I had been providing technical consultation
to the project since late spring of 1999 and had long been considering
flying out to see my favorite airplane. However, a flight from the east
to the West Coast was not without its expenses and I wanted to wait
until just the right time to make the trip. As I consulted, the mere
act of consulting stretched my own knowledge of the aircraft, digging
into the technical minutia that the project required. The longer I could
wait, the more productive I could be during my visit.
But, the airplane borrowed from the Navy,
BuAer 121448 (werknummer 110639), an Me 262B-1a, was nearing completion.
Once gone, this valuable reference would no longer be this accessible.
A photographic record of the airplane's internal structure needed to
be made, not only for historical purposes, but also as reference for
the project for the new-builds. In addition, I have been providing technical
consultation to Arthur Bentley, probably the best technical artist in
the historical aviation publishing business, in his efforts to accurately
draw the fuel systems on the Me 262 for the remaining two volumes of
the Smith and Creek Me 262 series. The trip represented a once in a
lifetime opportunity to nail down what the fuel system really looked
like in an Me 262B-1a. Stormbirds.com, of which I am one of the cadre,
also needed an infusion of new information and photos. And, of course,
going out to the project would allow me to meet in person the people
I had talked to and consulted with by e-mail over the past year and
give me the opportunity to provide eye to eye consultation.
I had had hopes that two other Stormbirds.com
cadre could come along: Richard P. Lutz and Gordon Permann. Unfortunately,
circumstances precluded this, so I was on my way alone.
My flight took off from the Salisbury,
MD airport early on the morning of 2/26. I connected in Philadelphia
and arrived at Seattle's Sea-Tac airport about 12:15 p.m. I picked up
my rental car and drove the 35 miles north from Sea-Tac to Everett.
Dying of curiosity, I headed the few miles out to Paine Field. Following
the map Jim Byron had e-mailed to me, it was a relatively easy trip.
The project is contained in two hangars bays, bays 3 and 4, plus the
central second floor office area, in building 221 near the field's fire
station. Mounted centered on the front of the bay 3 and 4 area was a
large project emblem. I attempted to see inside, but there was nary
a light on. At the north end of the building beyond bay 4 is a scrap
heap. Most of it is jigs and frames from the TAF days. I was hoping
to start my search in whatever junk pile(s) the project had to fit together
the rear tank fuel piping, but there was no piping here and I began
to have a bit of a sinking feeling. However, subsequently, a call to
Richard Lutz confirmed there was much more junk inside!!!
I checked into the Holiday Inn and Convention
Center in Everett. It's very nearby and a really nice place to stay.
The chef at the restaurant was very good and I enjoyed some gourmet
meals while there. I had thoughts of using the heated indoor pool, but
never got that far.
Through previous arrangement, I met Bob
Hammer and Tom Naugle at the project Sunday morning, 2/27, at 10 a.m.
Bob is the head of the project and a really nice guy. He let us in and
gave us a quick tour, then left Tom and me to our own devices, returning
to check up on us a bit later in the day. Tom is one of the project's
volunteers. He is a captain in the U.S. Army. It's a 100 mile drive,
but he makes it faster than I would like to drive!!! My initial dealings
with Tom were to provide him with as much as I knew about the antenna
system on the Me 262B-1a.
In terms of general layout, the Navy's
Me 262B-1a, BuAer 121448, was located in hangar bay 4, with the fuselages
of green nose, white nose, and yellow nose being tucked into the northeast
corner of the bay in storage awaiting buyers. The fuselages of blue
nose and red nose, under active production, are located in hangar bay
3, along with the wing to blue nose, which is currently set up for main
landing gear hydraulic testing. Both bays contain numerous parts storage
racks and a number of junk piles containing the remnants of unused parts
from BuAer 121448. A wing sits in a rack in hangar bay 3. The door to
the upstairs office area is located at the southwest corner of hangar
bay 3. The office area has a small square glass bay window that overlooks
the ramp to the west of the building. As a perk to the volunteers, the
office has a kitchen always stocked with sandwich makings, drinks, cookies,
and fruit, so that time need not be wasted going out for lunch.
As Bob had put it to me and which became
clearly evident, the reason for getting the Navy plane out the door
was not really due to pressure from the Navy, but from the desperate
need for floor space. Once the Navy plane was gone, both blue nose and
red nose could have wings attached, something there really wasn't space
for with BuAer 121448 tying up hangar bay 4.
