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  < Back to Table Of Contents  < Back to Topic: Automotive … Planes and Trains Too

article number 524
article date 01-28-2016
copyright 2016 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Boeing Enters the Aluminum Age, Part 3: Big Aircraft: Model 299 (B-17) Bomber & Model 314 Flying Boat, 1935-36
by Harold Mansfield
   

From the book, Vision, A Saga of the Sky.

* * *

Flying Fortress

A circular came in the mail from Wright Field August , 1934. Specifications for the next production bomber: bomb load, 2,000 pounds; required top speed, two hundred miles per hour; range, 1,020 miles; desired top speed, 250 miles per hour; desired range, 2,200 miles; a crew of four to six. Interested companies should submit bids for construction of up to 220 airplanes.

Claire Egtvedt read it through. To be eligible for the competition, a flying airplane would have to be submitted by August 1935. One year. Preliminary design of the Model 300 four-engine transport was well along and a few ideas had been set down for the similar-size Model 299 bomber.

Egtvedt thought of the estimated performance of the 300, and looked out the window. Again the picture of a fleet of flying dreadnoughts. He read the circular again. “Multi-engined” it said. That was the term the Air Corps had always used to describe the twin-engined category, because occasionally someone would submit a tri- motor.

Would a four-engine bomber be considered? Could they afford to build such a plane on speculation?

The stakes would be big. He knew the decision before him would have to be right, or there might be no Boeing Airplane Company. He flew to Dayton to talk to Major Jan Howard, the engineering chief.

“Would a four-engine plane qualify?”

Major Howard looked up quickly, squinted, then smiled. “Say, now.” He looked at the circular. “The word is ‘multi- engined,’ isn’t it?”

Egtvedt flew back to Seattle and preliminary design work was started in earnest on the four-engine bomber. The plant situation was critical. Total employment was down to six hundred from 1,700 at the first of the year. United Air Lines were uncertain now about a new transport. To build a big four-engine bomber for the Army competition would take all the company’s manpower and most of its capital.

The plant was operating in the red. The prospect of building twenty-five to 225 bombers loomed like a golden harvest. But the prospect of risking everything on one costly experiment was a terrifying thunderhead over that harvest.

Egtvedt asked Bill Allen, the company lawyer, to come down for a talk. “Bill,” said Egtvedt, “I don’t want to jeopardize the future of this company. You know what little we have left here. If we undertake this four-engine bomber there’ll be lots of unknowns. The design studies for the XB-15 make that clear enough.”

“Do you think you can build a successful four-engine airplane in a year?” Bill Allen, like Phil Johnson, had a way of heading right for the point.

Egtvedt looked over the roof of Engineering to the buildings of the plant. “Yes. I know we can.”

The board of directors of the newly independent Boeing Airplane Company held its first meeting September 26, 1934, when United Aircraft & Transport was finally dissolved. The sum of $275,000 was voted to design and construct four-engine bomber Model 299, to be delivered to Wright Field for trials by next August.

The plant was reorganized on a one-job, maximum-effort basis. Dick Carr stepped down to superintendent and gave Fred Laudan the job of supervising the 299 construction, to start just as soon as Engineering could get the drawings out.

Monteith and Minshall had observed that the younger engineers were coming up with some of the best ideas. The job of project engineer went to Giff Emery, a wiry bundle of energy, and quiet, studious Ed Wells became assistant project engineer. Egtvedt went over NACA airfoils and body designs to select the streamlined shapes nearest to the requirement.

Three-view plans were drawn: a beautiful monoplane measuring 103 feet in span and sixty-eight feet in length, using four 700-horsepower Hornet engines. It was neither a low nor a high wing; more of a mid-wing, a structure with strength and integrity.

   
Rear view of Boeing Model 299.

The results of one hundred hours of wind-tunnel testing were a tonic. The top speed would be at least 235 miles per hour; range, 3,000 miles. That news spurred the seventy-three engineers through their six and seven-day-a-week, long-hour schedule.

