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North American Aviation Preliminary Design Designations

aim9xray

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I've been researching North American Aviation designs for quite a while. By now, everyone knows (or should know)
that NAA used a rather unique designation system. Most of the US manufacturers used a “model” numbering
system that was generally sequential. Each model number was tied to a basic design. NAA for reasons unknown,
chose a road less traveled. Each NA-number was not a model number tied to an aircraft, but a master charge
account number tied to a single specific customer contract. Thus, you have the F-100 Super Sabre produced under
Charge Numbers NA-180, 192, 217, 222, 223, 224, 230, 235, 243, 245, 254, 255, 261, and 262. In a way, this was
“inside-out” because it exposed a little of the inner workings of NAA to the outside world.

However, this numbering scheme left no room for designations of the actual designs pursued by NAA. My first clue
came in the Jenkins/Landis book, “Hypersonic, The Story of the North American X-15”. In it was an entire chapter
covering the proposals by Bell, Douglas, North American and Republic. North American’s design was titled “ESO 7487”
and was referred to as such in the text.

On the face of it, this designation seemed absurd to me for two reasons. First, I interpreted “ESO” to mean
"Engineering Sales Order" or "Engineering Shop Order". Secondly, “7487” seemed improbably high for a project or
design number. Even the government project number (MX-1226) was lower. Ultimately, the decision of the authors
to provide blue-line drawings on the book end papers provided a clue. The drawing from North American had a title
block. Above it was “ESO 7487”. But in the block proper was the actual Drawing Number – “D250-200”.

Having some experience with aerospace drawings and Configuration Management practices, this made a lot more sense
to me. “D250” would be the “top” drawing or project number. The “-200” or dash number would be the allocated
number for what was depicted in that drawing. And “250” seemed like a much more reasonable cumulative number for
a design.

To make a long story short, I surveyed all of my references, Secret Projects Forum postings and the interwebs and
came up with the following listing. Please note that I have included abbreviated notes for my sources; most
should be familiar.

So what does it mean? Simply put, NAA maintained an internal system for tracking preliminary or advanced designs
that was unrelated to the “NA” series of contract/charge numbers known publicly.

Why does the drawing number matter? Basically it tells you what you are looking at. The basic number was of the
format Dxxx, where “D” presumably meant “Design” and “xxx” was a sequentially assigned number. When used on a
drawing, the basic number had a suffix. The first 25 numbers were reserved for alternate basic configurations.
The next 25 were for inboard profiles of the corresponding configurations. So drawing D250-1 would have an inboard
profile on drawing D250-26; D250-2 would track to D250-27 and so on. Subsequent drawing blocks appear to be generally
assigned as follows:

-1 to -25 Three-view
-26 to -50 Inboard profile
-200 Fuel System
-300 Weapons Installation
-400 Landing Gear
-500 Surface Control System
-600 Hydraulic System or Cockpit Diagram.
-700 Structures

Sometime by the 1960s, the system was modified by inserting another set of digits in the D-number so that more design
variations could be tracked. An example would be the drawing D619-10-26 where the basic project is “D619”, “10” is the
tenth major study or design and “26” is the inboard profile drawing that corresponds to the “D19-10-1” three-view drawing.
Sometimes the study number has an alpha suffix (as in D490-4B); I suspect that this is an alternate engine installation.

Looking back, this seems to be an internally consistent system that holds together with multiple samples. But what about
those pesky four-digit numbers? My conclusion is that they are actually the project charge numbers. The fly in the
ointment? North American specifically used the phrase “designated ESO 7487” on the title page of its X-15 proposal.
It is my belief that using the internal Charge Number served two purposes; first, a bit of misdirection as to the
number of designs that North American had studied; and secondly, it was in concert with the unusual practice of using the
charge number in lieu of a model number in general.


I’d like to express my thanks to (in no particular order) Dennis Jenkins, Tony Landis, Scott Lowther and Jared Zichek
for not only performing the painstaking primary research on these designs but for also reproducing the original drawings
with their title blocks intact. Ryan Crierie also deserves special mention for sharing his index listings for
documentation held at the National Archives (NARA II). Special supplemental assistance was also provided by Bob Bradley
.

Any comments or questions are welcome.
 

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Stargazer2006

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A most laudable effort and a very nicely conducted project. Thank you very, very much for sharing this with us!
 

Stargazer2006

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You can add the following:

D516 (A)MST four-jet transport project

ESO 7189 LRI (WS-202A) competitor; led to the F-108 Rapier (1954)


Also, what numbering system do these fit in?

