How a Biplane Torpedo Bomber Fell Victim to Technology


Through the Twenties, the navies of Britain, the USA and Japan constructed a sequence of quickly improved plane carriers. On the identical time, nevertheless, improvement of the warplanes they carried was restricted by the important require­ment to alight from and subsequently land on a heaving flight deck at sea. Consequently, service plane have been virtually invariably biplanes with the added weight of tail hooks and different modifications required for deck landings. Given these components, the naval powers resigned themselves to fielding automobile­rier planes that have been inferior to their land-based counterparts. 

Through the Thirties, nevertheless, the supply of extra highly effective engines inspired the navies to embark on a dramatic effort to modernize their gear. Amid that common pattern, in 1934 the U.S. Navy held a contest to provide an up-to-date torpedo bomber. One of many contenders mirrored the transitional nature of the years main as much as World Warfare II, though in its case, it represented one refinement too few.

Based in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1928 and shortly handicapped by the Nice Melancholy, the Nice Lakes Plane Company constructed compact civilian two-seat biplanes, one of the best identified of which was the 2T, additionally referred to as the Sport Coach, launched in 1929. When early variations had bother recovering from a flat spin, the corporate revised the higher wing with a slight sweepback that made it the most effective aerobatic planes within the U.S. proper as much as the Nineteen Sixties. Though solely 264 Sport Trainers have been initially constructed, utilizing each inline and radial engines, many are nonetheless stored flying as bona fide air classics. 

Nice lakes sought to compete to be the Navy’s torpedo bomber and match the modest success of the BG-1 dive bomber. (San Diego Air and Area Museum)

When the U.S. Navy issued a specification for a brand new carrier-based dive bomber in 1932, Nice Lakes scored once more with its XBG-1. An open-cockpit biplane examined in mid-1933, it managed to outperform Consolidated Plane’s costlier XB2Y-1 biplane. In November the primary of 60 BG-1s, that includes a glazed cover over each crewmen, entered manufacturing. The Navy operated them from the carriers Ranger and Lexingtontill 1938, however the Marines have been nonetheless working BG-1s in 1940.

By 1936, Nice Lakes was experimenting with a variant designated the XB2G-1, that includes a extra corpulent fuselage accommodating an inside bomb bay and touchdown gear that mechanically retracted into round recesses within the fuselage aspect. It was not accepted for manufacturing, however the sole prototype noticed some service with each the Navy and Marines. Waste not, need not.

Inspired by its dive bomber’s modest success, Nice Lakes was equally recreation to fulfill the Navy’s name for a torpedo bomber in 1934. Its contender, the XTBG-1, was as soon as extra a big biplane that mirrored the newest refinements of the time. Just like the XB2G-1, it had an inside weapons bay, enlarged to accommodate a torpedo, in addition to retractable undercarriage. Essentially the most uncommon characteristic of the prototype XTBG-1, Bu.No. 9723, was an added place for a torpedo aimer in a small enclosed cockpit simply ahead of the higher wing, nicely forward of the pilot and observer-gunner, who sat underneath a two-seat cover much like the BG-1’s. 

Nice Lakes’ XB2G-1 (high left) launched retractable touchdown gear and an inside bomb bay, options carried over to the XTBG-1. (Naval Historical past and Heritage Command)

Powered by an 800-hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-60 Twin Wasp 14-cylinder radial engine, the XTBG-1 had a most velocity of 185 mph, a 15,600-foot ceiling and a gross weight of 9,313 kilos. Moreover its torpedo, the plane would undoubtedly have carried the nose-mounted synchronized machine gun and flexibly mounted rear machine gun that have been customary defensive armament for the time, however neither weapon was fitted to the prototype.

Accomplished in 1935, the XTBG-1 underwent testing at Naval Air Station Anacostia in Washington, D.C., and the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in Hampton, Va., from April 24 to November 26 of that yr. Throughout that point it exhibited stability issues, however a much more basic impediment to acceptance was the competitors: the Douglas XTBD-1, a monoplane whose 900-hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-64 Twin Wasp confirmed simply how quickly the cutting-edge was advancing. Even with an externally mounted torpedo, the XTBD-1 handily outperformed the Nice Lakes biplane in each class, beginning with a high velocity of 206 mph. In distinction to its perspective when it accepted the BG-1 only a yr earlier, the Navy had grow to be much less conservative and extra open to the type of game-changing advances embodied within the Douglas torpedo aircraft, 129 of which might be manufactured because the TBD-1 Devastator. 

The Nice Lakes bomber put the torpedo aimer in a separate cockpit simply behind the engine and over the touchdown gear bay. (U.S. Navy)

When it entered service in 1937, the TBD was unquestionably one of the best torpedo bomber out there to the Navy and arguably one of the best on this planet. That very same yr, nevertheless, noticed the primary flight of Japan’s Nakajima B5N1, destined to outperform it within the early months of World Warfare II within the Pacific. The Navy acknowledged the TBD-1’s obsolescence in 1939 because the final one left the manufacturing line when it held a second torpedo bomber competitors. The winner on that event was the Grumman XTBF-1, which amongst different issues included the inner torpedo bay pioneered by the XTBG-1 together with a three-man crew.

Finally failing extra usually than it succeeded, Nice Lakes Plane lastly succumbed to the Melancholy and went out of enterprise in 1936. In 1963, nevertheless, Harvey Swack of Cleveland, Ohio, purchased the rights to the Sport Coach design and started promoting plans for homebuilders. In 1973 Doug Champlin introduced the aircraft again into manufacturing in Oklahoma. With slight modifications, the essential design has been out and in of manufacturing ever since. John Duncan of Palmer Lake, Colo., purchased the sort certificates in 2000 and introduced in 2006 that the Nice Lakes Plane Firm LLC would resume constructing Sport Trainers as quickly because it acquired 10 orders. However the orders by no means materialized and he offered the certificates to the WACO Plane Company, whose Nice Lakes Division in Battle Creek, Mich., at the moment produces new 2T-1A-2 Sport Trainers and restores previous ones.  

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