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

article number 528
article date 02-11-2016
copyright 2016 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Boeing Enters the Aluminum Age, Part 4: Giant Steps: Pressurization and Turbo-Supercharging, 1937-38
by Harold Mansfield
   

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

* * *

Over the Weather

While the meetings with Pan American were going on in the Chrysler building’s high spire, a meeting of a different sort was taking place in the Munitions building in Washington. The officers of the Army General Staff were assembled: G-1, the general for Personnel; G-2, Intelligence; G-3, Operations; G-4, Supply.

The Chief of the Air Corps was there, Major General Oscar Westover. His assistant, Hap Arnold, was sitting on the sidelines with General Frank Andrews, head of the GHQ Air Force. Oliver Echols, the Air Corps engineering chief from Dayton, was there and with him Jake Harman.

The meeting was for the purpose of discussing bombardment airplane procurement policy.

General Westover explained the bomber program. The Air Corps had a quantity of twin-engine B-18s on order and thirteen four-engine B-17s were under construction for service test. This year they’d like to allocate funds for more B-17s.

“Isn’t that the Boeing airplane that crashed in Dayton?” asked one of the generals.

“Yes, unfortunately we lost the experimental plane.”

“And the bigger one—Project A—is that project still going on?” Oscar Westover squared himself in his chair.

"Yes, it’s under construction.”

“Why do we need airplanes that big?”

Westover looked at Colonel Echols and Echols nodded to Lieutenant Harman, who unwrapped the charts he had prepared and stuck them along the walls with pieces of masking tape. The charts compared the capabilities of bombers according to performance and size.

The Martin B-10 was shown as a starting point, then the twin-engine Douglas B-18, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, the XB-15, in Category Three of the developmental list made up in 1933, and finally the still bigger XB-19, an experimental project in Category Four which they had just asked the Douglas Company to design.

Westover explained the added power of the bigger ships, their greater range, how increased speed enabled them to perform more missions per day, and how larger wing area enabled them to carry a larger load. No one interrupted, but there was a restlessness among the listeners.

One chart showed the big airplanes as troop carriers; the bigger the shell of the plane, the more troops it could carry. When the Air Chief came to this chart, G-3 broke the tension. He jumped up and waved an arm at the chart. “Why haul people around in the air?” he demanded.

Westover faltered, as a man struck by a weapon he couldn’t see, couldn’t understand. Before he had recovered, G-4 was concurring. “I guess that’s a good question. Now I have a question I’d like to ask. Isn’t it a fact that airplanes are getting too big for their metals?”

Westover turned to Echols. “Will you answer that, Colonel?” Oliver Echols, a solid engineer, slow of speech but penetrating, rose to his feet:

“I don’t see that they are getting too big for their metals. At one time we built bridges out of wood. When we had to have bigger ones, we built them out of a low-grade iron. Finally we needed to get them still bigger, and we used high-grade materials, high-test cables. You decide what you need—what you want to do—and you can find the technical means of doing it.”

“I still think they’re getting too big for their metals,” said G-4.

Another general took issue with the 5,000-mile range of the XB-15. “That’s absurd,” he said. “The Navy will protect our shores. The Air Force should be confined to three hundred miles off shore.”

   
Boeing XB-15 (concept aircraft): 149 foot wingspan, 70,000 pound take-off weight. Boeing used the proven wing design on its Model 314 flying boat.

General Frank Andrews came forward. “Gentlemen, I suggest we have a war game on paper so we can all see just what the big bombers can do.” There was banter and confusion. The meeting was adjourned, off key.

G-4 prepared the report to Chief of Staff MaIin Craig. Concentration on the big bombers was inconsistent with national policy and threatened unnecessary duplication of function with the Navy.

No country had or was soon likely to have aircraft capable of attacking the United States. The twin-engine B-18 was equal to any mission assigned to the Air Corps and was much less expensive than the proposed four-engine ships.

True, there was no threat of war. The disturbing sounds from Europe and Africa were dim and inarticulate. The ear hears nothing without first listening.

There were a few things it was nicer not to hear. Like the news about Ethiopia surrendering to Il Duce, and der Fuehrer sending his troops into the Rhineland.

Back in Dayton, a few months later, Jake Harman was still simmering over the Washington rebuff when Oliver Echols called him in. “Look, Jake,” said the Colonel. “I have an idea. We aren’t going to get any more than the thirteen B-17s for a while. We could make it fourteen if we made a flying airplane out of the one that is supposed to be used for static tests.

