SP-4306 Engines and Innovation: Lewis Laboratory and American Propulsion Technology

 

CHAPTER 4

TESTING THEIR METTLE

 

[65] When journalists who belonged to the Aviation Writers Association visited the Cleveland laboratory in June 1945, they witnessed a carefully orchestrated display of the arcane world of aircraft propulsion. This was the laboratory's public debut - the first time the NACA could partially pull back the shroud of wartime secrecy. The writers for the country's major newspapers gawked at demonstrations of methods used to cool the cylinders of radial engines, "sniffed newly-developed fuels," and saw how a new spray bar for the carburetor of the huge B-29 "Superfortress" could prevent overheating.

The laboratory's contributions to the old piston engine technology, however, told only part of the story. Demonstrations of jet propulsion, now suddenly part of aviation's new vocabulary, held the writers spellbound. They experienced the earsplitting roar of a ramjet and other "jet propulsion performances," presented by "a staff of efficient and capable-looking engineers." The high point of the tour was the first press showing of the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star, powered by the General Electric 1-40 turbojet engine, reputed to be the fastest plane in the world. The staff's lucid explanations convinced the writers, as well as special guest, Frances R Bolton, Ohio's 22nd District Congresswoman, of the need for continuing government support for engine research. Bolton "urged the tour be made a 'required subject' for every person having anything to do with research appropriations."1

The journalists came away impressed that research at the Cleveland laboratory was being "carried on by the best aeronautical brains available, provided with the best equipment obtainable."2 This was, in fact, an overstatement. More than 62 percent of its engineers had less than two years experience; the laboratory's research staff was young and untried.3 In addition, although the laboratory had hastily shifted gears in 1944 to add turbojets, rockets, and ramjets to its research arsenal, its major facilities had been designed to meet the needs of the piston engine.

The wartime technology of jet propulsion represented peacetime opportunity. The laboratory's leaders were ready to take charge of the research agenda. They were impatient to terminate work on short-term development problems. They could not wait for the slow-moving Washington office to set their priorities. Trouble-shooting for the engine companies had served as an apprenticeship for the laboratory's youthful staff. Now they were ready to harness their energy and intelligence to tackle problems of a more fundamental nature. It was clear that the staff would need to hone its analytical skills. They were eager to launch a strong program in the new field of jet propulsion.

[66] In the early euphoria at the end of World War II in Europe, few staff of the Cleveland laboratory; like the members of the press, were aware that the American development of the turbojet was late and on a considerably smaller scale than in Germany and Great Britain. Companies in Great Britain had benefited from the exchange of information facilitated by the Gas Turbine Collaboration Committee. They included Armstrong Siddeley, Bristol, De Havilland, Metropolitan-Vickers, Power jets, Rolls Royce, and Rover. In the United States, secrecy had prevented the fruitful technical exchanges enjoyed by the British. With the American aircraft engine companies, Wright Aeronautical and Pratt & Whitney, kept out of the picture altogether and the Allis-Chalmers project dropped, the only American companies involved in turbojet development at the end of the war were General Electric and Westinghouse. What impressed an American Delegation to Great Britain in early 1944 was the "magnitude of the British effort." With as many as 30,000 British workers in the general field of jet propulsion, it was clear that the British had a "strong faith in the future of the turbine as a prime mover," a sentiment that seems to have come as a surprise to the American visitors.4 With the aircraft engine industry in Germany eliminated, competition in the commercial development of the turbojet would come from the British.

When military technical missions to Europe revealed the extent of the German commitment to jet propulsion, it became increasingly clear that the policy of concentrating most of the American technical resources on the piston engine had been dubious, and possibly dangerous. In 1944, as Germany was falling, the Alsos Mission under Lieutenant Colonel Boris Pash and Samuel Goudsmit, its civilian scientist, gathered information on all aspects of Germany's advanced technology, particularly the development of atomic energy. The mission found that the Germans working on an atomic bomb under Werner Heisenberg were far behind the United States. Their reports also revealed the strong emphasis on jet propulsion in Germany. An early report described the gas turbine research at the Deutsche Versuchsanstalt fur Luftfahrt (DVLI, near Berlin, and that of the Junkers and Heinkel-Hirth Companies. The DVL had concentrated on thermodynamics and the metallurgy of turbine blades, while intensive aerodynamics studies were carried out by other government laboratories. "Germany was, literally sprinkled with high Mach number wind tunnels" that appeared "to have been used extensively for jet work." In the field of jet propulsion, the report bluntly stated, "we are very much behind the Nazis." The report revealed that the Germans had developed jet engines with both centrifugal (von Ohain's turbojet) and axial compressors (the Jumo 004, designed by Anslem Franz).5

In 1945 the NACA dispatched Russell Robinson and Henry Reid from the Langley Laboratory to join the Alsos mission with the specific objective to uncover and assess the extent of German aeronautical advances during World War II. They were joined by William Ebert, also of Langley, and Carlton Kemper....

 


The P-80 Shooting Star powered by the General Electric I-40 set up for testing in the Altitude Wind Tunnel.

The P-80 Shooting Star powered by the General Electric I-40 set up for testing in the Altitude Wind Tunnel.

 

[67] ....from Cleveland. In May, Robinson, bypassing the normal channels of communication, wrote directly to George Lewis. He downplayed the extent of German superiority in aeronautical research, describing two proposed' wind tunnels near Innsbruck, Austria, as "the only research equipment and plans that have come to light that are definitely beyond our own." The first was to be used for testing full-scale propellers, jet engines, rockets, and model aircraft "up to sonic velocities." The other tunnel, he guessed, was to be a supersonic tunnel. In addition, the Germans had planned a "propulsion laboratory for research at full scale on the elements of jet and gas turbine propulsion!' No doubt reflecting on the innovative design of the Altitude Wind Tunnel at the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory, he reported that the Germans had only begun to realize that they would need some way to produce low pressures and refrigerated air in their altitude facilities.6

The impressive facilities of Nazi Germany were only part of the story. When Robinson presented his final report to the NACA, he described in greater detail the research contributions that the Germans had made to the field of high-speed aerodynamics and jet propulsion. He stressed the "emphasis and liberal support that had been given to aeronautical research by the German Government, as measured by the number of workers, the number of laboratories, and the modern nature of their equipment, and particularly the construction under way to provide research facilities in advance of those possessed by any other nation."7 In addition to the extensive German laboratory for applied research, the DVL (not visited by the Alsos Mission because Berlin was under the control of the Russian Army), the Germans had built a laboratory for advanced research on aerodynamics, engines, solid mechanics, and armaments - the Luftfahrtforschungsanstalt (LFA) at Braunschweig. The laboratory and the nearby Technical Institute at Braunschweig shared a fruitful exchange of personnel, among whom were Adolf Busemann, Herman Schlichting, and Theodor Zobel, renowned for their work in supersonic aerodynamics. In the engine research division at Braunschweig, pioneering work in heat transfer by Ernst Schmidt and his student, Ernst Eckert, had resulted in some of the first efforts in turbine cooling, an area that would receive considerable emphasis at the Cleveland laboratory in the late 1940s.

In addition to the physical evidence of these German research centers, the quantity and quality of research reports indicated the advanced nature of the German aeronautical research program. The Alsos team also interrogated hundreds of German scientists and employees of aircraft and engine companies, summarized in short NACA reports.8 Members of the Alsos and other technical missions confiscated tons of German documents. They were sent to Wright Field, where the laborious process of cataloging and translating began immediately. The Cleveland laboratory hired an extremely able translator, Sam Reiss, to expedite the process of assimilation of German research, and the laboratory assisted the Army in the preparation of an index.9 George Mandel and Dorothy Morris helped to create a technical library to put the most up-to-date reports and information in the hands of the laboratory's staff. The library became an important support of engineering activity, a change from the days when George Lewis thought engineers should spend their time monitoring tests, not reading articles in the library stacks.

