S. Berliner, III's sbiii.com Aviation Page 1 keywords = aviation air plane Roosevelt Field Curtiss Mitchel Floyd Bennett hangar George Dade Lindbergh rail road Cradle museum historical Berliner Joyce EEMCO ERCO Ercoupe Aircoupe Paul Mantz Cole Palen Rhinebeck aerodrome Bell Airacuda FM-1 SE-5

Updated:   25 Dec 2012, 12:10  ET
[Page created 02 Jun 2005; converted 25 Dec 2012

    original AT&T Worldnet Website begun 30 May 1996.]
URL:  http://sbiii.com/aviatn-1.html
[was at "home.att.net/~Berliner-Ultrasonics/aviatn-1.html"]

S. Berliner, III
Consultant in Ultrasonic Processing
"changing materials with high-intensity sound"

[consultation is on a fee basis]

Technical and Historical Writer, Oral Historian
Popularizer of Science and Technology
Rail, Auto, Air, Ordnance, and Model Enthusiast
Light-weight Linguist, Lay Minister, and Putative Philosopher

note - The vast bulk of my massive Web presence (over 485 pages) had been hosted by AT&T's WorldNet service since 30 May 1996; they dropped WorldNet effective 31 Mar 2010 and I have been scrambling to transfer everything.  Everything's saved but all the links have to be changed, mostly by hand.  See my sbiii.com Transfer Page for any updates on this tedious process.

S. Berliner, III's


Page 1

See also the Aviation Page, et seq.

World War I Eberhart SE-5E
(American-built Version of the Royal Aircraft Factory's SE-5a)
Image from USAF Museum Site.

AVIATION - continued

This page is a continuation of the Aviation page.


(Greatly curtailed to save space)

For aviation matters in general, see the main Aviation page.

On the preceding Aviation page:
  George C. Dade
  V-1 Buzz Bombs
  All-Time Favo(u)rites - My Choices (moved to page 4 on 29 Mar 2002)
  Boeing 307 Stratoliner
  Strombecker Kits

On this Aviation Continuation page 1:
  Bell FM-1 Airacuda
  More on the Bell FM-1 Airacuda.
    (both moved from the preceeding and succeeding pages 02 Jun 2005)
  1934 Curtiss Hawk Biplane Pedal Car.

On the Continuation Page 2:
  Berliner and Aviation
  Bell P-59 Airacomet.
  Junkers Ju52/3m.

On the preceding Aviation page 3:
  LTA - Lighter Than Air
  More Aviation Apocrypha.
    {so far}, plus miscellany.
(moved from the main and second Aviation pages 27 Jan 00)
  Strombecker Kits
    (moved from main Aviationpage 09 Mar 2000)
  Long Island Chopper - H34 to fly again

On the preceding Aviation page 4:
  All-Time Favo(u)rites - My Choices (moved here from main page 29 Mar 2002)
  Marine Air Terminal (La Guardia).
  Casey Jones' Academy of Aeronautics.
  Dinky Meccano Aircraft Models.
  Comet Authenticast 1:432 Aircraft Models.

On the preceding Aviation page 5:
    TWIN-FUSELAGE AIRPLANES (moved from the main Aviation page on 09 Jul 2002)
    P-38 Lockheed Lightning
    F-82 Twin Mustang
    Twin Ercoupe
    FW 189 Uhu
    He 111Z "Zwilling"
      Me 321/323 "Gigant"
    American Airpower Museum

On the preceding Aviation page 6:
  Twin Cub.
  Champlain Flying Club's 1946 Aeronca Champ.   Long Island Air Museums.
    Cradle of Aviation Museum.
    American Airpower Museum.
  Stout/Ford Trimotors (see also the Tri-motor Page).

On Aviation Continuation Page 7   new.gif (24 Dec 2012)
    Avianca Flight 52 (25 Jan 1990).   new.gif (24 Dec 2012)

Aviation Tri-motor Page.

See also the Aviation Humor page.

