McDonnell 26 and 26A for USAAF: competitors of the Bell X-1 sonic aircraft

Stargazer2006

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McDonnell's Models 26 and 26A were respectively a twin-engine and single-engine sonic airplane designs*, submitted to USAAF circa 1945, presumably against the Bell XS-1. Does anyone have any sketch showing the configuration of any of these. I must say I'm rather curious to know how McDonnell set about designing a sonic aircraft, especially the twin-engine version.


* according to an old official (though incomplete) McDonnell projects list sent to me a while ago by another member, who asked me not to share it for the time being.
 

newsdeskdan

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XP67_Moonbat said:
Any word on this project?

Did anyone notice that NASA quietly rewrote the history of how the X-1 contract was awarded to Bell? Originally, it was suggested that Bell was the only game in town. Bell proposed the aircraft and was eventually awarded a contract to build it. Now the rival McDonnell bid (who knew there even was one?) has been given recognition here: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden/history/HistoricAircraft/X-1/background.html.

To save you searching through it, the relevant bit is below:

Over the summer of 1944, the AAF and NACA held numerous meetings to discuss transonic aircraft design. In keeping with their historic missions, the NACA proposed a more conservative transonic, turbojet-powered, ground-takeoff-capable research aircraft, while the AAF suggested a more daring rocket-powered airplane capable potentially of supersonic flight.
NACA objections were based upon the unreliability of rocket engines and the dangerous fuel required for flight as well as the high wing loading required for ground take-off. However, the AAF rightly gauged the higher potential for rocket power to rapidly pierce the transonic region providing a margin of safety in the zone of the unknown.
Although Bell Aircraft offered on November 30, 1944, to build a high-speed research aircraft, the AAF chose not to issue a sole-source contract and secured two bids as a result of its request for proposals. The McDonnell Aircraft bid (MCD-520) incorporated a diving flight technique and a mother ship air-launch requirement. The Bell proposal (MCD-524) featured testing in level flight and conventional take-off procedures.
At a joint AAF/NACA meeting at Wright Field in mid-December 1944, Stack pointed out the dangers of the diving technique for research. He stated that the airlaunch technique was troublesome and not consistent with production aircraft. Stack desired that the aircraft possess jet engines as these were safer and less troublesome to operate. The AAF insisted on rocket engines even though it acknowledged them as dangerous and less reliable. Straight wings were selected for the new design since current and proposed production aircraft had straight wings. The Bell proposal was selected for further development.
During the follow-up AAF consultations with Bell, it was agreed that the research aircraft would be capable of ten minutes of powered flight; the research tests would be conducted in level or climbing flight, would allow the pilot to be seated rather than prone and would be constructed within a year of the contract award.
During March 15-17, 1945, Bell presented its design proposal at Wright Field to the AAF and NACA. The AAF representatives expressed serious doubts about the utility of the performance capabilities in the proposal. NACA representative John V. Becker stated that the plane met agency design criteria. He believed the aircraft was capable of transonic speeds and urged that the Army accept the design as it was a significant advance over any airplane currently flying. The AAF agreed to purchase the plane.
The contract (W-33-038-ac-9183) to build a transonic aircraft was signed between Bell Aircraft and the Air Technical Services Command (ATSC) on March 16, 1945. Bell Aircraft was tasked to construct three experimental airplanes capable of exploring transonic research issues. Total estimated cost plus change orders was $4,278,537. The AAF assigned three serial numbers to the aircraft (46-062 to airplane #1, 46-063 to XS-1 #2, and 46-064 to the #3 aircraft). The X-1 program was initially designated MX-524, then changed to MX-653. It retained the designation MX-653 until the fall when the aircraft were labeled as XS-1 (Experimental Supersonic Contract #1) and remained so-designated throughout the initial life of the project. By 1948, internal Air Force designations had changed and the program has since been identified simply as X-1. The MX-653 program was classified confidential and all X-1 performance data were labeled secret.

Naturally, all searches for McDonnell Model 26 and McDonnell MCD-520 seem to draw a blank. This is the only mention of it anywhere (unless someone knows different? Scott Lowther? Steve Pace?).
 

hesham

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Hi Newsdeskdan,


you meant those;


http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,19395.msg187994.html#msg187994
 

XP67_Moonbat

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How about that guy who has a website with McDonnell archive stuff?

