Curtiss-Wright C-46 Commando Color Photographs Part II – Factory and Interior Photos

All photographs from the NASM Hans Groenhoff collection.

Curtiss factory technicians posed “at work” for the photographer, giving a good view of the interior structure of the wing. Hundreds of thousands of women worked in the factories during the war, then went home to farm their own food in “Victory Gardens” in their backyards after their shifts.

A technician works inside the nose of a C-46 while others make adjustments to the port engine. Even at this early stage there is evidence of hydraulic fluid leaking through the fuselage seams under the nose of the aircraft, something commonly seen on Commandos.

A fuselage taking shape on the factory floor. Modelers should note the different hues of the natural aluminum finish. The forward access door to the lower cargo bay has not been fitted, giving a glimpse into the interior.

The port wing assembly is fully painted and marked prior to attachment to the aircraft. This wing is from the first group of C-46’s ordered as evidenced by the red center to the national insignia. The primer on the leading edge of the wing will be covered by a de-icer boot on the finished aircraft.

A fine overhead view of the forward fuselage at the Curtiss Buffalo NY plant showing the arrangement of antennas and the navigator’s astrodome.

The spacious cargo compartment of the Commando, looking forward towards the cockpit. Tie-down points are visible on the floor, passenger seats are seen folded along the fuselage sides.

A rare contemporary color photograph of the cockpit of a C-46E.

Even more rare is this view of the switch panel located on the roof of the cockpit. Note the color coding of the switch groups.

A nice perspective of the production floor which gives an overview of the assembly line. There was constant pressure to shorten production times and improve efficiency for all manner of war materials, often the introduction of design improvements would be postponed to prevent any potential delays in production.

A presentation ceremony outside of the Curtiss plant for three C-46A’s and several P-40 Warhawks. The OD / NG camouflaged aircraft all wear inscriptions saying “City of ___” on their noses, the P-40’s in desert colors lack national insignia and serial numbers.

Part III here:

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Interior Colors Part III

Here are some nice color shots of the interior of a Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress showing aircrew at their positions.  These are of the thirteenth B-17E produced, serial 41-2405 with the Sperry remote turret in the ventral position.  The pictures were taken by famed aviation photographer Rudy Arnold on 25JUN42.

A couple of notes.  While the descriptions associated with the negatives in the NASM archive all describe the aircraft as being 41-2405, there are a few photographs in the series which are obviously of other Fortresses, so take that identification with a grain of salt on the interior pictures.  Several of the negatives in the collection have water damage so if you notice unexpected color shift or mottling it is possibly a defect on the negative.

All photographs credit National Air and Space Museum Archives, Rudy Arnold Photo Collection unless otherwise noted.

Ordinance crew are bombing up 41-2405.  The Norton bombsight in the nose was almost always seen covered when on the ground for security reasons, even though by this time several examples had been captured intact by the Japanese on Java.  Note the grounding wire attached to the pitot tube on the port side of the nose, a necessary precaution against sparks when arming or fueling the aircraft.

An exterior view of 41-2405 warming up her engines in the pre-dawn twilight.  Even though the colors are washed out, the Sperry remote belly gun turret and sighting dome show clearly.

Pilot LT Arthur H. Little poses at the controls, showing details of the colors of the flight controls and cockpit.  The cockpit interior was lined with sound-deadening insulation and covered with a dark green canvas.  A B-24 Liberator can be seen in the background.

Co-Pilot LT Douglas H. Busky at his station.  The cockpit side windows could be slid to the rear to allow for ventilation or an unobstructed view.  Notice that the sliding portion is a single piece of molded Plexiglas and is unframed.

The Navigator, 2LT Robert W. Wert at his station in the nose.  The nose compartment of the early Fortresses was also covered in the sound deadening insulation with dark green canvas covering, but later production Forts dispensed with the insulation in the nose except for the bulkhead separating the nose compartment from the cockpit.  The underlying interior was unprimed.  If you can see the structural ribbing on a Fortress interior, it should be in natural aluminum!

Aft of the bomb bay is the radio compartment, where SGT Leslie T. Figgs is pictured at his station.  This compartment was also provided with the interior insulation on the B-17E.  Note the color of his table, and that none of the airframe or fittings are primed.

The after fuselage looking forward, where the waist and belly gunners relax with a bottle of milk and a sandwich.  The belly gunner laid between the feet of the waist gunners facing aft to look though his sight.  The crowded conditions interfered with the efficiency of all three men, and using the periscopic sight was disorienting and nauseating for the ventral gunner.  The Sperry remote turret was not a success and no kills were credited to gunners using the system.  In this view the sight is covered with plywood and parachutes for security reasons.