Even before they had digested the wealth of information gathered by the Alsos Aassion, Cleveland engineers had the opportunity to study captured enemy hardware sent from Wright Field. The first jet-propelled device that Cleveland engineers encountered was the German I "pulse-jet," also called the V-1, or "buzz bomb." The Germans had shot this ingenious and terrifying pilotless aircraft across the English Channel to bomb the civilian population. In Cleveland, the buzz bomb was carefully taken apart. It consisted of a single cylinder with a system of organ-like [68] flapper valves in the front end to control the discontinuous, or intermittent, combustion that caused its loud, pulsating noise. Air entered the combustion chamber at the front end. With the explosion of the fuel, the valves closed. As the hot gases were pushed out the rear, the loss of pressure caused the valves to open to receive a new charge of air. During testing, this work could hardly be kept secret. The noise rattled the windows of nearby houses like that of the Guerin family, who lived in the valley below the laboratory on what is now the southwest portion of the laboratory property.

Shortly after the first explorations of the pulse jet carried out by a group under Eugene Manganiello, the laboratory launched an effort with General Electric to develop simpler jet-propelled devices called ramjets.10 The ramjet, known as the "flying stovepipe," consisted of a tube or cylinder open at both ends. Thrust was created by the combustion of fuel within the cylinder. Conceived by the Frenchman René Lorin in 1913, it was at first viewed as impractical because it only became efficient at high speeds.11

The Army also made available for study the Junkers Jumo 004 - the engine that had powered the Messerschmidt 262. With Anselm Franz, the Jumo 004's designer, available for consultation at Wright Field, this engine received close scrutiny. Clearly impressed by evidence of German work in jet propulsion and by British postwar plans gleaned through the visits of British missions to Cleveland, the laboratory's leaders recognized the need to reorganize its entire research program.

 


German buzz bomb (V-1) set up in the Engine-Propeller Research Building

German buzz bomb (V-1) set up in the Engine-Propeller Research Building.

 

THE BIG SWITCH

 

[69] The transition from the piston engine to jet propulsion was so sudden and sweeping that it caught not only the staff, but also the lower-level supervisors, completely by surprise. As one engineer recalled, he went home one evening in late September "deeply engaged in writing a report on spark plug fouling" to discover upon his return the next morning that his desk had been moved to another building and that henceforth he was to be engaged in rocket-engine cooling research.12 However, if the institutionalization of the revolution in jet propulsion may have seemed abrupt and revolutionary to individuals at the lower levels of the laboratory's management, to leaders seasoned from their years at Langley, it was liberating and not unexpected. As early as 1944 they had looked forward to the time when they could lay aside the immediate and pressing development problems of existing engines and return to the basic problems that had characterized NACA research before World War II.

The staff forwarded to the Washington office in December 1945 its "Survey of Fundamental Problems Requiring Research." The survey was the product of a careful analysis of the present utility and future purpose of the laboratory. It showed that the laboratory's leaders were eager to expand research into new swaths freshly cut by wartime propulsion advances: the immature technologies of turbojets, ramjets, and rockets, and the virgin territory of aircraft nuclear propulsion. They rued the European origins of jet propulsion and the peripheral role that the NACA had played in its development, The "Survey of Fundamental Problems" reflected the frustration of the staff with the wartime program of research focused exclusively on trouble-shooting:

 

While there is no doubt that the developmental work carried forward at the laboratory during the war was of great value to the military services, the effort put forth in this work was at the expense of fundamental research. The stringent requirement for accomplishing certain types of specific tests within a minimum period of time made it impossible to obtain basic data which are sorely needed for the continued development and improvement of aircraft propulsion systems.

 


Lewis staff intensively studied the axial compressor of the German Jumo 004.

Lewis staff intensively studied the axial compressor of the German Jumo 004.

 

[70] With clear awareness that they were on the threshold of a new era, the planning document stated, "The simultaneous development of aerodynamic shapes for high-speed flight, and the use of jet-reaction power systems has suddenly placed the aeronautical engineer in position to attain supersonic speeds, but as yet only the outer fringes of research on this mode of transportation have been touched."13 Postwar research would return to fundamental problems in aircraft propulsion.

In the December 1945 plan, there were nine research categories, each devoted to a specific engine type and assigned a percentage of effort:

 

Turbojet engines (20 percent); turbo-propeller engines (20 percent); continuous ramjet engines (12.5 percent); intermittent ramjet engines (5.5 percent); rocket engines (4.0 percent); reciprocating engines 113 percent); compound engines (15 percent); icing research (5 percent); and engines for supersonic flight (5 percent).

 

The proposed reduction of piston engine effort from about 95 percent to 28 percent was pared down even further in the revised plan of May 1946 to a mere 5 percent. In response to criticism by the engine companies that the projected research was not fundamental enough, general categories, such as compressor, turbine, combustion, fuels, materials, lubrication, supersonics, and nuclear, were substituted for specific engine types. Two new categories that appeared in the revised plan - nuclear energy and "unconventional engines" revealed the laboratory's eagerness to practice on the frontiers of propulsion technology. The turbojet - a compressor driven by a turbine - had not yet emerged as the clear winner among jet propulsion schemes. In the new research plan the compressor-turbine-propeller (turboprop) combination and the turbojet each commanded 20 percent of the research effort, with the compound engine (reciprocating engine plus turbosupercharger) claiming 15 percent.14

In the context of the 1946 "Survey of Fundamental Problems," fundamental research did not refer to science or theoretical work as opposed to engineering. Rather, fundamental research covered a spectrum of research stretching from basic scientific investigations to applied research in the form of testing and component development investigations. Engineering remained the heart of the NACA research. Funding depended on the laboratory's ability to demonstrate its substantive contributions to aviation. Theoretical research often complemented the more practical aspects of a particular engine problem, but it could never be viewed as an end in itself. What the NACA regarded as fundamental research was the opportunity to tackle general problems common to a particular class of engines. The new program envisioned by the Cleveland staff symbolized their liberation from narrow development problems of existing engines. They were determined to transcend current technical practice and to keep the demands of industry for immediate answers to their development problems at a minimum. This ordering of priorities was consistent with the National Aeronautical Research Policy approved in March 1946. Neglect of fundamental research before World War 11 had created an opportunity for aggression the Germans had exploited. The NACA's mandate included basic scientific investigations and testing of both components and full-scale engines. Development of specific hardware for production models would remain the responsibility of industry.15

The swing of the laboratory away from wartime trouble-shooting to long-term fundamental research goals was not unique among government research organizations after the war, The jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology and the Naval Research Laboratory, despite their explicit ties to the military, made similar efforts to redefine their [71] research programs to embrace more general, all-encompassing definitions of what constituted basic, or fundamental, research.16

Concern over national security played a role in promoting fundamental research in government laboratories, The drive for profits made it unlikely that private corporations would be willing to invest in research whose long-term benefits were not sufficiently clear. Because national security required advanced technology, the government's role was to assume the risk for investigations in which there was chance for failure. Fundamental or basic research was, in the view of Vannevar Bush, "the pacemaker of technological progress:' It was the intellectual capital on which future applications were drawn. Government research institutions had to be able to step out of the straight-jacket of current technical practice. They needed the freedom to pursue promising technology regardless of cost. "New products and new processes do not appear full-grown," Bush stressed. "They are founded on new principles and new conceptions, which in turn are painstakingly developed by research in the purest realms of science!"17

When British Air Ministry representative F Rodwell Banks visited the laboratory in summer 1945, he projected a "healthy obsolescence of reciprocating engines." Nevertheless, the British still planned to allocate roughly one-quarter of their research to the piston engine. Half of their research would be directed to developing the turbine-propeller combination, with the remaining 25 percent to be devoted to the turbojet.18 The Cleveland laboratory paid close attention to British postwar planning, and its 1945 plan was roughly equivalent.

