• Hi Guest! Forum rules have been updated. All users please read here.

Bendix Aircraft's forgotten postwar designs

Stargazer2006

ACCESS: USAP
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2009
Messages
13,227
Reaction score
713
Most of you probably recognize the name "Bendix": this company once one of the leading avionics suppliers in the aeronautical industry...

Some of you with an interest in ordnance may also associate the name "Bendix" with a few missiles and weapons, notably the Eagle and Talos missile...

The helicopter buffs may even associate the name "Bendix" with some experimental postwar helicopter prototypes by the name Whirlaway... (more about these here and here).

But how many would associate the name "Bendix" with aircraft? That's right: AIRCRAFT! The story is not very well known but in 1944, Ernest Breech, the new president of the Bendix Corporation (and also a private pilot himself), formed an aircraft division and planned to enter the postwar lightplane market. For this purpose he recruited several former Vultee-Stinson key engineers, notably Athanas P. "Jack" Fontaine, an experienced aircraft designer who had been Chief Engineer at Stinson —designing the Voyager series— and later Assistant Director of Engineering at Consolidated Vultee, and who was now in charge of the new Bendix Aircraft Division.

The first order ofbusiness for the new division was to conduct a market study to determine what type ofairplane should be built. This resulted in the conclusion that the expected post-war aviation boom would demand a two-place, all-metal retractable landing gear airplane and, as a secondary need, a four-place all-metal should be offered for sale. Armed with this information, the former Stinson engineers designed two basic aircraft configurations under the model numbers 51 and 52. The Model 51 [NX34106] was a four-place, twin-boom pusher powered by a 100hp Franklin 6AC engine, while the Model 52 [NX34103] was two-seat all-metal plane. An amphibian version of the former was built as a second prototype under the designation Model 51A, [NX40051] while a near-identical second prototype of the Model 52 was apparently designated Model 55 [NX34110] (sources vary about this — some have both as Model 55, others make a distinction; Aerofiles claims that the latter had a tricycle gear and not the former, but shows photos of both with tricycle gear).

The Models 51 and 51A were to be identical except for the lower fuselage, a different wing incorporating tip tanks and floats for the amphibious version and longer landing gear to clear the hull. Whether the airplane was going to be an amphibious Model 51A or the strictly land-based Model 51 was to be decided mid-way down the automotive style assembly line, according to Bendix engineers. It was at this point that either a strong hull or a more conventional fuselage was to be installed. The upper fuselage had a mating line just above the cabin floor.

All four aircraft were designed and built in a remarkably short period of time. The first sketches of the Model 52/55, for instance, were made in July 1945 by Vern Biasell, an ex-Stinson designer who had been responsible for the L-5 series, and by mid-December of that same year the first airplane had been built and was ready for its test flight. The Bendix prototypes were flight tested at Windsor, Canada, to avoid US newsmen—which could account for the fact that photos of Bendix prototypes are scarce.

Bendix planned to build their Model 55 on an automobile-type assembly line in Garland, Texas. The production version was was to be powered by a 100 hp Franklin 4A4-100-B10 engine. The airplane's major components were designed for simplicity and low cost. Each wing panel had only 19 parts (not counting the skin). The rudder and both elevators were identical, as were the fin and horizontal stabilizers.

In May 1946, just as over 100 tool designers were busy working on the production tooling, Breech left the Bendix Corporation in May to become vice-president of the Ford Company. The new management at Bendix, now headed by Malcolm Ferguson, was less than enthusiastic about building aircraft. Apparently they feared that if successful, the Bendix aircraft would make the company a competitor of other airframe manufacturers who were customers of Bendix's other divisions, and this was seen as highly undesirable. All work on both aircraft and helicopters ceased, and both divisions were closed.

All four aircraft prototypes were donated to local aeronautical schools and were eventually scrapped.



