The Arrowhead Club

Home » Posts tagged 'Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins Part 3 of 3'

Tag Archives: Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins Part 3 of 3

How Far Can You Throw That Bucket?

I’m presenting more detail on turbosuperchargers and bucket wheels to follow-up my previous posts, Gremlins, and Lazy Daisy’s Gremlin’s, Part 1 of 3, Part 2 of 3, and Part 3 of 3

During my research into gremlins, and particularly the gremlins infesting the 384th Bomb Group’s B-17 known as Lazy Daisy, I had to delve into a subject with which I am very unfamiliar, the mechanics of the B-17.

I am not at all mechanically-inclined, and in reading about Lazy Daisy’s gremlins (i.e., mechanical issues) some terms were more familiar ( like “broken piston heads,” “dropping oil pressure,” and “runaway props”) than others (like “lagging superchargers” and “throwing a bucket”).

So, to learn more, I asked a lot of questions and did a lot of reading. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Turbosuperchargers

In Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 2 of 3, the 384th Bomb Group’s Fred Preller and John Edwards helped me explain these terms, and since then, John and the 384th’s Keith Ellefson provided me with new information that I think deserves further review.

Remember the comment by pilot David Rucker after he used Lazy Daisy on the 29 May 1944 mission (in Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 3 of 3)? Rucker suggested,

A/C (Aircraft) 222 (Lazy Daisy) be taken out of combat because of oil regulator supercharger.  You cannot stay in formation with the electronic type.

John Edwards shed some more light on superchargers with,

When we say supercharger, that was a common name for the component as a whole. The actual name is turbosupercharger. There were two types of superchargers used, frequently called stages. You have a first stage which is used at lower altitudes and the one commonly referenced for higher (combat) altitude… The supercharger intake is a scoop on the bottom of the engine nacelle [the outer casing/housing of an aircraft engine]. This scoop feeds air into the charger which is the conventional way a supercharger worked back then.

The comment from the pilot is important because the GE [electronic type like Rucker mentioned] charger is a very widely used supercharger. It’s function operated in two stages as Fred indicated… [see Part 2 of 3].  I can’t determine other known vendors for the superchargers so for now I can only say that the tech data … clearly states the supercharger must be connected to an oil pump. These instructions apply to the B-17F and G model aircraft and Lazy Daisy is a G so this tech info applies. Therefore I can’t explain why the pilot mentioned the ‘oil one’.

Note: John is referencing a section named Removal of Turbosupercharger from B-17 Airplane of the book World War II – General Electric Turbosuperchargers.

With John’s new information, I’m not sure why Rucker phrased the reference to both the “oil regulator” and “electronic type” superchargers as he did either.

Apparently, the different models of B-17’s used different supercharger types and the transition from the (older) oil regulator to the (newer) electronic type came between the F and G models. I had determined that on all of David Rucker’s missions, up to the point of piloting Lazy Daisy on 29 May 1944, he had been assigned only G model B-17’s.

Combat Data Specialist Keith Ellefson told me that it was still possible that some of the G models Rucker had flown might still be of the older oil regulator type. Keith said,

I don’t know if all the G models were equipped with electronically controlled superchargers. I suspect that some of the early Gs were built with the oil control system until the inventory of oil control systems was used up and then the electronic system was phased in to replace the oil control system.

And even if Rucker had only flown the electronic type, Keith added,

Pilots would have to be briefed/trained on the difference between oil regulated and electronic regulated superchargers as the new ships came into the inventory. The controls for each system are different and it would be immediately apparent to the pilot when he got into the ship for a mission. In reality, I am sure that each pilot in the squadron knew which ships still had the oil regulator system and which ships had the electronic regulated system. From what I have read, the electronic system was a big improvement over the old, oil regulated system.

Keith also shared some information written by Wellwood E. Beall, who was Vice-President in charge of Engineering at Boeing Aircraft Company, that indicates that the electronic system was a “significant improvement” over the oil regulated system. The link to Beall’s document is below in the Further Reading section, and Beall’s more comprehensive text with illustrations in PDF format follows in the list.