The strong commitment to jet propulsion shown in the reorganization of the Cleveland laboratory contrasted with the more conservative attitudes of university, military, and engine company representatives expressed at a meeting of the NACA Power Plants Committee in September 1945. Edward Taylor of the Massachusetts Institute of the Technology warned that the reciprocating engine should not be made artificially obsolete by cutting off research prematurely. Seemingly unimpressed with the success of the P-80 Shooting Star, he claimed that there was "not yet one successful airplane flying with a turbine engine." Colonel Donald Keirn, who remained in the thick of issues relating to the application of gas turbines to aircraft, felt that, while gas turbines would "undoubtedly come into their own," they were not at that point yet. He observed that "the manufacturers of really excellent reciprocating engines could hardly be expected to bear the cost of developing turbines with a view to making their present products obsolete." Pratt & Whitney's representative, Leonard Hobbs, claimed that his company planned to invest 50 percent of its funds for research and development of jet engines. Nevertheless, he wanted research on the piston engine to continue. After considerable debate, the members passed a resolution that piston engine research should not be terminated.19

Laboratory leaders ignored the Power Plants Committee's hesitant pronouncements. With Executive Engineer Carlton Kemper in Europe on the Alsos Mission, Addison Rothrock took responsibility for the technical leadership of the laboratory. The other division, heads enthusiastically supported his decision to move strongly into the field of jet propulsion. The natural choice to implement the reorganization, he became the new Chief of Research. He created four new research divisions to reflect the new reality of jet propulsion. Ben Pinkel became the head of Fuels and Thermodynamics. John Collins took over as chief of Engine Performance and Materials. Underscoring the continuity between the supercharger and the turbojet, Oscar Schey assumed leadership of the Compressor and Turbine Division, while Abe Silverstein became chief of a consolidated Wind Tunnels and Flight Division. With the new division heads solidly behind the decision, Ray Sharp informed the Washington office. One of the important transitions in the [72] corporate memory of Lewis Laboratory, the 1945 reorganization is remembered by former staff as an engineering decision made by engineers. Moreover, it was a decision reached at the laboratory level and communicated to the Washington office, not imposed from above.20 This early expression of the laboratory's autonomy left an indelible impression on the character of the laboratory. Autonomy became a permanent aspect of its institutional identity.

The big switch assumed the flexibility of engineers to respond to the demands of a new technology. Nevertheless, for some engineers the transition was painful, particularly for those whose major research interests had been shaped by the piston engine. Despite the difficulty of adjusting to a new technology, the choice was simple - either fall into step or leave. As Walter Olson recalled:

 

Any of our reorganizations cause a certain amount of trauma. There were people who wouldn't give up the piston engine. They were extruded out. Some of them stayed here and they were pushed down into the lower regions of the center and weren't allowed much help. They were out of step.21

 

The new technology forced a realignment of power relationships in the management structure. Oscar Schey's Compressor and Turbine Division became the premier division of the laboratory, claiming the largest number of staff and the highest output of research papers. Because the jet engine could run on almost any fuel, knowledge of chemistry was less important than an understanding of aerodynamics - how air flowed into and through the engine. When the octane-sensitive piston engine had been the focus of laboratory research, Addison Rothrock's Fuels and Lubricants 'Division had commanded the greatest resources in terms of facilities and personnel. After the reorganization, fuels no longer occupied the top of the research hierarchy. Many seasoned engineers from Rothrock's division left during the trauma of the reorganization. Cearcy D. Miller, for example, whose reputation rested on his high-speed camera to study the phenomenon of knock in the piston engine, left to go to the Battelle Institute in Columbus, Ohio, where he could continue his work on fuels. Nevertheless, the camera techniques that he pioneered would become standard research tools of the laboratory.22 Young engineers hired by Rothrock during World War II moved into positions of greater responsibility. John Evvard, Walter Olson, Irving Pinkel, Wolfgang Moeckel, Edmond Bisson, all future leaders of the laboratory, learned the traditions of the NACA under Rothrock.

 

STAKING OUT A PLACE IN SUPERSONICS

 

After the flight of the V-2 at speeds greater than the speed of sound, supersonic aerodynamics could no longer be viewed as a visionary enterprise more suited to Buck Rogers than a responsible government research organization. Supersonic flight now fit securely within the province of the NACA's duty to find practical solutions to the problems of flight. Because the nature of the aerodynamics changes dramatically and the drag of an object in flight greatly increases as its speed passes beyond the speed of sound, flight at supersonic speeds created new engine problems that researchers at the Cleveland laboratory were eager to explore. For Cleveland staff from Langley, it was through a course taught by the Italian Antonio Ferri, once in charge of the high-speed tunnel at Guidonia, that they first learned of European advances in supersonics.23 George Lewis, at last fully aware of the importance of the European research in supersonics, convened an interlaboratory High-Speed Panel to coordinate new research in this area. Lewis declared that he "wanted the panel to be the most forward-thinking group in this field." NACA [73] luminaries Russell Robinson, Harvey Allen, Eastman Jacobs, John Stack, and Robert Littell (secretary) attended the first meeting of the panel, held at Langley in March 1944. Shortly afterwards, probably by 1945, Abe Silverstein had joined the panel as the representative from Cleveland; in January 1946 the panel met in Cleveland.24

In April 1945, possibly unaware of the High-Speed Panel, Cleveland engineer Bruce Ayer went over the heads of his superiors. He wrote directly to George Lewis to point out the inadequacy of the NACA's wind tunnels for supersonic research. He proposed a large national supersonic facility to be located in the West near one of the new hydroelectric dams. Ayer's grandiose scheme for an "Altitude and Supersonic Research Laboratory" was not taken seriously at first, but when the Alsos mission returned with reports of a water-driven 100,000-horsepower supersonic tunnel under construction near Munich, the NACA set in motion plans for a large-scale supersonic facility.25 In November Ray Sharp submitted a formal proposal for a national high-speed laboratory. He urged the Committee to "preempt this field of high-speed research."26 Rather than preempting the field, however, the NACA slowly became aware of similar ambitious plans on the part of the Army Air Forces for a large-scale "engineering development center." This competition with the Army Air Forces for scarce postwar resources ended in 1949 in the Unitary Wind Tunnels Plan. The plan enabled the NACA to build supersonic tunnels at each of its three centers, with a lion's share of the appropriations going to the Air Force's Arnold Engineering Center in Tullahoma, Tenn. Plans for a NACA supersonic research center never materialized.

Silverstein's approach to supersonic research facilities was far more down to earth. On one of George Lewis's weekly trips to Cleveland in the last months of World War II, Silverstein broached the subject of a large supersonic tunnel. Lewis encouraged early design studies for the $9 million, 8-foot x 6-foot supersonic tunnel completed in 1949.27

Silverstein wanted research in supersonics to begin at once. In spring 1945 he called Demarquis D. Wyatt, a bright, articulate, but inexperienced engineer, into his office. He bluntly asked him if he would be interested in working on a supersonic wind tunnel. Wyatt admitted he had not the slightest idea what supersonics was, but he agreed with youthful bravado to head the design team to build several small supersonic tunnels.28

Given Abe Silverstein's background in the design and running of wind tunnels at Langley, the speed with which these tunnels were built was not surprising, If Wyatt was yet a novice, Silverstein brought a solid background in wind tunnels from Langley. Silverstein's colleagues....

 


Addison M. Rothrock, Acting Executive Engineer, took charge the <<big switch>> from the piston engine to jet propulsion in 1945.

Addison M. Rothrock, Acting Executive Engineer, took charge the "big switch" from the piston engine to jet propulsion in 1945.

 

[74] ....credited him with an unerring feel for design. His approach to engineering was visual, intuitive, and practical. "He always maintained philosophically that if something doesn't look right, it wasn't right ... If it is good, sound, proper design, your eye will detect it as good design."29 An anecdote reflects what is often referred to as Silverstein's engineering intuition. One of his young engineers assigned to design a supersonic tunnel had reached an impasse. With knowledge of supersonics still in its infancy, he had calculated the shape for the upstream, subsonic side of the throat and for the downstream, supersonic part, which expands beyond the throat into the test section, but he lacked equations for the transonic section between these two parts, where the flow passed from subsonic to supersonic. Silverstein "eyeballed" the design. Picking up a pencil, he pared the shape of the curve. Despite the freehand addition, the tunnel worked perfectly. James Hansen has pointed out in Engineer in Charge that this ability to visualize an engineering problem was typical of some of the best engineers at Langley. It was an aspect of a unique engineering creativity encouraged by the NACA.30 However, Silverstein's ego sometimes interfered with his engineering judgment. He had little patience for any point of view but his own.

