Rotol org tail rear

Again, the MB5 is shown at Harwell. The original vertical stabilizer and rudder were very similar to those used on the MB3. The inner gear doors are not installed on the aircraft.

The MB5’s wings were very similar to those used on the MB3, except that each housed only two 20 mm cannons with 200 rpg. All control surfaces used spring servo tabs; the rudder was fabric-covered, but all other control surfaces were metal-covered. The aircraft’s brakes, split flaps, and fully retractable landing gear were pneumatically controlled, and the air system operated at 350 psi (24.13 bar). The main wheels had a wide track of 15 ft 2 in (4.62 m). Two fuel tanks were housed in the aircraft’s fuselage: an 84 gallon (318 L) tank was positioned in front of the cockpit, and a 156 gallon (591 L) tank was positioned behind the cockpit. The cockpit was positioned directly above the wings and was enclosed with a bubble canopy. The cockpit had very good visibility, and its design was praised for the excellent layout of gauges and controls. The three main gauge clusters hinged downward for access and maintenance.

The MB5 was powered by a Rolls-Royce Griffon 83 engine capable of 2,340 hp (1,745 kW) with 25 psi (1.72 bar) of boost and 130 PN fuel. The engine originally turned a six-blade Rotol contra-rotating propeller, but by late 1945, a 12 ft 6 in (3.81 m) de Havilland contra-rotating unit was installed. A small scoop under the spinner brought in air to the Griffon’s two-speed, two-stage supercharger. The intercooler, radiator, and oil cooler were arranged, in that order, in a scoop under the fuselage. This arrangement provided some heat to the oil cooler when the engine was first started and prevented the oil from congealing and restricting the flow through the cooler.

Martin-Baker MB5 2nd tail

An intermediate modification to the MB5’s tail involved a more vertical leading edge that increased the fin’s area. This version of the tail did not last long before the completely redesigned unit was installed. The aircraft still has the Rotol propeller.

The aircraft had a 35 ft (10.7 m) wingspan, was 37 ft 9 in (11.5 m) long, and was 14 ft 4 in (4.4 m) tall. The MB5 had a maximum speed of 395 mph (636 km/h) at sea level, 425 mph (684 km/h) at 6,000 ft (1,829 m), and 460 mph (740 km/h) at 20,000 ft (6,096 m). Normal cruising speed was 360 mph (578 km/h) at 20,000 ft (6,096 m). The aircraft stalled at 95 mph (153 km/h) clean and at 78 mph (126 km/h) with flaps and gear extended. The MB5 had an initial rate of climb of 3,800 fpm (19.3 m/s) and could reach 20,000 ft (6,096 m) in 6.5 minutes and 34,000 ft (10,363 m) in 15 minutes. The MB5’s service ceiling was 40,000 ft (12,192 m), and it had a range of around 1,100 miles (1,770 km). The aircraft had an empty weight of 9,233 lb (4,188 kg), a normal weight of 11,500 lb (5,216 kg), and an overload weight of 12,090 lb (5,484 kg).

Construction of the MB5 started in 1943, and some components (possibly the wings and tail) of the second MB3 prototype were used in the MB5. The work on the aircraft was delayed because of other war work with which Martin-Baker was involved. In addition, Martin continued to refine and tinker with the MB5’s design, much to the frustration of the Air Ministry. However, the Air Ministry decided that Martin was going to do whatever he thought was right and that the best course of action was to leave him alone; the MB5 would be done when Martin decided it was done.

Martin-Baker MB5 dH front

The MB5 pictured close to its final form. The de Havilland propeller, inner gear doors, and taller vertical stabilizer and rudder have been installed. Note the smooth lines of the cowling. The position of the cockpit gave a good view over the aircraft’s nose and wings.

Captain Baker was Martin-Baker’s only test pilot and was never replaced. As the MB5 neared completion in the spring of 1944, Rotol test pilot (Leslie) Bryan Greensted was loaned to fly the aircraft. On 23 May 1944, the MB5 was disassembled and trucked from Martin-Baker’s works in Denham to the Royal Air Force (RAF) station in Harwell. The aircraft was reassembled and underwent some ground runs. Later that same day, Greensted took the MB5 aloft for its first test flight. To disassemble, transport, reassemble, and flight test an aircraft all in one day speaks to the MB5’s impressive design.

Greensted was not overly impressed with the aircraft’s first flight, because the MB5 exhibited directional instability; in fact, he said the aircraft “was an absolute swine to fly.” Martin listened intently to Greensted’s comments and immediately went to work on a solution. The increased blade area of the contra-rotating propellers had a destabilizing effect when coupled with the MB3 tail that was originally used on the MB5. To resolve the issue, Martin designed a taller vertical stabilizer and rudder, which were fitted to the MB5. The change took six months for Martin to implement, but when Greensted flew the aircraft, he was impressed by its performance and handling. In addition, a new horizontal stabilizer was fitted, but it is not known exactly when this was done. From its first flight until October 1945, the MB5 accumulated only about 40 flight hours. Martin-Baker had been informed around October 1944 that no MB5 production orders would be forthcoming, given that the war was winding down, and any production aircraft would most likely enter service after the war was over.

Martin-Baker MB5 dHf

The MB5 undergoing maintenance. A large panel has been removed from under the aircraft, and one of the inner gear doors has also been removed. Note the Dzus fasteners on the cowling and that the spinner is now painted black. The small scoop under the spinner delivered air to the engine’s supercharger.

Some sources state the MB5 was prepared for a speed run in the fall of 1945. The Griffon engine was boosted to produce 2,480 hp (1,849 kW), and the aircraft reached 484 mph (779 km/h) on a measured course near Gloucester. However, the speed record claim seems highly doubtful. On 29 October 1945, the MB5 was one of the aircraft exhibited at the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) Farnborough. It was the only aircraft present that had contra-rotating propellers. While Greensted was demonstrating the aircraft before Winston Churchill and RAF officials, the Griffon engine failed. With his vision obscured by oil and some smoke in the cockpit, Greensted jettisoned the canopy. The canopy flew back and struck the tail, but Greensted was able to land the MB5 without further damage.

The MB5 had accumulated around 80 flight hours by the time it was handed over to the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at Boscombe Down. In March, April, and May 1946, the MB5 was flown by various pilots, and the aircraft’s performance and handling characteristics were well praised, but it was noted that the MB5’s acceleration and its roll rate were not quite on par with contemporary fighters. Overall, the tests showed that the MB5 was an excellent aircraft and that it was greatly superior from an engineering and maintenance standpoint to any other similar type. The MB5 was back at RAE Farnborough for an exhibition in June 1946. During the show, Polish Squadron Leader Jan Zurakowski flew the aircraft in a most impressive display and later stated that the MB5 was the best airplane he had ever flown.

Martin-Baker MB5 show

The MB5 was present at RAE Farnborough in October 1945. The display featured the latest British aircraft and several captured German aircraft. In the foreground is a Supermarine Spiteful and the MB5, with its 20 mm cannons installed. Other visible British aircraft include a Blackburn Firebrand, Bristol Brigand, Fairey Firefly, and Fairey Spearfish. Visible German aircraft include a Dornier Do 335, Fieseler Fi 103, Junker Ju 188, a pair of Focke-Wulf Fw 190s, and a Messerschmitt Bf 109. Many other British and German aircraft were present at the display.

The MB5 was flown sparingly until a number of flights were made toward the end of 1947. Wing Commander Maurice A. Smith flew the aircraft during this time and highly regarded the MB5’s layout and performance. From mid-November to the end of 1947, the MB5 was loaned to de Havilland at Hatfield for propeller testing. In 1948, the aircraft returned to RAE Farnborough, where it was flown by legendary pilot Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown. Although Brown was slightly critical of the aircraft’s lateral handling qualities, he said the MB5 was an outstanding aircraft and that he had never felt more comfortable in a new aircraft.

On 5 May 1948, the MB5 was sent to the Air Ministry Servicing Development Unit at RAF Wattisham. There, it served as a training airframe until it was moved to RAF Bircham Newton around 1950. Reportedly, the MB5 was used as a ground target until its battered remains were burned in 1963—an inglorious end for such a fine aircraft.

Martin-Baker MB5 takeoff

The MB5 taking off from Chalgrove in 1948 with Wing Commander Maurice A. Smith at the controls. The MB5’s flaps did not have any intermediate positions—they were either up or down. The 20 mm cannons have been removed. Note the belly scoop’s outward similarity to the scoop used on the P-51 Mustang.

The Martin-Baker MB5 is one of a handful of aircraft that demonstrated superlative performance and flight qualities yet never entered production due to the end of World War II and the emergence of jet aircraft. It is quite impressive that the MB5 was created by a small firm that produced a total of four outstanding aircraft—each being a completely different model. Despite the quality of Martin-Baker’s aircraft and their best efforts to enter the aircraft manufacturing business, the MB5 was the company’s last aircraft. Martin-Baker turned their attention to other aircraft systems and became a pioneer and world leader in ejection seat technology.

An MB5 replica has been under construction by John Marlin of Reno, Nevada for a number of years. Although not an exact copy, Marlin’s reproduction is a labor of love intended to commemorate one of the most impressive aircraft of all time and to honor all who created the original MB5.

Martin-Baker MB5 Martin

James Martin is pictured in front of his masterpiece, the MB5. Martin-Baker’s aircraft never found success; however, the company’s ejection seats have saved thousands of lives and are still in production.