The same view, but here the photographer has switched to another camera loaded with black and white film which shows additional details.  Note the structural support for the belly turret at the top of the frame, and the canvas covering for the vertical support.

Here is a Boeing factory photograph showing the Sperry remote turret and associated sight more clearly.  It is easy to imagine the waist gunners stepping on and tripping over the belly gunner in combat.  The remote turrets were removed from most aircraft in the Pacific sometime during the Summer and Fall of 1942 and replaced with the manned Sperry ball turrets.  (Boeing photograph)

A posed photograph showing the waist gunners with their .50 caliber machine guns aimed aft.  The lack of space for the gunners to work is obvious, some crews flew with only one waist gunner, especially later in the war.  The interior of the aft fuselage was not provided with the insulative covering, and was left in unprimed Aluminum (as was the bomb bay).  Restored warbirds are generally seen with primed interiors as a preservative measure which has led to an erroneous perception among modelers.

A photograph from the Michael Ochs Archives showing an early Fortress with the hand-held .30 caliber machine gun mounted in the nose.  The relatively weak defensive armament in the nose was quickly discovered by both the Germans and the Japanese.  Efforts by Fortress crews to increase the forward firepower were frustrated by heavier guns cracking the Plexiglas panels which also served as mounts.  Various field modifications were tried in an effort to absorb the recoil from heavier nose guns.

Link to Part I here:

Link to Part II here:

Douglas XB-19 Interior Photographs

The flight deck of the XB-19 was quite spacious by aviation standards.  This compartment was fitted with acoustical batting to deaden engine noise and the pilot and co-pilot are provided with tinted sun visors.  Note the padded leather office chair in the navigator’s position behind the pilot and the parachutes in the chairs.  This photograph was taken at march Field, pilot is Major Stanley Umstead, co-pilot Major Howard Bunker, flight engineer Warren Dickerson (between the pilots), and radio operator Duncan Hall in the foreground.

A similar view looking forward.  This may be one of the earliest XB-19 test flights as the pilot to the left is Major Stanley Umstead who was first to fly the XB-19.  The bombardier is visible at his position in the lower nose.  Behind the pilot is the navigator’s position, behind the co-pilot is the aircraft commander.  (Coleta Air & Space Museum photograph)

A technician makes adjustments to the bomb release mechanism in the nose compartment.  While designed as a bomber, the XB-19 functioned as test bed for new equipment and was instrumental in the development of American heaver bomber programs.

The flight deck looking aft.  To the left is the radio operator.  The flight engineer’s station with its array of engine gauges and controls dominates the rear of the flight deck.  Immediately behind the engineer is the chief mechanic.  

A similar view aft shot from the aircraft commander’s position showing minor changes.  The XB-19 was designed to carry a crew of sixteen with the provision for eight additional relief crewmen in a berthing area with galley.  In practice her payload was test equipment and technicians.

The engines of the XB-19 were serviceable in flight.  The mechanics could access the engines by crawl tunnels inside the wings.  Not a job for the claustrophobic!

A similar view of a mechanic inside one of the wing tunnels.  A considerable amount of electrical cabling has been added compared to the previous photograph.

A crewman uses the intercom in the tail of the aircraft.  To the rear is the tail gunner’s position, behind the crewman is the gun port for the starboard .30 caliber gun with ammunition racks behind.

A slightly different view of the after fuselage.  Racks for both .30 caliber waist guns are visible and equipment bins have been added along the centerline.  Note that none of the interior surfaces in any of these photographs have been primed, all remained in natural aluminum.

Kyushu J7W1 Shinden 震電 Magnificent Lightning

A few Canard fighter aircraft were designed during the Second World War, but only the Japanese Kyushu J7W1 Shinden was ordered into production.  While a promising design, it was a case of too little, too late and only two prototypes were completed before the end of the war.

The Shinden was intended to fulfill an Imperial Japanese Navy specification for a land based interceptor to oppose the American B-29s which were ravaging Japan.  While its range was relatively short, it carried four 30 mm Type 5 cannon in the nose, a considerable armament for the time.

Power was provided by a turbocharged Mitsubishi Ha-43 eighteen cylinder radial engine which produced 2,130 hp.  The engine was mounted behind the pilot and drove a six bladed pusher propeller via an extension shaft.  Cooling air was introduced through a series of inlets along the sides of the aircraft.  The prototype experienced engine overheating while on the ground, and vibration due to the length of the shaft connecting the engine and the propeller.

