Oct 122011

In our latest article in a series on the Bell D188A (a.k.a. XF-109 / XF3L) supersonic VTOL fighter of the late 1950s, we present a Mock-Up Summary Report from January 1958. The first portion of the introduction to the report is reproduced below.

The configuration inspection of the Bell D188A VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) Aircraft took place at the Bell Aircraft Corporation’s Wheatfield Facilities January 7 and 8, 1958. This inspection of the work performed on Contract No. NOas 57-836-c was conducted at the invitation of the Navy by representatives of the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marines.

The purpose of the configuration inspection was to assess the usefulness of the aircraft to Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine service employment by a review of a full-scale preliminary mock-up of the D188A VTOL aircraft and the contractor’s oral presentation of the D188’s performance capabilities and plans for development and production.

Major emphasis was placed upon broad considerations of usability from the standpoints of over-all performance and logistics, with examination of system and component designs as to general feasibility.

The mock-up consisted of a full-scale representation of the fuselage, tail, left wing, left nacelle, and the landing gear. The cockpit area was complete to the extent that a seat, pilot’s head rest, rudder pedals, stick, throttle controls, and simulated instruments were installed. The canopy was manually operated from closed to open position.

The missile bay area (armament) was complete to the degree of showing the rotation of the missile bay door. The mocked up Sidewinder missiles were mounted to a door which was manually operable to both the firing and stowed positions.

The forward engine compartment was so arranged as to show the air intake door, which was manually movable; and the fuselage side and bottom panels, which were removable to show engine accessibility and installation. A mock-up J85 engine was installed in the forward fuselage. The aft engine area was so arranged that the mock-up J85 engine could be used to demonstrate the method of installation. The engine was inserted through the main gear door, and the afterburner was installed through the aft end of the airplane. The engine air inlet for VTOL landing and take-off was simulated. The forward flight inlet was complete, including the wedge and boundary air bypass.

The nacelle was mocked up to show a complete J85 engine installed. The upper and lower cowl halves were removable as well as the rear of the nacelle. The forward inlet wedge and its manner of translation was also shown. The nacelle was rotatable to both vertical and horizontal positions.

With removal of the fixed gear, both front and rear, the landing gear doors were manually operable. The horizontal stabilizer and dorsal fin were so mounted as to be rotatable through their total travel by manual operation. Provisions for access were demonstrated by outline of all access door locations. Insignia and markings were applied to the outside of the mock-up.

To read the report in depth, please click through the gallery above, which also features numerous high resolution photos of the mock-up. A packet of glossy photographic prints accompanied the original report, many of which were identical to those featured in the document. Where possible, scans of these prints have been substituted for the image plates in the report, as they are of higher quality. The gallery also features a few photographs which were not in the original mock-up summary; these can be identified by the lack of a “Figure No.” at the beginning of the caption. The photos document two different states of the mock up — one prior to the application of maintenance stencils and one after. As can be seen, the Bell D188A would have been a handsome and unconventional aircraft had it reached the hardware stage.

All images from NARA Archives II, College Park, MD, RG 72

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