RAF Fighters Part 2 by William Green and Gordon Swanborough (1979)
British Experimental Combat Aircraft of World War II by Tony Buttler (2012)
Wings of the Weird & Wonderful by Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown (1983/2012)
Sir James Martin by Sarah Sharman (1996)
“The Martin-Baker M-B V” Flight (29 November 1945)
“M-B V in the Air” by Wing Commander Maurice A. Smith, Flight (18 December 1947)
“Martin-Baker Fighters,” by Bill Gunston, Wings of Fame Volume 9 (1997)
The British Fighter since 1912 by Francis K. Mason (1992)

Isotta Fraschini Zeta rear

Isotta Fraschini Zeta X-24 Aircraft Engine

By William Pearce

In 1900, Cesare Isotta and Vincenzo Fraschini formed Isotta Fraschini (IF) in Milan, Italy. The firm originally imported automobiles, but began manufacturing its own vehicles by 1904. In 1908, IF started experimenting with aircraft engines and began producing them by 1911. The company went on to build successful lines of air-cooled and water-cooled engines. In the early 1930s, IF experienced financial issues caused in part by the great depression. In 1932, the Italian aircraft manufacturer Caproni purchased IF and continued production of automobiles and engines (both aircraft and marine).

Isotta Fraschini Zeta front

The Isotta Fraschini Zeta used many components from the Gamma V-12 engine. The air-cooled, X-24 Zeta had its cylinder banks at 90 degrees, and cooling the rear cylinders proved to be a problem. (Kevin Kemmerer image)

In the late 1930s, IF developed a pair of inverted, 60 degree, V-12, air-cooled engines. The first of the engines was the Gamma. The Gamma had a 4.92 in (125 mm) bore and a 5.12 in (130 mm) stroke. The engine displaced 1,168 cu in (19.1 L) and produced 542 hp (404 kW) at 2,600 rpm. The second engine was the Delta; it had the same architecture as the Gamma but had a larger bore and stroke of 5.20 in (132 mm) and 6.30 in (160 mm) respectively. The Delta displaced 1,603 cu in (26.3 L) and produced 790 hp (589 kW) at 2,500 rpm.

In 1939, the Ministero dell’Aeronautica (Italian Air Ministry) worked to import Daimler-Benz aircraft engines from Germany and obtain licenses for their production. IF decided to design an engine powerful enough to compete with the Daimler-Benz engines or replace them if sufficient quantities could not be imported.

To speed engine development, IF created the new engine using as much existing technology as possible. Essentially, two Gamma engines were mounted on a common crankcase in an X configuration to create the new engine, which was called the Zeta. The use of air-cooling and a single crankshaft simplified the design of the 24-cylinder Zeta engine.

Isotta Fraschini Zeta rear

All of the Zeta’s accessories were driven at the rear of the engine. A camshaft housing spanned all of the cylinders for one cylinder bank. Note the two spark plug leads for each cylinder extending from the top of the camshaft housing. The pipes for the air starter can been seen on the upper cylinder bank. (Kevin Kemmerer image)

The Isotta Fraschini Zeta was made up of an aluminum crankcase with four cylinder banks, each with six individual cylinders. All cylinder banks were positioned 90 degrees from one another. Each air-cooled cylinder was secured to the crankcase by ten bolts, and the cylinder’s steel liner extended into the crankcase. Each cylinder had two spark plugs that were fired by magnetos positioned at the rear of the cylinder bank.

Each cylinder had one intake and one exhaust valve. Mounted to the top of each bank of cylinders was a camshaft housing that contained dual overhead camshafts. A vertical shaft at the rear of the cylinder bank directly drove the exhaust camshaft. A short cross shaft drove the intake camshaft from the exhaust camshaft. The crankshaft was supported by seven plain bearings, and each connecting rod served four cylinders via a master rod and three articulating rods.

An accessory section at the rear of the engine drove the magnetos, vertical drives for the camshafts, and a single-stage supercharger. The supercharger forced air through intake manifolds between the upper and lower cylinder Vees. The exhaust gases were expelled from the cylinders via individual stacks between the left and right cylinder Vees. A pressurized air starting system was used, and the engine had a compression ratio of 6.5 to 1. The Zeta maintained the 4.92 in (125 mm) bore and 5.12 in (130 mm) stroke of the Gamma. The Zeta displaced 2,336 cu in (38.3 L) and produced 1,233 hp (919 kW) at 2,700 rpm. The engine was around 68 in (1.73 m) long, and 39 in (1.00 m) wide and tall. The Zeta weighed approximately 1,675 lb (760 kg).

Caproni F6Z IF Zeta

The Caproni Vizzola F.6MZ was the only aircraft to fly with a Zeta engine. The close-fitting cowl can be seen bulging around the engine’s cylinder banks, and the removed panels show just how tight of a fit the cowling was. Note the gap around the propeller for cooling air.

The Zeta RC45 was first run on 28 February 1941, and development was slowed due to various design issues. The engine was also having trouble making the forecasted output, with only around 1,085 hp (809 kW) being achieved. As development progressed, many of the issues were resolved, but the engine still lacked power. In May 1943, the Zeta RC24/60 with a two-speed supercharger was run, but the engine was not able to pass its type test. A number of aircraft were considered for conversion from their initial engines to the Zeta, but serious progress was made on only two aircraft.

The Caproni Vizzola F.6M was an all-metal aircraft based on the Caproni Vizzola F.5 but powered by a 1,475 hp (1,100 kW), liquid-cooled, Daimler-Benz DB 605 engine. While the F.6M was being developed, the design of a second version of the aircraft powered by a Zeta RC45 engine was initiated on 7 October 1941. The new design was called F.6MZ (or just F.6Z). The Zeta-powered aircraft was ordered on 16 June 1942, and it was assigned serial number (Matricola Militare) MM.498. The engine change came about because reliable deliveries of the DB 605 and its license-built contemporary, the FIAT RA 1050, could not be assured.

Progress on the Caproni Vizzola F.6MZ was delayed because of the engine. While the F.6M first flew in September 1941, it was not until 14 August 1943 that the F.6MZ took flight. The F.6MZ had a tight-fitting cowling that bulged around the engine’s four valve covers, and four rows of short exhaust stacks protruded from the cowling. Cooling air was taken in from around the spinner, and the air was expelled via an annular slot at the rear of the cowling. An oil cooler was housed in a chin radiator below the cowling.

Caproni Vizzola F6Z

The F.6MZ was first flown on 14 August 1943. The two rows of exhaust stacks can be seen near the cylinder bank bulges. The cooling air exit flaps can just be seen at the rear of the cowling.

First flown by Antonio Moda, the F.6MZ had an estimated top speed of 391 mph (630 km/h), some 37 mph (60 km/h) faster than the F.6M. This speed seems optimistic, considering the Zeta had an output of at least 225 hp (168 kW) less than the DB 605 and that the F.6MZ could not have produced significantly less drag or have been much lighter than the F.6M. The Zeta engine experienced overheating issues throughout the flight test program—the rear cylinders did not have sufficient airflow for proper cooling. Some modifications were made, but further flight tests were halted with Italy’s surrender on 8 September 1943. Two F.6MZ aircraft were ordered, but only the first prototype was built.

In October 1941, Regia Aeronautica (Italian Royal Air Force) requested that Reggiane (Officine Meccaniche Reggiane) replace the DB 605 / FIAT RA 1050 in its RE 2005 Sagittario fighter with the IF Zeta RC24/60. Reggiane was another company owned by Caproni. The Zeta-powered aircraft, developed after the RE 2005, was the Reggiane RE 2004, and seven examples were ordered. Although Reggiane was less enthusiastic about the Zeta than Caproni Vizzola, they did work on designing a firewall-forward engine package.

Isotta Fraschini Zeta SM79

These four images show the Zeta RC24/60 engine installed in the nose of a SM.79. Once tested, this installation would be applied to the Reggiane RE 2004. Note how the exhaust stack arrangement was completely different from that used on the F.6MZ.

A Zeta engine was not delivered to Reggiane until 1943. At the time, Reggiane was building Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparviero three-engined bombers. One SM.79 was modified to have the Zeta engine installed in the nose position. This would enable the engine to be flight tested, and the cooling characteristics of the cowling configuration could be evaluated before the engine was used in the RE 2004. Compared to the F.6Z cowling, the Reggiane cowling had a larger diameter but was a cleaner design. Again, cooling air was brought in from around the spinner and exited through an annular slot at the rear of the cowling, and an oil cooler was positioned below the cowling. The Reggiane installation used exhaust stacks that ended with two close rows along the sides of the cowling. It appears that the Italian surrender occurred before the Zeta engine was ever flown in the SM.79. In fact, the Zeta RC24/60 was never cleared for flight, and the engine used in the SM.79 was most likely a mockup without all of its internal components. Although never built, the RE 2004 had an estimated top speed of 385 mph (620 km/h), 36 mph (58 km/h) slower than the RE 2005. At 7,117 lb (3,228 kg), the RE 2004 was 842 lb (382 kg) lighter than the RE 2005.

IF also designed the Sigma, a larger X-24 engine using cylinders and other components from the inverted, V-12, air-cooled Delta. The Sigma had a 5.20 in (132 mm) bore and 6.30 in (160 mm) stroke. The engine displaced 3,207 cu in (52.5 L) and had an estimated output of 1,578 hp (1,178 kW) at 2,400 rpm. The Sigma was never built, but its approximate dimensions were 82 in (2.08 m) long, and 45 in (1.15 m) wide and tall. The engine weighed around 2,160 lb (980 kg).