This did not matter to the young Wyatt, for whom Silverstein was a model and an inspiration. Wyatt and his group groped empirically for the best configuration to explore the uncharted territory of supersonics. They built two tunnels, an 18-inch x 18-inch square tunnel and a 20-inch diameter round tunnel, both capable of speeds up to about Mach 2. Called the "stack tunnels," they were built one on top of the other above the Altitude Wind Tunnel and shared its exhaust system. They were run at night when the Altitude Wind Tunnel was not in operation. Additional supersonic wind tunnels, called "duct tunnels," were built in an underground passage connecting the Altitude Wind Tunnel and the Engine Research Building. The research program for these tunnels focused on the study of inlets and diffusers for supersonic ramjets.31

As soon as they ran tests in the new tunnels in summer 1945, researchers under Silverstein encountered shock waves, typical of supersonic aerodynamics. The discovery of shock waves experimentally in the stack tunnels coincided with the group's first awareness of outstanding theoretical work by the British and Germans in supersonics. Members of Silverstein's division studied papers published in British journals as well as the work of Adolf Busemann, Klemens Oswatitsch, Albert Betz, and Hermann Kurzweg, translated and published as NACA Memoranda. Later they would have more direct access to Busemann, when the Army's Operation Paperclip, assigned him to Langley.32

With the new supersonic tunnels in operation, Silverstein reorganized his Wind Tunnels and Flight Division. He placed John....

 

 


The NACA's High-Speed Panel met in Cleveland on January 21, 1946.

The NACA's High-Speed Panel met in Cleveland on January 21, 1946. Left to right: Addison Rothrock, John Stack, Langley; H. Julian Allen, Ames; Russell G. Robinson, Washington office; Abe Silverstein, and Carlton Kemper


[
75]

A camera (foreground) records shock waves during supersonic test in the duct tunnels, 1949.

A camera (foreground) records shock waves during supersonic test in the duct tunnels, 1949.

 

 

...Evvard in charge of a Special Projects Panel. The use of "panels" to cross division and disciplinary lines was one of the distinguishing marks of Silverstein's management style. By drawing talent from the entire laboratory, Silverstein encouraged greater flexibility and interaction between groups. Demarquis Wyatt became the section head in charge of the stack tunnels, and John Disher took charge of the development of an unconventional ramjet concept carried out on the hangar apron.

 

THE ROCKET FRONTIER

 

Like the group in supersonics, members of the small rocket section at the Cleveland laboratory started with little knowledge of previous work in rocketry. In the 1930s the Cleveland Rocket Society had nurtured an enthusiastic group of amateurs, but it had vanished without trace. Reports of the firing of the V-2 across the English channel in summer 1944 awakened a more serious and lasting interest in rockets among the laboratory staff. In December the Navy complained that "progress being made on high-speed research is not as rapid as military necessity now demands" and urged that jet-propelled aircraft and missiles be given the "highest practicable priority."33 Cleveland researchers were eager to comply. While the NACA debated how best to coordinate work on guided missiles, the laboratory's rocket group jumped into research on small solid-fuel rockets.34 After some "prodding" by the Army Air Forces in 1944, George Lewis authorized the Cleveland laboratory to build four rocket test cells.35 Responding particularly to new information on the V-2, in June 1945 the Cleveland laboratory submitted a formal proposal that included research on turbojets, ramjets, and rockets for applications as power plants for guided missiles. The mood among government engine researchers was "to catch up and not ever fall behind again in advanced propulsion."36

Walter Olson brought back news of successful rocket experiments at the jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. Olson's reports fired the imaginations of members of the Fuels and Lubricants Division. Late in World War II, the NACA had sent Olson to the Santa Ana Air Force Base to recruit men with technical backgrounds as they returned from active duty. With a Ph.D. in chemistry Olson did not like to let his analytic skills grow dull. He took the opportunity [76] to meet with Theodore von Karman, Frank Malina, and Martin Summerfield. He was intrigued by their stories of the development of jet-assisted take-off devices, although he did not visit Aerojet, JPL's commercial spinoff, where these JATOs were mass-produced. Olson recognized the risks Malina's small band of rocket enthusiasts had taken before the war when they mixed asphalt and the fertilizer ammonium nitrate at CalTech's primitive rocket facilities. The NACA was too conservative to have allowed dangerous tests like the ones carried out in the Arroyo Seco, the future site of JPL. Olson could hardly wait to get back to Cleveland to discuss this new work, which immediately fired the imaginations of the young staff in the Fuel and Lubricants Division.37 When the laboratory reorganized shortly after Olson's return, Ben Pinkel selected Olson to head the Combustion Branch within the new Fuels and Thermodynamics Division. The Rocket Section headed by Joseph Dietrich took shape under Olson's enthusiastic leadership.

At first the laboratory's rocket program had to be disguised as "high-pressure combustion" because the chairman of the NACA's Main Committee, Jerome Hunsaker, did not approve of rocket research. He thought that rocket research was outside the NACA's mandate to improve aircraft. Undaunted, the rocket group intensely studied the Alsos reports of German work and the publications of the jet Propulsion Laboratory. John Sloop, later head of the Rocket Section, recalled that they were acutely aware that they "had a lot of catching up to do." Because of their feeling that they were latecomers, they decided to direct their attention to "lesser ploughed fields" of rocketry. Research on solid rockets they could leave to others.38

With minimal support for personnel, the section decided to focus on high-energy liquid propellants. The group studied combustion and rocket-engine cooling and evaluated the performance of these propellants both theoretically and through experiments. A team working under Vearl Huff developed a method to calculate theoretical performance that greatly simplified the process of propellant selection. Riley Miller and Paul Ordin made a systematic study of various combinations of hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen atoms. Despite the lack of official sanction, work on rocket fuels slowly increased, pushed by the technical interests of the group rather than external demands for specific applications. With the same spirit shown by those who were pushing the frontiers of supersonics, the members of the rocket section enjoyed the adventure of an entirely new field. They took great risks to obtain small quantities of exotic chemicals. One determined researcher brought pure hydrogen peroxide from Buffalo, N.Y., on the all-night train clamped in a container between his legs. The potential of hydrazine and diborane also received close scrutiny. In the late 1940s, experiments on diborane, which was also being studied as a potential high-performance fuel for jet engines, revealed that it left oxide deposits that impaired performance. When diborane was combined with fluorine, the deposits disappeared, but no satisfactory method of cooling could be found. Researchers studied the effects of using pentaborane as a fuel by testing it in the five-foot diameter Navaho ramjet in the Propulsion Systems Laboratory. By 1948 the group had formed a high opinion of liquid hydrogen.39

The initiative for the laboratory's work in rockets came from the staff in the Fuels and Thermodynamics Division. This work was neither inspired nor encouraged by the Washington office and received surprisingly little support from Addison Rothrock, then in charge of the laboratory's research program. Understaffed, underfunded, but undeterred, the rocket group slowly built a technical competence in rocketry that would serve as an important base for future achievements in liquid propellants. However, the group would wait many years for adequate facilities for their research.

 

NUCLEAR PROPULSION

 

[77] Initiative from within the laboratory can also be seen in nuclear propulsion. The attraction of a nuclear power plant for aircraft was the potential for long-range flight without refueling. Former Langley staff were no doubt familiar with the work of Eastman Jacobs and Arthur Kantrowitz at Langley, where they made the first attempt in the United States to achieve a controlled fusion reaction.40 Engineers at the Cleveland laboratory immediately connected the breakthrough in jet propulsion with the potential of nuclear-propelled aircraft and missiles. If the feasibility of a new propulsion system for aircraft could be demonstrated, it would represent a "breakthrough" in propulsion similar to that of jet propulsion during World War II.

