Curtiss-Wright: Loss of Don Berlin and downfall

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by gjs238, Jun 27, 2015.

  1. gjs238

    gjs238 Well-Known Member

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    Don Berlin left Curtiss in December 1941.
    Was that a large reason for the fall of Curtiss?
     
  2. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    Straight out of Wiki. Perhaps Google the subject?

    From 1941 to 1943, the Curtiss Aeronautical plant in Lockland, Ohio produced aircraft engines under wartime contract destined for installation in U.S. Army Air Forces aircraft. Wright officials at Lockland insisted on high engine production levels, resulting in a significant percentage of engines that did not meet Army Air Forces (AAF) inspection standards. These defective engines were nevertheless approved by inspectors for shipment and installation in U.S. military aircraft. After investigation, it was later revealed that Wright company officials at Lockland had conspired with civilian technical advisers and Army inspection officers to approve substandard or defective aircraft engines for military use.Army Air Forces technical adviser Charles W. Bond was dismissed by the Army in 1943 for "gross irregularities in inspection procedure."Bond would later testify that he had been "wined and dined" by Wright company officials; one of those occasions was the night before Bond fired four AAF engine inspectors another AAF inspector had described as "troublemakers."In 1944, three Army officers, Lt. Col. Frank Constantine Greulich of Detroit, former chief inspection officer for the material command, Major Walter A. Ryan of Detroit, former central states inspection officer, and Major William Bruckmann, a former Cincinnati brewer and resident Army inspections officer at the Wright plant in Lockland were charged with neglect of duty, conspiracy, and giving false testimony in a general court martial. All three men were later convicted of neglect of duty.[12] The story of defective engines had reached investigators working for Sen. Harry Truman's congressional investigative board, the Truman Commission, after several Wright aircraft assembly workers informed on the company; they would later testify under oath before Congress. Arthur Miller's play All My Sons is based on this incident.

    Also, not direct from Wiki, the last Curtiss designs were not very good. The end of the line was XF-87 Blackhawk. It performer acceptably except for being a bit slower than desired. Orders were palced for 57 but were cancelled in favor of the Northrop F-89 Scorpion.

    After that, Curtiss-Wright stayed in business, and still IS in business, but opted out of the aircraft industry in favor of control systems, among other things. Today Curtiss-Wright is diversified and is in a lot of markets including commerical aerospace, oil gas, defense, nuclear power generation, and industrial control and supplies. They make a LOT of products.

    As a former electrical engineer, I can say I used a lot of Curtiss-Wright products in my designs, mostly sensors. Some held up to measuring the pressure inside closed-bomb explosions, among other tasks, and gave good results and long service life relative to other sensors I tried.
     
  3. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Curtiss had a number of Divisions and design teams.

    Simple map/graphic from Sept 1941.

    Curtiss-Wright_Empire_15September1941.png

    In the 1930s Curtiss-Wright was the largest aircraft corporation in the US. One designer could not be responsible for the success or failure of a corporation the size of Curtiss. That would be like saying that Reginald Mitchell was responsible for not only Supermarine but for all of Vickers.
     
  4. gjs238

    gjs238 Well-Known Member

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    From Wikipedia:
    The loss of the contract was fatal to the company; the Curtiss-Wright Corporation closed down its aviation division, selling its assets to North American Aviation.
     
  5. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    The last successful Curtiss design may have been the Seahawk;

    126-1.jpg

    Unfortunately post war it had to compete with the Helicopter.
     
  6. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    Let us not forget Don Berlin was the chief driving force behind the XP-75 Eagle.
     
  7. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    My mistake ... I thought I had included tthat fact and hadn't ... good catch Cappy. He helped guide Curtiss-Wright into successful business diversity in the Aerospace industry away from airframes, and the P-75 wasn't exactly a crowning achievment.
     
  8. Koopernic

    Koopernic Active Member

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    #8 Koopernic, Jun 28, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2015
    My understanding is that after the war Curtiss-Wright ended up under new CEO with a strong sales background. Curtiss-Wright made a great living out of producing and selling R-3350 and its tradional products. The company however chronically underinvested in R+D and did not develop many new products. They did licence some British jet engines such as the Sapphire but kludged the transfer over to American standards, materials etc, taking a long time.

    I'm an engineer myself and actually tend to think accountants often make good CEO as they understand systems, investment and how an organisation functions as a living organ. I also have no problems with anyone with strong sales ability. Who wouldn't want to be a John Leahey or John Wojick cutting 12 billion dollar deals with Emirates for A350 and B777X.

    What happened to CW was what happens to a great many companies that underinvest in maintenance and or product development. There is a price to pay and too often if you are only focused on the months sales figures or monthly production stats you will find yourself in a deep hole you may not be able to dig yourself out of.

    I suspect that after what seems dozens of attempted failed desgings to replace P-40 and compete with the P-47 and P-51 perhaps the concept of R+D lost favour in the company.

    They did try and make a come back in aviation with wankel rotary engines with stratified charge technology. With the new double tips seals developed by Mazda the Rotary is now a long lasting engine.
     
