XCG-16 Glider
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Courtesy of Charles Day, Author "Silent Ones, WWII Invasion Glider Test & Experiment, Clinton County Army Air Field, Wilmington, Ohio", writing 11/27/2005  Email Charles Day

Source Disposition
   
TSEAL 6D
07/12/1945
07/12/1945 to be shipped to Freeman Field
Freeman 05/09/46 Relocate to Chicago
ATSC
06/06/1946
Partial list - to be towed
   

General Airborne Transport Company's Flying Wing Glider: XCG-16

William Hawley Bowlus, a sailplane and glider manufacturer, designed a flying wing glider, the XCG-16 in February 1942. Its design was a departure from single fuselage designs and incorporated a twin boom design. Early test flights of a full scale model proved disastrous when unsecured weighted bags shifted causing it to become unbalanced and killing the pilot and several passengers.

The glider front wing opened like jaws with the bottom swinging down as a ramp resting on the ground. The glider could carry 42 troops or two howitzers. It had retractable landing gear, a wingspan of 91.8 feet, and weighed in at 9,500 pounds empty.

Hawley's General Airbourne Transport Company received a contract in November 1943 to build the glider. The first glider was delivered six months late at three times the cost. The glider was tested at Clinton AAF, Ohio and Orlando, Florida. Several shortcomings were discovered including insufficient crash protection and personnel exits along with restricted pilot visibility. The Army Air Force terminated the contract in November 1943.

http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Ithaca/1397/xcg16.html

The glider concerned was the XGG-16A, designed by William Hawley Bowlus, a talented designer who had cut his teeth in the early Twenties with Mahoney-Ryan and the company's series of Brougham high wing monoplanes. He became even more noted for his glider designs under the banner of his company Bowlus Sailplanes.

Early in 1942 Bowlus was awarded a contract by the USAAF for two troop gliders -- the eight-place XCG-7 and the 15-place XCG-8. The smaller glider was structurally unsound and failed official tests. The larger XCG-8 was really too large for Bowlus to handle and Douglas Aircraft came to the rescue. But this glider, too, failed to come up to scratch structurally; and both projects came to naught.

Scale model
At around the same time Bowlus began work on a twin boom flying-wing glider for military transport work In order to test his design he began work on a half-scale proof-of-concept flying model, forming the Airborne Transport Company in Los Angeles, California for the purpose.

Construction of the test model was carried out in his tiny shop, a former dry cleaning shop where there was just sufficient room to build the two-seat open-cockpit prototype. On completion, the glider was flown at Muroc Dry Lake, now the sight of Edwards AFB. The glider flew well and Bowlus and partner Albert Criz set about designing, building and marketing the full-size glider, the XCG-16.

The XCG-16A was an all-wood twin boom military transport glider of 91ft 10in span, featuring an aerofoil-sectioned lifting fuselage between the booms in which either cargo or troops could be carried in two 16ft x 7ft compartments. The load could be four tons of cargo or 48 armed troops. The front of the wing opened upwards and downwards like a pair of jaws, the bottom doors doubling as a loading ramp. A mock-up of the troop accommodation shows that the compartment tapered towards the trailing edge, allowing little headroom for those unfortunates at the back. The crew of two sat in tandem beneath a continuous canopy atop the centre section.

A single fin and rudder was mounted on the tailplane between the booms. The tricycle landing gear was retractable, and flaps were fitted to the outer wing panels and the fuselage centre section. The XCG-16 was constructed mainly of plywood, although all flying surfaces and flaps were fabric-covered.

The XCG-16 was completed and ready for test-flying in the summer of 1943. It was offered to Wright Field for evaluation, but the company elected to carry out tests itself. These appear to have gone well and Bowlus authorized a demonstration for top brass on September 11, 1943 from March Field. The pilot of the glider was Col P. E. Gable, deputy director of the Army Air Corps assault glider program. The copilot was Howard Morrison, a long time associate of Bowlus and a test pilot.

Several VIPs set off on the flight. They included Richard Dupont, special assistant to Gen Arnold; Col Ernest Gabel, another glider specialist on the staff of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, and C. C. Chandler, thrice soaring champion. In order to bring the glider up to more-or-less full load, bags of sand and lead shot were loaded aboard but apparently were in securely lashed some reports say they were not lashed to the glider at all. The glider was towed off from March Field by a Lockheed C-60. During turbulence the bags shifted aft and set up a porpoising moment, forcing the C-60 to cut loose. The glider entered a flat spin from which it failed to recover. Only Bowlus and one other managed to take to their parachutes the other occupants, including Dupont, perished. One report says that Gable had less than 6 hours total time on gliders and allowed the XCG-16 to fly into the wake of the C-60, causing the glider to pitch violently and breaking the cable. The ballast shifted aft, and the glider entered the flat spin.