Isotta Fraschini Zeta SM79 cowling

The Zeta installation for the RE 2004 (as seen on the SM.79) was fairly clean but somewhat spoiled by the large oil cooler under the cowling. Note the cooling air exit gap at the rear of the cowling.

Tutti gli aerie del Re by Max Vinerba (2011)
Italian Civil and Military Aircraft 1930-1945 by Jonathan W. Thompson (1963)
I Reggiane dall’ A alla Z by Sergio Govi (1985)
The Caproni-Reggiane Fighters 1938-1945 by Piero Prato (1969)
Ali E Motori D’Italia by Emilio Bestetti (1939)
Isotta Fraschini: The Noble Pride of Italy by Tim Nichols (1971)

Schwerer Gustav firing test

Krupp 80 cm Kanone Schwerer Gustav (Dora) Railway Gun

By William Pearce

In the 1930s, France constructed the Maginot Line, which was a series of fortifications and obstacles intended to protect the country against invasion from the east (Germany). The Maginot Line was to serve as an impenetrable wall of defense. Naturally, when one country develops a new defensive technology, other countries rush to develop a way to defeat that technology.

Schwerer Gustav firing test

The Krupp 80 cm Kanone (E) Schwerer Gustav / Dora being readied for a test firing on 19 March 1943 at Rügenwalde, Germany. Albert Speer (right), Adolf Hitler (second from right), and a number of other officials observed the firing. Hitler referred to the impractical gun as “meine stählerne faust (my steel fist).”

After studying details of Maginot Line fortifications that were published in French newspapers, it became apparent to German Wehrmacht (combined armed forces) planners that they did not possess any weapon capable of penetrating the fortifications. In 1935, the Wehrmacht requested Friedrich Krupp AG (Krupp), a heavy industry conglomerate in Essen, Germany, to prepare ballistics reports for guns firing 27.6, 31.5, 33.5, and 39.4 in (70, 80, 85, and 100 cm) shells. The goal was to fire the gun outside of the enemy’s artillery range and be able to penetrate 23 ft (7 m) of reinforced concrete or 3 ft (1 m) of steel armor. The Krupp factory dutifully ran the calculations and supplied the requested information but took no further action.

In March 1936, Adolf Hitler visited the Krupp factory and asked Gustav Krupp (von Bohlen und Halbach), head of the Krupp organization, what type of weapon was needed to smash through the Maginot Line. Krupp, recalling the recent report, was able to answer Hitler’s question in some detail. Krupp explained that a 33.5 in (80 cm) railway gun could be constructed and would be able to defeat the Maginot Line. After Hitler’s visit, Krupp directed his design staff to begin the layout of such a weapon. Erich Müller was the head of the artillery development department at Krupp and began working on the gun’s design.

Schwerer Gustav cradle assymbly

Nicknamed Dora by its crew, the massive gun was broken down into 25 pieces and transported by rail to its firing location. Two gantry cranes were used to reassemble the gun. Here, the cradle is being positioned into the carrier. Note the three normal railroad tracks and the special track for the cranes.

In early 1937, Krupp met with Hitler and presented him with the design for the 33.5 in (80 cm) railway gun. Hitler approved of what he saw, and the German Army High Command (Oberkommando des Heeres) commissioned Krupp to build three guns under the designation 80 cm Kanone (E). However, the guns quickly became known as Schwerer Gustav (Heavy Gustav), named after Gustav Krupp. Hitler wanted the first gun to be ready by March 1940.

The Schwerer Gustav was an absolutely huge weapon. The rifled barrel consisted of two halves, with the rear half covered by a jacket. The complete barrel was 106 ft 7 in (32.48 m) long, and its rifling was .39 in (10 mm) deep. Attached to the rear of the barrel was the cradle and breechblock. Mounted to the cradle were four hydraulic recoil absorbers. Trunnions held the gun’s cradle in two huge carriers and enabled the barrel to be elevated from 0 to 65 degrees. Each carrier was supported by four railroad trucks: two in the front and two in the rear. Each of the eight trucks was made up of five axles, giving the Schwerer Gustav a total of 80 wheels that were carried on two parallel sets of railroad tracks. The gun used a diesel-powered generator to provide power to run its systems. The Schwerer Gustav was 155 ft 2 in (47.30 m) long, 23 ft 4 in (7.10 m) wide, and 38 ft 1 in (11.60 m) tall. The barrel, cradle, and breech weighed 881,848 lb (400,000 kg), and the complete gun weighed 2,976,237 lb (1,350,000 kg).

Schwerer Gustav assymbly tracks

This image gives a good view of the tracks needed to assemble the Schwerer Gustav. One pair of D 311 locomotives is positioned in front of the gun.

In addition to needing parallel tracks, the Schwerer Gustav required its track to be curved up to 15 degrees. The gun had no built-in ability to traverse, so horizontal aiming (azimuth) was accomplished by moving the entire gun along the curved track. Extra bracing was added to the inside rail of both tracks along the shooting curve. This bracing helped prevent the tracks from being damaged due to the gun’s recoil. A massive effort was needed to transport and set up the Schwerer Gustav for firing.

The gun was broken down and transported on 25 freight cars, which did not include crew or supplies. Near where the gun was to be deployed, a spur line was laid from the main rail line. Three parallel tracks were then laid where the Schwerer Gustav was to be assembled. Two of the tracks supported the gun, and the third track allowed for parts and equipment to be brought in. A single rail was laid on both sides of the three parallel tracks. These widespread rails were for two gantry cranes to take parts from the third track and move them in position to assemble the Schwerer Gustav. Two parallel tracks extended from the assembly point to the firing position of the Schwerer Gustav. Dirt was piled up high on both sides of the double track to protect the gun from attack and allow it to be covered by camouflage netting. It took around 250 men 54 hours to assemble the Schwerer Gustav, and it took weeks for 2,000 to 4,500 men to lay the needed tracks and prepare the gun’s firing position. In addition, two Flak (Flugabwehrkanone or air defense cannon) battalions were needed to protect the gun from an aerial assault.

Schwerer Gustav captured shell

Allied soldiers pose in front of a captured projectile (left) and an obturation case (right). The projectile had a ballistic nose cone made of aluminum.

Krupp built special diesel-electric locomotives to move the Schwerer Gustav into firing position and to transport supplies. These locomotives were designated D 311, and two were paired together to act as a single unit, for a total of four engines to move the gun. Each locomotive was powered by a 940 hp (700 kW) six-cylinder MAN diesel engine. The engine ran a generator that provided power to traction motors mounted on the locomotive’s bogies. Ammunition was delivered via the twin rails behind the Schwerer Gustav. Hoists on the back of the gun would lift the ammunition to the firing deck. The shell was hoisted up one side of the gun, and the powder bags and a brass obturation case were hoisted up the other side. A hydraulic ram loaded the shell into the breach, followed by the powder bags and the case. Once loaded, the gun was raised into firing position. It took 20 to 45 minutes to load the gun and prepare it for firing. Only 14 to 16 shots could be fired each day.

Two types of shells were fired from the Schwerer Gustav: armor piercing (AP) and high explosive (HE). The AP rounds were 11 ft 10 in (3.6 m) long and were fired with 4,630 lb (2,100 kg) of propellant. The AP round was made of chrome-nickel steel. It weighed 15,653 lb (7,100 kg) and carried 551 lb (250 kg) of explosives. The AP shell had a muzzle velocity of 2,362 fps (720 m/s) and a maximum range of 23.6 miles (38 km). At maximum range, the AP projectile reached an altitude of around 39,370 ft (12 km) and was in the air for two minutes. The HE ammunition was around 13 ft 9 in (4.2 m) long and was fired with 4,938 lb (2,240 kg) of propellant. The HE rounds weighed 10,582 lb (4,800 kg) and carried 1,543 lb (700 kg) of explosives. The HE shell had a muzzle velocity of 2,690 fps (820 m/s) and a maximum range of 29.2 miles (47 km). Upon impact, the HE projectile created a crater some 33 ft (10 m) wide and deep. The muzzle velocity for both the AP and HE shells was over twice the speed of sound, and both were fitted with an aluminum alloy ballistic nose cone. Spotter aircraft were used to direct the gun’s fire and assess the results.

Construction of the Schwerer Gustav started in the spring of 1937, but forging the huge and complex barrel resulted in serious delays. By 1939, Alfried Krupp (von Bohlen und Halbach) began to take over company leadership from his father, whose health had begun to fail. In late 1939, testing started on sample components, and the gun’s AP projectile was able to successfully penetrate 23 ft (7 m) of concrete or 3 ft (1 m) of steel. It was obvious that the Schwerer Gustav would not be ready by the March 1940 deadline Hitler had requested.

Schwerer Gustav hoists

Shells and propellant for the gun were delivered by rail and hoisted up to the firing deck. The shell is on the far side, and the case with powder bags is in front of it (to the right). It took 20 to 45 minutes to reload the gun and prepare it for firing.

In May 1940, Germany invaded Belgium and France. Since the Maginot Line ended at Belgium, rather than extending to the English Channel, Germany was able to simply go around the static fortifications and enter France. On 25 June 1940, France surrendered to Germany.