There were engineering controversies. “Let’s don’t stretch our luck,” said Monteith, looking over Ed Wells’ drawings of landing flaps on the wing. They did seem huge.

“Leave the flaps off. We’ll have good brakes.”

“We can leave them off,” Wells said, “but I wonder if we can afford to lose the performance.” He laid out the comparative data showing the plane could land and take off with 2,000 pounds greater load by using the device. The flaps went in.

By December a good share of the drawings were in the shops and the men were pouring in the rivets.

Treasurer Bowman tallied a net loss of $226,000 for the four months since Boeing had been an independent corporation. Dick Carr surveyed the plant and said it was inadequate for any quantity production of four-engine bombers. Work went on. The Board dug for another $150,000 needed to finish the ship.

By the first of July, 1935, the 299 body and wings were ready to go to Boeing Field, draped over with canvas because of military security regulations. Newspapers spread rumors about a great “mystery ship.”

Almost simultaneously, in a secret double envelope, a contract came from Wright Field for construction of the even larger “mystery ship,” XB-15. Project A would become a reality.

The month of July in the Boeing Field hangar, getting the 299 ready for flight, was rugged. Fred Laudan checked in with the day shift, out with the night.

The final week there were no shifts. All worked as long as they could. Flight date was set for Monday morning, July 28. From Saturday morning, everyone stayed to see the job through.

The ship came out in the light for taxi trials, a gleaming giant bristling with five machine-gun turrets. Newspaper reporters called it an aerial battle cruiser, a "veritable flying fortress."

Test pilot Les Tower sat in the instrument-filled control cabin, rehearsing his role. So did Louis Wait, his assistant, and Henry IIgo of Pratt & Whitney, who would be the flight engineer.

Before sunup on July 28, a cluster of men stood on the edge of Boeing Field, shivering a little in the morning mist, their hearts and soles of their feet catching the rumble of four idling engines at the far end of the field. The rumble grew to a burning, firing roar and the big form was moving toward them down the runway, racing past them.

Les Tower lifted her slowly, surely, over the end of the field. As though timed by a stage crew, the sun popped over the ridge of the Cascades, its brightness glistening on the polished wings that streaked to meet it, and the 299 was a receding speck in the sky.

Claire Egtvedt shut his eyes and smiled. Minshall turned to Ed Wells, who had been promoted to project engineer. “Nice work, Ed. Great work.”

   
Side view: Boeing 299 (B-17) "Flying Fortress."
   
Boeing Model 299 on ramp.

August 20 at 3:45 A.M., Tower, Wait, Igo and little Bud Benton, the head mechanic, were cutting the darkness toward the Cascade Mountains with a nonstop flight plan for Dayton.

There hadn’t been time to run many flight tests. Most of the time had been spent getting new engine parts out from Hartford and putting things in working order. Henry Igo had been up all night with his power plants and was pretty groggy. So were Wait and Benton, though none of them would admit it.

Les Tower, who’d had his sleep, rode the controls over the mountains like a cowboy. Once in a while he’d turn around with a grin and ask Igo how the fans were turning.

Two hours out, Henry Igo came up from his study of the temperatures and manifold pressures. “Let’s give her the works,” he said. Tower put the propellers in manual high pitch and let the Hornets go to work.

“Our ground speed is 235 miles an hour,” yelled Louis Wait, who was navigating. It was exhilarating. Bud Benton served fried-egg sandwiches. The automatic pilot flew the airplane.

Exactly nine hours after leaving Seattle they were coming down at Wright Field. Two thousand miles nonstop at 233 miles an hour. Bud Benton was dancing. “It’s impossible. Unheard of.”

Claire Egtvedt and Ed Wells, awaiting them at Wright, were under the cockpit door when they got out, to shake their hands heartily and pat them on the back.