  9. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    #9 GregP, Jun 28, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2015
    I used to race the 12A and 13B, and THEY were long-lasting engines, too. When the other SCCA guys were wrenching on their piston engines, we were waxing the car, and relaxing. The wankels rarely broke. I did lunch one when the spark plug end brok off inside the combustion chamber ... Made it around the lap on one rotor with associated grinding noises.
     
  10. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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    Maybe when people produce maps of your empire you are too big for your boots and attract a few powerful jealous enemies. just sayin/
     
  11. gjs238

    gjs238 Well-Known Member

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    Map or target?
     
  12. gjs238

    gjs238 Well-Known Member

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    Don Berlin was no longer at CW when it closed down its aviation division and sold its assets to North American Aviation.

    From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curtiss-Wright_XF-87_Blackhawk:
    The Curtiss-Wright XF-87 Blackhawk (previously designated the XP-87) was a prototype American all-weather jet fighter interceptor and the company's last aircraft project.[2] Designed as a replacement for the World War II–era propeller-driven P-61 Black Widow night/interceptor aircraft, the XF-87 lost in government procurement competition to the Northrop F-89 Scorpion. The loss of the contract was fatal to the company; the Curtiss-Wright Corporation closed down its aviation division, selling its assets to North American Aviation.
     
  13. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    The "jealous enemy" was United Aircraft, which was made up of Pratt Whitney, Hamilton standard props, Vought aircraft and Sikorsky at the time. Pre 1934 the corporation had included Boeing, Stearman, what would become United Air Lines and perhaps a few smaller outfits.
     
  14. gjs238

    gjs238 Well-Known Member

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    With all those resources to bear, too bad United Aircraft couldn't have developed and fielded the F4U sooner.
     
  15. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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    gis and SR I have no real knowledge on this I was only referring to the map in post no 3. If produced by Curtiss it looks boastful and if produced by another it looks like envy.
     
  16. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Not sure the F4U was going to get developed any sooner that it was. The first production F4F-3 with a two stage supercharger flew in Feb 1940, roughly 4 months before the first flight of the F4U. There was only one prototype and it crashed in July of 1940 but was rebuilt in 4 months. Hundreds of changes are made between prototype and first production model. Navy Issues a letter of intent to buy Feb 3, 1941 but does't place (sign?) actual contract for 534 planes until June 30th,1941. By Dec 1941 both Brewster and Goodyear have been brought in as extra sources but the first F4U is still 7 months from being flown.

    P W only built 6 of the two stage R-2800 engines in 1941 and went from building 13 single stage R-2800s in Jan to over 160 in Dec. They built 509 of the two stage R-1830s in 1941 and 285 of them were in the last 3 months. P W almost doubled theri production of R-1830s in 1941 over what it was in 1940.

    What should Aircraft stopped work on in order to put more effort into the F4U?
     
  17. gjs238

    gjs238 Well-Known Member

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    I think in another F4U thread it was mentioned how small Vought was (engineers, draftsmen, production facilities, etc.)
    Reading that, the implication seemed to me that Vought had come up with a great design, but lacked the oomph of the larger companies for speedier development.
    So pick one of the planes from the "cancel this or that" thread and imagine those resources being added to F4U development.
     
  18. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Vought had been building aircraft for the Navy since the early 20s.

    The trouble is that there just weren't that many "large" companies in 1938-41. Just about every company was expanding as fast as possible. P W quadrupled their floor space in just a few years. Other companies showed similar growth.

    Boeing might have had some spare capacity (they built A-20s for the British under sub contract to Douglas) but it is around 2400 miles from Stratford to the Boeing Plant.

    many of the companies in the "cancel this or that" thread had built under 200 planes in their history (some had built under 2 dozen) in the spring of 1940.

    Chance-Vought did manage to crank out 579 Kingfisher observation planes in 1940-41. The Naval Aircraft factory took over production and built 300 more planes.

    Things were not happening in a vacuum or bubble and diverting resources from one project to another could have wide ranging consequences. Kingfishers may seem like an unimportant plane or something that could be pushed aside for the more important/glamorous big fighter but the intended supplement/replacement for the Kingfisher was the Curtiss Seamew. It was such a failure that the Navy went to the extreme of pulling the older Curtiss Seagull biplanes out of storage and issuing them rather than continue using the Seamew. Cutting Kingfisher production to work on the Corsair and planning to make up the difference with Seamews could have left the Navy in a real bind.
     
  19. gjs238

    gjs238 Well-Known Member

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    #19 gjs238, Jun 28, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2015
    The idea wasn't to divert Vought resources, but to divert other resources into Vought, the F4U specifically.
    I get what you're saying - divert from the wrong project and you could unravel the threads that bind the space–time continuum.
     
  20. kool kitty89

    kool kitty89 Well-Known Member

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    The F4U might have gotten fielded a bit sooner if more compromises had been made on a non-carrier-capable variant for the USMC and/or USAAF (or possibly for export). It should have been a bit lighter as well.
     
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