With the fall of France, the Schwerer Gustav was no longer needed, but discussions ensued regarding other fortifications that the gun could be used against. Many in the Wehrmacht felt the gun was impractical and not worth the resources its construction consumed, let alone the manpower needed to deploy the gun. However, the Schwerer Gustav had become one of Hitler’s personal projects, so its development continued. Alfried Krupp hosted Hitler for a test firing during the gun’s acceptance trials in early 1941 at Rügenwalde, Germany (now Darłowo, Poland). Further tests and development continued through 1941. Some sources indicate that 250 rounds were fired from the gun during its testing.

Schwerer Gustav firing position

The gun was positioned on a shooting curve to allow for horizontal aiming. Rectangular braces were positioned on both sides of the inner rails to protect the tracks from the forces of firing the gun.

On 8 January 1942, Schwere Artillerie-Abteilung (E) 672 (Heavy Artillery Division E 672) was established with 1,420 men and with Oberst (Colonel) Robert Böhm as its commander. The unit was formed to deploy the Schwerer Gustav. As the artillerymen worked on the gun, they called it “Dora,” and the nickname stuck. From that time on, the gun was typically referred to as Dora, rather than Schwerer Gustav. The different names led to some confusion regarding how many guns were built and when they were used. German sources typically indicate that Dora was a nickname from the artillerymen and that only one gun was ever deployed. However, many English sources state that Gustav and Dora were the first and second guns built and that the Dora gun was named in honor of Erich Müller’s wife.

In February 1942, the division was sent to Bakhchisaray in the Crimean Peninsula, then part of the Soviet Union. The gun was to be used on the port city of Sevastopol, 18.6 miles (30 km) southwest of Bakhchisaray. Sevastopol had been under siege by German forces since November 1941. Five separate trains were used to transport the gun, the division, ammunition, supplies, and workshops to the deployment site. The Schwerer Gustav arrived in early March. In May, German troops and civilian workers laid a 1.2 mile (2 km) long access track to the firing site, followed by parallel tracks .75 miles (1.2 km) long for gun assembly and deployment. Once the track was ready, assembly of the gun commenced.

On 5 June 1942, the Schwerer Gustav fired its first round at Sevastopol, and 13 additional shots followed that day. On 6 June, the Schwerer Gustav achieved the highpoint of its career. An ammunition magazine at White Cliff suffered a direct hit from the Schwerer Gustav. The magazine was buried 98 ft (30 m) under Severnaya Bay and had 33 ft (10 m) of concrete protection. The AP round passed though the water, ground, and concrete before detonating the magazine. At least one ship was also sunk after being damaged by blast waves from the impact of nearby shells.

Schwerer Gustav firing

The Schwerer Gustav could fire a 15,653 lb (7,100 kg) AP shell 23.6 miles (38 km) or a 10,582 lb (4,800 kg) HE shell 29.2 miles (47 km). A spotter aircraft directed fire and assessed the results.

The gun was used on three additional days before its ammunition was exhausted. The Schwerer Gustav fired a total of 48 shells at the city, and its barrel had become worn. Some sources claim that the barrel had a 300-round life and was the same one that had fired the 250 test rounds. Other sources state the barrel was new and should have been able to fire 100 shots before it became worn, but signs of wear were seen after as few as 15 shots. Regardless, the Schwerer Gustav’s barrel was replaced with a spare, and the original barrel was transported back to Germany for repairs. Of the 48 rounds fired, only 10 fell within 197 ft (60 m) of their target, with the most off-target shot landing 2,428 ft (740 m) from its intended point of impact. However, each huge shell caused massive damage all around its impact site.

A few weeks after Sevastopol fell on 4 July 1942, Gustav Krupp gave the first Schwerer Gustav to Hitler as a personal gift and a sign of his support and allegiance to the Third Reich. The Krupp company would only accept payment for subsequent guns. The Schwerer Gustav was moved and redeployed for a planned offensive against Leningrad, which was also under siege. The gun had been assembled and placed in firing position, but its planned use was cancelled. The Schwerer Gustav was disassembled and taken back to Rügenwalde.

The gun was overhauled, and an improved, lined barrel was fitted. A test firing on 19 March 1943 at Rügenwalde was attended by Hitler, Albert Speer, Alfried Krupp, and a number of other officials. Two shots were fired, with the second shell impacting 29.2 miles (47 km) away. The Schwerer Gustav was then disassembled and placed in storage near Chemnitz, Germany in September 1943. The gun remained there until 14 April 1945, when it was destroyed by German troops one day before US soldiers captured the area. Parts of the Schwerer Gustav were recovered by the Soviets and supposedly transported to Russia. The second Schwerer Gustav was reportedly completed but never deployed. In March 1945, it was moved from Rügenwalde to Grafenwöhr, Germany, where it was destroyed on 19 April 1945.

Schwerer Gustav shooting curve

While it was a powerful weapon, the Schwerer Gustav required a tremendous amount of resources for its construct and deployment. Its size and complexity severely limited where and when the gun could be deployed and also made it very susceptible to aerial attack.

Around November 1943, plans were initiated to use a cannon to shell Britain from across the English Channel. It was decided that the third Krupp 80 cm Kanone (E) would be built as the gun for this purpose. In order to send a shell 99 to 124 miles (160 to 200 km), a projectile 20.5 in (52 cm) in diameter and weighing 1,499 lb (680 kg) would be shot out of a barrel 157 ft (48 m) long. This gun was named Länger Gustav (Longer Gustav). The gun was damaged during a bombing raid while it was still under construction. Some components for the Länger Gustav were discovered at the Krupp factory in Essen by Allied troops in 1945.

In December 1942, Krupp proposed a self-propelled 80 cm Kanone (E) known as the Landkreuzer P. 1500 Monster. The P. 1500 used the same 31.5 in (80 cm) main gun as the Schwerer Gustav, but it also had two 5.9 in (15 cm) sFH 18.1 L/30 field guns and a number of 15 mm MG151/15 cannons. Powering the P. 1500 were four 2,170 hp (1,618 kW) nine-cylinder MAN M9V 40/46 diesel engines. The P. 1500 was 137 ft 10 in (42 m) long, 59 ft 1 in (18 m) wide, and 23 ft (7 m) tall. True to its name, the Monster weighed 3,306,930 lb (1,500,000 kg). Requiring a crew of over 100, the machine had an estimated top speed of 9.3 mph (15 km/h) and a range of 31 miles (50 km). The P. 1500 project was cancelled in 1943 by Albert Speer, the Minister for Armaments, before any serious work had been done.

After the war, Alfried Krupp and Erich Müller, the gun’s designer, were sentenced to 12 years in prison for crimes against humanity by participating in the plundering, devastation, and exploitation of occupied countries and by participating in the murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, torture, and use for slave labor of German nationals, prisoners of war, and civilians who came under German control. Krupp was pardoned after three years, and Müller was released after four years.

Schwerer Gustav 1 destruction

The first Schwerer Gustav gun was destroyed by German troops on 14 April 1945 to prevent its capture by US forces. Some sources state that the gun was recovered by the Soviets. A US soldier poses in front of the gun’s cradle. The girders attached to the cradle were used for transporting and mounting the cradle to the rest of the gun. The circular pad behind the soldier is a trunnion mount.

While the Schwerer Gustav was mechanically a well-engineered weapon, its requirements for use made it very impractical and nearly useless. The Maginot Line was easily bypassed, rather than penetrated, calling into question why the Schwerer Gustav was needed in the first place. However, Hitler liked the gun and called it his “steel fist.” It was the type of grandiose weapon that Hitler felt displayed the technological superiority of the Third Reich.

No large pieces of the Schwerer Gustav guns remain. However, a number of inert projectiles and cases are preserved in various museums. After the war, the D 331 locomotives were redesignated V 188 and used to haul freight for the West German Railway (Deutsche Bundesbahn).

Schwerer Gustav 2 destruction

Germans destroyed part of the second Schwerer Gustav on 19 April 1945 to prevent its capture. A US soldier gives scale to the gun’s barrel. The second gun’s cradle, which was blown up, can be seen on the left.


Rumpler Loutzkoy-Taube front ground

Rumpler-Loutzkoy-Taube Aircraft

By William Pearce

Boris Loutzkoy (also spelled Lutskoi, Luskoy, Lutsky, and probably other ways) was a Russian engineer who went to Germany to continue his education in the 1880s. Initially, his main interests were with internal combustion engines and automobiles, but it was not long before Loutzkoy turned his focus and engineering talents to aviation.

Rumpler Loutzkoy-Taube front ground

The tandem-engine Rumpler-Loutzkoy-Taube employed coaxial propellers that rotated the same direction. The second engine can just be seen behind the first engine and between the wings. Note the aircraft’s double main wheels.

By 1911, he had teamed up with Rumpler Flugzeugwerke in Berlin, Germany to test an innovative propulsion concept. Loutzkoy’s idea was to use two engines to power separate propellers on a common shaft. Since the propellers shared the same shaft, they were coaxial. However, they were not contra-rotating, because they rotated the same direction. The propellers in Loutzkoy’s system were of different sizes and turned at different speeds. Loutzkoy believed this power arrangement would improve the aircraft’s low- and high-speed performance, with the twin propellers achieving a level of efficiency beyond what could be obtained with a single propeller of any size. In addition, two engines with separate propellers would provide a level of reliability well beyond that of a single power plant. At the time, engines were notoriously unreliable.

To test his theories, Loutzkoy made many modifications to a Rumpler Taube aircraft. The Taube (Dove) was designed in 1909 by Igo Etrich of Austria-Hungary. The aircraft first flew in 1910 and proved to be very stable. A number of manufacturers purchased licenses to build copies, and Rumpler probably produced the most. The Taube was a monoplane with a mostly wooden frame. The front of the aircraft and back to the cockpit was covered in metal, but the rest of the aircraft was fabric-covered. The Taube used wing warping for roll control.