Wellwood Edmetson Beall, who died in 1978, was an aerospace pioneer – an airplane designer and engineer – who had major roles in developing the B‐17 Flying Fortress, the B‐29 Superfortress, and the Boeing 707. In particular, for the B-17, Beall ordered continuous modification in the B‐17 Flying Fortress to meet changing battle conditions over Europe in World War II.

The History of

Turbosuperchargers

The information from Fred, John, and Keith led me to search the internet to learn more and I found a most interesting article in Google Books about the history of turbosuperchargers in B-17’s. Since it looks to be from a publication that is now in the public domain (a compilation of the 1945 issues of Air Force – The Official Service Journal of the U.S. Army Forces), I want to share part of it here.

In early March, 1939, Lt. P. H. Robey took a YB-17A up to 25,000 feet in a test run and clocked its speed at 311 mph. This was 100 mph faster than a B-17 had ever flown, even faster than any of our fighter aircraft had flown at that altitude. The test flight was an astounding performance for those days, but no one thought of it as milestone in the development of jet propulsion in this country. Yet, indirectly, that’s just what it was.

If that test flight had been unsuccessful, all orders for turbo-superchargers on B-17s would have been cancelled, for it was the turbo that produced the 100 mph margin in speed – and in early 1939 the turbo-supercharger definitely was on the spot. At the time of the flight, orders for turbos on B-17s had already been technically cancelled. The paper work had been initiated and forwarded to Washington. Boeing Aircraft and the AAF [US Army Air Forces] had lost faith in the turbo. For 20 years, the AAF had struggled with the gadget only to have one disappointing flight test after another. The Robey test used a turbo that was equipped with a new regulator, the final hope for assuring reliable performance.

As soon as the B-17 rolled to a stop after the record-breaking flight, the telegraph wires to Washington began to sizzle. Headquarters read the test results, threw the cancellation papers in the waste basket and issued a directive that all AAF high altitude bombers should be equipped with turbo-superchargers from that date on.

~ “Growing Pains of Jets” by Major Robert V. Guelich, Air Force Staff, June 1945 issue of Air Force (The Official Service Journal of the U.S. Army Forces)

For more information about turbosuperchargers, including the entire article “Growing Pains of Jets,” refer to the Further Reading list below.

Bucket Wheels

(And what it means to “throw a bucket”)

The 384th Bomb Group’s Historian, John Edwards, shed a little light on the bucket wheel that the pilots’ referred to “throwing,”

The wheel on the bottom of the [super]charger, which looks like the carousel of an old slide projector, is called ‘the bucket wheel’ as I found in [Roger] Freeman’s “The B-17 Flying Fortress Story on page 55.

The article, “Growing Pains of Jets” also explained the pilots’ phrasing of “throwing a bucket.”

The search for high temperature alloys [which could withstand the stresses of hot turbine wheels] was stimulated primarily by the AAF development program to the turbo-supercharger. This program was kept alive by a handful of men who refused to lose faith when time after time the turbo-supercharger would overheat and throw its buckets out of the turbo wheel.

~ “Growing Pains of Jets” by Major Robert V. Guelich, Air Force Staff, June 1945 issue of Air Force (The Official Service Journal of the U.S. Army Forces)

But the Pilot Training Manual for the Flying Fortress B-17 presented by the Aviation in World War II website explains turbosuperchargers and bucket wheels in short order in a section on Turbo-superchargers (links in Further Reading below).

Each engine on the B-17 has a turbo-supercharger which boosts manifold pressure for takeoff and provides sea-level air pressure at high altitudes.

To operate the turbo-superchargers, engine exhaust gas passes through the collector ring and tailstack to the nozzle box, expands to atmosphere through the turbine nozzle, and drives the bucket wheel at high speed…

…The amount of turbo boost is determined by the speed of the turbo bucket wheel.

As for the gremlins who liked to antagonize the pilots of Lazy Daisy and other AAF aircraft in WWII, I think disrupting turbosuperchargers and bucket wheels were probably a favorite pastime, and seeing which gremlin could throw a bucket the furthest must have been a competition for bragging rights. How far can you throw a bucket?

Please browse through the Further Reading links below for further (and quite interesting) reading about turbosuperchargers and bucket wheels and some excellent illustrations of the B-17’s mechanical parts.

