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The B-26

Discussion in 'Air War in Western Europe 1939 - 1945' started by denny, Dec 11, 2013.

  1. KJ Jr

    KJ Jr Well-Known Member

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    They were pumping out new aircraft on a consistent basis. Think of just the B class bombers and updates in technology throughout the war. The speed in which these aircraft were constructed and screened was in haste
     
  2. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    The US AAC statistical digest tells an interesting story. In summary: Just flying WW2 aircraft was a dangerous activity,. The enemy was only 3 or 4 times as likely to kill you as your own aircraft!. B26s suffered fatal accidents at twice the rate on the B26 as with the B25 and four times as often than on the B17. However, the B26 was far from being the most lethal combat aircraft in which to train. The A20 had fatal accidents nearly twice as often as the B26 and the P39 nearly three times as often.

    Comparing casualties in the USA and on Combat gives an indication of how dangerous it was simply to fly Ww2 aircraft. The US lost a total of 35,933 aircraft from combat and accidents overseas in all theatres http://www.usaaf.net/digest/t100.htm The USAAF suffered 121,867 battle casualties, broken down as 40,061 dead, 18,238, wounded and 63,568 missing or PW http://www.usaaf.net/digest/t34.htm The figures from the office of flight safety show that there was a total of 52,651 accidents involving USAAF Aircraft Accidents in Continental US of which 6,039
    were fatal resulting in 14,903 [SIZE=11.818181991577148px]fatalities [/SIZE]http://www.usaaf.net/digest/t213.htm [SIZE=11.818181991577148px]So the fatalities in battle were less than three times as great as the fatalities in the Continental USA. One on four of the USAAF aircrew who died in WW2 on operations or in battle died in an accident in the USA . That is a very sobering statistic. [/SIZE]The actual proportion of deaths through flying accidents may be even higher. The battle casualty figures include aircrew who died from falying accidents on operations as well as from enemy action.

    It is possible to calculate the most dangerous aircraft to fly. Table 214 shows Airplane Accidents in Continental US, By Principal Model of Airplane by Number and Rate:1942 to 1945 (Rates are per 100,000 flying hours.)http://www.usaaf.net/digest/t214.htm There were 736 B26 accidents (55/100k hours) of which 223 were fatal for 993 men, compared to 1,589 B17 accidents (30/100k hours) of which 284 were fatal for 1,757 aircrew..30% of B26 accidents were fatal, compared with 17.87% fort the B17. So the accident rate in training for the B26 was just under twice as high as for the B17 and any accident just under twice as likely to be fatal!

    The accident rate by year shows that the safety record of the B26 aircraft improved. The rate in 1942 was 162/100khrs falling to 31 in 1945. This firs with the tale of teething problems.and a training programme to tackle the accident rate. The accident rate for 1945 is a fraction of that for 1942. Comparing the B26 with other twin engined aircraft, the loss rate (55/100khrs) was 50% higher than for the B25 (33/100khrs) but a lot lower than for the A20, which had an accident rate of 131/100khrs , four times greater than the B25 and over twice as high as the B26. Looking at this another way, the B26 would have a "fatal accident rate, per 100,000hours " of 55 x 223/739 = 17, compared to 8 for the B25 and 5 for the B17, but 30 for the A20 - which looks like a much better candidate for the "widow maker" label.. .

    The loss rate for the single seat fighter aircraft is much much higher. 455 men died training on the P47, which had a loss rate of 127 per 100k hrs. The may reflect the obvious ability of a multi-engined aircraft to land after an engine failure. (Between 18%-30% of accidents in multi engined aircraft were fatal, compared to 9-19% of single engined aircraft. The single seat fighter numbers casualty rates show some interesting numbers. The P40, ,P47 and P51 all have a fatal casualty rate of 17. The fatal accident rates for the A 36 @ 29 & P38 @ 33 were just under twice as high, while the P39 is in a class of its own witha fatal accident rate of 46, 50% higher even than the A20!.

    I suspect the figures for German aircraft would be even worse..
     