Rumpler Loutzkoy-Taube front

This drawing of the Loutzkoy-Taube illustrates the aircraft’s similarity to a standard Taube. The obvious differences include the double propellers and two main gear wheels.

The Loutzkoy-modified aircraft was named the Rumpler-Loutzkoy-Taube. Changes from a standard Taube included a slightly modified and strengthened airframe, strengthened landing gear (including double wheels), and a slightly larger wing. These changes were made to handle the extra weight and power of a second engine. The approximate dimensions of the Loutzkoy-Taube were a wingspan of 49 ft 10 in (14.3 m) and a length of 34 ft 1 in (10.4 m). The aircraft weighed around 1,764 lb (800 kg) empty. The Loutzkoy-Taube had a top speed of 93 mph (150 km/h), about 31 mph (50 km/h) more than a standard Rumpler Taube.

Powering the Loutzkoy-Taube were two Argus Type 4 engines. The Type 4 was an inline, four-cylinder, water-cooled engine with a 5.51 in (140 mm) bore and stroke. The engine displaced 526 cu in (8.62 L) and produced 100 hp (75 kW) at 1,300 rpm. The two engines drove separate propellers that were mounted on a common shaft: the front engine drove the front propeller, and the second engine drove the second propeller. Both sets of propellers had two blades.

Rumpler Loutzkoy-Taube engines

A basic drawing of the engine installation in the Loutzkoy-Taube.

The front engine was positioned in its normal location, in the nose of the aircraft. However, rather than having its propeller mounted directly to the engine, a short extension shaft was used. The second engine was mounted behind and below the front engine. Power from the second engine was transferred to the front of the aircraft via an extension shaft that ran under the front engine. A sprocket on the end of the extension shaft was connected via a chain to the second propeller, which was positioned between the first propeller and the front engine.

Although the propellers turned the same direction, the second propeller was a larger diameter, turned at a slower rpm, and had a coarser pitch. The first propeller was 8 ft 2 in (2.5 m) in diameter, direct drive, and turned about 1,300 rpm. The second propeller was 9 ft 10 in (3.0 m) in diameter, had a .615 reduction through the chain-drive, and turned around 800 rpm. The aircraft could be flown on either engine if a failure occurred, but the intention was to have both engines operating at all times.

Rumpler Loutzkoy-Taube patent

A drawing from Loutzkoy’s patent shows the basic engine layout that was used in the Loutzkoy-Taube aircraft and includes a change-over gearbox. The gearbox was meant to provide braking after touchdown by reversing the rotation of the second propeller. However, such a gearbox was never installed in the aircraft.

In his German patent no. 263,059 (granted 29 October 1911), Loutzkoy explained how a change-over gearbox could be used to reverse the rotation of the second propeller. This feature would be used for braking after the aircraft landed. In flight, shortly before landing, the second engine would be stopped and the change-over gearbox engaged. The second engine could then be started on touchdown. Its propeller rotating in the opposite direction would slow the aircraft down. Most aircraft at the time did not have any brakes, and using the propeller as a brake would become common with turboprops. However, the reversing propeller idea was never implemented on the Loutzkoy-Taube aircraft.

Rumpler Loutzkoy-Taube Argus engines

Detailed right and left views of the Loutzkoy-Taube’s twin-Argus engine installation. Note the size difference of the propellers. The extension shaft and chain drive from the second engine to the larger propeller can clearly be seen.

The Loutzkoy-Taube was first flown in early 1912, possibly in February, at Johannisthal airfield, near Berlin. With a combined rating of 200 hp (149 kW), the Loutzkoy-Taube was one of the most powerful and fastest aircraft of its time. A number of subsequent flights were made, and Hellmuth Hirth was the pilot for most of the Loutzkoy-Taube’s flights. The aircraft passed an inspection test for the Russian Army on 8 March 1912, achieving a speed of 81 mph (130 km/h). The Loutzkoy-Taube was displayed at the Berlin Airshow in April 1912. However, engine drive issues continued to plague the aircraft. By 1913, Loutzkoy had moved on to another aircraft project. Nothing more was heard of the twin-engine Loutzkoy-Taube and its coaxial propellers.

While it was not the first twin-engine aircraft to fly, the Loutzkoy-Taube was certainly the first aircraft to fly using coaxial, non-contra-rotating propellers. A very small number of aircraft have used this method of propulsion, as it really does not have many advantages over a single propeller and has disadvantages over contra-rotating propellers. Still, Loutzkoy’s ideas demonstrate innovation and creativity in the early days of aviation.

Rumpler Loutzkoy-Taube rear

This rear view of the Loutzkoy-Taube illustrates the aircraft’s similarity, with the exception of the double propellers, to a standard Taube. Note the fuel tanks attached to the cabane strut above the cockpit.

“The Loutzkoy 200-Horsepower Monoplane” Daily Consular and Trade Reports (29 May 1912)
“Rumpler-Taube mit Zwei-Motoren-Anlage System Loutzkoy” Flugsport (13 March 1912)
“Polytechnische Rundschau: Rumpler-Taube mit Motoranlage nach System Loutzkoy” Dinglers Polytechnisches Journal (16 March 1912)
“Flugzeug mit zwei gleichachsig und unmittelbar hintereinander angeordnetem Propellern” German patent no. 263,059 by Boris Loutzkoy (granted 29 October 1911)
Rumpler: zehn jahre deutsche Flugtechnik (1919)
Typenhandbuch der deutschen Luftfahrttechnik by Bruno Lange (1986)
Argus – Flugmotoren und Mehr by Wulf Kisselmann (2012)

Allison V-3420-A front

Allison V-3420 24-Cylinder Aircraft Engine

By William Pearce

In the mid-1930s, the United States Army Air Corps (AAC) was interested in a long-range bomber. Boeing won a contract to build the aircraft, which was originally designated XBLR-1 (eXperimental Bomber Long Range-1), but ultimately became the XB-15. By 1935, the AAC realized that current engines, and those under development, lacked the power needed for such a large aircraft. At the time, the AAC was pursuing its next experimental long-range bomber, the Douglas XBLR-2. The AAC requested the Allison Engineering Company build a 1,600 hp (1,193 kW) engine for the XBLR-2, which later became the XB-19.

Allison V-3420-A front

The Allison V-3420 was much more than two V-1710 engines coupled together. However, as many V-1710 components were used as possible, resulting in only 340 new parts. This is a V-3420-A engine with an attached single-rotation gear reduction.

In 1935, Allison was in the middle of developing its 1,000 hp (746 kW) V-1710 engine. The AAC requested that the new 1,600 hp (1,193 kW) engine have a single crankshaft and use as many V-1710 components as possible to keep development time to a minimum. After evaluating a few different configurations, Allison decided to double the V-1710 to create a 24-cylinder engine in an X configuration. This engine became the X-3420.

The X-3420 would have an entirely new crankcase, crankshaft, gear reduction, supercharger, and accessory section, but it would keep the basic V-1710 cylinder and head. The X-3420 had a flattened X arrangement with a left and right cylinder bank angle of 60 degrees, an upper cylinder bank angle of 90 degrees, and a lower cylinder bank angle of 150 degrees. The fuel-injected engine would produce 1,600 hp (1,193 kW) at 2,400 rpm for takeoff and 1,000 hp (746 kW) at 1,800 rpm for economical cruise. The engine would have an 8.5 to 1 compression ratio and weigh 2,160 lb (980 kg).

While using as many V-1710 components as possible made Allison’s job easier, the X-3420’s single crankshaft and its master and articulating rods required much design work, as did its fuel-injection system. Very quickly, Allison realized it did not have the resources to develop the X-3420 and needed to focus on the V-1710, which was encountering technical issues. Development of the X-3420 was effectively abandoned in 1936. As an alternative, Ron Hazen, Allison’s Chief Engineer, proposed a new 2,000 hp (1,491 kW) engine that had two crankshafts and was more closely based on the V-1710. The engine would produce more power than the X-3420 and be developed in less time. The AAC approved of Hazen’s proposed engine, which became the V-3420. The engine was often referred to as a W-24 or double Vee (DV) and was occasionally called the DV-3420.

Allison V-3420-A rear

Rear view of the V-3420-A shows the supercharger mounted behind the right engine section and various accessories mounted behind the left engine section. The V-3420’s design enabled the engine to produce more power than its X-3420 progenitor.

The Allison V-3420 design was more complex than just coupling two V-1710 engines together. As with the proposed X-3420, a new crankcase, gear reduction, supercharger, and accessory section were at the center of the engine, but the V-3420 would utilize many V-1710 components. The use of two V-1710 crankshafts along with their connecting rods made the V-3420’s design and development much more manageable for Allison. The engine consisted of two 60 degree V-12 engine sections mounted on a common crankcase and separated by 90 degrees, which gave the inner cylinder banks 30 degrees of separation.

As V-1710 development progressed, Allison was able to offer the V-3420 with 2,300 hp (1,715 kW) for takeoff. At 2,300 lb (1,043 kg), the engine would only weigh 140 lb (64 kg) more than the single crankshaft X-3420, but it would produce an additional 700 hp (522 kW). In May 1937, the AAC contracted Allison to build the V-3420 engine prototype.

