Tuesday, August 16, 2016

ingenuity overcame adversity, and testing planes prior to missions dropped mechanical and electrical failures by 75%

"There were very few spare instruments, so the kids salvaged them from wrecks and repaired them. There was no aluminum-sheet stock for repair of shot-up or damaged airplanes, so they beat flat the engine cowlings of wrecked fighter planes to make ribs for a B-17 or patch up holes in the wing of a B-25 where a Jap 20-mm shell had exploded.

In the case of small bullet holes, they said they couldn't afford to waste their good "sheet stock" of flattened pieces of aluminum from the wrecks, so they were patching the little holes with scraps cut from tin cans. The salvage pile was their supply source for stock, instruments, spark plugs anything that could be used by any stretch of the imagination.

One youngster had built, out of scraps of junk, a set for testing electrical instruments. I asked him if he could assemble the stuff, which he had spread all over a table, into a box the size of a small suitcase and give me a drawing of it so I could send it back to the Air Force Materiel Division at Dayton and have it standardized as a field testing apparatus.

 He grinned all over and said he could and would. I told him after he finished that job to make about six more of them as it was the best thing of its kind I had ever seen and I wanted to put them around the other places where repair work was going on. This youngster was M/Sgt Rua C. Hayes, 28th Sqd

 From a wrecked LB-30 the generator ammeter panel was salvaged, a few more instruments, a lot of different types of switches and a whole lot of wiring with the proper cannon plugs. These gave us a Bombsight Test Panel, which told us all we needed to know about the Bombsight and AFCE as a whole, or of any integral part, either in the shop or in the airplane. This small test panel worked out so many troubles, was so handy with the Bombsight mechanics that it is aboard a ship being taken to the states to be presented to Wright Field with the suggestion that many similar test panels be made and shipped to various bombardment groups.

 By taking an electric motor from an old unused hydraulic pump set, it was possible to make the work of testing electric equipment very easy. A flexible mount was made for the generator and two pulleys were secured from wrecked car fans. With a V-type belt the motor was made to operate the generator at 2200 rpm. A wrecked P-40 supplied the generator regulator base and other small parts necessary to make an outfit that would test a generator after overhaul or minor repair, test and adjust voltage regulators, relays and supply current to charge batteries or to operate bombsight or power turrets. It took better than six weeks to get the odd parts that were necessary for this test set, but the saving of parts; i.e., generators, regulators, and relays by being repaired and then adjusted, as well as labor saving, paid for this test set many times over. There is no such test equipment in the Army for use in the various squadrons at present.

 Many missions were incomplete due to mechanical failure of the airplane. Equipment that would go out of commission couldn’t always be detected on the ground at engine run up. To overcome most of the mechanical troubles, a test crew was made up to take all planes on a test flight prior to missions, and check the function of all equipment. If any troubles were encountered at 27,000 ft, the airplane would usually be flown to 32,000 ft to test and adjust the malfunctioning equipment. After we started testing airplanes in this manner, mechanical failures dropped to a new low.

Capt Jerome Tartar was the pilot and cooperated very satisfactorily with the rest of the crew to test and adjust the improperly functioning equipment. Sgt Hayes tested and adjusted the bombsight, AFCE generator system, and instruments. Sgt Murdrosh checked on the general performance of the engines and superchargers. Sgt Kennedy or Sgt McMurtrey checked the power turrets and guns. Sgt Horstman and Sgt L. J. More checked all the radio equipment. All compasses were swung and driftmeters adjusted by Sgt Hayes.

Later on Capt Sargent took over S-4 (materiel) and became the pilot of the test crew, and still later Capt Beck succeeded as test pilot. A lot of troubles were found and corrected on these flights which helped the missions to be successful. It is estimated that 75% of turn-backs from the target due to mechanical failure were eliminated by test flights to these altitudes.


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