Bud Benton wondered why there were so few people around. “You’re not supposed to be here,” said Wells. “Claire and I estimated you’d be due an hour from now. The field expects you in two or three.”

The days that followed were in high key. A twin-engine Martin B-12 and a twin-engine Douglas B-18 were the competition, but all eyes were on the “Flying Fortress” as the newspapers now had it named.

Pete Hill, head of Dayton flight test, was plainly impressed, even awed by the big fellow. He assigned Lieutenant Don Putt, a spirited young pilot who was enthusiastic about the plane, as project test pilot.

The competitive evaluation began, according to the rules: speed, endurance, time to climb, service ceiling, structure and design, power plant, armament and equipment installation, maintenance, landing characteristics, utility as a type.

Preliminary flight test results looked excellent. Egtvedt and Wells were buoyant. Oliver Echols, who had taken Jan Howard’s place as chief of engineering, followed the plane’s tests like a Yankee fan the world series. Jake Harman wore a big grin.

Brigadier General A. W. Robins, the new CO succeeding General Pratt, was cordial. The 299 would win the competition for sure.

One morning in October the tower crew at Wright Field watched the Flying Fortress warm up for take-off. The four engines gave their battle roar, the ship rolled down the runway, first slow, then slithering-fast, then lifted. The duty officer whistled. It was an impressive sight, watching the big ship clear the ground.

The airplane was climbing steeply. Too steeply. “Hey, what?” It was heading straight up, falling off on a wing. The officer hit the emergency button. The plane was coming down, straightening out again now, almost but not quite enough. Going to hit.

   
Crashed Boeing Model 299. The control lock was engaged.

There was a belch of flame and smoke from the wing tanks as the 299 hit ground. Fire trucks streaked toward it.
Jake Harman, bombardment project engineer, in conference with General Echols, heard the sirens, heard someone say “299,” raced out and hailed a field car, teeth set. Fire trucks were pouring foam on the burning plane and a crowd was standing transfixed when Harman arrived. He scrambled, with Lieutenant Giovanelli, onto a flatbed truck.

“Back it in there!” he shouted at the driver. Pulling coats over their heads, with arms shielding their faces, Jake and Giovanelli dove from the truckbed into the furnace and dragged out Pete Hill, the pilot, and Les Tower. Don Putt, face gashed and burned, had jumped from the front end shouting, “Look at the control stand.” Two other crew members scrambled out the back end. All were rushed to the hospital.

It was discovered that the ship had been taken off with the control surfaces locked. This was a new thing, having tail surfaces so big they had to be locked from the cockpit against the whipping of the wind on the ground.

Major Hill died that afternoon. A bitter blow. Les Tower, who had been on the flight as an observer, was badly burned but expected to live. Putt and the others would be all right.

General Robins telephoned Egtvedt in Chicago where he’d been trying to sell the four-engine transport to United.

“Oh no. No,” Egtvedt whispered. It was word the body couldn’t bear. He headed desolately back for Dayton.
There was no airplane now for the final judging. The last item on the evaluation sheet—utility as a type—was all that was left, but that called for flights by operating commanders.

The 299 was ineligible under the rules. “There must be some justice in the world,” wrote Treasurer Bowman. “Maybe we can sell the design to England.” He added, “Our bank account is overdrawn.”

Les Tower rallied but he was taking the failure personally, blaming himself for not having discovered the oversight about the control lock. It took the heart out of his recovery. Egtvedt assured him it wasn’t his fault. Then word came that Les Tower was worse, Les Tower was gone.

Les Tower. Losing an airplane was nothing like losing a man. The flotsam and jetsam of the wreck began to wash in. There were statements in Washington that this was more airplane than a human being could handle, and the rumor grew that the twin-engine Douglas B-18 would get the production contract.