Although nuclear propulsion received only a brief statement in the "Survey of Fundamental Problems," serious thinking in Cleveland about nuclear propulsion began two months prior to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Bruce Hicks, a physicist, and Sidney Simon, a chemist, both recent Ph.D.s, were unaware of the Manhattan Project. However, they were both certain of the technical feasibility of splitting the atom. They urged headquarters to allow them to begin to explore the potential of nuclear energy for aircraft propulsion. They pointed out in a memo to the Washington office that before the war the process of nuclear fission was beginning to be understood. They stated that in the early years of the war a great deal of work had focused on producing a self-sustaining nuclear reaction. Publication had then ceased. "It is a matter of common belief among physicists," they wrote," that every major power in the world has been devoting a tremendous amount of effort to the solution of this and similar problems." They stressed the need to train a team from the Cleveland laboratory. They thought that it would take 12 months for a physicist or chemist with a Ph.D. to become a nuclear physicist and about two to three years to turn an outstanding individual with an undergraduate degree in physics or chemistry into an expert in nuclear fuels. Hicks and Simon suggested that the laboratory hire three nuclear physicists who had worked on wartime projects to assist in setting up the program. Drawing on their expertise, the laboratory could then hire about 50 new staff to design, construct, and operate nuclear equipment, such as cyclotrons.41

Several days after the announcement that the United States had dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan, laboratory personnel suggested that four or five NACA scientists be sent to the "inner sanctum" of Los Alamos, N.M. John Evvard pointed out the new vulnerability of the United States in a world with long-range, possibly nuclear, rockets for the delivery of nuclear bombs. As a point to be raised in discussions of nuclear propulsion in Washington, he wrote:

 

The Germans had a modified V-2 rocket on the drawing boards equipped with collapsible wings. Using a skipping technique in the outer atmosphere, this rocket was reported to be capable of bombing New York from Germany within a radius of ten miles from the point target. Combine this implement of war with the potential applications of the atomic bomb principles, and you get a missile which could destroy any point on the earth's surface from any other point. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS SAFETY OF DISTANCES!42

 

Access to the nuclear inner circle proved difficult for the NACA. Vannevar Bush, Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, suggested they wait until Congress had set up the Atomic Energy Commission. Six months later, a Cleveland memo warned headquarters that "unless the Committee sets up an active and farsighted group in this field, we will be 'left at the post'"43

[78] While the Cleveland laboratory enthusiastically formulated its plans to tap into the mainstream of nuclear propulsion research, the Washington office demurred. In May 1946 the Army Air Forces initiated the Nuclear Energy Propulsion for Aircraft (NEPA) under Donald Keirn, now on the staff of Leslie Groves, former director of the Manhattan Project. Although denied a leading role in this work, the NACA was placed on a board of consultants for NEPA along with nine companies and the Navy. Soon the Army was anxious to tap its growing nuclear expertise.44 The Cleveland laboratory staff persevered in the pursuit of a larger piece of the national nuclear propulsion program and succeeded in winning the support of Farrington Daniels, head of the metallurgical laboratory at the University of Chicago and a key member of the Manhattan Project. They proposed a program of basic research in high temperature-heat transfer and materials to support the development of Daniels' design for a gas-cooled nuclear reactor.45 By the next year the NEPA project was foundering. It was clear that the Army project needed the NACA. Andrew Kalitinsky, Chief Engineer of the NEPA division of Fairchild, was anxious to use NACA research data. For example, after a meeting with Cleveland laboratory engineers, he wrote:

 

In the course of these discussions it became apparent that the analytical and experimental heat-transfer studies now under way at Cleveland may be of great immediate value to NEPA, In the analytical studies, a method of calculating heat transfer and pressure drop has been devised which appears to be far simpler and more accurate than anything we now have available.46

 

With increased emphasis on heat-transfer problems related to nuclear propulsion by members of Ben Pinkel's Fuels and Thermodynamics Division, the NACA and the Atomic Energy Commission came to a formal agreement on a joint research program on 15 July 1948. Various Lewis personnel were assigned to Oak Ridge National Laboratory for training, the beginning of a long and, in hindsight, misdirected commitment to nuclear propulsion that continued until 1972, when the dismantling of the nuclear effort would nearly bring about the closing of the laboratory.

 

THE ENGINE INDUSTRY AND THE NACA

 

It was critical that the Cleveland laboratory find and occupy a niche in the transformed economic and political environment of the early post-World War II period. Even with a....

 


Two approaches to aircraft nuclear propulsion.

Two approaches to aircraft nuclear propulsion.

 

[79] ....well-defined research agenda, its role in the emerging propulsion community would be a difficult one. It had to avoid being used by industry to clean up its immediate development problems; however, unlike disinterested university research, scientific and engineering knowledge generated by a government laboratory had to serve the national interest.

Historically, the NACA had prided itself on its contributions to the kinds of basic knowledge that took concrete expression in the design of aircraft. Basic research, made available to the entire aircraft industry, stimulated innovation. The NACA did research that industry could not afford to undertake. Between the two world wars the air-frame industry had come to rely on the NACA. Small innovations like the change in the configuration of wing, tail, or propeller - discovered through testing in the NACA's wind tunnels - could dramatically improve aircraft performance. Often redesign of a particular component could be introduced without major revamping of the assembly line. In contrast, even a small change in an engine usually affected the entire system. Engine innovations were costly because of the watch-like precision and interrelationship of the engine's complex components.

Would the new laboratory ever enjoy the same easy relationship with the engine companies the NACA had enjoyed with air-frame designers? Conservative, intensely competitive, and resistant to any kind of government interference, the engine companies were not sure whether development of the turbojet would ever be profitable. The existence of the new engine laboratory seemed to threaten their independence. With sufficient expertise in the new field of jet propulsion, the laboratory could influence the demands the military put on the engine companies. Government research could assist the United States in catching up and surpassing the British in turbojet development, but only if the engine companies would accept government research and the government's right to disseminate it as widely as possible to competitors. Because of the intense rivalry among the engine companies, the laboratory found itself in a delicate position. Research in the national interest could not benefit a single company, but must be freely available to the entire industry.

In 1945 the turbojet was by no means a finished, or mature, technology. Moreover, it was not clear whether the turbojet could be mass-produced for a commercial market. For fighter aircraft, where speed outweighed other considerations, such as fuel consumption and length of service, the compressor-turbine combination held great promise, but how much emphasis should military hardware receive in peacetime? Many design questions remained to be solved. Would the axial or centrifugal compressor prevail? What form should the combustor take, and how would the designer overcome the problem of the high temperatures of the combustor and turbine? Would it require the development of new materials? Should methods of turbine cooling be investigated? Mechanically, the gas-turbine engine was simpler than the piston engine, but the complexity of the physical processes involved in passing air through a compressor, combustor, and turbine required a level of theoretical sophistication far above what had been necessary during World War II. To grapple with these problems demanded more formal training for engineers and a gradual accumulation of experience.

The first opportunity for the Cleveland laboratory to demonstrate the potential benefits of government engine research in the new field of jet propulsion came in May 1945. Ben Pinkel, Oscar Schey, Abe Silverstein, and William Fleming from Cleveland and John Becker from Langley attended the first American conference on aircraft gas turbine engineering, sponsored jointly by General Electric and the Army Air Forces. Held in Swampscott, Mass., the conference attracted nearly 200 members of the aeronautical community, including representatives from Great...