Before going on, I would like to stop
a moment and acknowledge that I could not have been able to provide
as much information to the project as I did without the help of others
worldwide. Information came from people and places as diverse as Arthur
Bentley and Mark Nixon in England, Alan Scheckenbach in Australia, Dave
McDonald in New Zealand, Richard Lutz in California, Steve Muth in New
York, Hyperscale - for the South African Me 262B-1a/U1, I. Melun in
Sweden, and many official and unofficial sources.
Getting back to the story, Tom was there
on his day off to meet me in person and lend me a hand. The day's objective
was to find the fuel piping to the rear 260 l and 400 l fuel tanks.
We found the pipe bridges to the fuel selector valves and the fuel line
from the forward 900 l fuel tank. But, search as we did, we couldn't
find either the fuel supply line nor the right hand right side pipe
to the fuel selector valve. We looked everywhere. Ugh!!! There was a
gray wooden container in the junk pile on the north side of the building
I had visited the day before. Tom tackled this with gusto and shortly
we had everything laid out on the ground. Before us were a lot of the
original parts from BuAer 121448, but they were either too rusted or
had been deemed unusable by TAF in their work. There were lots of nose
parts, including the rusted out base of the original nose. The nose
had two pass-throughs for the fuel and air lines for two external fuel
tanks. It should be noted at this point that the nose we were looking
at was not original to BuAer 121448, but was a replacement nose from
Lechfeld after the original nose gear had collapsed during a landing
accident in Europe. We also found the two rusted out pieces of the bottom
support panel for the 400 l tank. These pieces had the forward mounts
for the two takeoff rocket boosters. The recesses seen in the bottom
forward portion of the 400 l tank were thus explained, as these were
to clear the upper structure of the RATO unit mounts. This also said
that the tank must have rested directly on the bottom panel or with
only a thin interlayer in between. We found a short pipe with a flexible
hose that could have come from the 170 l auxiliary tank where it attached
to the 400 l tank flange bottom fitting. This 8-1/8" diameter flange
held a fuel pump, a Vorratsgeber (fuel measuring device), a fitting
to connect to the air vent line, and a fitting pointing downward to
connect up to the 170 l tank fuel supply line.
Tom and I did a fit check of the 400 l
tank in the fuselage bay with the flange in place. We found that the
right side had to go in first to clear the flange's bottom fitting.
Then the left side could be raised into place. The fit of the tank was
tight left to right and front to back, although the left to right fit
probably had space for plywood side panels not on BuAer 121448 at the
time. Front to back, there was ribbing on the back side of the forward
bulkhead (station 4865), standing off the front of the tank. The lower
fitting on the flange, the one for the fuel line from the 170 l tank,
had a piece of pipe sheared off very close to the exit of the fitting.
Reaching my hand in through the fuselage hatch, I found that the sheared
off piping/flange (fitting?) end rubbing the fuselage skin. Perhaps
Tom had the tank a tad high. The flange centerline was forward and below
the centerline of the hatch, making it impossible for a pipe or hose
to be attached for the 170 l auxiliary fuel tank feed after the 400
l tank was up in place. The hose/pipe would definitely have had to go
through the vertical slot in the station 4865 bulkhead, rather than
the hole inboard of this. The inboard hole was lined up with the tank,
although near its edge. I didn't know what might have gone through it.
At the sides of the 400 l tank bay, the formers showed screw holes present
where plywood side panels might have been. However, if a plywood side
panel had been present on the right side, it would have had had a significant
cutout for passage of the auxiliary fuel tank line. I later found a
picture showing a flexible hose had been used for the 170 l tank feed
to the 400 l tank. I concluded that the hose was pre-mounted to the
400 l tank flange's fitting and then pre-led through the slot in the
bulkhead, being milked through as the tank was raised into place. This
would have avoided the impossible task of trying to make the connection
after the tank was up into place.
We again looked for the rear tanks' fuel
supply lines, but no luck.
Tom and I also looked at the insides of
BuAer 121448 and the new builds. The 260 l fuel tank support skids were
mounted differently from those in one of the new builds. As mounted
in the new build, it would have been impossible to have installed the
260 l tank, as it would have struck the bottom of the cockpit tub. I
presume this setup was as-supplied by TAF. In the blue nose new build
aircraft, there was also no hole in the rear bulkhead for the 900 l
front main fuel tank for the fuel supply line. Bob Hammer later told
me that this was intentional, as they hadn't decided on the fuel line
run at the time.