CL-4035 T2J-1 Buckeye
CL-4166 proposal for Eagle Missileer competition (1960)

RPRV 870 HiMAT (1977)
 

hesham

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Hi,


D491 VTOL jetliner


PL-3347,PL-3295,PL-3298 and PL-3299 Dyna-Soar developments;
http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,3052.180.html
 

circle-5

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Another aim9xray research study of the highest caliber. Just HOW does he do it?
 

aim9xray

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Thank you all for the kind comments. I'll update the list with the additions that have been
mentioned. Would it be possible for the source material for these additions to be listed? It
really makes it easier to validate the research (and as you can see, I tried to leave a trail of
breadcrumbs so you could see where I found the data I listed...) Thank you for the references
listed. ;D

Also, what numbering system do these fit in?
CL-4035 T2J-1 Buckeye
CL-4166 proposal for Eagle Missileer competition (1960)
RPRV 870 HiMAT (1977)
My guess is that the two CL numbers are charge numbers for NAA Columbus Division projects
although the CL prefix is new to me (and can be confused with CALAC (Lockheed California)
numbers). They do fall pretty close to the ESO 4028 and ESO 4034 numbers on page 8 above.

The "870" number is a different case. The "870" is clearly out of range for the mid-1970s. I
would speculate that the HiMAT study number was somewhere between D490 (in 1968) and
D619 (in 1977). On checking photos, I find that the first vehicle was marked RPRV 870 and the
second as RPRV 871, which leads me to speculate that these are vehicle numbers, likely
assigned by NASA. (Interestingly and possibly coincidentally, NASA's current day MQ-9 Ikhana
is numbered 870 and their two flying Global Hawks are numbered 871 and 872...)

PL-3347,PL-3295,PL-3298 and PL-3299 Dyna-Soar developments;
These appear to be individual [preliminary - PL?] drawing numbers (akin to the Northrop
"PD" drawings) from the Downey, California site which was known as the "Missile
Systems Division" in the 1950s and during the Apollo era as the "Space and Information
Systems Division". They split off from LAD (Los Angeles Division) quite early in the post
WW II era and appear to have quite different drawing, report and charge numbering
systems and practices than the LAD and Columbus Divisions. (You'll note that the NATIV,
X-10, Navaho, Hound Dog, Apollo CSM and S-II, and Space Shuttle projects do not have
NA- or NR- numbers...)

I don't have a sufficient number of "Downey"examples from which to draw any firm
conclusions - sorry!

Thank you again, and please stay tuned for updates...
 

aim9xray

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Update: work on the above list has been short circuited by an embarrassment of riches! To make a long story short, I ran into Bob Bradley (writer of the Convair Projects book) a while back, and during a discussion of our respective projects, I mentioned this one. He said that he had some pertinent data - and went back home to get it. When he returned with the pages, he related that that he had made the list off of engineering vellums one afternoon when he was working at North American in the mid-1950's!

Posted with permission. Thank you, Bob!
 

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Stargazer2006

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O-MI-GOD. :eek: :eek: :eek: This is just too marvelous for words.

I can't thank Bob Bradley enough for sharing this treasure!

Once again, it is the dedicated work of a company employee that can help future historical research. Awesome!

When you see Mr. Bradley next, aim9xray, please ask him if he remembers what the little boxes on the side meant, will you? ;)

Thanks again!
 

Abraham Gubler

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Just did a quick scan through that list and there is some amazing stuff in there. For Mustang fans a version with the Allison T56 and another for ground attack with the P&W R2800.
 

hesham

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Excellent work Aim9xray,you made my day;


and many thanks to Bob Bradley.


My dear Stargazer,I can't read many words,can you transfer them into a one PDF file,
you have a magic touch.
 

Stargazer2006

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hesham said:
My dear Stargazer,I can't read many words,can you transfer them into a one PDF file,
you have a magic touch.

I can do a PDF of course, but that will not improve the readability of the images. They are big enough already! Once saved on your computer, you ought to be able to visualize them in full size.
 

hesham

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Ok my dear Staragzer,


but still some words,I can't read it well.
 

hesham

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Oh my dear Stargazer,


many many thanks and very great work,God bless you.
 

Stargazer2006

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Stargazer said:
Everyone is invited to proof-read the following document as a mistake is always possible. Purple type indicates Bob Bradley's own comments and additions. Red type indicates missing or uncertain data. Thanks.

Thanks a lot hesham for your kind comment.

And many thanks to the 37 people who downloaded this document and thought it was such crap it didn't even deserve a comment, or maybe that it was so good it didn't even deserve the proof-reading I was politely requesting.

Several times in the past I have complained that some researchers marketed their work when it ought to be shared for free with the rest of the community... but because of people like you I'm strongly tempted to just remove every article and detailed list I've painstakingly researched and written exclusively for this forum.