SPAN 91 ft 10 in.
LENGTH 48 ft 4 in
HEIGHT 18 ft 4 in.
ASPECT RATION 7.4:1
ALL UP WEIGHT 19,580 lb.
EMPTY WEIGHT 9,500 lb
CARGO 10,080 lb.
MAX SPEED 220 mph
STALL SPEED
FLAPS DOWN
58 mph
STALL SPEED
FLAPS UP
62 mph

Crude mock-up showing troop positions
in the airfoil wing -- with midgets in back.

A rare photograph of the XCC-16 troop-carrying glider, looking futuristic even today. The leading edge of the fuselage aerofoil opened like jaws to allow loading of troops or cargo. The two-man crew sat in the tandem cockpit atop the wing. Note the rather precarious-looking single fin and rudder.

Costly, late . . .
Despite this tragic occurrence the company persevered with a further XCG-16, albeit six months late and costing three times the estimate. It was tested at Clinton Army Air Field and at Orlando, Florida. This is probably the aircraft tested by GAT test pilot Paul E. Tuntland and Northrop test pilot J. Meyers together with army officers from the glider branch at Dayton Ohio. Total flying time for the tests was 34 hours, including 50 landings made under Service operating conditions.

In his pilot's test report summary, Tuntland had this to say about the handling of the XCG-16: "In my opinion the XCG-16 has excellent handling qualities. During the flight tests I had the impression of flying a large sail plane. It is laterally stable in that it has a tendency to over-bank in steep spirals. I always had good lateral control at the slower airspeeds and higher angles of attack. Longitudinal control was normal with high elevator forces noted at increased airspeeds. "Directional control was good throughout the normal speed range. There was sufficient vertical area in the tail group to maintain good directional control throughout the approach and landing roll, even in moderate crosswinds. There was no tendency to yaw before or during the landing roll except in a crosswind, where normal correction was satisfactory. The subject aircraft is very maneuverable, being capable of rolling from one vertical turn to another in a minimum of time. On one occasion I was able to soar the aircraft in moderate lift conditions. Stalling characteristics are excellent. The first stall warning is indicated about 15 m.p.h. above actual stalling speed. This aircraft made normal landings at between 40 and 75 m.p.h. with the average about 48 m.p.h. A minimum of longitudinal trimming control was necessary in a c.g. shift from 24 per cent MAC to 36 per cent MAC. Normal landings were made with the flaps retracted at approximately 70 m.p.h.

"The copilot's lateral vision is rather poor from the rear cockpit. The pilot's front cockpit vision is excellent forward, and good towards the sides.

"The ground cushioning effect is very noticeable and is a desirable feature of the type, assisting soft ground contact from a rough approach.

"Any glider of either tricycle or conventional landing gear that has sufficient vertical tail surfaces for directional stability will tend to turn into the wind during crosswind landings at high or low angles of attack. In this respect the XCG-16 glider has absolutely no objectionable qualities compared to any other aircraft with which I have had experience. The tendency to turn could be readily corrected by the action of the rudder and of the brakes at slow speeds."

The report is dated October 31, 1944. Despite the favorable flying qualities of the XCG-16 there were a number of operational snags; rather too many, as it turned out. These included: inadequate protection in the event of a crash; insufficient exits for crew in the event of an emergency; unsatisfactory loading ramps; poor location of flight equipment, and critical lateral loading. After tests by the AAF Board at Clinton Army Air Field and at Orlando, the contract for the XCG-16 was cancelled on November 30, 1944.

Source: http://users.aol.com/bowlustrlr/twinb.html

the text (above) contains quite a few errors;  MC-1 was first and was not built under an normal and usual Army contract.  The MC-1 is the aircraft that crashed, not the XCG-16.  Hawley Bowlus did not own GATC.  There was no XCG-16A.  The thought that the MC-1 was offered to Wright Field for evaluation, but the company elected to carry out tests itself is incorrect.  At that time, manufacturers of all aircraft carried out the initial flight testing. Wright Field only tested that the design met the specification or tested after modifications and additions.  The AF did not begin doing all testing until 1947-48.  Richard duPont was the instigator of the flight of the MC-1, not Hawley Bowlus. Hawley Bowlus was not in the MC-1 when it crashed. Three jumped with parachutes, not two, but only one survived the jump.  The C-60 did not cut the glider loose and the tow line did not break.  The tow release did not release at first pull but released on the third porpoise of the MC-1. It released from the glider. Once the factory flight tests on the XCG-16 were completed, glider pilots at CCAAF flew the XCG-16  on over 70 flights in October of 1944 before the glider was rejected.  Courtesy of Charles Day, Author "Silent Ones, WWII Invasion Glider Test & Experiment, Clinton County Army Air Field, Wilmington, Ohio", writing 11/24/2005  Email Charles Day

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Jim West
Page last revised 09/27/2010