Sources:
- Michigan Aircraft Manufacturers by Robert F. Pauley (Images of Aviation series) p.112 and p.113
- Aerofiles
- scratchbuilt Bendix 51 model from Japan
- scratchbuilt Bendix 51A model from Japan
- Shu-Aero Photos
- Tophe's Forked Ghosts
- 1000 Aircraft Photos
- An article on the Bendix 52 by Mark Savage in Vintage Airplane Vol. 14 No. 8, also reprinted in Vol. 35 No. 2
- Great Lakes Pilot News article on Bendix by Robert F. Pauley, reprinted in Vintage Airplane Vol. 27 No. 11
- An item of the Bendix 51 and 51A in Vintage Airplane Vol. 27 No. 12



Here is a very short excerpt from the page devoted to the Bendix Corporation on Wikipedia:
"... in its 60 year existence (1924–1983) made automotive brake shoes and systems, aircraft brakes, aeronautical hydraulics and electric power systems, avionics, aircraft and automobile fuel control systems, radios, televisions and computers. It also was well known for the name Bendix as used on home clothes washing machines..."
 

Attachments

  • Aircraft Department.jpg
    Aircraft Department.jpg
    128.9 KB · Views: 212

Stargazer2006

ACCESS: USAP
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2009
Messages
13,227
Reaction score
713
Bendix Model 51 [NX34106]:
 

Attachments

  • 51 specs.jpg
    51 specs.jpg
    22.7 KB · Views: 15
  • bendix51-1.jpg
    bendix51-1.jpg
    149.1 KB · Views: 14
  • 20111016p07.jpg
    20111016p07.jpg
    47.6 KB · Views: 15
  • 20110925p09.jpg
    20110925p09.jpg
    29.1 KB · Views: 12
  • 51 by Tophe.jpg
    51 by Tophe.jpg
    10 KB · Views: 166
  • bendix-51.jpg
    bendix-51.jpg
    24.8 KB · Views: 171
  • Bendix Model_51_01_large.jpg
    Bendix Model_51_01_large.jpg
    199.7 KB · Views: 187
  • Bendix 51.jpg
    Bendix 51.jpg
    154.6 KB · Views: 196

Stargazer2006

ACCESS: USAP
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2009
Messages
13,227
Reaction score
713
Bendix Model 51A amphibian [NX40051]:
 

Attachments

  • 51A specs.jpg
    51A specs.jpg
    23.8 KB · Views: 17
  • bendix51a-2.jpg
    bendix51a-2.jpg
    172 KB · Views: 19
  • bendix51a-1.jpg
    bendix51a-1.jpg
    211.5 KB · Views: 19
  • 51A by Tophe.jpg
    51A by Tophe.jpg
    11.1 KB · Views: 16
  • 51A front.jpg
    51A front.jpg
    46.6 KB · Views: 24
  • bendix-51a.jpg
    bendix-51a.jpg
    8.9 KB · Views: 24

Stargazer2006

ACCESS: USAP
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2009
Messages
13,227
Reaction score
713
Bendix Model 52 [NX34103]:
 

Attachments

  • 52 exploded.jpg
    52 exploded.jpg
    176.1 KB · Views: 21
  • 52 with nose extension.jpg
    52 with nose extension.jpg
    82.2 KB · Views: 25
  • NX34103 in 1957.jpg
    NX34103 in 1957.jpg
    74 KB · Views: 20
  • 52_2.jpg
    52_2.jpg
    76.8 KB · Views: 17
  • 52_1.jpg
    52_1.jpg
    79.4 KB · Views: 20

Stargazer2006

ACCESS: USAP
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2009
Messages
13,227
Reaction score
713
Model 52 (second prototype), also found as the Model 55 [NX34110], and exploded view of planned production version:
 

Attachments

  • bendix-55.jpg
    bendix-55.jpg
    23.8 KB · Views: 22
  • NX34110 in flight.jpg
    NX34110 in flight.jpg
    84 KB · Views: 24
  • bendix-55art.jpg
    bendix-55art.jpg
    30.5 KB · Views: 21
  • Drawing P-52-107.gif
    Drawing P-52-107.gif
    155.7 KB · Views: 19

Similar threads

Top