Ground crew complement

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Maxrobot1, Dec 2, 2013.

  1. Maxrobot1

    Maxrobot1 Member

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    How many men comprised the ground crew of a European theater USAAF fighter? I refer to the men who were assigned to just one plane: P-51 or P-47. Was it just three enlisted men per A/C? Bombers must have had more -say five EM.
    Also, did the flight engineer on bombers work with the ground crew on repairs and refueling?
     
  2. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    Crew Chief, Asst Crew Chief and Armorer.
     
  3. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    It varied in the RAF depending on how and where the aircraft were operating.

    A common unit was a 'detached' flight of six aircraft which would be supported by six personnel. Fitter, Flight Mechanic, Flight Rigger, Armourer, Instrument Repairer and Wireless Mechanic.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  4. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    #4 FLYBOYJ, Dec 2, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2013
    From what I understand in fighter squadrons there were usually 2 to 3 guys assigned to and aircraft under normal circumstances, this comes from the father of a fellow I work with who was a P-51 crew chief. Sometimes the same 2 to 3 guys would have to take care of as many as four aircraft depending on how many aircraft were mission capable and how many maintainers were available to support operations. Additionally I understand armorers were also part of the line maintenance compliment but in some units they worked independently and coordinated arming the aircraft with the assigned crew chief.
     
  5. Maxrobot1

    Maxrobot1 Member

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    So I guess for a fighter, these three men would stay by the plane as the men from the fuel and oxygen trucks would come around. I think the gun ammo was dropped off by each plane too.
    It must have been pretty busy moving around to all the planes once they landed and the crew started patching holes, refueling and reloading. As the planes were dispersed it meant quite a trip to get something left behind.
    Was the armorer responsible for bombs too?
     
  6. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    #6 bobbysocks, Dec 3, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2013
    my dad always talked about his crew chief and armorer and in all the pics they were the only 2 besides himself. it must have varied from FG to FG...as i have seen pics of other pilots ( in other groups ) that had a crew of 3. now whether his shared a CC and A with another plane(s) I do not know for sure but doubt it from all that i have read. I am wondering if the 3 man crews were because most of the P-51 FGs transitioned from P-47s..??? and the jug daily maintenance required a crew of 3???
     
  7. Procrastintor

    Procrastintor Member

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    Hey, you guys seem like you might know, what kind of ground crew were required for German fighters, (primarily BF 109 and FW 190)? They seem like they'd need higher maintenance, not saying that they weren't durable, just that they were complex.
     
  8. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    In what way? Please explain!
     
  9. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    #9 tyrodtom, Dec 3, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2013
    Some of the routine maintenance would actually be easier to do on a Bf109 than say a Mustang.
    Checking valve clearance, checking cam, changing spark plugs , could be done from the ground, on a inverted V-12. Instead of climbing up and down a platform, ladder, or whatever like you would for a up right V-12. If you don't think that's important, try climbing up and down a ladder all day.
    Plus the Bf109 had some mighty big removable cowl panels too.
    Color coded quick disconnects for wiring and plumbing, etc.
    I've heard of some ridiculously low times to remove a engine on a Bf109, I don't really believe them.


    You'll rarely hear me praise anything German, I've worked on Porsches, BMWs, and Mercedes.
    But I think the Germans had the maintenance angle well thought out on the Bf109, much better than most allied aircraft.

    Of course, i'm just going by what I've read. I've only touched a Bf109 once, and I mean I just touched it.
     
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  10. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    Having worked on a Hispano Ha.1112 (Bf 109G from the firewall back with a Merlin in front), I can say that while normal maintenece may be easy, restoration is NOT. If the action "shot away" wiring, it will be a bitch. If you have to go inside the fuselage, it will NOT be easy. Anything inside the cockpit is VERY tight ... maybe not for someone small and 20 years old ... but for ME, VERY tight.

    True, we don't have replacement parts and must use or fix what we have, but the work when it IS damaged is still very difficult depending on the areas to be reworked. Of course, sometimes it can be easy when the damaged parts are external and the replacement just bolts, screws, or otherwise easily goes on. For instance, attaching a new wing isn't hard, just heavy. Given, say, 4 - 5 guys, it can be done realtively easily.

    Repairing the damaged wing and using it again is another story and heavily depends on the damage. Damage from a groundloop might be easy or tough. Depends on whether or not you had avialable spares or had to make the parts. We had to make them. I have no idea of the spare parts situation in the WWII Luftwaffe, but making the parts doesn't seem like it would work in the field. They almost HAD to have factory spares.