Egtvedt clung to Dayton and Washington to see what could be done. He found the Air Corps was full of friends. Men like Tooey Spaatz and Hap Arnold insisted the Flying Fortress must be carried on. Arnold was a brigadier general now, in command of the first wing of the new GHQ Air Force, under the Army General Staff.

Commanding General of the GHQ force was Frank M. Andrews, and Colonel Hugh Knerr was his chief of staff. Knerr and Andrews took up the campaign for the four-engine plane.

At Dayton, Jake Harman wouldn’t let go of the rope he was pulling. The new engineering head, Oliver Echols, who had been down at the Air Corps Tactical School listening to Hal George’s strategic bombing concepts, grabbed the rope to give the others a hand. There would be a way.

The six hundred people left on the Boeing payroll in Seattle were doing their Christmas shopping with a prudent peek at the bottom of the purse when news came through that the Air Corps had ordered the Douglas B-18 for production but would place a service test order for thirteen of the four-engine Boeings, plus a fourteenth to be built for structural tests. The airplane would be known as the B-17.

   
Early production YB-17 in flight.

The Transoceanic Step

Douglas won the production order; still, the building of thirteen Flying Fortresses and the experimental XB-15 would be a sizeable undertaking.

Claire Egtvedt’s thoughts were pulled far from engineering and design as he considered the program ahead in 1936. There was a business to manage; there were contracts to be kept; stockholders expecting the business to operate at a profit, not at a $334,000 loss like last year’s.

Then there was the problem, always most evasive, most trying, of work for the future. Egtvedt wanted mightily to capitalize on the new bomber design with a plane that would put them back in commercial business.

It had looked for a while in the fall of 1935 as if United and American Air Lines would both buy the Model 300 four-engine transport. Then their interest cooled and they ended up putting some money in a pool, which TWA, Pan American and Eastern joined, to help Douglas build an experimental four-engine landplane called the DC-4. This seemed to kill the chances of selling a domestic airliner.

Pan American Airways had just bought three Martin flying boats for their overseas routes. Their future requirements weren’t clear, but their plans were big. Pan American dealt with oceans. Already they were pioneering the transpacific route and beginning to think about the Atlantic. That would take big airplanes of long-range, large-passenger capacity.

Egtvedt considered the possibility of doing something with a commercial adaptation of the XB-15, but Pan American needed flying boats. He wondered if the Boeing plant facility was suited for building and launching huge flying boats. He wondered, too, if they could finance such a project.

The present plant wasn’t even adequate for four-engine bomber production, and that had to be taken care of first. Even if they had to borrow the money for it, it was imperative that they get a site next to Boeing Field, the King County Airport, for future expansion of land plane production.

Egtvedt called Bill Allen down to talk about this and about reorganizing the staff for the new days ahead. With the aid of Elmer Sill, the realtor, they got the plant-site program under way, then turned to the organization question.

“You’re loaded down,” said Allen. “You should have an executive vice president to take the administrative load.”
Monty Monteith, a good administrator, was the logical choice. Monty had already given Bob Minshall most of the engineering responsibility, and Bob could now be made chief engineer.

Erik Nelson, vice president in charge of sales, was going to leave the company. To fill his position Fred Collins was promoted.

   
Douglas B-18s in formation. Even though Douglas won the 1935 bomber contract, Boeing was given a contract to build the YB-17 "Flying Fortress."

They had another go-getter in the sales department, Wellwood Beall, a new man who’d been over in the Orient seeking pursuit-plane business, but who might be more useful in Engineering.

A graduate of the Guggenheim School of Aeronautics in New York University, Beall had been in charge of engineering instruction at the Boeing School of Aeronautics in Oakland for a short time before he joined the Seattle organization. He’d be a good man to start a service department to handle engineering contacts with the customer.

The changes were made effective February 19, 1936. They brought other promotions along the line. Work to do. New jobs. Raises. Smiles. Wellwood Beall swung into Fred Collins’ office.

“Congratulations, Mr. Sales Manager.”