A large aluminum crankcase sat at the center of the 24-cylinder V-3420 engine. Attached to the crankcase were four cylinder banks. Each cylinder bank consisted of six steel cylinder barrels shrink fitted to a one-piece aluminum cylinder head. Each cylinder barrel was surrounded by an aluminum water jacket. A single overhead camshaft actuated two intake and two exhaust valves for each cylinder. Each cylinder had a 5.5 in (140 mm) bore and a 6.0 in (152 mm) stroke. The engine displaced 3,421 cu in (56.1 L) and had a compression ratio of 6.65 to 1. At the rear of the engine was a supercharger driven by the right crankshaft, and all accessories were driven by the left crankshaft. The engine was also intended to be used with a General Electric turbosupercharger.

Allison V-3420-B NMUSAF rear

This V-3420-B was the type installed in the Fisher XP-75. About 15 ft (4.6 m) of shafting separated the engine from the gear reduction. Note the much larger supercharger compared to the image of the V-3420-A engine. The V-3420-B used a two-stage supercharger and no turbosupercharger. (Gary Brossett image via the Aircraft Engine Historical Society)

There were only 340 parts unique to the V-3420 engine, and those accounted for 930 pieces of the 11,630 that made up the engine. Initially, the V-3420 had a takeoff rating of 2,300 hp (1,715 kW) at 3,000 rpm, a maximum rating of 2,000 hp (1,491 kW) at 2,600 rpm, and a cruise rating of 1,500 hp (1,119 kW) at 2,280 rpm. The basic 24-cylinder engine was 97.7 in (2.48 m) long, 60.0 in (1.52 m) wide, and 38.7 in (.98 m) tall. The engine weighed 2,665 lb (1,209 kg)—365 lb (166 kg) more than the original estimate.

In January 1938, Allison was authorized to release V-3420 engine specifications to aircraft manufacturers and airlines. This resulted in a number of aircraft designs incorporating the engine; however, only four V-3420-powered aircraft types were actually flown. The V-3420 engine was first run in April 1938, followed by an AAC order for six engines in June 1938. An engine was also displayed in the 1939 World’s Fair in New York.

The US Navy was aware of the V-3420 engine and asked Allison if it could be converted for marine use. Allison responded with the appropriate designs. In December 1939, the Navy ordered two V-3420 marine engines for installation in a new, aluminum-hulled Patrol Torpedo boat designated PT-8. The two V-3420 marine engines were delivered to the Navy, and the PT-8 boat started trials in November 1940. The PT-8 was tested through 1941, but no further boats or V-3420 marine engines were ordered. The sole PT-8 was later re-engined and still exists as of 2017.

Allison V-3420-B NMUSAF

On the V-3420-B engine, an idler gear kept the crankshafts in sync. The engine’s large crankcase can be seen in this image. The large aluminum casting had front and rear covers and a magnesium oil pan. (Gary Brossett image via the Aircraft Engine Historical Society)

For aircraft use, the V-3420 required further development, which was slow due to Allison’s ongoing commitments to the V-1710 engine as well as the AAC’s preoccupation with vastly expanding its resources for the coming war. In late 1940, Allison focused on two major models of the V-3420 engine: -A and -B. The V-3420-A had crankshafts that rotated the same direction—either clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on the desired rotation of the propeller. The -A engine used a single-rotation propeller with either an attached or remote gear reduction, but most commonly with an attached gear reduction. The V-3420-B had crankshafts that rotated in opposite directions and was used with contra-rotating propellers. Different versions of the -B engine could accommodate either an attached or remote gear reduction, which allowed a number of propeller shaft configurations, including right-angle drives. The -B engine almost always had a remote gear reduction. The two crankshafts of the V-3420-B were kept in sync by idler gears at the front of the engine. The idler gears also balanced power loads from the crankshafts to the contra-rotating propeller shafts.

In September 1940, Allison’s V-1710 commitments became overwhelming, and development of the V-3420 engine was put on hold. As a result, the XB-19 had four 2,000 hp (1,491 kW) Wright R-3350 18-cylinder radial engines installed in place of the V-3420s. However, the R-3350 was encountering its own extensive developmental issues that put its use in the Boeing B-29 Superfortress in question. In February 1941, the AAC requested that Allison restart development of the V-3420-A with an output of 3,000 hp (2,237 kW) as a possible replacement for the Wright R-3350. The B-29 bomber was too important for its fate to be tied to one engine.

Allison V-3420-B right-angle drive

One V-3420-B engine was built to be mounted in an aircraft’s fuselage with extension shafts leading through the wings to right angle drives that would connect to the propellers. This type of engine configuration would have been used in the McDonnell Model 1. Only one engine was built with this configuration.

A V-3420 engine was delivered to Wright Field in October 1941, but with the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December, the V-3420 program was again put on hold so that Allison could focus on the V-1710 engine. History repeated itself in mid-1942 when the suitability of the R-3350 engine was again in question. Allison was instructed by the Army Air Force (AAF—the AAC was renamed in June 1941) to prepare the V-3420 for installation in a B-29, which was redesignated XB-39. Nine engines were built and delivered by October 1942. On 1 October 1942, the AAF ordered two Fisher XP-75 Eagle fighter prototypes that were powered by the V-3420-B engine. This was followed by an order placed on 28 October for 500 V-3420-A engines for installation in 100 production B-39 aircraft.

As the aircraft projects were underway, continued development of the V-3420 engine increased its output to a takeoff rating of 2,600 hp (1,939 kW) at 3,000 rpm with 8 psi (.55 bar) of boost, a normal rating of 2,100 hp (1,566 kW) at 2,600 rpm at 25,000 ft (7,620 m), and a cruise rating of 1,575 hp (1,175 kW) at 2,300 rpm at 25,000 ft (7,620 m). However, the engine could be overboosted in emergency situations to 3,000 hp (2,237 kW) at 3,000 rpm with 10.2 psi of boost (.70 bar).

Fisher P-75A Eagle

The Fisher P-75A was the end of a very tumultuous fighter program. The original design consisted of various parts from other aircraft that, when combined, would somehow make an aircraft superior to all others. The reality was that the combined parts created an aircraft that was downright dangerous and needed to be redesigned. A partial redesign did not completely cure the problems, and problems still existed after a subsequent complete redesigned. Still, 2,500 aircraft were ordered before better judgment prevailed and the program was cancelled. The P-75 was the only aircraft flown with V-3420-B engines.

The first aircraft to fly with the V-3420 was the Fisher XP-75. Developed by the Fisher Body Division of General Motors, the XP-75 was a long-range escort fighter. Through 1943, the AAF felt a desperate need for such an aircraft and ordered six additional XP-75 prototypes, bringing the total to eight. In addition, the AAF expressed its intent to purchase 2,500 P-75s if the prototypes met their performance estimates. The V-3420-B engine for the P-75 had a two-stage, variable speed supercharger (and no turbosupercharger) that was hydraulically coupled to the right crankshaft. The engine alone weighed 2,750 lb (1,247 kg), and its weight increased to 3,275 lb (1,486 kg) with its 3.5 in (89 mm) diameter extension shafts and remote gear reduction.

The XP-75 first flew on 17 November 1943, and the aircraft almost immediately ran into issues. Its V-3420-B engine was not entirely trouble free either; unequal fuel distribution was a continuing problem for the V-3420. The issue was mostly solved by having each alternate engine section fire every 30 degrees of rotation, rather than both engine sections firing every 60 degrees of rotation. The aircraft was redesigned to correct its deficiencies and was given the new designation of P-75A. The AAF ordered 2,500 P-75As on 7 June 1944, and production started immediately. However, the entire P-75 program was cancelled four months later, in October 1944. The P-75A did not live up to expectations, it was outmatched by aircraft already in service, and the end of the war was in sight. Eight XP-75 and six P-75A aircraft were built, but three of the aircraft crashed during testing. One P-75A was preserved and is on display in the National Museum of the US Air Force. The rest of the surviving aircraft were scrapped.

Douglas XB-19A

With V-3420-A engines installed, the Douglass XB-19A realized a boost in its performance. While the engines proved reliable, it was very time-consuming for Fisher to design and fabricate the new nacelles to house the V-3420. The same basic nacelle was also used on the XB-39.

Actual work to install V-3420-A engines in the XB-19 started in November 1942 at Fisher. The aircraft was redesignated XB-19A and flew for the first time with its V-3420 engines in January 1944. The V-3420 installation served as a test for the engine’s use in the XB-39. With the exception of range, the XB-19A’s performance increased across the board: maximum speed increased by 40 mph (64 km/h); cruising speed increased by 50 mph (80 km/h); service ceiling increased by 16,000 ft (4,877 m), but normal range decreased by 1,000 miles (1,609 km). The XB-19A was strictly an experimental aircraft and was never intended to enter production.

In February 1943, V-3420-A engines were selected to power the Lockheed XP-58 Chain Lightning. The V-3420 was not Lockheed’s first choice, or second, or third. The XP-58 heavy fighter program was initiated in 1940 but was beset with constant design and role changes, which were made worse by developmental issues of the aircraft’s previously selected engines. By the time it was completed, the XP-58 was oversized, overweight, underpowered, and not needed. First flown on 6 June 1944, the aircraft’s lackluster performance matched Lockheed and the AAF’s enthusiasm for the project. Only one prototype was built, and the XP-58 program was cancelled in May 1945.