The Shinden flew for the first time on 03AUG45 with CAPT Tsuruno, head of the IJN design team, at the controls.  Even before the first flight the Navy had ordered the Shinden into production, a reflection of both the design’s promise and the desperation of Japan’s military situation.

From the beginning the Shinden was intended to be adapted to jet propulsion using an Ne-130 tubojet.  This would have solved the cooling, vibration, and torque problems associated with the Ha-43 at a stroke, but the jet engine was not ready before the war ended.

One of the Shinden prototypes was brought to America after the war for evaluation, although it does not appear to have been flown.  The U.S. Navy transferred the aircraft to the Smithsonian in 1960.  The forward fuselage is currently on display at NASM Udvar-Hazy with the rest of the components held in storage.  (NASM color photographs)

Cockpit layout of the J7W1 prototype.  

Starboard side, showing the seat adjustment lever and the American-installed fire suppression system.

Port side showing the throttle.

Nakajima G8N Renzan 連山 (Mountain Range), Allied Reporting Name “Rita”

G8N _Renzan_01
The Nakajima G8N Renzan was developed in response to an Imperial Japanese Navy requirement for a long range land-based attack bomber.  The prototype first flew on 23OCT44 and was delivered to the IJN in January 1945.

G8N _Renzan_02
The specification called for a heavy defensive armament.  Six Type 99 20 mm cannon were mounted in powered turrets located in dorsal, ventral, and tail positions, augmented with four 13 mm Type 2 machine guns mounted  two in the nose and one in each beam position.

G8N _Renzan_03
The aircraft was powered by four Homare 24 radials rated at 2,000 hp each.  These were mounted behind gear-driven cooling fans to prevent over-heating.  The engines were turbocharged, but these were problematic and the Japanese struggled to develop reliable turbochargers during the war.

G8N _Renzan_04
Four prototypes were produced but the design never entered series production due to the deteriorating war situation.  Overall flight characteristics were reported to be good.  This is the second prototype seen after the war in a hanger at Yokosuka.

G8N _Renzan_05
The prototypes were finished in an overall orange scheme which was typical for Japanese prototypes and trainers.  Cowlings were black.  Note that the yellow wing leading edge identification panels were not applied to these aircraft.  Propellers were removed to comply with U.S. directives after the surrender.

G8N _Renzan_06_Yokosuka
The starboard side shows blast damage to the rear fuselage.  The third prototype was destroyed on the ground by U.S. Navy aircraft.

G8N _Renzan_07
After the war the fourth prototype Renzan was selected to be removed to the U.S. for evaluation.  It was transported as deck cargo along with several other types aboard the escort carrier USS Bogue (CVE-9).

G8N _Renzan_08
Cockpit layout was conventional, the aircraft carried a crew of ten.  The design was modified to allow the Ohka special attack aircraft to be carried.

G8N _Renzan_09
This is not the best quality photograph, but interior pictures of the Renzan are rare.  This is the bomb bay.  Intended bomb load was two 1,000 kg bombs, 4,400 pounds total.

G8N _Renzan_10
This is the fourth prototype being reassembled in Newark, New Jersey for evaluation.

G8N _Renzan_11
Hasegawa issued a kit of the Renzan in 1968 in 1/72 scale and has reboxed it several times.  While not a bad kit for its time, it would need a lot of work to bring up to current standards.  It’s best described as a “rivet monster” as that was the surface detailing standard of the time, but surprisingly an aftermarket set of resin exhausts have recently been released by Quickboost.

G8N _Renzan_12
After evaluation, the aircraft brought to the United States was scrapped.  None of the Renzan survive today.

The Boeing Model 299 – The First Flying Fortress

52273.Boeing Bombardment Airplane
The Model 299 was Boeing’s entry into a USAAC design competition to replace the Martin B-10 as the Air Corps’ primary bomber.  Built at Boeing’s expense, the design was unusual for mounting four Pratt & Whitney R-1690 Hornet radial engines instead of the more expected two.  The design also mounted five .30 caliber machine guns in fully enclosed positions which led to reporter Richard Williams of the Seattle Daily Times calling the aircraft a “Flying Fortress”, a name which Boeing was quick to adopt.