* * * * *

Further Reading

Design Analysis of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress by Wellwood E. Beall (webpage)

Design Analysis of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress by Wellwood E. Beall (PDF document)

Aviation of World War II: Turbo-superchargers

Pilot Training Manual for the Flying Fortress B-17, Published for Headquarters AAF, Office of Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Training

Supercharge Me: How Boeing Helped GE Reinvent Jet Travel (GE Reports)

The Turbosupercharger and the Airplane Power Plant – General Electric, January 1943

Turbosupercharger Field Service Manual – General Electric

“Growing Pains of Jets” which begins on page 24 of the June 1945 issue of Air Force (The Official Service Journal of the U.S. Army Forces), and starting on page 441 of the 1433-page downloadable PDF document. To download the entire 1433-page PDF document, click the sprocket in the upper right corner of the page, then select “Download PDF.” Note: Air Force is a book in the public domain that Google has made available in digital format. Terms of Service available through a link on the landing page.

Sources

Wellwood Beall’s Obituary from the New York Times

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 3 of 3

Continuation of my previous posts, Gremlins, and Lazy Daisy’s Gremlin’s, Part 1 of 3 and Part 2 of 3

In this post, I’m picking back up with the 384th Bomb Group’s B-17G 42-31222’s (Lazy Daisy’s) missions after her six week break following the April 18, 1944 mission. For information on her December 1943 through April 1944 missions, follow the link above for prior posts about Lazy Daisy’s gremlins in Part 2.

In reviewing Lazy Daisy’s missions, note that she was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group’s 546th Squadron and was assigned to 546th crews exclusively until early June 1944. After that point she was assigned as a spare aircraft on many occasions, something that had been done for this aircraft only once previously, in February 1944. And she was also assigned to other squadrons.

In this continuation of the list of Lazy Daisy’s missions, the missions were flown by crews of the 546th Bomb Squadron unless I note otherwise. ALL of her missions aren’t listed. I’ve listed the ones with the most serious problems and if no problems were reported on a mission (although only a few missions had no technical or equipment failures of any kind), that mission wasn’t included either.

On Lazy Daisy’s first mission back in action on 28 MAY 1944, the James Gibson crew reported the bomb doors motor burned out and the pilot’s oxygen system ran out twenty minutes after the target. The pilot was forced to use a “walk around” oxygen bottle on the return to base. The 384th Bomb Group webmaster’s – Fred Preller’s – father, Robert Henry “Bob” Preller, was Gibson’s co-pilot aboard Lazy Daisy this date, his second mission.

On the 29 MAY 1944 mission, the David Rucker crew reported the ship received battle damage – a 20 mm hole in the left wing and minor flak holes in the rudder. The ball turret was also reported as being inoperative and kept burning out fuses. The pilot also suggested that,

A/C (Aircraft) 222 (Lazy Daisy) be taken out of combat because of oil regulator supercharger.  You cannot stay in formation with the electronic type.

The ship was held as a spare for the 4 JUN 1944 mission, but returned to the formation on 6 JUN 1944.

On 6 JUN 1944, she was assigned to the Robert Menke crew of the 547th Bomb Squadron. The only failure he reported that mission was that the elevation clutch slipped out in the upper turret. More serious mechanical problems reappeared after that.

  • 8 JUN 1944 The Edward Thoma crew reported #3 Turbo Supercharger went ‘out’ at altitude.

On 21 JUN 1944, Lazy Daisy was not flown at all by the 384th, but instead was assigned to the Willis Matter crew of the 379th Bomb Group. I did not find any comments from Matter about any failures of the aircraft in the mission reports.

  • 20 JUL 1944 The Daniel Young crew of the 384th’s 545th Bomb Squadron reported, Engines: #2, #3, #4 lag bad. Major battle damage to right wing.
  • 21 JUL 1944 The Joseph Patella crew of the 384th’s 544th Bomb Squadron reported exhaust stack on #1 engine broke, cut spark plug lead and all manifold pressure lost through hole in exhaust stack. #2 engine ran away on and off. #3 oil pressure gauge gave readings from 5 (typed report says 35, but pilot’s hand-written narrative looks like 5) – 75 lbs.