Tom went home at 3 p.m. I was tired. Bob
came back briefly and leant me keys to the office area and building,
so I was on my own. I went up to the office area and went through binders.
I found two with good history photos. I went back to the motel about
5 or 6 p.m. with the binders to peruse overnight.
At the motel, I carefully went through
the binders and discovered photos of BuAer 121448 taken during disassembly
that showed the fuel supply piping for the 260 l and 400 l tanks and
the missing pipe to the fuel selector bridge pipe. What I hadn't been
able to physically find in my search with Tom during the day, I was
fortunate enough to find in the binder photos.
On 2/28 I got to the project a little before
8 a.m. I met Bernie Johnson, known only by his initials as BJ. BJ is
the avionics and electrical crew chief. BJ was a tad upset with me,
as the pile Tom and I had unloaded from the box on the outside north
side of hangar bay 4 was now blocking a driving area to get around to
the west side of the building. Also, inside, the 260 l and 400 l fuel
tanks and plumbing we had pulled out were now in the way. We quickly
got things moved and I got to meet Chris Wisneski, Adrian Catinas, Richard
Parks, and Mike Anderson. Mike is the airframe crew chief. Adrian and
Richard work for Mike and are general airframe mechanics. Chris is an
airframe mechanic, but he works primarily for BJ. The order of the day
focused everyone on finishing up BuAer 121448, that is, all except me.
There was sheet metal work being done on the engine cowls and efforts
to get the fiberglass wing fairings mounted. Fiberglass was only going
to be used on the static display BuAer 121448. Later, these parts would
be made of aluminum for the new build flight articles.
Having seen pictures of the missing rear
tank fuel piping, I again renewed my search, but to no avail.
I went up to the office and met Barbara
Sudderth, the project secretary, Jim Byron, Bob Hammer's right hand
man, and again met up with Bob. Barb's husband, Bob Sudderth, was supposed
to come in that day, in part so that we could meet and discuss fuel
systems, as that was Bob's primary responsibility on the project. Unfortunately,
Bob had had surgery over the weekend and would not be able to come in
while I was there. I quickly mentally sergeanted Tom Naugle to fill
in for him in a meeting we would have the next day on the fuel systems.
Nick Cirelli (pronounced Cherelli), a retired
volunteer, came in that morning. Nick recently retired from the city
of Seattle. His previous work experience included photography. Nick
had been assigned to getting the project's photos in order and to do
inventory. Nick pointed out to me a box of duplicate photos which I
was welcome to take from and I spent the balance of the morning picking
out a set for me and a set for Arthur Bentley. Many, many of the photos
covered the early history of BuAer 121448, including a lot on its disassembly.
Arthur was later ecstatic when he got them, as they showed some much
needed detail on BuAer 121448. Apparently these, and one of the binders
had come from Steve Snyder's widow Barbara in Nov. 1999, as she felt
the project could put them to much better use than they would gathering
dust in New Jersey. I ended up with two stacks of 4" x 6" color photos
about 1-1/2" thick - a real treasure trove which should help me help
both the project and Arthur Bentley. It is one thing to have a photo.
It is another to point out its significance.
At noon, I took the two binders to Kinko's
in Lynnwood and copied one myself ( the mounted photos) and had the
color laser prints copied by Kinko's on a slightly better color laser
copier than I was using. The one I was using tended to shift the colors
toward blue. The ones Kinko's copied included some great shots of BuAer
121448 during shipment from Willow Grove, PA to Steve Snyder's South
Jersey Regional Airport in Lumberton, NJ, in 1992, plus disassembly
there in New Jersey. Many of these were not available to me as 4" x
6" prints. I finished up about 3 p.m. and returned to the project.
I took an Olympus IS-10 camera I had borrowed
from a friend back home and started shooting straight up the under side
of the cockpit tub and fuselage of BuAer 121448. There were shots taken
through both the main wheel well openings and the open bay for the 400
l fuel tank. The camera gave me fits, refusing to fire many times in
this dark environment. When there is insufficient light, the camera
fires a brief burst of flashes so that the camera can auto-focus for
the flash picture to follow. I eventually found out that it needed some
light in addition to its pre-flashes to auto-focus and, if it couldn't
pre-focus, it wouldn't fire. I eventually took two rolls of film - maybe
more - eventually exhausting the old batteries, which may have contributed
to the problem.