Allison V-3420 XB-19A nacelle

The men working on the V-3420 installed in the XB-19A give some perspective as to the engine’s size and the size of the aircraft. The V-3420’s radiator, oil cooler, turbosupercharger, and intercooler were all mounted in the nacelle, under the engine. This configuration prevented the need for heavily modifying the aircraft.

Even though it helped spur the V-3420 engine program, the V-3420-powered B-29 was the last aircraft to take flight with the engine. A B-29 (actually a YB-29, the first pre-production aircraft) was delivered to Fisher for conversion to an XB-39 with V-3420-A engines. Work on the XB-39 was slow because Fisher’s main focus was the XP-75. The XB-39 finally flew on 9 December 1944. Performance of the XB-39 was superior to that of the B-29: its top speed was 50 mph (80 km/h) faster, and it had a 3,000 ft (914 m) higher service ceiling. However, standard B-29s were proving to be more than adequate, and it was not worth the time or trouble to convert any other airframes to V-3420-power.

To meet the power needs for extremely large aircraft designs during World War II, Allison proposed the DV-6840. The DV-6840 consisted of two V-3420s driving a common remote gearbox for contra-rotating propellers. A gearbox for the DV-6840 was completed in 1946, but no information has been found regarding it being tested. Allison had also planned a further development of the V-3420. This fuel-injected V-3420-C engine had a forecasted emergency output of 4,800 hp (3,579 kW) and a takeoff/military rating of 4,000 hp (2,983 kW)—both ratings at 3,200 rpm with water injection. However, the V-3420-C was never built.

Lockheed XP-58 Chain Lightning

The Lockheed XP-58 was another program than inexplicably pressed on despite the many signs that it was heading nowhere. Somewhere between three to seven engines were selected before the V-3420-A was finally chosen to power the aircraft. It was not Lockheed’s fault; they had no control over which experimental engines would actually be produced. Lockheed also had no control over the constantly changing roles the AAF asked the XP-58 to fulfill.

The Allison V-3420 was not a trouble-free engine, but it did work well in its few applications once initial issues were resolved. The engine held a lot of potential, but that potential faded as its development languished. At the start of 1944, only 33 V-3420 engines had been delivered, and two of those were marine engines. Had the AAC committed to the engine in 1936 and provided Allison with the resources needed to develop the engine, the V-3420 very well could have powered the B-29 and various post-war aircraft. The four aircraft projects that used the V-3420 did not fail because of the engine. By the time the V-3420 program was in order in 1944, other engines were adequately fulfilling the 3,000 hp (2,237 kW) role.

Allison built a total of 157 V-3420 engines: 37 -A engines (including the two marine engines) and 120 -B engines. A number of V-3420s were sold as surplus after the war. Some eventually made their way into museums, while other engines were used in a hydroplane (Henry J. Kaiser’s Scooter Too driven by Jack Regas) and a tractor puller (E. J. Potter’s Double Ugly). However, none of the V-3420 engines took flight again.

Fisher XB-39

The Boeing / Fisher XB-39 program is what put the V-3420 engine back on track to production. It was the most promising aircraft out of the four powered by the V-3420. Delayed by Fisher’s work on the XP-75, there was little point to the aircraft when it took to the air in December 1944. The image above shows the V-3420 engines being installed at the Fisher plant in Cleveland, Ohio. Fisher was producing various subassemblies for the B-29, which can be seen in the background. On the right side of the image, just behind the XB-39’s wing, is the fuselage of a P-75A.

Vees For Victory!: The Story of the Allison V-1710 Aircraft Engine 1929-1948 by Dan Whitney (1998)
The Allison Engine Catalog 1915-2007 by John M. Leonard (2008)
Jim Allison’s Machine Shop: The First 30 Years by John M. Leonard (2016)
Aircraft Engines of the World 1946 by Paul H. Wilkinson (1946)
Allied Aircraft Piston Engines of World War II by Graham White (1995)
US Army Air Force Fighters Part 2 by William Green and Gordon Swanborough (1978)
McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920: Volume I by Rene J. Francillon (1988)
Lockheed Aircraft since 1913 by Rene J. Francillon (1982/1987)
Boeing Aircraft since 1916 by Peter M. Bowers (1966/1989)

Fokker Dekker CI front

Dekker-Fokker C.I Rotary Propellers

By William Pearce

In the 1920s, Adriaan Jan Dekker helped redesign windmill sails in the Netherlands to improve their efficiency. His modified sails were streamlined and acted more as airfoils than the traditional sails in use. Dekker’s first sail was tested briefly in 1927, with more expansive tests in 1928. By 1930, 31 windmills were using Dekker’s sails, and the number increased to 75 by 1935.

Dekker patent rotary propellers

Drawings from Adriaan Dekker’s rotary propellers patent (US 2,186,064). The direction of rotation was actually opposite of the unit that was built and installed on a Fokker C.I. Note the airfoil sections of the blades.

In the 1930s, Dekker began to focus on improving aircraft propellers. In 1934, Dekker filed for a patent on a new type of turbine rotor blade for aircraft use. British patent 450,990 was awarded on 27 July 1936, and it outlined the use of a single rotation, four-blade rotary propeller. However, Dekker found that a single set of rotors caused a divergent airflow that virtually bypassed an aircraft’s tail. This caused control issues because it decreased airflow over the aircraft’s rudder and elevator.

Dekker continued to develop his design and applied for another patent in June 1936, before the first patent was awarded. The new British patent (476,226) was awarded on 3 December 1937 and outlined the use of contra-rotating rotors. Strangely, the gearing for the propellers was not included in the British patent but was included in the US (and French) patent filed on 19 May 1937 and granted patent 2,186,064 on 9 January 1940.

Dekker propeller construction

Construction images of the Dekker rotary propeller. The images are mainly the hub and blades of the front set of rotors. ( image)

Almost all of the information contained in the British patent was also in the US patent. However, the US patent was more detailed and included additional information. The patents illustrate a large, streamlined hub from which two sets of four-blade rotors protrude. The original patent stated that the ideal blade length was one third of the hub diameter. The fixed-pitch blades were highly curved airfoils of a complex shape. The angle of the blade decreased from 40 degrees at the root to 5 degrees at the tip. In addition, the blade’s cord (length from leading edge to trailing edge) steadily increased from its root to its tip.

The two sets of blades were contra-rotating. The rear set of blades served to straighten the airflow from the front set, providing additional thrust and increasing efficiency. The contra-rotation of the blades also helped eliminate torque reactions. Through a gear reduction, the rear set of blades only turned at two-thirds the speed of the front set of blades. Dekker also noted that the rotary blades would be quieter than conventional propellers.

Fokker Dekker CI front

Dekker’s finished C.I with its large rotary propellers. Note the complex airfoil shape of the blades.

The drive for the rotors consisted of a sun gear mounted on the engine’s crankshaft that turned planetary gears against a fixed, internally-toothed ring gear. The planetary gears were mounted in a carrier from which a shaft extended to power the front set of blades. These blades rotated in the same direction as the engine and at an unspecified reduction. Attached to the shaft powering the front set of blades was another sun gear. This sun gear turned three idler gears that turned three planetary gears against another fixed, internally-toothed ring gear. This gear train reduced the rotation speed by 66% from the sun gear (and front set of blades). A hollow shaft extended from the planetary gear carrier to power the rear set of blades. Inside the hollow shaft was the propeller shaft for the front set of blades. The rear set of blades rotated the opposite direction of the engine.

To turn theory to reality, Dekker formed a company, Syndicaat Dekker Octrooien (Dekker Patents Syndicate), and acquired a Fokker C.I trainer aircraft around 28 March 1936. The C.I was a late World War I era biplane reconnaissance aircraft powered by a 185 hp BMW IIIa engine. As the aircraft’s design aged, transport and trainer versions were built. Dekker’s C.I was registered PH-APL on 15 April 1937.

Fokker Dekker CI taxi

Registered PH-APL, Dekker’s heavily modified Fokker C.I bears little resemblance to a standard C.I; the wings and tail are about all the aircraft have in common. Note how the fuselage shape tapers the diameter of the large propeller hub back to the tail. With its contra-rotating rotary propellers spinning, the aircraft is shown before taxi tests at Ypenburg airfield.

To accommodate the rotary propellers, Dekker’s aircraft was so heavily modified that it was nearly unrecognizable as a C.I. The aircraft retained the BMW engine but had the contra-rotating rotary propellers mounted to its front. The fuselage of the aircraft was modified and tapered from the very large propeller hub back to the tail. The fuselage was metal-covered immediately behind the propellers, but the rest of the fuselage was covered with fabric.

The rotary propellers differed from those illustrated in the patents in that six blades made up the front set of rotors, and seven blades made up the rear set. Construction of the individual blades was similar to that of a wing. The blades were made of a shaped aluminum sleeve fitted around three spars. The spars passed into and were connected to the hub. The roots of the blades were also attached to the hub. The hub was formed of an aluminum frame and covered with aluminum sheeting. Video indicates that the rear set of blades had roughly a 66% speed reduction compared to the front set—which matches what was stated in the patent.

Fokker Dekker CI captured Germans

Two views of Dekker’s C.I after it was captured by German forces. The right image clearly shows six blades on the front rotor and seven blades on the rear rotor.