Nota bene - I am a passenger; NOT a pilot!  Although I logged many hours in the Link trainer at NYC's late (and, by many, lamented) Museum of Science and Industry, I only had the command controls once, ca. 1980, in the right-hand seat of a Cessna 210, when our pilot seemed determined to B-25 the Empire State Building and I conned us away from that fate.

You might visit my other pages which are replete with aviation-related historical information, such as railroads, Emile Berliner and his son Henry A. Berliner*), Chrysler and SS and Jaguar, the ordnance page, and the Fairchild Aerial Survey page.

Bell FM-1 Airacuda


(I really did lose it)

(consolidated and moved from both the main Aviation Page and Aviation Continuation Page 2 on 02 Jun 2005)

For some 50 years now I've been prattling about a Bell XP-30-something Airacuda with a bullet-nosed fuselage and two pusher props behind greenhouse-nosed nacelles with cannon in them.  One day, a young man in a hobby shop had no idea about what I was talking so I started looking in earnest; I'd had a Hubley die-cast metal model (toy) as a kid in the late '30s / early '40s with silver fuselage and nacelles with extendable landing gear and red folding wings (do you have one for me?).  I ran across "Jane's Encyclopedia of Aircraft, a 4-volume set I'd never seen before, in the reference section of my local library and there it was, the Bell FM-1 Airacuda (page 289)!  So I got the model number all wrong; I knew it couldn't have been in the higher P-30-series because I know them all:  Curtiss P-35 Hawk radial predecessor of the P-40, de Seversky P-36 stubby predecessor of the P-47 Thunderbolt, Curtis P-37 Hawk in-line predecessor of the P-40, Lockheed P-38 twin-boom Lightning, and Bell P-39 mid-engine Airacobra.  There's even a picture of the YFM-1, complete with wing stars and striped rudder, just as I remembered it all these years!  There is a vacuum-formed model of the FM-1 put out by Rareplanes in England in 1:72 with US decals and metal props, but it's hard to obtain here in the USA (I eventually got one).

Here, courtesy of the Confederate Air Force's Air Group One, is the YFM-1 for your delectation:

Bell YFM-1 Airacuda

The Aerofiles* site, re the Berliner helicopter, and, lo and behold, there was this 1940 Air News YFM-1a photo (permission was kindly granted 12 Feb 2000 to reproduce it here):

[Image courtesy of Aerofiles - provenance as noted - all rights reserved.]

* - This Aerofiles site is one of the most amazing amassments of aircraft information I have ever seen; I heartily recommend that you devote some considerable time to it, if you have not already done so.

A Hubley Airacuda turned up on Ebay at the end of May 2005, Item #6962341779, for too mucho dinero (for me, that is; it closed out at $200.00!); here, through the exceedinly-kind courtesy of the seller, antique toy dealer Charles Gilbert, are his photos (cropped by me) of the model:

HubleyAiracudaTop HubleyAiracudaBot
(Ebay photos courtesy "charles-myrnagilbertantiquetoys", by specific written permission)

HubleyAiracudaLeft HubleyAiracudaRight
(Ebay photos courtesy "charles-myrnagilbertantiquetoys", by specific written permission)

HubleyAiracudaFront HubleyAiracudaRear
(Ebay photos courtesy "charles-myrnagilbertantiquetoys", by specific written permission)
[Thumbnailed images; click on pictures for larger images]


So much for my memory of folding wings*, but what a grand nostalgia trip!

    [* - I think that what I may be remembering is that the main gear folded inward against the spring visible in the bottom view).]   added.gif (25 Dec 2012)

For more (MUCH MORE!) on the Bell FM-1 Airacuda, read on.