 


[
80]

1954 cartoon refers to the NACA's role in aircraft nuclear propulsion. Reproduced by permission of The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

1954 cartoon refers to the NACA's role in aircraft nuclear propulsion. Reproduced by permission of The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

 

[81] ...Britain.47 While General Electric engineers and their British colleagues presented the bulk of the 27 papers, Silverstein had the distinction of describing the NACA's contribution, the test program in the Altitude Wind Tunnel. He described how late in the war, his staff had increased the air exhaust capacity of the tunnel from 8 pounds per second to 80 pounds per second. Testing had enabled General Electric to improve its prototype from the balky I-16 to the more reliable I-40. By the end of the war, the I-40 was actually superior to Rolls Royce engines based on Whittle's design, although this superiority was not to last.

Silverstein's paper used a valuable comparative perspective to evaluate the engine performance of five different engines.48 In addition to data on General Electric I-16 and the I-40, with their centrifugal compressors, the laboratory made available comparable data for other American designs-the General Electric TG-180 and the Westinghouse 19-B and 19-XB, with their axial compressors. Silverstein's paper symbolized the laboratory's new commitment to defining and solving problems for the benefit of the entire engine industry, For example, he described ' 'combustion blowout'' at low speeds and the effect of Reynolds number, which might impair the efficiency of the compressor and turbine at high altitudes.49

The NACA paper demonstrated the developing expertise of the laboratory in the new field of jet propulsion. However, winning the cooperation of the engine companies would not be easy. As early as 1944, Jerome Hunsaker, Chairman of the NACA, anticipated trouble with the established engine companies, Pratt & Whitney and Wright Aeronautical. In a "Memorandum on Postwar Research Policy for NACA," he reported that one of the questions that industry had raised during his trip across the country in mid-1944 was "whether or not the Cleveland laboratory constitutes a potential threat to the engine industry." He explained, "The idea here is that private enterprise has already developed very superior engines and fuels and does not need government competition in research, invention, and development."50 Hunsaker reported that industry management argued that they could make better use of public funds than a government laboratory and wanted government engine research stopped. In particular, the engine companies complained that the Cleveland laboratory's extensive work on the Allison engine interfered with the impersonal forces of the market. They were also bitter about the Army's decision to set up the Packard Company in the aircraft engine business through their license from the Rolls Royce Company to manufacture the British Merlin engine. However, their major complaint was that the NACA was taking the lead in jet propulsion "in collaboration with firms previously outside the aeronautical engine field."51

The engine companies had reason to worry. General Electric appeared to be a potentially powerful new competitor, with a head start in the gas-turbine field, and Westinghouse, tasting its first success with its small turbojet for use on aircraft carriers, had captured the Navy's interest and investment. Moreover, the Army had licensed the Allison Division of General Motors to take over the manufacture of the I-40. Pratt & Whitney and Wright Aeronautical still dominated the piston-engine field, but, in the postwar environment, how long would the piston engine continue to be commercially viable? The engine companies were aware of their precarious position in the new peacetime economy. As a result of the war, they had enormously expanded facilities. Now they were faced with the possibility that the market for their engines might cease to exist. The very day that President Harry S. Truman announced victory over Japan, the government canceled more than $414 million in contracts with Pratt & Whitney, and the machinery of its vast production empire fell silent.52 With a radically new power plant on the horizon, the engine companies [82] could anticipate the costly replacement of the entire set of machine tools necessary to mass produce aircraft engines.

Vannevar Bush and other members of the NACA's Executive Committee, however, had little sympathy for the plight of the companies that made piston engines. Bush retorted, "Inasmuch as the Germans have just sprung a clever, new engine on us, which our industry never thought of, their attitude does not strike me forcibly."53 Bush blamed not the NACA but the engine companies for the tardiness of the American effort to develop the turbojet. Recalling with displeasure their predictable attitudes toward developing any unusual engine, he commented, "If we brought new people into the engine field I think we have done a public service."54 The new companies ended the domination of Pratt & Whitney and Wright Aeronautical.

Competition encouraged innovation. Once a strong company prevailed over its weaker competitors, innovation ceased. It was always more profitable to market a production engine than to undertake the costly development of new ideas, Another NACA Executive Committee member commented that, although the aircraft industry might be just as able to conduct fundamental research as the NACA, it was not interested in the "general progress of the art." What industry objected to and feared was the publication of new knowledge, thus eliminating the competitive advantage a company might win through its own efforts. The committee thought that government research would encourage competition. It would force industry to keep up by performing at higher technical levels. This research dynamic needed to be sustained because the industry could anticipate strenuous competition with the British, who were looking forward to the expansion of the aircraft industry and were proposing to build new facilities. Hunsaker observed:

 

They are going throughout the United States, and they are frank in saying that what we have now is what they propose to build, only larger and better. We have a 20-foot-altitude wind tunnel at Cleveland. They will have a 25-foot-altitude tunnel. Their program now calls for the construction of 12 wind tunnels, which will constitute a great national research organization for the British empire.55

 

In the same way that the Russian Sputnik raised national security fears almost 15 years later and galvanized public opinion for the outlay of tax money for technology research, the superiority of British engines and the perceived danger of this technology in the hands of the Russians was a recurring theme in the late 1940s to justify expansion of government facilities.

 

THE COMPOUND ENGINE

 

Ben Pinkel, respected for his analytic ability, led the laboratory's effort to evaluate the potential of the different types of propulsion systems in terms of weight, altitude, range, and fuel consumption. The results of this analysis were first presented at the second annual Flight Propulsion Meeting of the Institute for Aeronautical Sciences held in Cleveland in March 1947,56 This type of systems analysis was an important aspect of the work of the laboratory because it was the one institution in the United States that could attempt an overview of the entire propulsion picture. The group evaluated six engines: the compound engine by Eugene J. Manganiello and Leroy V. Humble; the turbine-propeller engine by John C. Sanders and Gerald W. Englert; the turbojet engine by Newell D. Sanders and John Masics; the turbo-ramjet engine by Bruce T. Lundin; the ramjet engine by George F Klinghorn; and the rocket engine by Everett Bernardo, Walter T Olson, and Clyde S. Calvert. By weighing different parameters, such as thrust in relation to engine weight, engine frontal area and the rate of fuel consumption, speed, and altitude, Pinkel's group....

 

 


[
83]

Ben Pinkel, chief of the Fuels and Thermodynamics Division, sits with staff who presented papers at the propulsion meeting of the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences [I.A.S.] March 28, 1947.

Ben Pinkel, chief of the Fuels and Thermodynamics Division, sits with staff who presented papers at the propulsion meeting of the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences [I.A.S.] March 28, 1947. Left to right. Everett Bernardo, Newell D. Sanders, Bruce Lundin, Benjamin Pinkel, George F Klinghorn, John C Sanders, and Eugene J. Manganiello.

 

 

...assessed the advantages and disadvantages of each system. On the basis of the NACAs analysis, engine companies could more realistically plan development of different engine types.

In the late 1940s, the turbojet seemed an unlikely candidate for commercial development because of its high fuel consumption and lack of reliability. As Ben Pinkel recalled, the aircraft industry could not imagine a passenger airplane flying at speeds of 500 miles per hour because of the buffeting the aircraft would receive, "There was a general feeling that the human body just could not stand to go that fast. It was just beyond the point of human endurance." Few could imagine pressurization of passenger cabins to make flight at high altitudes in less turbulent air possible. Pinkel, who served on the NACA Subcommittee for Propulsion Systems with William Littlewood, director of research for United Aircraft, vividly recalled Littlewood's assertion that his company had decided, after considerable study, that the jet engine had no future for commercial applications.57

There seemed little doubt that for military applications, the turbojet would remain a strong candidate for continued development. However, the engine companies had their eyes on the commercial market where fuel consumption was an important consideration. The group under Pinkel concluded that the compound engine and the turboprop were about equal in terms of altitude and range. Because of their relatively lower fuel consumption, both were superior to the turbojet at speeds of less than 550 miles per hour. For commercial applications, they concluded the [84] compound engine was superior to the turboprop because it exploited the known technology of the piston engine and exhaust gas turbine or turbosupercharger. Now more or less forgotten because of the current domination of the turbojet for all aircraft engine applications, between 1945 and the early 1950s the compound engine seemed to hold great promise for commercial planes. It consisted of a piston engine and propeller with an exhaust gas turbine to drive an auxiliary supercharger. The turbine delivered excess power to the engine shaft through gearing. There may have been a hint of national pride in its short popularity. While the turbojet was a European development, the compound engine had secure roots in American turbosupercharger innovations. Ben Pinkel's analysis encouraged the engine companies to develop the compound engine, which became for a short time the engine of preference for long-range passenger flight. The development of the compound engine was the beginning of a new positive working relationship between the NACA and Pratt & Whitney.58