The aircraft’s completion date is unknown, but Dekker’s C.I underwent taxi tests at Ypenburg airfield, near The Hauge, Netherlands. The aircraft reportedly made a few hops into the air, but no true flight was achieved. It is not clear if there was an issue with the rotary propellers (such as insufficient thrust or excessive vibrations) or if the project simply ran out of time. Dekker’s C.I was moved to Waalhaven Airport, where it was captured by German forces on 18 May 1940, eight days after the Germans started their invasion of the Netherlands at the start of World War II. Reportedly, the aircraft was taken to Johannisthal airfield near Berlin, Germany for testing. Some sources state the aircraft crashed on its first test flight and that its remains were later destroyed as Russian troops advanced late in the war. However, exactly what happened to Dekker’s C.I and its rotary propellers is not known.

Below is video uploaded to YouTube of the Fokker Dekker C.I undergoing taxi tests. Note the stroboscopic effect of the rotors turning at different speeds. Adriaan Dekker is shown at the end of the video. It is interesting to contemplate how much weight the rotary propellers added to the nose of the aircraft. Unfortunately, the date of the tests is not known.

“Screw Propeller, Turbine Rotor, and Like Device” US patent 2,068,792 by Adriaan Jan Dekker (granted 26 January 1937)
“Rotary Propeller and the Like Device” US patent 2,186,064 by Adriaan Jan Dekker (granted 9 January 1940)
Power from Wind: A History of Windmill Technology by Richard L. Hills (1996)

CTA - ITA Heliconair Convertiplano drawing

CTA / ITA Heliconair HC-I Convertiplano

By William Pearce

In 1923, Henrich Focke partnered with Georg Wulf to create Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau (Aircraft Company) in Bremen, Germany. Focke became fascinated with helicopters and other rotorcraft in the 1930s. This interest led to what is considered the first practical helicopter, the Focke-Wulf Fw 61, which first flew in 1936. That same year, Focke was ousted from Focke-Wulf due to internal disagreements about allocating company resources. In 1937, Focke partnered with Gerd Achgelis, the Fw 61’s lead designer, to create Focke-Achgelis & Co in Hoykenkamp, Germany. The new company would focus on helicopter and rotorcraft designs.

CTA - ITA Convertiplano side

The Heliconair HC-Ib Convertiplano sits nearly finished in a hangar. The slit behind the cockpit was the intake for air used to cool the fuselage-mounted R-3350 engine. The scoop on the upper fuselage brought air to the engine’s carburetor. Note the Spitfire wings and main gear.

In 1941, the RLM (Reichsluftfahrtministerium or Germany Air Ministry) requested that Focke-Achgelis design a fighter capable of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL). Focke-Achgelis responded with the Fa 269 design, which was a tiltrotor convertiplane. The Fa 269 had two rotors—one placed near the tip of each wing in a pusher configuration. The rotors were powered by an engine housed in the aircraft’s fuselage via extension shafts and gearboxes. The rotors and extension shafts leading from the right-angle gearboxes mounted in the aircraft’s wings rotated down to “push” the Fa 269 into the air, achieving vertical flight. Once airborne, the rotors and shafts would slowly translate back into the wing to propel the aircraft forward, allowing the aircraft’s wings to provide lift. The project moved forward until 1944, when much of the developmental work, including models, a mock-up, and gearboxes, was destroyed in an Allied bombing raid.

CTA - ITA Heliconair Convertiplano

Drawings of how the completed HC-Ib was anticipated to look reveal a pretty compact aircraft, considering the engine installation and associated shafting. The R-3350 engine took up the space intended for a passenger compartment in the Double Mamba-powered HC-I. The Double Mamba would have been installed aft of the passenger compartment.

Immediately following World War II, Germany was prohibited from designing and manufacturing aircraft. Post war, Focke assisted with helicopter development in France and worked for a car company in Germany. He also spent some time in the Netherlands, where he began to design a VTOL aircraft that was capable of relatively high speeds. In 1952, Focke was recruited by the CTA (Centro Técnico de Aeronáutica or Technical Center of Aeronautics) to work in the recently established ITA (Instituto Técnico de Aeronáutica or Technical Institute of Aeronautics). The ITA was the first of four institutes formed by the CTA, all of which were located in São José dos Campos, Brazil. Brazil was working on building an aeronautics and aerospace industry and was actively recruiting German engineers. In addition to Focke, many of his associates and former co-workers were also recruited.

The CTA was impressed with Focke’s VTOL aircraft design and approved its construction. The CTA believed that the aircraft’s capabilities would allow it to reach remote parts of Brazil. Focke set to work on the aircraft—a tiltrotor convertiplane design that was partially inspired by the Fa 269. The aircraft was known as the Heliconair HC-I Convertiplano. Its fuselage and wings were fairly conventional for an aircraft, but it had of two sets of rotors. One pair of rotors was placed near the nose of the aircraft, and the other pair was placed between the wings and tail. All of the rotors were of a tractor configuration and rotated up for vertical flight. The HC-I accommodated two pilots in the cockpit and four passengers in the fuselage. The aircraft’s estimated performance included a top speed of 311 mph (500 km/h) and a range of 943 miles (1,517 km).

CTA - ITA Convertiplano engine test rig

The test rig for the engine, transmission, gearboxes, shafts, right-angle drives, and rotors illustrates the complexity of the HC-Ib’s power system. The R-3350 engine did not have any Power Recovery Turbines, which means it was not a Turbo Compound engine.

To save time and money, the decision was made to build the HC-I using the wings and the horizontal stabilizer from a Supermarine Spitfire. A Spitfire XIVe (RM874) was purchased without its Rolls-Royce Griffon 65 engine from Britain by the Brazilian Air Attaché on 19 December 1952. A new fuselage was built to house a 3,000 hp (2,237 kW) Armstrong Siddeley Double Mamba turboprop engine behind the passenger compartment. However, Armstrong Siddeley and the British did not want one of their new, advanced engines being used in such a radical project and declined selling a Double Mamba engine to Brazil.

Focke and the Convertiplano team changed the HC-I’s design to accommodate a 2,200 hp (1,641 kW) Wright R-3350 radial engine and redesignated the aircraft HC-Ib. The R-3350 was larger and heavier than the Double Mamba, and it produced less power. Some sources state a Turbo Compound R-3350-DA3 (3,250 hp / 2,424 kW) was used, but images show that there are no Power Recovery Turbines on the engine installed in a test rig. Extensive modifications to the aircraft’s fuselage were required to accommodate the air-cooled engine. The passenger compartment was omitted, and the R-3350 was installed in the middle of the fuselage. An annular slit behind the cockpit was added to bring in cooling air for the engine. After passing through the engine’s cylinders, the air exited via a jet-like duct at the rear of the aircraft. The Spitfire’s landing gear was strengthened to compensate for the R-3350’s weight.

CTA - ITA Convertiplano components

The HC-Ib sits in the background with the front and rear gearboxes and rotor drives in the foreground. The rotor blades, the only surviving component of the Convertiplano project, are not seen in the image. Note the opening at the rear of the fuselage, which was the exit for engine cooling air.

A gearbox transmission mounted to the front of the R-3350 split the engine’s power to two shafts. The front shaft extended from the engine to the front gearbox. The front gearbox had shafts that extended to the left and right. These shafts led to right-angle gearboxes that powered the front rotors. Power delivery for the rear rotors was more complex. A shaft extended vertically from the transmission on the front of the engine and met a right-angle gearbox positioned directly above the engine. From the right-angle gearbox, a shaft extended back to the rear gearbox. The rear gearbox had the same shafts and right-angle drives for the rear rotors as the front gearbox. The transmission and gearboxes were designed by Willi Bussmann and built by BMW in Germany. Bussmann was a former BMW employee and had worked with Focke on several Focke-Achgelis projects.

Each rotor consisted of three blades. The blades were built in Sweden and made of a steel frame that was covered with wood. The blades’ pitch automatically adjusted and had collective and cyclic control. The rotors were counter-rotating, with the right rotors turning counterclockwise and the left rotors turning clockwise. The HC-Ib had a 37 ft 6 in (11.42 m) wingspan and was 35 ft 3 in (10.74 m) long.

CTA - ITA Convertiplano engine hoist

Given the state of the aircraft and the surrounding unchecked growth of vegetation, it can be assumed this image is of the R-3350 engine being removed sometime after the HC-Ib project was cancelled. The image does give proof that the engine was installed in the airframe at one point.

A rig was built, and tests of the engine, gearboxes, shafts, right-angle drives, and rotors began in late 1953. However, vibrations from the radial engine caused some issues that took time to resolve. The HC-Ib airframe was almost completely constructed and had its engine installed when the project was cancelled in 1955. The aircraft was more expensive than anticipated, and interest in the HC-1b had steadily declined after the switch to the R-3350 engine. To make matters worse, many of the Germans returned to Europe or went to the United States as their contracts with the CTA expired. Some Germans did stay and ultimately became part of Embraer. After the project was cancelled, the HC-Ib Convertiplano was left to rot in outside storage for some time and was eventually scrapped in the 1970s. There are some reports that the rotor blades are the only part of the aircraft that survived.

A follow up Convertiplano project was considered. Designated HC-II, the aircraft would be powered by four 1,400 hp General Electric T58 turboshaft engines and reincorporate a four to six passenger cabin. The HC-II never progressed beyond the initial design phase.

CTA - ITA Convertiplano HC-II

The C-II Convertiplano had a GE T58 engine mounted directly to each of its four rotors. Otherwise, it retained the configuration of the original HC-I.

Axis Aircraft in Latin America by Amaru Tincopa and Santiago Rivas (2016)
“Uma Breve História das Atividades do Prof. Focke no Brasil” by Joseph Kovacs, ABCM Engenharia Volume 9 Número 2 (April–September 2003)