Tired, I went back to the office and again
perused the other albums, as I had remembered one photo I really wanted
a copy of. I selected a number of album pages, closed up shop, and headed
out about 6 p.m. for a return trip to Kinko's, where I copied another
16 pages on the color laser printer and picked up some envelopes in
which to carry home the 4" x 6" photos I'd picked out earlier.
I returned to the motel, got some dinner,
then organized the booty for the day.
On 2/29 I got to the project before 8 a.m.
and immediately started into continuing the internal photography, now
getting oblique and horizontal shots. The Olympus was really giving
me fits and was mentally smashed on the floor many times. Guy Sperk,
one of the mechanics whom I'd talked to on the phone from Delaware,
came up and introduced himself. Guy's specialty was working on the cockpit
of BuAer 121448 and he later talked about and showed me his handiwork.
He had been going by much of the information I had provided, so he was
glad to get to meet me in person - and I, him. We talked about the camera
problem and he offered to bring in his Canon A1 at lunchtime.
Tom Naugle showed up before lunch and he
and I and Bob Hammer and Jim Byron met in the conference room to discuss
the fuel system and the material I had brought with me from Delaware.
I discussed how the fuel system had been laid out on BuAer 121448. Prior
to the meeting I had run calculations which showed that BuAer 121448
had most likely not been equipped with external fuel tanks, unless the
openings in the bulkhead in front of the front main fuel tank had been
considerably enlarged. (I have yet to examine this in detail from the
photos that I took). As I said earlier, the nose came from a different
aircraft at Lechfeld, possibly the Me 262V10 that had been used in early
external fuel tank tests. There is some confusion as to the specific
aircraft used in these tests.
Bob discussed the designs for the project
aircraft fuel system. The fuel system was designed to eliminate the
need for the pilot to switch from tank to tank and would only cause
a 1% shift in aircraft cg during flight. The front 900 l fuel tank would
feed one engine. The 170 l front auxiliary fuel tank plus the 400 l
and 260 l fuel tanks would feed the other engine. From what I could
tell, this was how the Germans had intended to do it, too, although
switching engine feeds would be possible through the engine selector
valves. In the project aircraft, a single fuel pump is to be mounted
at the bottom center of each of the 400 l and 900 l fuel tanks, pumping
out the tops of the tanks. The 170 l auxiliary fuel tank, utilizing
a smaller pump, feeds into the 400 l fuel tank. The 260 l and 400 l
fuel tanks are interconnected and act as a single tank. If one of the
major pumps fails, a solenoid valve would automatically open, allowing
access to the failed pump tank by the remaining good pump. The pumps
are considered highly reliable. Bob took me to the drawing room and
showed me drawings of the proposed 400 l tank. Jim snapped our picture
with me still in the jumpsuit Bob had loaned to me.
I noted to Bob that the tank in the drawing
was equidistant to the left and right off of the fuselage centerline,
which the original tank is not, and that it lacked a notch-out on the
left side (later found to be for the fuel flow control linkage). Guy
agreed to cover Bob Sudderth on this upon his return. A single 400 l
and 900 l tank were currently in fabrication. Bob and I walked out to
the floor where I confirmed the differences I had noted on the drawing
versus the original 400 l tank.
I stayed on the floor and, with Guy's Canon
A1 and a high intensity light, began taking internal photos. The A1
was not equipped with a flash and required manual focusing, something
I really didn't get the full hang of until I got into the second roll
of film. This consumed 5 rolls of 24 exposure film. I switched back
to the Olympus for some additional internal shots, but now utilizing
the help of the high intensity light, which improved the success rate.
After that, I started general walk-around
shots and Guy took me over to green nose, the only single place aircraft,
had me sit in the cockpit, and took photos of me in it. I'm not sure
how many German pilots wore plaid shirts, suspenders, and a gray button
down sweater, and had very thinning gray hair, so you might be able
to distinguish me from them. The fit in green nose's cockpit was tight,
to say the least, with my knees half-way up to my chest. Guy said the
position of the rudder pedals fore and aft was adjustable - I sure hope
so!!! Based on the photos, I seemed to have sat pretty far down in the
seat. Also, to me, the canopy on this plane seems to be a little bit
bulged up, as if it were made to fit a 6' 6" Texan.