More on the Bell FM-1 Series Airacuda

(moved from both the main Aviation Page and Aviation Continuation Page 2 on 02 Jun 2005)

FM-1 series Specifications (from AirPage):

Bell (USA)

Bell YFM-1 "Airacuda" Fighter*, 1937

Development:  YFM-1 was developed as a heavy escort fighter.  First prototype XFM-1 flew
  on September 1, 1937.  The aircraft was equipped with Allison V-1710-13 1133 hp engines
  and achieved the top speed of 490 km/h.  It was decided to build an experimental series of
  13 aircraft, first of which was completed in September 1939.  However, the aircraft never entered mass production.


  YFM-1A - V-1710-23 engines
  YFM-1B - V-1710-41 1073 hp engines

Service:  None.

Data for YFM-1A:

Crew: 5
Wingspan: 21.3 m
Length: 14.0 m
Height: 3.9 m
Wing area: 55.8 sq. m
Empty weight: 6200 kg
Takeoff weight: 8190 kg
Max. takeoff weight: 8650 kg
Engines: 2xAllison Y-1710-23, 1072 hp each
Max. speed: 431 km/h
Cruise speed: 383 km/h
Landing speed: 123 km/h
Climb rate: 7.5 m/s
Ceiling: 9300 m
Cruise ceiling: 7000 m
Range: 2880 km
Range with maximum payload: 1510 km Payload: 146 kg of bombs or rockets
Armament: 2x12.7 mm cannons, 2x7.62 mm machine guns

* - however, see Eric Shilling's description of the FM-1's purpose, following.

======= * ======

From Eric Shilling of the American Volunteer Group (Flying Tigers) on a CAF page comes this reminiscence of flying the YFM-1

(I reproduce this here because it is such a memorable bit of American flight history):

Subject: Bell Airacuda (YFM-1) Date: 24 Jul 1996 19:09:25 GMT

"Another airplane I flew was the YFM-1 Airacuda, made by Bell Aircraft Corporation in Buffalo, New York.  It was a pusher built around two exhaustdriven turbo-charged Allison engines of 1040 horsepower each.  It was new in type and concept.  The design's hypothesis was that it would be used as a bomber-destroyer.  It had two thirty-seven millimeter cannons, one in the nose of each nacelle, but little in the way of defensive weapons.  Several other innovations were being explored on the Airacuda that were not used on any previous military airplanes.  Because some of the innovations were impractical, they haven't been used since.

Flying the Bell Airacuda was a new experience for me, since it was the first pusher aircraft I'd ever flown.  Its handling characteristics were foreign to anything I had ever had my hands on.  Under power it was unstable in pitch, but stable with power off.  While flying straight and level, if a correction in pitch was required, a forward push on the control resulted in the airplane wanting to pitch over even more.  Pitch control became a matter of continually jockeying the controls, however slightly, even when the aircraft was in proper trim.  The same applied if pulling back on the control.  It would tend to continue pitching up, requiring an immediate corrective response.  The same happened in a turn.  With power off, the Bell became stable in pitch.  This was fortunate because during approach and landing, it was very stable, and a nice flying airplane.

It was built around several new ideas never tried before, and was unlike any other fighters up to that time.  First, it wasn't designed to be a fighter plane, although many had the mistaken idea that it was.  It could be better described as a bomber destroyer.  The tactics suggested by its designer were based upon the machine being used as a flying antiaircraft platform.  It was a defensive weapon to be used only against incoming bombers that were beyond the range of escorting fighters.  Although it had some defensive weapons, I think they were more psychological in nature, for the benefit of the YFM-1 crew, than practical.

The tactics envisioned were that the Airacuda would fly in trail, just out of range of the enemy bomber formation's guns.  Up to that time bombers had 30 and 50 caliber weapons.  It is important for the reader to keep in mind that the Bell would be used only against enemy bomber formations that were out of range of protective fighter escort.  The YFM-1 had little or no effective firepower for its defense, and as a consequence, would be a sitting duck against agile fighters.  The front of each engine nacelle housed a 37 mm, gyro-stabilized cannon. With the longer range of the 37 mm guns, they could pluck the enemy bombers off, one by one.  In other words, it was a mobile antiaircraft gun platform.