I doubt if we need those tests, after the successful XB-15 wing test in Seattle, and all. What would you think of taking that plane and making a new model out of it? Go all out. Put turbo-super- chargers on the engines. Whatever you can think of.”

“Sounds like a good idea.”

“What would turbo-superchargers do for the speed of the 17?” The turbo-supercharger was a device which General Electric was perfecting to take power from the engine’s exhaust to run a turbine that would feed pressurized air back into the engine. It would make flight possible at much higher altitudes.

Harman got out his slipstick and worked the numbers back and forth. He got it quickly. “Two hundred ninety miles an hour at 25,000 feet.” Maybe he was a little high.

“Get hold of Boeing and see if they’ll do it,” said Echols. “I’ll see if I can dig up some money.”

In one corner of the engineering department at Seattle, a few drafting tables were separated from the rest by a glass partition and a door on which were stenciled the words "RESTRICTED AREA. PRELIMINARY DESIGN."

There was no general traffic through this enclosure. The place had an aura of mystery. It had been used by Ed Wells and Giff Emery and the team that laid out the first lines of the original 299 Flying Fortress. Thereafter it had been set aside as a permanent place for free thought on things new.

The men in Engineering nodded assent when quiet Ed Wells was chosen to head the group of designers who would work in there, apart from the rest. They’d see Ed slip in and out of the place. Wells the person would disappear in the Wells of silent, orderly thought.

They had a feeling he was in his right place there; a tap on the shoulder and he’d come out of that thought with a smile, not a frown.

Every so often Claire Egtvedt would come down and lean over Ed Wells’ table. This time he had a new question. “Do you have enough information on turbo-superchargers to put them on the B-17?”

“I’m not sure,” said Ed. “But we can get it.”

“Wright Field wants to equip the static test ship for high altitude.”

“How high?”

“Twenty-five or thirty thousand feet.”

“Not cabin supercharging?”

“No, just engines,” said Egtvedt. “But if we get the airplane up there, we’ll have to do something about the air in the cabin sooner or later. Oxygen masks won’t be so good for long flights.”

Wells shuffled through some drawings and brought up the three-view outlines of the Model 307 four-engine transport they’d been working on, an improvement on the 300, which didn’t sell. Egtvedt scrutinized it with one eyebrow lowered, one gathered high, and nodded.

   
Boeing Model 307 "Stratoliner" in flight. It featured a pressurized cabin.

He had seen the Model 307 before in a slightly different form. Now the body cross-section was a perfect circle, and from the side it had the symmetry of a slenderized dirigible. It was this way because provision was being made for a cabin that could be supercharged, or pressurized within, maintaining low-altitude atmospheric pressure at high altitudes, as Thorp Hiscock had suggested back in 1934.

A circular structure was best because air pressure wants to expand equally in all directions.

“The interesting thing,” said Ed, “is that when you supercharge the cabin you’re forced into a better-looking design.”

“That shows it’s the right thing to do,” said Egtvedt, pleased.

The new transport design called the Stratoliner, utilizing the wings and tail surfaces of the B-17 Flying Fortress, was timely. With all the opposition in Washington to further B-17 purchases, the transport market took on new importance. And it seemed to be opening up.

Some of the airlines were unhappy about the joint project for the Douglas DC-4 four-engine transport. When sales manager Fred Collins unveiled the Model 307 drawings and explained that the plane could be put in the air quickly because of Boeing’s four-engine bomber experience, Pan American and TWA saw a possibility of jumping ahead while the other lines were waiting for the DC-4.

The financing of such a project would be a problem, but the Board was already planning an issue of new stock to give the company needed substance for the work ahead.

“We’ll see if we can get the airlines to help with the cost of the supercharged cabin development,” Egtvedt told Wells. “If we can’t, we’ll do it ourselves. This is a development that must come. We might as well get it behind us.”

Pan American said they’d underwrite part of the cost. To them, it was a chance to get up over the weather. TWA said they were interested in supercharging, but they wouldn’t want it installed right away.

Things went together fast as 1936 drew to a close and 1937 opened into spring. Cigar-champing Stanley Umstead from Wright Field flew the first B-17 and liked it. On the third flight the brakes locked and the plane skidded eighty yards to a stop on its nose with the tail pointing at the sky, but Superintendent Fred Laudan’s men pulled the tail back down and repaired the nose damage.