Boeing XB-17 (Model 299). (U.S. Air Force photo)
The prototype was given the registration number X 13372 and USAAC markings for the competition.  The streamlined design was fast for its time, averaging 233 mph on the delivery flight from Seattle to Wright Field.  It was superior in every respect except for price – the Boeing design cost approximately twice as much as its competitors.

The nose of the Model 299 contained a separate fairing for the bomb sight.  On later production models this would be incorporated into the nose glazing.

Boeing XB-17 (Model 299) nose turret with gun. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The nose featured a single .30 caliber machine gun in a swivel mount which gave the gun a wide field of fire.  The design and workmanship of the gun positions was innovative for the time, as contemporary service aircraft were generally equipped with open positions which exposed the gunners to the slipstream.

A view inside the nose looking forward, clearly showing the step and opening for the bomb sight which is not yet fitted.  The Model 299 did not carry acoustical insulation in the nose, the interior was left in unpainted aluminum.

Boeing XB-17 (Model 299) cockpit. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The cockpit layout of the Model 299 set the basic configuration for the more than 12,700 Fortresses to follow.  Pilot and co-pilot sat side-by-side with the throttles and propeller controls mounted in the center console where they were accessible to both.

The bomb bay should also look familiar to all Flying Fortress fans.  The Model 299 could carry up to 4,800 pounds of bombs internally.  Even at this initial design stage guide ropes were installed to help keep crew members on the catwalk.

The radio operator’s position featured insulative batting to reduce the noise in the compartment, in stark contrast to the natural aluminum finish on the rest of the aircraft’s interior.

A Boeing engineer demonstrates one of the .30 caliber waist gun mounts.  The hinged ring assembly allowed the gun to move in train, while the Plexiglas bubble fairing allowed movement in elevation.  In combination the design allowed the gunner a wide field of fire while remaining protected from the slipstream.

The exterior contours of the gun positions were very aerodynamic.  The construction and finish of the prototype was exceptional.

On 30OCT35 the Model 299 crashed at Wright Field with two fatalities, the cause was traced to a gust lock which was designed to keep the control surfaces from moving on the ground which the pilots neglected to disengage.  With Boeing’s entry unable to complete the competition, the USAAC awarded a construction contract to Douglas for 133 B-18s.  Boeing could have been financially devastated, but fortunately managed to secure a contract for thirteen YB-17s thus saving both the company and the Flying Fortress.  The Model 299 was later retroactively called the XB-17.

Japanese Aircraft Interiors 1940-1945 Book Review



Japanese Aircraft Interiors 1940-1945

By Robert C. Mikesh

Hardcover in dustjacket, 328 pages, profusely illustrated

Published by Monogram Aviation Publications April 2000

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0914144618

ISBN-13: 978-0914144618

Dimensions: 12.5 x 9.2 x 1 inches

Robert C. Mikesh is a name known to all aviation enthusiasts.  A former USAF Officer, he was the Senior Curator for Aeronautics with the U.S. National Air and Space Museum.  Fortunately for modelers and others interested in aviation history, he used his unparalleled access to surviving examples of Japanese aircraft to document them from  a unique perspective – the cockpit interiors and crew positions.

This book is exceptional for its presentation and its thoroughness.  Included are examples of nearly all aircraft types operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy and Air Forces during the Second World War.  Each type receives a brief introduction, and then the reader is treated to several photographs and illustrations documenting the interiors and equipment.  The photographs are clearly explained and thoroughly captioned, with the purpose of each component being identified and explained.  Both archival photographs from Allied technical evaluation units and contemporary color photographs are utilized – whichever best illustrates the subject.  Some surviving aircraft are completely restored, others are untouched and unseen since the war having been stored for potential future display.  Many types have perspective artwork showing the layout and identification of the various components.

Several of the aircraft types are unique, and Mikesh presents information on the only examples left in existence.  For example, the only surviving J7W1 Shinden prototype is in storage at the NASM, the book contains several full color photographs of the original cockpit.  For this and the other types, Mikesh has gone to great lengths to measure the colors of the airframe interiors and installed equipment and presents that research to the reader.  Refreshingly, he also describes any obstacles in acquiring accurate measurements, and informs the reader when he is forced to relate his opinion or best guess.  In many cases  his position and contacts gave Mikesh access to all the surviving artifacts and documentation, so his best guess is likely to be the best guess going forward.

This book is a treasure, and an unrivaled reference for modelers of Japanese aircraft.  It is the authoritative work on the topic, it is highly doubtful to ever be rivaled.  Currently out of print, it can command collector prices on the used book market  but is an indispensable reference for modelers.  Highly recommended.