And to Mark Nankivil, Ryan Crierie and the rest of our wonderfully dedicated researchers here, my advice: keep all your findings to yourself and publish ebooks instead, like Orionblamblam does. You may not sell a lot but at least you'll be sure that the work you've done ends up in the hands of people who recognize your work and truly appreciate it.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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I downloaded it but haven't had time to check it yet. It looks good, at an initial readthrough.
 

Sundog

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Stargazer said:
And to Mark Nankivil, Ryan Crierie and the rest of our wonderfully dedicated researchers here, my advice: keep all your findings to yourself and publish ebooks instead, like Orionblamblam does. You may not sell a lot but at least you'll be sure that the work you've done ends up in the hands of people who recognize your work and truly appreciate it.

You shouldn't do something because you want adulation. Go whine somewhere else about it. I spent hours converting it into a spreadsheet, but when I went to post it, you had already posted your adobe version of it so I didn't upload it. You didn't see me complaining about it because I was just doing it to help out, not because I was looking for gratification. So if anyone is interested, here is a whine free version in an Excel format.
 

Stargazer2006

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Sundog said:
Stargazer said:
And to Mark Nankivil, Ryan Crierie and the rest of our wonderfully dedicated researchers here, my advice: keep all your findings to yourself and publish ebooks instead, like Orionblamblam does. You may not sell a lot but at least you'll be sure that the work you've done ends up in the hands of people who recognize your work and truly appreciate it.

You shouldn't do something because you want adulation. Go whine somewhere else about it. I spent hours converting it into a spreadsheet, but when I went to post it, you had already posted your adobe version of it so I didn't upload it. You didn't see me complaining about it because I was just doing it to help out, not because I was looking for gratification. So if anyone is interested, here is a whine free version in an Excel format.

It's not about whining, it's about giving credit where credit's due. I may have my faults but since I've been on this forum, every time someone shared something that represented a lot of work or a great amount of researching I never failed to thank them or congratulate them, because that's the way I've been brought up. Too many people just download stuff and take it for granted.

When I did the Spangenberg Index in Excel, and shared it here as a PDF, it ended up on lots of sites and forums, but do you think anyone made the effort of mentioning the author? Or even only the forum it was taken from. No way!

For this NAA one I followed the original to a tee, keeping small font and capitals exactly the way it was done in the original hand-written list. These lists are not OCR'd, they have been typed line by line. It's a LOT of work. As I've said before, I don't expect compliments or "adulation", but I naively expect that people will behave in what I consider natural: when people render a service you thank them, or you nod, wink, do something that says: "Hey, I've noticed", so you know that you haven't worked in vain. Gives you an incentive to carry on.

Besides, I didn't ask for compliments, just for proof-reading. As for your spreadsheet, I can't see what kept you from posting it in the first place. It would have provided an alternative, as we've had in the past for several designations lists.

This "whiner" will no longer share his work on this forum, so rest assured: it will become a whine-free place all right.
 

starviking

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Stargazer,
I'm very sorry that you had not recieved any feedback on your NAA work. In my case I really had nothing to add, as my designation systems knowledge is quite low. I had to download your pdf to discover that. I would have had queries on the box annotations before some entries though.
I don't think you are a whiner, but with my experience of the list it often takes a reminder post to get feedback and comments from people, for several reasons:
1) People are busy, and often think 'someone more knowlegable than me will comment'.
2) People miss posts. This happens to me a lot - I live in Japan, GMT +8, and so reminder posts are good for me.
3) People download now, check later.
4) Lots of people want to post, but are wary of being seen as spamming threads. In the early days of the forum there were lots of 'great work!' posts, but these are, I think, frowned upon now.
Anyhow, thank you for all your work over the years, it has always been excellent.
 

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whiner said:
When I did the Spangenberg Index in Excel, and shared it here as a PDF, it ended up on lots of sites and forums, but do you think anyone made the effort of mentioning the author? Or even only the forum it was taken from. No way!

Welcome to the world.

welcome-to-the-world.gif
 

Jemiba

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If your work was hijacked and posted elsewhere without giving credit, it's time and absolutey
justified to send a mail to the owner of that site/forum. My experience is, that this is very
rarely ignored...
Here in our forum: Why not take every single download just as a "thank you" ? ;)
In the German Flugzeugforum (aircraft forum) there's a Thank-You-button now. Clicking it
and in your shown profile the number of received thank-yous is displayed. Don't know, if
it would be possible here, but to me it's a reasonable way to show gratitude, without those
long ( and principally deserved !) lists of posts, that honestly don't add anything to the thread.
 

starviking

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Jemiba said:
If your work was hijacked and posted elsewhere without giving credit, it's time and absolutey
justified to send a mail to the owner of that site/forum. My experience is, that this is very
rarely ignored...
Here in our forum: Why not take every single download just as a "thank you" ? ;)
In the German Flugzeugforum (aircraft forum) there's a Thank-You-button now. Clicking it
and in your shown profile the number of received thank-yous is displayed. Don't know, if
it would be possible here, but to me it's a reasonable way to show gratitude, without those
long ( and principally deserved !) lists of posts, that honestly don't add anything to the thread.