TWA signed for six of the thirty-three-passenger four-engine Stratoliners, and Pan American signed for three. The Air Corps contracted to have turbo-superchargers installed in the B-17 static test ship.

With 173,000 shares of new stock sold, plans were made to double the size of the new building on the Boeing Field site up the Duwamish, to be called Plant Two.

The old assembly building at Plant One was crammed to the balconies with the first two 314 hulls, trussed up in the three and a half carloads of lumber that formed the work platforms. The hulls looked impossibly huge, with riveters attacking them at four different levels on a half mile of plankways.

More like houses than airplanes. “They’ll never fly,” was the universal comment of visitors.

At Plant Two, more B-17s were completed for delivery to General Frank Andrews’ GHQ Air Force.

When Andrews and his command pilots, Bob Olds, Barney Giles, V. J. Meloy, Caleb Haynes, and others, got their hands on the control columns, they celebrated by breaking cross-country speed records, flying majestic formations, drilling on bombing technique with the mysterious new “Blue Ox” bombsight. The 17 proved a stable, steady platform from which to set the sight. “We can drop ‘em in a pickle barrel,” Andrews boasted to the General Staff.

There was still opposition, both in the General Staff and Congress. “In big ships of that character we have too many eggs in one basket,” said one Congressman debating appropriations.

   
In 1938 the Army did contract for another concept giant bomber, the Douglas XB-19 with a 212 foot wingspan and a 160,000 pound take-off weight. It had a range of over 7,000 miles.

“I am happy to say that we carry no money in this bill for anything bigger than two-engine planes.”

But General Andrews told the General Staff flatly that he didn’t want any more two-engine bombers. And Oliver Echols promised the next models of the Fortress would be made still more effective, with turbo-superchargers pushing the speed to more than 270 miles per hour and the operating altitude to 25,000 feet, making them almost invulnerable to attack.

By August 1937, the appropriation bill had been changed and the Air Corps ordered thirteen of the supercharged airplanes, to be called the B-17Bs.

The first thirteen B-17s were completed. Materials were coming in for the four-engine Stratoliners. At Plant One the Model Clippers were pressing the walls. Boeing Airplane Company had suddenly become a hatchery full of big chicks.

The one that was first in the incubator—the one labeled Project A—was getting so large and full-feathered that it would have to fly soon.

Running to Keep Ahead

The XB-15 was a 5,000 mile bomber, capable of spanning a continent, a deadly weapon in the hands of someone who wanted it to be one . . .

. . . but also an airplane; a big, beautiful airplane, with red and white tail stripes bright in the morning sun. Powerful and strong, it had a paternal look. Why?

Ed Wells, twenty-seven, summa cum laude at Stanford, engineer, American, stood under the great wing. The XB was out on the concrete apron now, in front of Plant Two, just across the Pacific Highway from Boeing Field. To Ed, the new plane was a symbol of what they were trying to do: stretch, strain, work to make the airplane something superior.

This wasn’t a business you could walk in. You had to run to keep ahead. Still, you had to know what you were doing every step, or you’d be in real trouble.

As Jake Harman once put it, “You’ve got to be just as conservative as you can allow yourself to be while you’re running ahead real fast.” Because you were always trying to make the airplane do something that an airplane had never done before.

Here was an example. Project A. Trying to see how big you could make a plane; how far you could make it go. Why?

Ed thought of the preamble to the Constitution. “We the people of the United States, in order to . . . provide for the common defense . . . and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity . . ."

To secure the blessings of liberty.

There was virtue in strength if that strength was virtue. America wanted to preserve, not to disturb. The government even hesitated to buy this sort of plane lest someone think they had aggressive intent.

“Be sure to explain that its purpose is to defend our coasts,” Washington had cautioned when the new bomber first emerged into public view.

   
As production Boeing YB-17s took to the sky, the Army Air Corps was impressed and knew it’s worth.

The XB-15 and the B-17 Flying Fortresses, bought with coins that said “In God We Trust,” were power for defense. The motive of the user was what would give the airplane its power for good or for evil. Wasn’t motive, really, a litmus test of vision, to prove whether or not it was a source of lasting power?

Standing under the wing, Ed Wells sensed that the source of America’s power was born of the liberty and integrity under God of the country’s founding fathers.