“Congratulations yourself,” said Collins. The two young men had become close friends.

“Anything you’d like out of Engineering?”

“Yes, let’s have some commercial airplanes around this place.”

Wellwood Beall went back to his corner of Engineering, fiddled with his T-square and doodled on a yellow pad while he thought over the whirlwind events of the past year and a half.

It had started when the company’s sales prospects were dragging bottom and Beall got the sudden order in August to go to China and sell some pursuits. He’d called his fiancée, Jean Cory, in Oakland; four days later they were married and sailing on the ’President Jackson’ for Shanghai. In China, Beall sold ten P-26 type pursuits to the Cantonese provincial government.

Caught in the great Yangtse flood while at the inland town of Kiukiang, he spent three days watching swirling water from a second-floor window. At Hangchow, he met T. Wong, head of the Central Aviation Manufacturing Company, who recalled his days as chief engineer of the old Pacific Aero Products Company.

Back in Shanghai, Beall and Jeannie were at the Cathay Hotel at a cocktail party, where Americans were making each other at home in the Orient. Out on the Wang Po River they could see one of the President boats at anchor. Chinese coolies were trotting up the Bund with the ship’s cargo, singing their minor, mystic rhythm.

The sound coming in through the open windows was in strange contrast to the excited comment over a bit of unusual news at the party. Captain Ed Musick had just flown a Pan American Sikorsky-type clipper to Midway Island. The rumor was that China and the U. S. would be linked by a regular air service before the end of the year.

“That’s a lot of poppycock,” said Beall. He was flashy with bow tie, trim mustache. “It’s a beautiful stunt. You can do lots of things with airplanes as a stunt, but it’ll be ten or fifteen years before that sort of thing is commercially practical. Don’t let anybody kid you.”

The guests were glad to be put straight on this, though a little disappointed. Beall didn’t much notice the frown on Jeannie’s forehead.

   
In 1934 Pan American Airways began flying the Sikorsky S-42 mostly for flights to Latin America. Pan American would want an aircraft for trans-ocean flights.

Not long after, the Bealls headed back for the States. After a whirling year, all was suddenly quiet, slow. Jeannie twitted Beall:

“Isn’t this boat kind of slow for an airplane man?”

“Well, peaceful anyway.”

“Did you think over that statement you made about air travel to China being ten or fifteen years off?”

“I don’t think they can do it. I don’t think they can get equipment that will do it.”

“I’ll bet you’ll have to eat those words,” said Jeannie.

That rebuke of Jeannie’s haunted Beall as he sat now, fiddling with his T-square and doodling. Collins was right, they should be building some commercial airplanes.

Beall thought back to that afternoon in the Cathay. “A lot of poppycock.” Since his return Pan American had put the first of its three new Martins in service on the Pacific. Why hadn’t he kept his big mouth shut?

Beall walked out into the shops, possessed of an idea. “Maybe I can do something to correct that mistake.”

He walked past the receiving storeroom, where they were piling up stocks of structural aluminum tubing, some of it three inches across; past the machine shop, where a machinist was shaping a big hunk of steel into a wing terminal; through the welding shop, idle now; through the empty body shop; in and out the doors of the smelly anodizing and paint shops, and into the big wooden assembly building on the Duwamish backwater. That was where the parts for Project A were going together.

The wing shop had taken over the whole floor, to stretch the 149-foot span of the XB-15 between the balconies of the high, barnlike building. The structure of the main wing was going together. It would mount four 850-horsepower twin Wasps. The Allisons originally contemplated hadn’t panned out.

Another half wing that would soon be tested to destruction under a load of lead was almost completed. Beall looked into it from the large end, through the inside structure toward the tapered tip. He shook his head.

You had to see it to believe it. The “M’s” and “W’s” of the structural members were repeated dozen upon dozen like some low attic braced for a phenomenal snow. Under the bracing there was a heavy inner skin of corrugated aluminum, to which was attached the smooth outer metal skin. A wing big enough to crawl through.