The primary function of the men in the nacelles was loading the guns, although they could be fired by the gun crew in an emergency.  Initially, the pilot of the plane aimed the airplane in the general direction of the formation. Further correction in aim would then be made by the gun control officer, and fired by him.  His station was directly behind the pilot, using an inverted periscope that came out through the belly of the ship to aim the guns.  The fire control officer would clutch the guns into the gyros, which stabilized them.  From that moment on they would stay on target.  The person operating the guns could then make any further correction and fire away until the bomber was brought down.  His position had swingout flight controls, and in an emergency he could fly the airplane.  If it was necessary to abandon the aircraft, the pilot would have to feather both engines to prevent the propellers from chewing the men to pieces, especially those in the nacelles.  The flight manual said they would feather in six seconds; that's a long time in my book.

In addition to being a pusher airplane, the YFM-1 also had other unusual features.  It had only one engine-driven accessory, an emergency fifty-ampere generator on the left engine.  The Bell Airacuda was an electrical nightmare.  All normally driven engine accessories, such as fuel pumps, hydraulic pumps, vacuum pump, and the gyros stabilizing the guns were electrically driven.  Because of all the electrical energy required, the ship had to have a full-time auxiliary power unit.  The auxiliary power unit was driven by a powerful four-cylinder gasoline engine which ran all the equipment.  Since the aircraft was required to operate at high altitudes, the APU also had to be turbo-supercharged.  To do this, a dual bleed came from the same exhaust turbo-chargers that super-charged the Allison engines.  The power unit was the weak link in the system.

Changing fuel tanks was simple.  There was no fuel selector as we normally think of one.  Each fuel tank had its own fuel pump.  Tanks were changed by flipping the switch on for the electric fuel pump of the desired tank.  The gear and flap selector was similar in appearance to the C-47's fuel selector.  Gear and flaps were activated by rotating this control to the appropriate position.  It only had three positions -- takeoff, fly and land--and could be turned only in a clockwise direction.  In the takeoff position, the flaps were retracted.  In the fly position, the gear was retracted, and in the land position, both gear and flaps came down.  The flaps immediately followed the gear.  Unfortunately the two were not isolated from each other, and that posed a minor problem.

To get gear only, such as on downwind, the pilot would watch the gear as it extended.  When almost all the way down, he tripped the circuit breaker.  Then on final, when the flaps were required, the breaker was turned back on.  At the completion of the landing roll, the pilot would select fly position, retracting the flaps.

The engines had no cooling fans, so in summer the airplanes had to be towed to the takeoff position before starting.  As soon as there was an indication of an oil temperature rise, the pilot immediately started the takeoff run.  When landing, if the oil temperature was on the high side, the pilot would have to shut the engines down and have the ship towed to the parking area.  If the airplane had only a short distance to taxi, it could continue to its parking place under its own power.

One recurring problem experienced by pilots flying the Airacudas was that the auxiliary power unit would all too frequently stall or quit.  The reverse current relay would stick and motorized the generator.  Since this would drain most of the current from the battery, all electrical systems became inoperative: NO fuel pressure, NO vacuum, NO hydraulic pressure, NO gear, NO flaps and NO ENGINES.  The first time I lost both engines, I was in the landing pattern on base leg just about to turn final when the APU quit, then a second later so did both Allison engines.

Fortunately, it occurred right after the gear locked down, and I was able to make the runway without power.  Although the airplane had a wobble pump, the handle was only four inches long.  It was impossible to supply two Allison engines with the wobble pump, since they consumed over three hundred gallons of fuel per hour at full power.  Its only purpose was to start the engines.

The second time the problem occurred, I was flying on instruments, but again I was fortunate.  They both quit not too long after I had started into the overcast.  I knew there was a couple thousand foot ceiling under the cloud base, so I dove out of the cloud before the gyros tumbled.  All the while, the crew chief was trying to restart the APU, which started with room to spare.  With the APU going, the fuel pumps came on and both Allison engines began producing power.  The remainder of the trip to Langley was uneventful and I made a safe landing there."