Interestingly, green nose has a full bulkhead
at the rear of the rear main fuel tank bay. This is standard on Me 262A's,
but not so on Me 262B's. And, in talking with Bob, plans are to have
both front and rear 900 l fuel tanks in this plane, just as in the German
original Me 262A's. Also, green nose will be equipped with the 170 l
front auxiliary fuel tank. A decision hasn't been made yet as to whether
to equip green nose with a 600 l rear auxiliary fuel tank, as there
is concern about the rearward movement of the cg.
I took shots of BuAer 121448 and of green
nose, white nose, and yellow nose in the northeast corner of hangar
bay 4. Guy was especially proud of his handiwork on the cockpit of BuAer
121448, taking time to explain and show to me what he had done. It was
complete to the point that he had talked Bonnie Byron (Jim's wife) into
sewing pencil holders for the document storage clips mounted to the
right consoles in both cockpits.
By this point I had consumed a total of
14 rolls of 24 exposure film. I went back to the office to organize
and put back the albums and album pages I had borrowed. I closed up
shop about 6:30 p.m. and headed for the motel. That night I made a "to
do" list of 13 things I hoped to do in the approximately 3 hours I would
have at the project the next morning before heading to Sea-Tac to catch
my plane home. I got things organized and packed and hit the bed.
On 3/1, I woke up at 5:15 a.m. and was
on my way to the project shortly after 7, stopping to tank up the rental
car on the way. Gas prices seemed higher than on the East Coast by maybe
$.10/gal. I arrived at the project about 7:30 a.m. and talked with and
took pictures of the mechanics. I continued the walk-arounds in hangar
bay 3, taking pictures of the wing where hydraulic tests of the landing
gear had been performed and of the blue nose and red nose fuselages
in active production, including their cockpits.
I returned to hangar bay 4 and took photos
of the J-85 jet engine, the J-85 dummy housing, and a Jumo 004 jet engine.
I took a few more personnel pictures, including
ones of Nick Cirelli and Barb Sudderth, then went out on the ramp to
the northwest of hangar bay 4 where BJ had moved the junk Tom and I
had hauled out of the storage box on Sunday. Here, I took detailed shots
of the bottom side of the original (replacement) nose to BuAer 121448,
concentrating on the external fuel tank fuel and air line pass-through
on the right side. The bottom was so badly corroded - translate that
to skin missing - that the internal structure was clearly visible. Ah,
something good comes from corrosion!!! At this point, I was using a
piece of angle aluminum to which I had mounted a 1-yard yellow measuring
tape for dimensioning of the photos. I ran into Nick and asked him for
his help with the remaining photos, which he was happy to offer. I know
I couldn't have done it without him. We took photos of the original
tanks from all sides with and without the yardstick. Then we did the
identified fuel lines. Finally, I made some quick height and width measurements
of the 260 l fuel tank mounting skids in BuAer 121448.
A quick swing up to the office for good-byes,
drop off the loaned keys, and a final photo with Jim and Bob, finishing
off the 19th roll, and I was on my way at 10:20 a.m. to catch a 12:25
p.m. flight back to Philadelphia and on to Salisbury, MD, contented,
but rather tired, after an eventful, successful, but grueling five days.
On the plane, I took out my notebook and
started writing the notes from which this diary is an end result. And,
as for that last minute list of 13 "to do" things - well, I didn't have
time to look at it until I got on the plane. I was floored - I'd covered
I learned a lot that will allow me to be
able to help the project on the new builds and Arthur Bentley for the
remaining Smith and Creek Me 262 volumes. Arthur has already received
his material and was overjoyed. I have new progress photos for the Stormbirds
site and others. Bob said he also learned from my visit. Jim said that
the concentration at the time was on BuAer 121448 and that I was a bit
ahead of them on their needs for the new builds. Documenting the internals
of BuAer 121448 before it went out the door had to be and was done.
My apologies to the reader for being so
wordy. My thinking here was that many of you may never get a chance
to visit the project and might like to experience a visit vicariously
by reading of mine in detail - perhaps too much detail. I hope I haven't
bored you. I'd love to hear from you and get your reaction. My e-mail
address is email@example.com.
Richard T. Eger