On 25 JUL 1944, Lazy Daisy was assigned to the Ned Sweeney crew of the 547th Bomb Squadron. Sweeney did not report any aircraft failures after the mission, but sadly he was killed four days later on the 29 JUL 1944 mission aboard 43-37870.

  • 29 JUL 1944 The Frank Mead crew reported a bad oil break in #2 engine.
  • 31 JUL 1944 The Ralph Hicks crew of the 384th’s 547th Bomb Squadron reported manifold pressure on #1 (or #2?) engine reading inconsistently (handwritten report reads ‘incorrectly’ rather than ‘inconsistently’).

The 547th Bomb Squadron continued to man Lazy Daisy on 1 AUG 1944 (no failures reported) and again on 3 AUG.

  • 3 AUG 1944 The John Mock crew of the 384th’s 547th Bomb Squadron reported #2 supercharger lags.

The 545th Bomb Squadron manned Lazy Daisy on 4 AUG 1944 and did not report any failures, but did report 10 flak holes throughout the aircraft.

On 5 AUG 1944, the 546th took back their ship, and didn’t report any failures, but did report battle damage of flak holes in the left and right wings and the #3 nacelle (outer casing/housing of an aircraft engine).

  • 7 AUG 1944 The Donald Duesler crew reported No. #4 engine ran away. Oil temperature went up so it had to be feathered. Worked O.K. until target area was reached. They also reported battle damage of a few flak holes in the vertical stabilizer.
  • 13 AUG 1944 The James Brookshire crew reported #3 engine out. Returned with #3 prop windmilling because the shaft broke. They also reported battle damage of flak holes in the right flap.

After the 13 AUG mission came another gap, this time for a month, in combat missions for Lazy Daisy. She was assigned as a spare on 11 SEP, but was unused. But she did return the next day.

  • 12 SEP 1944 The John Mohler crew reported #3 cylinder head gauge out. #4 prop governor ran away. They also reported some flak damage.
  • 17 SEP 1944 The Ralph Hicks crew of the 384th’s 547th Bomb Squadron reported #4 leaking oil. It’s unclear if it was due to battle damage or technical failure.
  • 19 SEP 1944 The Frank Mead crew reported #4 Engine throwing oil badly.
  • 25 SEP 1944 The Frank Mead crew reported #2 and #3 sluggish at altitude. OK till 15,000 ft. They also reported moderate flak damage over the target and that the co-pilot was unable to transmit over the interphone. And, Mead, the pilot, wrote in his narrative, “Brief B-24s to quit flying collision courses with us.” A forewarning?

In Lazy Daisy’s entire combat mission history, in addition to her engine and/or supercharger defects, pilots reported 5 malfunctions with the bomb bay, 20 problems with the radio and interphone system, 5 issues with the oxygen system, and a variety of other issues with the vertical stabilizer, ball turret, flight indicator, hydraulic lines, gyro compass, fluxgate compass, upper turret, chin turret, and most alarming, on Lazy Daisy’s next-to-last mission, the steering wheel aileron.

On that next-to-last mission on 27 SEP 1944, the 348th’s 547th Bomb Squadron used Lazy Daisy and the pilot, Rueben Farnsworth, reported that the steering wheel aileron control had too much vertical play. Also, the same issue that was reported two days earlier on 25 SEP, a problem with the interphone was reported as “Interphone needs checking – co-pilot’s system wouldn’t work,” along with a newly reported problem that there was a spark in the motor of the top turret which caused it to smoke. Battle damage was recorded as one minor hole, location unreported, due to flak at the target.

What sounded pretty significant to me was the report of a steering issue, a problem with the steering wheel aileron. Not being particularly well versed in the parts of or functions of the parts of a B-17 aircraft, I looked up the term “aileron.” I learned,

Ailerons help a pilot maintain control of an aircraft. On the outer rear edge of each wing, the two ailerons move in opposite directions, up and down, decreasing lift on one wing while increasing it on the other. This causes the airplane to roll to the left or right. To turn the airplane, the pilot uses the ailerons to tilt the wings in the desired direction.

Becoming more concerned with this news, I asked the 384th’s group of volunteer researchers for more information about the effects of a B-17’s aileron with too much vertical play in close formation flying during a combat mission.

