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This Month in Aviation History

Aircraft of the Month for January 2001

Convair R3Y Tradewind

by Alex Stoll

After World War II, the Navy realized that increased performance could be attained on a flying boat that took advantage of turboprop engines and a thin-high-lift wing. Convair developed the Model 117, which had a high wing, four turboprops, and six-blade contra-rotatin propellers, for the Navy. On 27 May 1946 contract was awarded for two prototypes of Convair's proposal, which were powered by four turboprops and were designated XP5Y-1. This aircraft had an unusually thin fuselage, with a length-to-beam ratio of ten to one, and fixed stabilizing floats. Power was supplied by four Allison T40-A4 turboprops, each driving two contra-rotating propellers through a common gearbox and producing 3,806 kW (5,100 shp) and 830 lbs of jet thrust. The main role was ASW, and if it had entered service it would have been fitted with advanced radar, ECM, and MAD equipment. It could carry 3629 kg (8000 lbs) of bombs, mines, rockets, and torpedoes. It also had five pairs of 20mm guns (two on each side, fore and aft, and one behind the rudder). On 18 April 1950, after a couple months' delay due to problems with the engines, the aircraft made its first flight from San Diego, and it set a turboprop endurance record of eight hours and six minuites in August. The range was 5521 km (3450 mi) without weapons. Also in August, the USN decided to terminate development of the XP5Y-1 for maritime patrol but continue development of the basic design for use as a cargo and passenger aircraft. One of the two XP5Y-1s crashed off San Diego on 15 July 1953, but fortunately no one was killed. The suspected cause was engine failure.

The R3Y-1
The first of five R3Y-1 Tradewind made its first flight on 25 February 1954. All armament and tailplane dihedral were deleted, a 3.05m (10ft) wide port-side cargo hatch aft of the wing was added, and the engine nacelles were redesigned to accept T40-A-10 engines. Air conditioning and cabin sound proofing were installed. Pressurized accomodation prodiveded for up to 103 passengers or 72 stretcher cases and twelve attendants in medevac congfiguration. The maximum cargo payload was 24.4 tonnes (24 tons).

The R3Y-2
Six R3Y-2 assault transports were build. These featured a hinged upward-opening nose section, providing an entrance 2.03 m (6 ft 8 in) high and 2.54 m (8 ft 4 in) wide through which men and equipment could be landed directly on the beach using the built-in ramp. The first flight was on 22 December 1954. In September 1956, a tanker-equipped R3Y-2 set a record by simultaneously refueling four Grumman F9F-8 Cougars.

On 24 February 1955, one of the five R3Y-1s set a record which still stands by flying coast-to-coast with an average speed of 639 km/h (403 mph) during delivery to the Navy Test Center at Patuxent River, Maryland, taking advantage of the jetstream. On 18 October, a 6-hour 45-minute record flight was flown between Honolulu and NAS Alameda, California, at an average speed of 579 km/h (360 mph). The US Navy squadron VR-2 received the first of its mixed fleet of R3Y-1 and R3Y-2 Tradewinds on 31 March 1956.

Financial constrictions and continuin problems with the engine/propeller combination, which resulted in two in-flight separations of propellers and gearbox from an engine (on 10 May 1957 and 2 January 1958) led to the eventual early retirement of the R3Y. VR-2 was cut to two R3Y-1s and two R3Y-2s, and on 16 April 1958 the unit was disbanded. The aircraft were sold for scrap.

Convair R3Y-1 Specifications
TypeHeavy transport flying boat
PowerplantFour 4362 kW (5850 shp) Allison T40-A-10 turboprops
Max speed624 km/h (388 mph) at 9144 m (30,000 ft)
Max speed at sea level598 km/h (372 mph)
Cruise speed483 km/h (300 mph)
Service ceiling12,100m (39,700 ft)
Maximum range6437km (4000 mi)
Wingspan44.42 m (145 ft 9 in)
Length42.57 m (139 ft 8 in)
Height13.67m (44 ft 10 in)
Wing area640 m² (2102 sq ft)

This Month in Aviation History
(Bold indicates anniversaries of multiples of five)
4 Jan 1936 - First flight of the SB2U
4 Jan 1996 - First flight of the Comanche
5 Jan 1954 - First flight of the MiG-19
5 Jan 1959 - The Rotodyne set a speed record of 190.46 mph in the convertiplane class
9 Jan 1941 - First flight of the Lancaster
9 Jan 1976 - The F-15 enters service at Langley AFB
10 Jan 1990 - First flight of the MD-11
12 Jan 1999 - The MiG 1.44 is unveiled
13 Jan 1960 - First flight of the CL-41
15 Jan 1957 - First flight of the production Javelin F(AW).6
17 Jan 1963 - First flight of the Shorts SC.7 Series 1 prototype
17 Jan 1970 - First flight of the T-6-2IG
19 Jan 1950 - First flight of the first of two YF-94Cs
19 Jan 1991 - First flight of the second X-31
20 Jan 1958 - First flight of the pre-production XP6M-1
20 Jan 1974 - First flight of the YF-16
21 Jan 1972 - First flight of the YS-3A
26 Jan 1954 - First flight of the Nord Gerfaut
17 Jan 1966 - First flight of the J-7
17 Jan 1995 - IOC of the C-17
17 Jan 1998 - Israel's first F-15I is delivered
17 Jan 2000 - The first MV-22B is delivered to the USMC
17 Jan 2000 - First flight of the CH-60S
19 Jan 1956 - First flight of the Supermarine Type 544 (Schimitar) prototype
21 Jan 1972 - First flight of the first YS-3A
21 Jan 1991 - First flight of the CT-4C Airtrainer
24 Jan 1951 - The X-4 makes its fastest flight, to over Mach 0.92

24 Jan 1975 - First flight of the Dauphin 2
24 Jan 2000 - The S-37 is flown supersonically for the first time
25 Jan 1983 - First flight of the first SF340 prototype
27 Jan 1939 - The P-38 prototype makes its first flight
29 Jan 1977 - First flight of the J-22/IAR-92 two-seater
31 Jan 1958 - First flight of the first T2J-1 (T-2)
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