  3. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member

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    If one can find a set of drawings or photographs. or a model, look directly down from above, what my lot calls "plan view" Compare to a B25 or most other bombers. The B 26, and one can include the B 24, has a high aspect ration wing, simply put they are long and narrow , skinny if you wish. It is a more efficient and faster wing but conversely not as easy to change direction while remaining stable. Compare to the sails and keels on an America's Cup defender , the new boats are very high aspect , older boats are low aspect ratio. On early sail boats the keel was far longer than deep=lots of drag. Wings produce drag as surfaces do but high aspect wings slice air easier. Of course the specific design of the wing considers not only aspect but exact shape, contour, laminar flow around the wing plus thousands of other factors.

    The B 17 and 25 are praised as easy to fly but neither could turn the speed on the slightly later planes. BTW look at a B 17 from above.......wide low aspect wings. The B 26 required more attention to fly and land, but once mastered was a terrific plane.

    I , too, find it odd that there are two B 26's even though the alphabetic names differ.

    Gaines
     
  4. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    I'll just throw in a couple of penn'orth......I've always thought the story of the B-26 to be rather overlooked and it's role in the NW Europe campaign to be under-rated. I don't think it's too fanciful to say that it shared something with the Mosquito - ie, great aircraft in the hands of a good pilot. But flown by an average- to-middling pilot it could be very unforgiving indeed.
     
  5. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    I am not sure I'd go that far. The mosquito was one of the most versatile aircraft of WW2 As a bomber it was faster than most German fighters and almost uniquely relied on speed and stealth for success. With radar it was one of the best night fighters of the war. It was a very good fighter bomber and maritime strike aircraft as well as a platform for rockets, torpedoes and an automatic 57mm cannon as well as the basis for the highball bouncing bomb and tested for deck landings.. The only comparable WW2 aircraft in terms of versatility was the German Ju88.

    The nearest US equivalent is the B25, which was used as both a medium bomber and a maritime strike aircraft, and famously a carrier m,launched bomber. . The B26 was a good aircraft, once they learned how to avoid accidents but was largely used in the same role as the B25, i.e. as a medium bomber in the tactical air forces..
     
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  6. mike471

    mike471 New Member

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    i think what he meant was not problems with the planes but that the pilots were being trained very quickly, probably because they were pumping out new aircraft so quickly.
     
  7. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    I think the problem was in training, for aircrew and maintenance staff. Look at how the accident rate fell during the war.

    Incidentally the unit cost of the B26 seems to have cost C 25-33% more than the B25 and little less than the B17. http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/AAF/StatDigest/aafsd-3.html#t82
    Not merely more dangerous, but worse value!
     
  8. KJ Jr

    KJ Jr Well-Known Member

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    Basically! My comment, unfortunately made on my phone at work so I couldn't go into specifics, was in relation to the upgrades in technology and war production. All of the B class bombers were consistently updated throughout the war. As the war raged on, Army Air Corps brass sought those modifications, as the aircraft being flight tested in battle conditions showed weaknesses and improvements that needed to be made to better equip the aircraft and crew to conquer set objectives (and save it from non-combat accidents such as landing, which was awful in the B-26). It was trial by fire. It was an excellent aircraft, but as the B-26 mods kept increasing (changes to improve aerodynamics, wing size, armament, structural changes, larger stabilizer and rudder) pilots had to adjust. Many crews did not see extensive flight time, which resulted in non-combat and combat mistakes resulting in losses of aircraft and personnel. During the war, aircraft and vehicles were tested on the battlefield and accidents were bound to happen. Nevertheless, time was of the essence, and increased speed in production was inescapable.
     
  9. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    German losses make for an interesting comparison. Williamson Murray in Strategy for defeat has some tables listing losses due to combat v other causes for each six month period from May 1940-Jun 1944.

    Between May-Dec 1940, covering the West front and Battle of Britain the Germans lost 2500 aircraft in combat (60%) and 1000 (40%) for non combat reasons. Jan-Jun 1944 6000 (63%) in combat and 3600 (37%) non combat.