But there seemed also to be another power, through history, threatening people’s liberty. At a distance just about equal to the XB-15’s range from Seattle, on an almost straight path along the 50th parallel, daylight was fading into night at the height of Seattle’s morning. Adolf Hitler, fifty-eight, reader of the “bible” of his own writing, der Fuehrer, stood before a painting of Frederick the Great, noting that when the light struck it right it became a mirror.

Hitler was pondering the source of power, too. It was possible, by means of shrewd and unremitting propaganda, “to make people believe that heaven is hell—and hell, heaven.”

Conquest was “not only a right but also a duty,” his own text said. Humaneness was “a mixture of stupidity and cowardice.”

Der Fuehrer saw not only the Third Reich, but one day the German race as “master of the world.”

Ed Wells wasn’t thinking of Hitler, but of the work to be done to make good America’s trust. He had no illusions about the XB-15, now nearly ready for flight. It was notable as a proof of what could be done with size, and how range could be stretched, but he knew it was far underpowered. The B-17 could fly circles around it.

If they could get the 17 up to high altitude with turbo-superchargers, it would be a tremendously effective airplane, much less vulnerable to attack than the 15, impressive as the Project A giant might be.

Wells went into the high-roofed assembly building to see how the turbos were coming on the B-17A. Charlie Morris, who had been assigned to head this special project, was there.

“I’m worried about what these things are going to do to the air flow,” said Charlie. “Ralph Cram and the aerodynamics boys think it’ll be O.K., but I don’t know.”

The turbo-supercharger, developed by Dr. Sanford Moss of General Electric with the aid of Wright Field, was a turbine wheel with many little paddles like a steam- or water-driven turbine, except that this one was to be turned by flaming exhaust gases.

A supercharger was to be mounted on top of each engine nacelle, and the exhaust gas would be routed to take a torrid whirl through its blades, emerging on the surface of the nacelle before fanning away in the slipstream. It was this air disturbance on the wing that concerned Morris.

But they had already concluded this was the only place the turbos could go. The turbine wheels couldn’t go on the bottoms of the nacelles because the landing gear retracted there, and besides, if there were ever a fuel leak it would come right down into the turbo. The exhaust stacks were always put on top to avoid this danger.

“Clean it up the best you can,” said Wells. “We’re running some more wind-tunnel tests.”

Wells went on to the superintendent’s office to ask about preparations for the XB-15 flight.

On October 15, 1937, Eddie Allen wheeled the giant XB to the far end of the Boeing Field runway. Gentle, thoroughgoing Eddie Allen was now a consulting engineer and test pilot for various companies and was rated best in the business.

   
The giant Boeing XB-15 flew well.

Major Johnny Corkille, the Air Corps representative at the plant, was with Allen at the controls. Top mechanic Mike Pavone was at the flight engineer’s station. They had rehearsed their roles well and taxied for several days, testing brakes and getting the feel of the control surfaces.

Satisfied, Eddie cut loose, rolled ponderously down the runway and took off. The big ship came off the ground like an airplane. The two auxiliary gas engines that Bill Irvine from Wright Field had proposed were working away in the back end, charging the ship’s seven miles of electric wiring.

Eddie found the bomber stable and airworthy, though sluggish in speed. Tests continued through November, until the big plane was ready for delivery.

While Colonel Bob Olds and the GHQ Air Force were gaining headlines with a good will flight of six B17s to Buenos Aires, made in two 2,500-mile jumps, the XB-15 slid down to Hamilton Field, California, to widen the eyes of field crews there.

Private R. F. Fowler of the 31st Bombardment Squadron sent the ’Air Corps Newsletter’ his impressions:

“Because of the distance between motors, the most practical means of communication is the radio. The weather report is all important. The crew on one engine may be enjoying perfect weather while the crew on the neighboring engine is engulfed in a blizzard. Each man is equipped with a compass, because at the last landing one person got aboard unnoticed and wasn’t found for days.”

The XB-15 was remarkable. But it wasn’t ordered for production.

Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini proclaimed the Rome- Berlin axis. In March 1938, Nazi storm troops marched into Austria. Der Fuehrer looked again on the face of old Frederick the Great and nodded.

The B-17A was ready for a trial flight with its GE turbo-superchargers.

Johnny Corkille would be the test pilot. Corkille, a steady officer, had tested all the B-17s and had come to love them. When he’d set one of them down on the runway from a flight, usually he’d be whistling a little tuneless tune. He had some apprehension, however, about this flight.