The people who said it wouldn’t hold together with its thirty-five-ton load should see those two wing spars that constituted the main lengthwise structure. They were built like a bridge truss, out of pieces of that big square tubing.

Ernie Orthel, the wing-shop foreman, spotted Beall. “You like it?” he asked.

“It’s weird and wonderful,” said Beall.

“Every morning when I come to work,” said Orthel, “I tell myself, ‘It’s the wing of an airplane.’”

Beall went on back by the outside road, walking slowly, eyes squinting at a sky full of thoughts, hands in his pockets. There was a way he could correct this Cathay folly. Action would outspeak words.

Pan American needed big airplanes, long-range airplanes. It was Boeing that was building big airplanes, building the XB-15, long-range bomber Number One. He could see those great wings flying to China, carrying not bombs but fifty, maybe seventy passengers.

   
Martin M-130 flying boat in flight. The Martin successfully flew Pacific Ocean routes but Pan American Airways wanted something bigger.

In the days that followed, Beall spent his spare time looking at data on the XB-15 and adding things up. He went to Bob Minshall, now the chief engineer. “Why shouldn’t we get into the flying boat business—submit a Clipper design to Pan American?”

“We’ve already discussed that,” said Minshall. “Claire and I both talked with Pan American about it last year. We just got a letter from Frank Gledhill a couple of weeks ago.”

He showed Beall a letter dated February 28, 1936, from Gledhill, the Pan American vice president and purchasing agent, asking if Boeing would be interested in submitting plans for “a long-range four-engine marine aircraft” built around engines of 1,000 to 1,250 horsepower.

“That would be right in the XB-15 class,” said Beall.

“That’s right,” said Minshall. “But we can’t do it.”

“Why not?”

“Money. Facilities. Manpower. Look at the date when they want the drawings. We’re up to our neck now in drawings for the B-17s and the XB- 15.”

Minshall looked tired. Responsibility was putting furrows in his round, full face.

“I’d like to work on it, if that would help,” said Beall.

“We’ve already written Gledhill that we won’t be able to enter a proposition by that date.”

Beall went home disturbed. The thought of a transoceanic flying boat based on the b-15 seemed important, powerful. It wasn’t an idea original with him, he’d found, but he was inspired with it. He tried to shrug it off; it was none of his business, he was supposed to be the service engineer.

But the idea wouldn’t be put off. It was there. When he said No to it, the word fell short of its mark. Something bigger than himself kept saying, “Yes, yes.”

“What’s bothering you?” asked Jeannie.

“Remember what I said about a commercially practical trans-ocean airplane being ten years off?”

“Yes.” Jeannie was matter-of-fact.

“I think we could build one now, based on the B-15.”

“You could?” Jeannie left Beall with his thoughts.

Beall got out some paper and began making layouts on the dining-room table. Even if the project wasn’t authorized, there was nothing to stop him working on it at home.

He started with the B-15 wings and tail. The bottom of the body would have to be a boat hull, with a step at the back so you could get the nose up for take-off. The sides might as well come straight up from the outer edge of the hull bottom. That would provide good, straight-sided passenger compartments, like a ship.

   
Side view: Boeing 314 Flying Boat.
   
Side view of the Boeing 314 shows the general wing, tail and fuselage proportions. Sponsons protruding out the belly were chosen for roll stability on the water instead of floats on the wing tips.

Night after night he worked there on the dining-room table. A control cabin like the one in the XB-15 would give room for desks for flight engineer and navigator and radio operator behind the pilots. That would take all the space in front of the wings. They’d need a full deck below for the passengers. A two-deck airplane.

Beall thought the sponsons, or short sea wings, that Martin used on its flying boats would be safer than wing tip floats to stabilize it on the water. They would be big enough to contain the fuel tanks, too.