The reorganization of the laboratory in 1945 to emphasize fundamental research reflected the assumptions of leaders like Vannevar Bush that research was the key to national survival, both from a military point of view and in the commercial arena. World War II was waged in the research laboratory as well as on the battlefields of Europe. Planning for the next war on the part of the Army Air Forces began before World War II had ended. This planning emphasized the need for continued support for science and technology. Technical superiority could be a deterrent to future enemy aggression.59 By carefully distinguishing fundamental research - the presumed province of the government - from development - the arena of private enterprise - National Aeronautical Research Policy expressly avoided leaving the nation's aircraft-engine requirements exclusively in the hands of private industry. But where was the line between research and development to be drawn? The supposed connection between fundamental research and national defense in the event of future wars mandated close ties between the Cleveland laboratory and the Army, Navy, and later the Air Force. These ties strengthened in the postwar period.

With the reorganization, the basic outline of the management structure of Lewis was fixed until the advent of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1958. The "Survey of Fundamental Problems" set the research course of the laboratory through the mid 1950s. Gradually the superiority of the turbojet over the turboprop and the compound engine was demonstrated. The turbojet demanded focus on the problem of developing materials such as alloys and ceramic and metal compounds to withstand the temperatures of the hot gases. The early effort in high-energy liquid propellants for rockets and missiles would later culminate in the success of the Centaur rocket. Work on the supersonic ramjet played an important role in stimulating basic research in aerodynamics and heat transfer. The ramjet work was applied in the Navaho program, the Bomarc program, and the so-called "T" series of missiles for the Navy, including the Terrier and Talos missiles. The early promise of nuclear propulsion, never realized, nurtured basic research in materials.

In April 1947 the Cleveland laboratory was renamed the Flight Propulsion Research Laboratory to mark its transition from an engine laboratory, charged with assisting industry with its wartime development problems, to a laboratory with the freedom to explore areas in propulsion research that seemed to hold promise for the future. The following year, after the death of George W Lewis, the laboratory became the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory. Lewis's name, more than any other, had stood behind the NACA's reputation for basic research in the prewar period. He had guided its work from the 1920s through World War II, winning the backing of key members of Congress through the force of his personality and his single-minded dedication to the [85] institution he served. He had taken an active part in every decision, never losing sight of the enabling legislation that had established the NACA: the duty "to supervise and direct the scientific study of the problems of flight with a view to their practical solution." Although his background was in engineering, his approach to the problems of aviation had been practical and down-to-earth. In his view, testing was the path to useful knowledge - the careful gathering and interpretation of data - to save industry designers unnecessary steps. Wind tunnels, not libraries, were where NACA staff did basic research. However, World War II and the turbojet revolution that George Lewis had only belatedly recognized had changed the practice of engineering. The dramatic breakthroughs of World War II in jet propulsion, nuclear fission, radar, and guided missiles increased the need for engineering more firmly grounded in science. The NACA's engineering traditions, nurtured by Lewis, would have to be leavened with a stronger dose of analytical talent.

 


Notes

1. The Cleveland News, 23 June 1945.

2. Quotations from Aviation News, 25 June 1945, and New York Mirror, 24 June 1945. The articles were reproduced in Wing Tips, 18 July 1945.

3. "Memorandum for Manager, Report of trip by C. T Perin, January 19 to January 28, 1946," 18 February 1946, NASA Lewis Records, 34/200.

4. Minutes of the Executive Committee, January June 1944, National Archives, Record Group 255, Box 9.

5. Alsos Mission Report, 4 March 1944, National Archives, Intelligence Division Alsos Mission File 1944 1945, Entry 187, Box 137. On the Alsos Mission, see Samuel A. Goudsmit, Alsos (Los Angeles: Tomash, History of Modem Physics Series, 1947); Clarence Lasby, Project Paperclip: German Scientists and the Cold War (New York: Atheneum, 1971); and Boris T. Pash, The Alsos Mission (New York: Award House, 1969). Less reliable are Tom Bowler, The Paperclip Conspiracy. The Hunt for the Nazi Scientists (Boston: Little, Brown, 1987); and Michel Bar-Zohar, The Hunt for the German Scientists (New York: Hawthorne, 1967).

6. Russell Robinson to George Lewis, 14 May 1945, National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics 490, National Archives, Intelligence Division Alsos Mission File, 1944-1945, Entry 187, Box 138.

7. Minutes of the Executive Committee, January-June 1945, National Archives, Record Group 255, Box 9.

8. Kemper's Alsos reports are listed in the Langley file, although not all were obtainable through NASA Technical Services and may have been destroyed. The Langley file is an index of NACA reports kept at Langley Research Center and obtainable on microfilm at the Lewis Technical Library. To use it requires clearance. "Report upon the war work of the institute for the development of instruments and of the department for measuring instruments," by Kemper and Betz-Mein (Translation of a German report) 23 July 1946, 5301/174. "Inspection of the jet engine test stands and interrogation of the chief test pilot, Ing. Kuhn, at the Walter Werke, Keil:' 27 July 1945, 7818, 01113, Walter/2. "Visit to dispersal plants of the Dornier Company at Brieurichshafen/Lowenthal, Ravensberg.....," 25 May 1945, KR/157. "Report on Luftfartforschungsanstalt, Munchen (LFW)...."13 May 1945, KR/174. "Report on interrogation of Peter Domier.....," 24 May 1945, KR/178. "Report on Flugtechnisches Institute of the Techn. Hochschule, Stuttgart....,"26 May 1945. "Report on aircraft engines and jet propulsion research at Luftfahrtforschungsanstalt JLFA) Herman Goering," 22 June 1945, CK/215. "Report on inspection of 'mock up Junkers 262.....," 22 June 1945, CK/212. "Interrogation of Ing. Hans Becker and inspection of the reciprocating engine research and test facilities of the Junkers Flugseug and Motoren-Werke, Dessau," 27 July 1945, CK/245. "Interrogation of Dr. Heinz Schmitt in charge of the jet engine research and development of the Junkers works at Dessau," 6 June 1945, CK1233. "Interrogation of Dr. Ing. Alfred Grumbt in charge of Flugs. Trauen and inspection of the laboratory equipment," 14 August 1945, CK/263. "Inspection of Daimler-Benz dispersal plant at Kulbermoor," 27 July 1945, CK/243. "German establishment for aerodynamic research on missiles; cover names Wasserbau Versuchsanstalt (WVA)," 23 May 1945, RK/180.

9. Although this index is listed in Cunliffe and Godlbeck, "Special Study on the Records of the National Ad visory Committee for Aeronautics," p. 35, it could not be located in National Archives, Record Group 255. See Lois Walker and Shelby Wickham, From Huffinan Prairie to the Moon (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1986), p. 169 170. Many of the reports prepared at Wright Field by the Material Command are still not available to historians. For example, I was unable to obtain the release of Fritz Zwicky's, "Report on Certain Phases of War Research in Germany," 1947, ADB-953510.

10. See Russ Murray, "The Navaho Inheritance!' American Aviation Historical Society journal 19:17-2 1; Kenneth P. Werrell, "The Cruise Missile: Precursors and Problems." Air University Review 32:36-50. John Evvard to V. Dawson, 18 March 1985.

11. Minutes of Special Meeting of Executive Committee, 18 May 1944, January-June 1944, National Archives, Record Group 255, Box 9.

12. John Sloop, "NACA High Energy Rocket Propellant Research in the Fifties," AIAA 8th Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C., 28 October 1971. The reorganization occurred 1 October 1945.