To see just how much the whirling turbo would disturb the air flow over the top of the wing, Charlie Morris and Ralph Cram had stuck tufts of yarn all over the wing surface. Bill Irvine was out from Dayton for the test.

Corkille took off with the turbos disconnected. Irvine was riding behind him, watching the yarn tufts as the plane climbed to 10,000 feet, where the superchargers were to be turned on.

Corkille cut them in. There was a rumble throughout the ship and things began to shake. Irvine noticed the yarn tufts flapping idly over a ten-foot area behind each engine, not streaming with the wind as they should. Corkille turned the turbos off to reconnoiter.

“Watch the instruments,” Corkille said. Then he pushed the turbos on again. The engine instruments surged to 25 per cent more power, but the air speed indicator was dropping. The plane was shaking again. Suddenly it grew violent, heaving and throwing them with a clapping of metal.

Corkille snapped the turbos off a second time, drops of perspiration on his brow, and got the ship steadied. He looked around quickly. “See about the tail.”

A mechanic ran aft. The disturbed air flow had whipped it mightily but it was still intact. Corkille got back on the field as fast as he could. He was shaking when he climbed out and told Ed Wells, “We’ll not try that again. Not me.”

   
The 13 production Boeing YB-17s had impressive performance but the Army wanted more altitude.

The blow came at a critical time. They had been planning to put the turbos on the B-17Bs under the contract for these planes that had recently been increased from thirteen to thirty-nine planes.

“We can’t jeopardize our delivery schedule on the B,” Egtvedt said. “If the turbo won’t work we’d better give it up.”

Captain Bill Irvine, not the type to let go, drew on a cigar and blew the smoke at the ceiling. “I think we can make it work,” he said.

“The contract allowed $75,000; we’ve already spent $100,000 on it. How much farther can we go?” Egtvedt was beginning to weary of the battle against the costs of big-plane unknowns. It looked now as if the Clippers, too, would come out at a loss.

Irvine reported to Wright Field that things didn’t look good for the turbos. But Oliver Echols, who had started the project, was far enough away to miss seeing the obstacles. “I want it done,” said Echols.

Bill Irvine went to Wells and Charlie Morris.

“They won’t work on top of the nacelles,” said Morris. “I guess that’s proved. And we can’t put them on the bottom.”

“Can’t we?” asked Wells. “We haven’t proved that yet.” He was studying the NACA wind-tunnel results.

“What about the landing gear and the fire hazard?” Morris asked.

Irvine took a calloused view. “The fuel isn’t going to leak down there. If we have the wing vented, any fuel that leaks will go out the trailing edge.”

Morris brightened. “Well, I guess we could get the pipes around the landing gear. It’s mostly a structural problem.”

In a few weeks, Morris came up with a design; Oliver Echols dug up some more money and another start was made on the B-17A.

If supercharging the engines was a problem to Wells, now assistant chief engineer in charge of military projects, so was supercharging the cabin of the Stratoliner transport to Wellwood Beall, assistant chief engineer in charge of commercial projects.

Cabin pressurization up to now was only an idea, not a reality. The Air Corps had experimented with it in the Lockheed XC-35, sealing the pilot’s compartment and ramming in air, but there was no provision for constant ventilation and pressure regulation.

A transport would have to be comfortable for passengers. It would require a combination of pressurization and air conditioning. Altitude conditioning.

Beall gave the job to Nate Price, who’d been working out the heating system for the Model 314 flying boats. There were months of experimenting, with a fifty-gallon oil drum for a “pressure cabin” and a motor-driven blower to supercharge it.

Jim Cooper and other engineers helped. The result was a device that would automatically maintain the proper differential between outside and inside air pressure.

Beall took it to the patent attorney. “In a few years this ought to be in every airplane in the country,” he said.

Beall’s other commercial project, the Pan American Clipper, was approaching the zero hour for the first launching in late May 1938. Most of the 50,000 parts were now in it.

   
Boeing Model 314.

Factory Manager Fred Laudan, quick-stepping, quick-talking, was all over the plant and in and out of project engineer Ed Duff’s office to see about final changes. Laudan, meticulous but pleasant about it, had lost his last spare hair about the same time as the last piece of scaffolding came off the hull.

Now carpenters were cutting away the whole back side of the assembly building so the hull could be dollied out to a newly built dock, where high derricks could attach its wings.

Out there it looked for the first time like an airplane, a tremendous flying boat. ’Atlantic Clipper,’ Pan American Airways had named it.