I'm drawing a blank right now, as to the name.
 

newsdeskdan

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hesham said:
Hi Newsdeskdan,


you meant those;


http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,19395.msg187994.html#msg187994

In a roundabout sort of way. I don't see McDonnell mentioned in that thread, only 'generic' and 'NACA', and no mention of any sort of competition. I'm less interested in what they looked like (although I would love to know) than the fact that McDonnell has seemingly, until now, been entirely written out of the X-1's history. Are those two NACA studies actually the Bell and McDonnell-designed entries but attributed to NACA?
 

hesham

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Hi Newsdeskdan,


as you see in the topic,which I mentioned it,they are the NASA proposals,and as you find,McDonnell
was MCD-520 and Bell MCD-524,and I think they were the real designs as the author of the book
confirmed.
 

Stargazer2006

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Only mistake in said topic was the fact the MCD-520 was labeled as a Douglas proposal, otherwise the data there is consistent with the new find. Great discovery by the way, thanks newsdeskdan!!
 

newsdeskdan

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David Baker makes it sound like a done deal:

Throughout the remainder of 1944, the navy and the air force diverged along separate research paths and in the type of aircraft they wanted. While each was developing its own approach, and its own aircraft, they were both working toward the same objective. The jet-powered navy aircraft would be shaped by 1st/Lt Abraham Hyatt and he would focus on a methodical path resulting in a research programme aiming for 650mph (Mach 0.85) at sea level; Kotcher would set the target as Mach 1.1 at 35,000ft.
Primary responsibility for the general design and layout of the army aircraft was assigned to an engineering team at Wright Field consisting primarily of Capt F D Orazio and Capt G W Bailey. They argued long and hard with the NACA about the choice of a rocket engine but held their ground and Kotcher received permission from his boss, von Karman, to start work on the defined concept as MX-524, which only left the job of selecting a contractor to build the aircraft.
Getting someone to build it was not all that easy, especially as the established ‘big names’ in aircraft manufacturing wanted nothing to do with exotic, one-off projects which would sink company cash and time when they preferred to spend resources on churning out standard combat aircraft for the War Department.
The decision was made by chance. Along with Larry Bell and Ray P Whitman, one of the founders of Bell Aircraft was Robert Woods and on a whim, at the end of a day discussing other projects at Wright Field, he stopped by the office of Ezra Kotcher for a casual chat.
Woods knew nothing about the transonic project and only during incidental conversation did Kotcher regale Woods with his dilemma. Not suspecting Woods might be interested, when the Bell executive showed real surprise, Kotcher kept him talking and by the end of the evening he had agreed to give Bell the contract for an aircraft which was guaranteed to be safe and controllable up to Mach 0.8 with no comeback on what happened after that.
The air force had found its industrial partner and Woods returned to Bell to mobilise Robert Stanley to the task ahead and to choose a group to work on the project which included Paul Emmons, Benson Hamlin, Roy Sandstrom and Stanley Smith.
To forestall accusations of an anti-competitive stance, the NACA looked at a proposal from McDonnell (MCD-520) and in fact took the air-launch concept from that proposal and applied it to the Bell design (MCD-524).

Can't imagine McDonnell was very happy about that. And then its entry was more or less deleted from history…
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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I'm not sure its proven that Model 26/26A was the MCD-520 proposal, though it seems likely. The only description is "sonic airplane - two Westinghouse 24C (J34) engines" and "sonic airplane - one Westinghouse 24C engine" respectively.
 

newsdeskdan

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PaulMM (Overscan) said:
I'm not sure its proven that Model 26/26A was the MCD-520 proposal, though it seems likely. The only description is "sonic airplane - two Westinghouse 24C (J34) engines" and "sonic airplane - one Westinghouse 24C engine" respectively.

I agree. We really could use the help of someone who knows about McDonnell.
 

hesham

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Skyblazer said:
Only mistake in said topic was the fact the MCD-520 was labeled as a Douglas proposal, otherwise the data there is consistent with the new find. Great discovery by the way, thanks newsdeskdan!!


My friend Skyblazer,


from where you get that,Douglas who suggested this proposal ?.
 

Steve Pace

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I find it difficult to believe that a J34-powered anything could achieve supersonic speed. Maybe this side of transonic speed.
Where's Mark Nankivil (Mr. McDonnell Aircraft)? -SP
 

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