Marc Poole, Founder of the 384th Bomb Group website, aviation artist, college art instructor, and a licensed pilot, provided this insight regarding the aircraft’s aileron and steering,

I would think any play in the control yoke would be similar to having too much slop or slack in your steering like on an old pickup truck…One of the 172’s I trained in last summer had a lot of slack in the control yoke…you could turn the wheel left or right about 1/8 turn either way with zero response…pretty unnerving. I didn’t fly that one much!

On 28 SEP 1944 the James Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron used Lazy Daisy on the mission to Magdeburg, Germany. The John (Jay) Buslee crew was nearby in the formation aboard 43-37822. It would be the last mission for both crews. Official reports show,

Lazy Daisy collided with 43‑37822 over the target. Both ships went down on fire and out of control; no chutes observed; crashed near Erxleben, Germany; (Missing Air Crew Report) MACR9366.

A witness, Wallace Storey, co-pilot on 43-38548 with the Kenneth Gross crew on 28 SEP, later described the mid-air collision and the moments before it,

We found ourselves on a crossing course with another Group and just after “bombs away” the lead ship made a sharp descending right turn. Our high element, being on the inside of this steep turn, had to move quickly by reducing power while climbing slightly. Glancing to my right, I saw that “Lazy Daisy” was sliding toward me. I pulled back on the control column to climb out of her path while keeping my eye on the #2 ship of the lead element, Lt. Buslee in 43-37822, on whose wing our element was flying. I yelled to Gross [the pilot] to watch for him to come out on the other side and, sure enough, he slid under us and right into Buslee in the lead element.

Note: The other group on the crossing course on this date was a B-17 Group, not a B-24 Group as it was three days earlier.

Speculation now in overdrive, I wondered, was Lazy Daisy’s steering wheel aileron issue addressed before the 28 September mission? Overnight from the return of the formation the afternoon of 27 September when Lazy Daisy was used by the 547th Bomb Squadron, to take-off of the formation on the morning of 28 September, was a pretty narrow window for maintenance to take place for,

  • A steering wheel aileron control which had too much vertical play
  • The co-pilot’s interphone system which wouldn’t work (and hadn’t worked the prior mission of 25 SEP)
  • A spark in the motor of the top turret which caused it to smoke
  • Battle damage of one minor hole, location unreported, due to flak at the target

The 546th Bomb Squadron’s ground crew also had a lot of work to do on Lazy Daisy earlier that week. After the 25 September mission, they had to address the #2 and #3 engines, which had been reported sluggish at altitude, repair moderate flak damage, and fix the problem with the co-pilot’s interphone system (which apparently didn’t get fixed by 27 September).

IF on 28 September, Lazy Daisy’s engines were being sluggish (as they were often reported) AND the steering wheel aileron still had too much play, how would Lazy Daisy have reacted to Lt. Brodie’s attempts to quickly reduce power, climb, and change direction with the formation when they found themselves on a crossing course with another Group as Wallace Storey described?

The mid-air collision between Lazy Daisy and 43-37822 on 28 September 1944 likely did not happen because of one single issue – the flak, the crossing course with the other group, the quick maneuvering, the prop wash, or the gremlins – but a compounding of these and perhaps other issues I’m not aware of.

I have been struggling to make sense of all the information I discovered about Lazy Daisy’s mechanical issues, or gremlins, from all of her mission reports. I still think there may be something there that I’m missing or not considering. But it’s more likely that the answer I search for is written nowhere in history.

I now know more about Lazy Daisy, her gremlins, and about how they may have contributed to her collision with my dad’s B-17, but I will never know exactly why it happened. I could look forever, review thousands of more documents, create hundreds of more theories, and spend many more sleepless nights pondering all the conditions. But the reality is that the answer I search for died with Lazy Daisy’s pilots when she fell to earth. And there it shall remain.

Sources

Ailerons – NASA

Flight Control Failures – AOPA

Aileron – Wikipedia

Thank you Marc Poole for your help on this post.

Stay tuned in a couple of weeks for a post about the mechanics of a B-17, in particular, turbosuperchargers, and “throwing a bucket…”

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020