    Between Sep 1939-Sep 42 German pilots received 250 hours training, C.160 hours in operational aircraft. By Jan-June 1944 this had dropped to 180 hours, C 150 hours in operational aircraft after c 30 hours in a trainer. By contrast the USAAF pilot training increased from C 260 hours to 400 hours, an increasing proportion of which was spent on specialist trainers, from 100 to 180 hours..
     
  10. KJ Jr

    KJ Jr Well-Known Member

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    Wow, interesting stats. How many of those hours were spent in operational aircraft for the Allies?
     
  11. Poppy

    Poppy grasshopper

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    "[SIZE=11.818181991577148px]One on four of the USAAF aircrew who died in WW2 on operations or in battle died in an accident in the USA ." 25% of all ASAAF casualties were accidents in the US? That is fairly shocking.[/SIZE]
     
  12. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    My point has been missed entirely. I didn't say that the Mosquito was the same as the B-26 - I said that they shared something in common. Even the Mosquito's greatest advocate wouldn't say that the aircraft was easy to fly or forgiving of a relatively mediocre pilot........
     
  13. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    The short answer, taken from the graphs in Willaimson is.....
    Between Oct 42- June 43 US pilots 100 hours on trainers & 150 hrs operational types from July 1944 C190 hrs trainers and 210 hrs operational types.RAF 1939-42 <50 hrs trainers & 150 hrs operational types rising to 100 hrs trainers 250 hrs operational types


    The longer answer for the USAAF is here http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/AAF/VI/AAF-VI-17.html

    It is interesting how taking part in a forum discussion can develop thinking. At the start of the thread I had the impression that the B26 was a maligned aircraft, which had an unfairly bad reputation. Having been prompted to do a bit of research I find myself concluding that the B26 aircraft was inferior to the B25 in the following ways.

    1. The aircraft were roughly comparable in performance. They were interchangeable in their main role as a medium bomber and the B25 was a decent "attack aircraft" and the only bomber in the US inventory which could have launched the doolittle raid. Yes there is the claim that the 26 suffered lower operational loss rates than any other US bomber BUT operational losses are skewed by other factors. The B26 was later into service than the B25 against a weaker enemy and when there were more allied aircraft. The B26s were eventually concentrated in Europe under the Ninth airforce, operating relatively short ranged missions against tactical targets under escort, unlike the heavy bombers which were the main focus of the German air defences. There is no significant feature of the B26 which made it more survivable than a B25 on a comparable mission.

    2. The B26 was more expensive to build..

    3. Its accidental loss rate was 50% higher than the B25, making it more expensive to run and at a higher cost in the lives of aircrew, and needing an extensive PR campaign to persuade the public (and the aircrew) that the aircraft was safe to fly.

    4. The verdict of history. According to their wikipedia entries there are dozens of airworthy B25s. There is only one B26 listed as "airworthy" but it hasn't been flown for a while.

    If you were sourcing aircraft against a budget you would never buy B26 if you could buy B25s. If the air force had a choice to reverse history the logical decision would to have been to buy more B25s and cancel the B26 orders. This is the commercial verdict as well. I am sure that the B26 veterans had an affection for the aircraft, but that may just be that part of human nature that allows us to endure relationships with people and things which we cannot change.
     
  14. KJ Jr

    KJ Jr Well-Known Member

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    It is a shocking statistic, but based on research it was clearly a hazard that the USAAF accepted. Especially with the war escalating as it did and the need for improved aircraft proved crucial.
     
  15. Greg Boeser

    Greg Boeser New Member

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    B-26s and B-25s entered service at roughly the same time. More B-26s were in service at the beginning of 1942 than B-25s. Consequently, the majority of first build B-26s went to fight the Japanese. Not surprisingly, they suffered more from operational losses than combat. Both types made their combat debuts on 6 April 1942 flying attacks from Port Moresby against the Japanese in New Britain. The early "straight" B-26 had the range to go to Rabaul, but the early B-25C could not, hitting Gasmata on the south coast instead.
     

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