After some throwaways, the sketch was beginning to take a positive form. Occasionally Jeannie would glance over Beall’s busy shoulders. “It looks a little like a whale,” she said. Jeannie had pictured it more round and sleek like the Flying Fortress.

“What’s that? What did you say?” Beall was preoccupied.

“I said it looks like it really should sail.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

Beall took the sketches to Bob Minshall.

“Say,” said big Bob. “I’d like to talk to Claire about this.” Egtvedt was in Dayton. Minshall called him, suggested they try to get an extension of the Pan American deadline. Egtvedt said go ahead and try. Minshall wrote Gledhill right away, March 31. Gledhill agreed.

Minshall promptly got up steam. He relieved Beall of the service engineering assignment and gave him eleven men to complete the layout and performance calculations. With sleeves rolled high, they got into the details.

The giant craft would be 109 feet long, with a wing span of 152 feet, much too large to be assembled in the plant, but the hull and wings could be built inside and assembled afterward on the ramp. There’d be space in the hull for seventy-four passengers and a crew of six.

With gross weight of 82,500 pounds—six tons more, even, than the XB-15---they could get a range of 3,500 miles. Ralph Cram, head of aerodynamics, went to the NACA for data on hull lines.

The XB-15 wing was adopted unchanged for the proposed boat.

In April, out in the assembly building, the XB-15 test wing was piled high with bags of lead shot for its destruction test. Lanky John Ball, head of the stress unit, watched cold-eyed as his men added a bag here, a bag there. Jack Kylstra, project engineer on the XB, was watching intently. Others gathered for the spectacle.

The wing was crackling as its design load was being approached. “Put on another increment,” John Ball ordered. The men cautiously added bags. The spectators took a safe distance. Stark silence, except for an ominous snap.

“Next increment.” This was 94 per cent of design load. Monteith stood solid on both legs, watching; Bob Minshall was rubbing his chin.

“Another increment,” said Ball. The bottom skin was wrinkled.

“One hundred per cent load.” The wing held. Cheers broke out.

“Add another increment,” called Ball, his eyes brightening. More bags of lead went on. The air was tight. “One hundred six per cent.”

A cannon went off. In one instant the explosive report filled the building, bit their ears, rivets peppered the wall, people ducked for cover, and the proud wing lay crumpled on the timbers built to catch it. It had done the job it was supposed to.

The giant XB-15 would fly, and so would the big Clipper ship that was on Wellwood Beall’s mind.

   
The giant Boeing 314 flying boat would use the XB-15 wing.

The general layouts and performance estimates for the proposed flying boat, labeled the Model 314 were complete by the time Egtvedt returned to Seattle in late April. Egtvedt was enthusiastic when Minshall showed them to him.

On May 9 he left with Beall and aerodynamicist Ralph Cram for New York to show the plans to Pan American Airways. Beall sat beside Egtvedt on the flight east. He had a portfolio of watercolor drawings his artist wife had made of the passenger compartments and central dining salon. It was impressive. “They ought to be able to sell tickets to London on this,” he said.

Egtvedt agreed. “But it’s the B-15 wing that should give us the advantage,” he said.

The bouncing little DC-3, making one of its frequent descents for fuel, seemed incongruously small. Egtvedt was opening his mouth and trying to yawn, his ears obviously hurting with the pressure change. “Some day we’ve got to have a plane that doesn’t murder a man with sinus trouble,” said Egtvedt.

In New York, Frank Gledhill was tremendously interested in the 314, and André Priester, the little Dutch dreamer who was Pan American’s chief engineer, smiled from ear to listening ear. Egtvedt called lawyer Bill Allen to join them for contract negotiations.

In Pan American’s high tower in the Chrysler building, and nights at the Barclay hotel, they compromised on problems of cost and performance guarantees, and on June 21, 1936, a million dollar contract for six Boeing 314 Clippers was signed, with an option for six more.

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