    Unfortunatrly, that doesn't necessarily make things better. The three wing mount bolts, for instance, are hand fitted and do NOT fit any other Bf 109 or any other hole. So, when you get a new wing, you have to ream the new wing to fit the new or existing bolts. They are a taper fit, hand fitted, and only fit ONE hole. They are NOT interchangeable. That doesn't make it harder, but DOES mean you have to have the tools, supplies, skills, and more importantly, the TIME to DO it.

    So, things MIGHT be easier for the Luftwaffe and might not be depending on the damage, available spares, tools, and available crew members with skills that lend themselves to rapid field repairs. A good, resourceful crew chief (and crew) is worth his (and their) weight in gold.

    Repairing an engine is WAY different from overhauling one. Replacing a part is one heck of alot easier than dissambling the engine, honing the cylinders and turning the crankshaft, fitting (and scraping) new main bearings, disassembly of gearcase or supercharger, etc.

    If a propeller has minor errosion from dust, it's one thing. You file the leading or training edge a bit and dress the finish. If it has a hole from a 20 mm cannon shell, it's WAY more. You have to remove the prop, disassemble it, replace the blade, re-gasket and reassemble it, balance the prop/spinner combo, and reinstall it.

    The real answer might be "it depends on what is wrong and what unit and crew is doing the maintenace."
     
  11. Procrastintor

    Procrastintor Member

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    Flyboy, when I say more complex I just mean more engineering-per-inch, if you will, it seems like the armorer for example, would have to work harder, just due to the fact that some variants had 3 different types of guns, with one firing through the engine. I imagined it was like an Audi compared to a Honda, or a Tiger vs an IS. Also it seems like everything would be really tightly packed in the 109, especially later variants.
    However, after reading what you guys have said it doesn't seem like it makes too much of a difference (except the compact part as Greg mentioned). Anyway, I wasn't stating it as fact, just a thought I had.
     
  12. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    When conducting line maintenance - "An airplane, is an airplane, is an airplane." There are some things on one airplane that is more labor intensive than another, engineering has nothing to do with it, it's a matter of how maintenance friendly the aircraft is and with regards to single engine WW2 aircraft, for the most part there's little difference.
     
  13. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Simple things do make a difference.
    The locking system used on many German aircraft cowlings was much less likely to fail than the Dzus fasteners common to many British aircraft. I jammed fastener can cost a lot of time.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  14. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Dzus fastners for the most part are pretty easy to deal with. Machine screws are the worse, especially if a screw head gets stripped out or the screw is cross threaded.
     
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  15. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    When counting ground crew each plane may have had several dedicated men to it alone (or shared on occasion) but there may have been a general "pool" of mechanics, riggers and fitters to help on an as needed basis, watched and checked by the crew chief. ?

    Website with a roster and photos.

    Photos of the 82nd Fighter Squadron Ground crews Duxford England
     
  16. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Commonwealth terms. AAF had mechanics and armorers.
     
  17. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    True but who fixed/serviced radios? and were there air frame mechanics and engine mechanics? Instruments were much more than likely replaced on the flight line but were they repaired/calibrated at squadron level or group or at a higher level depot?

    I have an old (1942 edition) of the "Aircraft Handbook" by Fred Colvin that has an 80 page chapter on instruments and controls but that by no stretch of the imagination means that it was USAAC policy for line mechanics to take apart and service such things as altimeters :)
    And some of the directions for cleaning solutions would give a modern OSHA inspector a case of the screaming conniptions (8 oz of potassium or sodium cyanide per gallon of water) !!!!

    This was to be used AFTER a bath of benzene, carbon tetrachloride or trichloroethlylene.
     
  18. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Instrument Repairer was a distinct trade in the RAF. You'll see above that he was one of the six men sent to support a detached flight (six aircraft). In the RAF he would be the man who dealt with the instrumentation, it was a specialised job carried out by someone specially trained to do it. I'd be amazed if the US air force didn't have something similar.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  19. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    That is kind of what I am getting at. You may have just a few men (2-3) assigned to a specific plane but they are backed up by a pool of other men and a selection of specialists who help 'service' a group of planes.
     
  20. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Indeed, there are only two men listed on the panel under my father's name on his Sea Fury (N.A.R.M. Clarke and N.A.M.? (?possibly E) Gardner) but the two of them sure as hell didn't keep the thing airworthy on their own. I have never discovered what those acronyms stand for.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
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