A national radio network had its microphone set up on the dock when the day came for the launching, May 31. Tide tables set an insistent deadline of 5 P.M. for the ship to hit the water so there would be ample depth to get out through the shallows and link up to a barge for the trip down the river, under the Spokane Street drawbridge and into the bay.

Lowering it into the water would be a delicate operation. When the hour struck, the ship began to move and the radio men were on the air:

“This mighty triumph of American enterprise, this great Flying Clipper ship that will span the Atlantic and the Pacific carrying the flag of the United States to world supremacy in the air, is being lowered majestically into the water here at the plant of Boeing Airplane Company in Seattle.”

The announcer spotted Laudan coming by. “The vice president and factory manager of this plant, Mr. Fred P. Laudan, is directing the operation. We are going to ask him to say a few words to our nationwide radio audience.”

An assistant grabbed Laudan’s arm and coaxed him to the microphone. “Mr. Laudan, what does this occasion mean to you?”

The harried Laudan spared one glance from his ship. “Me? It means just one great big headache.”

Newspapermen from the East arrived for the flight. Jim Piersol, ’The New York Times’ reporter and something of an aeronautical engineer, wore a skeptic’s scowl.

“The tail is too small for all that airplane,” Piersol said.

“Quit worrying,” said Wellwood Beall. “It’s been tested. It’s based on the B-15 and that’s doing all right.”

Wednesday afternoon, June 1, the ship was towed to a buoy off Duwamish Head. She rode regally past Port of Seattle piers. A Pan American tender launch and three Coast Guard picket boats followed, carrying press and officials.

The engines would be run up first, with the ship tied to the buoy, then they’d do some taxiing.

Eddie Allen revved up the four 1,200 horsepower Wright Cyclones with a roar that roused the hillside and sent up great tails of spray. After a time the fourteen-foot propellers were stilled and Eddie leaned out the high window of the control cabin. His small shoulders and intent, sensitive face looked tiny above the big hull.

“Going to taxi?” someone asked from the press boat. Eddie shook his head. They had to change the fifty-six spark plugs.

Thursday Eddie taxied easily about the bay. Cars lined the hillside streets. Afterward the press wanted to know when he’d fly.

“Just possibly tomorrow,” said Eddie. “We have a thousand controls and each of them has to be adjusted two or three times before we go up.”

It was 3:30 Friday when the ’Atlantic Clipper’ struck out for the open water of Puget Sound. The picket boats were trailing hawklike. The Clipper was way ahead now, pushing out past Alki Point, where the first white settlers of Seattle climbed wooded shores eighty-seven years ago.

   
Boeing 314 taxiing.

There was a fresh wind sweeping down from the Straits of Juan de Fuca and the water was choppy. Eddie seemed to be having difficulty. The ship rocked when he slowed it down, as though in delicate balance.

“Keep as close to him as you can,” Beall coached his Coast Guard skipper. They had to allow a good deal of open water between them for safety’s sake.

Eddie swung around into the lee of Magnolia Bluff. He slacked speed and felt his way back toward the city before a following wind. The right wing was low.

“Guess they aren’t quite used to it,” Beall said to André Priester of Pan American.

“Seas are tricky,” said Priester.

Eddie started a turn to starboard, toward the mooring. Beall saw the right wing coming down. He stiffened. It was still coming down.

“Do something, Eddie!” The wing tip hit the water, started sinking, the left wing pointing high to the sky.

“Get over there. Come in behind,” Beall shouted to the picket boat pilot.

The wing tip seemed to be digging in and taking the ship with it. The right outboard engine was nearly down to the water. Eddie was gunning the right engines full out and had the tail hard over. They couldn’t bring the picket boat very close.

Then, slowly, the wing began to come up. Now it was in the clear; the ship swinging around the other way. “It’s going on over,” Beall shouted. The roll didn’t stop at center; the left wing was going low.

Eddie cut the engines dead. A man crawled out the navigator’s turret on top, with life jacket. Then another, and another. They were crawling up the high wing, out toward the tip. Their weight brought it down into balance against the wind. It stayed level.

Beall heaved a great sigh and got over to the Clipper. The crew threw a sea anchor out to hold it until they could get a tow. Beall turned to Priester. “I’m glad we put watertight flotation compartments in the wing tips. They may have saved her.”

By dark they got the ship back to the barge.

“Not seaworthy?” asked reporter Piersol. . . .

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