Erik Shilling was a Flight Leader in the 3rd Squadron, AVG (Flying Tigers), and is the author of "Destiny: A Flying Tiger's Rendezvous with Fate".

The Aerofiles site noted under "Berliner and Aviation" on Continuation Page 2, is one of the most amazing amassments of aircraft information I have ever seen; I heartily recommend it to you.  Their page on Bell has some info. on the Airacuda.

I ran across another aviation site with an Airacuda photo and new text: Walter J. Boyne's "Walt’s Web Hangar, with Walt's Aircraft Picks:

"The Bell Airacuda was a brilliant attempt by Bell to break into the airplane business by building something different -- a long range multi-place interceptor.  The great Ben Kelsey was behind the airplane, and did the first test flights, just as he did with the P-38.  He was a Lieutenant at the time, but had more authority than many generals do today.  The Airacuda looked good, but it had too much drag, the engines were almost impossible to keep cool, and escape in an emergency would be problematical.  Most went out of service with a handful of hours logged.  Ben was a good friend of mine later in life, and a fund of information."

    (Quoted verbatim from, and © 2002, Walter J. Boyne, by specific written permission - all rights reserved)

(Photo from, and © 2002, Walter J. Boyne, by specific written permission - all rights reserved)

Notice the differences from the CAF YFM-1 photo above; the 37mm guns are not emplaced and there are greenhouses but no air scoops and no waist-gun blisters.  Might one safely assume that that's the inverted periscope sticking out in the airstream under the cockpit?

Walt confirmed that nacelle crewmen could wriggle through the wing roots* to and from the main fuselage and my reaction was that that must have been an uncomfortable moment if the APU and those electricals were all cutting out!  Walt added that, if he recalled his interviews with Strickler and Kelsey correctly, "they had difficulty getting people to ride in the nacelles, because obviously you were not going to get out in any sort of out-of-control situation" (not to mention the props, if one DID manage to get out and they were still milling!).

    * - see thick roots at Stratosphere Jim on my next aviation page.

Looking up somthing entrely unrelated (the Armstring-Whitworth Ensign), I ran across these photos of the first three YFM-1 Airacudas, plus their "stairstep" door, on page 48 of the old Flying and Popular Aviation magazine of Dec 1940:   new.gif (25 Dec 2012)


Ain't the Internet wonderful!

An e-mail message brought these pictures of a 1934 so-called Curtiss Hawk biplane pedal car:   new.gif (12 Oct 06)

(cropped from Oct 2006 photo courtesy of owner - all rights reserved)
[Thumbnailed image; click on picture for larger image]

CurtissHawkPedalCar25 CurtissHawkPedalCar26 CurtissHawkPedalCar27
(cropped from Oct 2006 photos courtesy of owner - all rights reserved)
[Thumbnailed images; click on pictures for larger images]

CurtissHawkPedalCar28 CurtissHawkPedalCar29 CurtissHawkPedalCar30
(cropped from Oct 2006 photos courtesy of owner - all rights reserved)
[Thumbnailed images; click on pictures for larger images]

No Hawk of which I'm aware was a trimotor but the outboard engines don't match the center engine and may have been add-ons (they look like models of Lindbergh's Paris engine).  The owner (and I) would like to know more about this golden oldie.   rev.gif (25 Dec 2012)

This page is a continuation of the Aviation page, et seq.; visit it and the subsequent continuation pages.

As you are obviously air-minded (take that as you choose), you must see the Lion Air site!  I'd be Lion if I didn't warn you to keep your tongue in your cheek on this one!

On a more serious note, if you like aero engines, see Steve Vardy's Aero Engine Central.

Also, pilot Paul Freeman has an absolutely fascinating Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields site.

See also the:
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of this series of Aviation pages.


  What happens to all this when I DIE or (heaven forfend!) lose interest?  See LEGACY.


See Copyright Notice on primary home page.

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