13. "A Survey of Fundamental Problems Requiring Research at the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory," December 1945. NASA Lewis Records, 34/376.

14. "A Survey of Fundamental Problems Requiring Research at the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory," May 1946. NASA Lewis Records, 34/376.

15. For text of "National Aeronautical Research Policy," see Alex Roland, Model Research, vol. 2, NASA SP-4103 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1985), p. 693 695.

16. Bruce Hevly, "Basic Research Within a Military Context: The Naval Research Laboratory and the Foundations of Extreme Ultraviolet and X-Ray," Ph.D Dissertation, The Johns Hopkins University, 1987. University Microfilms 8716611, p. 73. See also Paul Forman, "Behind Quantum Electronics: National Security as Basis for Physical Research in the United States, 1940-1960." Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences 18(1):149-229. For analysis of the contributions of JPL, see Clayton Koppes, JPL and the American Space Program (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982).

17. Vannevar Bush, Endless Horizons (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1946), p. 52 53. Quoted in Edwin Layton, "Mirror-Image Twins: The Communities of Science and Technology in 19th-Century America." Technology and Culture 12:563.

18. Power Plants Committee Minutes, 20 September 1945, National Archives, Record Group 255, 112.02.

19. Ibid.

20. Interview by V. Dawson with Abe Silverstein, 5 October 1984; letter from John Evvard to V. Dawson, February 1987.

21. Interview with Walter Olson by V. Dawson, 16 July 1984.

22. Interview with Carl David Miller (Cearcy D. Miller) by V Dawson, 12 October 1984.

23. Interview with Carl Schueller by V Dawson, 12 October 1984.

24. Minutes of High-Speed Panel, National Archives, Record Group 255, 111.52. Cleveland was not represented and did not receive copies of the minutes of the first meeting. Minutes of meetings between 1944 and 1947 are missing from National Archives, Record Group 255.

25. Roland, Model Research, vol. 1, p. 211.

26. Quoted by Roland, Model Research, vol. 1, p. 212.

27. W T. Bonney interview with Abe Silverstein, transcript, 20 September 1973.

28. Transcript of interview with D. D. Wyatt by Eugene Emme, 21 June 1973, NASA History Office, Washington, D.C.

29. ibid.

30. Ibid. Also interview with W. Olson, 16 July 1984. In Engineer in Charge, NASA SP-4305 (Washington, D.C.: US. Government Printing Office, 1987), James Hansen connected this visual, intuitive approach to design to a discussion by Eugene S. Ferguson in "The Mind's Eye: Nonverbal Thought in Technology," Science 197:836, Hansen's insightful discussions can be found principally on p. 311, 334-335, 341, and in note 2 (chapter 4), p. 526, and note 2 (chapter 11), p. 556.

31. See Carlton Kemper to NACA, "Outline of research projects for the 18- by 18-inch and 20-inch supersonic tunnels at the Cleveland laboratory," 4 October 1946, 341521, NASA Lewis Records. Lewis researchers also applied ramjet technology to the improvement of afterburners in turbojet engines. See Russ Murray, "The Navaho Inheritance." American Aviation Historical Society journal 19:17-2 1; Kenneth P Werrell, "The Cruise Missile: Precursors and Problems." Air University Review 32:36 50.

32. Interview with D. D. Wyatt by Eugene Emme, 21 June 1973, On Busemann at Langley see Hansen, Engineer in Charge, p. 292, 285, and 322.

33. Chief, BuAer to NACA, December 1944, National Archives, Record Group 255, 118-25.

34. Interview with Paul Ordin by V. Dawson, 19 March 1986.

35. John Sloop, Liquid Hydrogen, NASA SP-4404 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1978), p. 74.

36. Ibid, p. 3.

37. Transcript of interview by V. Dawson with Walter Olson, 16 July 1984, p. 38. Sloop, Liquid Hydrogen, p, 74.

38. John Sloop, "NACA High Energy Rocket Propellant Research in the Fifties," AIAA 8th Annual Meeting, 28 October 1971, p. 2-3. This paper includes an inclusive bibliography of NACA/NASA Lewis research reports on rocket engines, 1948-1960.

39. Sloop, Liquid Hydrogen, p. 74-75.

40. On the work of Jacobs and Kantrowitz, see Hansen, Engineer in Charge, p. 39.

41. Hicks and Simon to Acting Executive Engineer (Rothrock), "Nature of AERL Research on Nuclear Energy Fuels," 11 June 1945, 34/17112, NASA Lewis Records.

42. John Evvard to Acting Engineer, "Points Which Might Be of Interest to You for Your Washington Discussions," 9 August 1945, 34/17112, NASA Lewis Records. See also J. F. Victory to Cleveland, "Utilization of Atomic Energy," 10 December 1945, 34/17112, NASA Lewis Records; J. R. Dietrich to Executive Engineer, "Atomic Power Aircraft Engines," 7 August 1945, 34/17112, NASA Lewis Records.

43. Cleveland to NACA, "Recommendations Concerning the Application of Nuclear Energy to Aircraft Power Plants," 24 May 1946, 34/17112, NASA Lewis Records.

44. Robert Seldon to Manager, "Comments on Nuclear Energy Aircraft Propulsion Laboratory,"21 September 1946, 34/17112, NASA Lewis Records. Under NEPA, the Air Force studied both nuclear aircraft and rocket propulsion between 1946 and 1951 when NEPA was superseded by a joint program with the Atomic Energy Commission called the Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion Program (ANP). See Richard G. Hewlett and Francis Duncan, Atomic Shield, 194711952, vol. 2 of A History of the United States Atomic Energy Commission (University Park: Pennsylvania State University, 1969), p. 70-78. See also R. W. Bussard and R. D. DeLauer, Fundamentals of Nuclear Flight (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965).

45. E. R. Sharp to Director of Aeronautical Research, 29 October 194/6, 341376, NASA Lewis Records.

46. A. Kalitinsky Memo, 1 October 1947, Transactions/Communications 63 A 250, National Archives, Record Group 255, Box 14, C-2-8. I have requested declassification of the Addison Rothrock files, Record Group 255, believed to contain detailed information on the NACA nuclear program.

47. The proceedings of the conference were published by General Electric in Aircraft Gas Turbine Engineering Conference, 1945; the conference is also mentioned in Neville and Silsbee, jet Propulsion Progress, p. 113.

48. Abe Silverstein, "Investigations of Jet-Propulsion Engines in the NACA Altitude Wind Tunnel," in Aircraft Gas Turbine Engineering Conference (West Lynn, Mass.: General Electric Company, Limited edition, No. 538, 1945), p. 255-270.

49. Interview with William Fleming by V. Dawson, 19 November 1986.

50. Jerome Hunsaker, "Memorandum on Postwar Research Policy for NACA," full text in Roland, Model Research, vol. 2, appendix H, p. 684-686.

51. "Notes on discussion at meeting of NACA," July 27, 1944," 8 August 1944, in Roland, Model Research, vol. 2, appendix H, p. 689.

52. The Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Story (West Hartford: Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Division of United Aircraft Corporation, 1950), p. 152.

53. "Notes on discussion at meeting of NACA," July 27, 1944," 8 August 1944 in Roland, Model Research, vol. 2, appendix H, p. 687.

54. Ibid, p. 688.

55. Ibid, p. 689.

56. Cleveland Laboratory Staff, "Performance and Ranges of Application of Various Types of Aircraft-Propulsion System," Technical Note 1349, August 1947.

57. Interview with Ben Pinkel by V. Dawson, 4 August 1985.

58. This is evident in Eugene Manganiello, "Visit to Wright Field on February 20, 1946 in Connection with a Proposed Investigation of Composite Operation of the Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Engine," NASA Lewis Records. As late as 1948 the compound engine was considered an "outstanding development" in Neville and Silsbee, jet Propulsion Progress, p. 101.

59. See Michael S. Sherry, Preparing for the Next War (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977), p. 128.


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