That would be a great idea!
 

hesham

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My dear Stargazer,


you sure did a great work,and we really appreciate your effort,and I think
all of us like it,please keep on.
 

Stargazer2006

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Jemiba said:
In the German Flugzeugforum (aircraft forum) there's a Thank-You-button now. Clicking it
and in your shown profile the number of received thank-yous is displayed. Don't know, if
it would be possible here, but to me it's a reasonable way to show gratitude, without those
long ( and principally deserved !) lists of posts, that honestly don't add anything to the thread.

This was one of my main suggestions (if not the principal one) when the forum was upgraded three years ago, but it fell into deaf ears it seems. On this here forum, many times I read things that I like, or download great pics that are posted, but I want to avoid too many "Thank you" messages in the threads, so I merely keep them for when the contributor did personal research work that demanded some obvious effort. On Facebook or other similar social networking platforms, such buttons enable to give a quick nod to the poster that says "hey, I've seen this and it's cool" without having to write a full sentence. Depending on what posts get likes, and how many, one is able to better assess what is of interest to the readers and what isn't. It also gives an incentive to keep on posting stuff; furthermore it helps you also identify which contacts/contributors have affinities with you when you regularly "like" the same things as these other members.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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The equivalent feature in SMF is called "Karma" and allow you to "applaud" or "smite" people and tracks each users positive/negative feedback as overall "karma". I find this unhelpful - I would prefer positive feedback only and I don't see value in tracking "how liked" a person is.


There's a third party mod I installed as a test which works a bit more how I would like but it screwed up some other stuff on the forum so I removed it.


In my test forum I tried out a feature which integrates likes with Facebook, but that presupposes everyone has Facebook accounts and feels like sharing their forum "likes" with their friends and family. Not a good idea I decided.


I've found another alternative I will look into.
 

hesham

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Hi,


here is the D694,it was a part of landing gear to F-100 fighter.


http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a092788.pdf
 

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D266 has caught my eye - Advanced Piloted Interceptor (API) - ESO 7799: I wonder if this was NAA's offering as an alternative to the Lockheed F-12B???? -SP
 

Jemiba

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hesham said:
here is the D694,it was a part of landing gear to F-100 fighter.

I'm not sure, that we should proceed this way, hesham. Such drawings may really be interesting to
modellers, or those amongst us, making really detailed drawings, but it's a part drawing and not a
designation for an aircraft. From what I can say after a short look at this paper, it's about the use
of titanium for aircraft landing gear.
 

aim9xray

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Jemiba - I'm not entirely sure that I agree with you. The distinction is that the NAA "D-list" is a designation system and a sequential list of advanced projects. Now granted, most are aircraft (fitting the interests of the forum) some appear to be of other advanced projects (which would not lead to an "end-item" aircraft). There are a number of non-aircraft projects in other manufacturers systems (Northrop's prosthetic arm; many Ryan electronics systems, and Boeing's 500 series gas turbines come to mind. My thought is that since this project has a D-series designation, it is properly included in the NAA D-series "Designation System".

Hesham - This was not a project to just fabricate a part for the F-100 landing gear. The project was to use advanced (even experimental) design and manufacturing methods to create stronger and lighter aircraft parts. One part that was chosen as a test was part of the main landing gear for the F-100; a part that was well understood from its inception twenty years before. They could have chosen a part from the F-86 or T-39 or B-25. The distinction is subtle, but important.

Thank you for finding this obscure reference!
 

aim9xray

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Steve Pace said:
D266 has caught my eye - Advanced Piloted Interceptor (API) - ESO 7799: I wonder if this was NAA's offering as an alternative to the Lockheed F-12B? ??? -SP
I don't think so. D266 is from the 1956-7 time frame. F-12B is mid-60s.
 

Jemiba

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aim9xray said:
...My thought is that since this project has a D-series designation, it is properly included in the NAA D-series "Designation System".

You're right, I was too fixed on "pure aircraft projects" ... but I was (and still am) somehow fearing
the results ! As you said by yourself "..distinction is subtle, but important" and there's the danger
of being swamped by not fully appropriate posts. But again, you're right and we should take the
risk !
 

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D490-3B is also given as a designation for Rockwell F-15 in an endnote for Partners in Freedom.

Staff of the NASA-LRC F-15 Study Group: Static Aerodynamic Characteristics and Exhaust-Nozzle/Afterbody Characteristics of the North American Rockwell F-15 Airplane (D490-3B) Design. NASA LWP-805, 1969.
 

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