Oct 052011

The gallery above reproduces an Army Air Force preliminary test report from November 14, 1944 on the General Airborne Transport XCG-16 cargo glider, a 42-place (including pilot and co-pilot) cargo glider capable of carrying a 10,000 lb useful load. It was a flying wing type with twin booms and a single rudder, incorporating two cargo compartments in the center section of the wing. The cargo compartments were located on each side of the longitudinal axis and passed through the carry-through of the main spar of the wing.

Tests were conducted on the XCG-16 glider from October 16 to 22, 1944 at Clinton County Army Air Field in Wilmington, Ohio by the AAF Board with the cooperation of the Glider Branch, Aircraft Laboratory, Air Technical Service Command, Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio.

From the tests, the AAF Board concluded the following:

  1. The XCG-16 glider was operationally and tactically unsuitable.
  2. For operational purposes, an empty C-47A aircraft with crew and full fuel and oil load, 24,200 lbs gross weight, had only sufficient power to tow the XCG-16 glider loaded up to 17,000 lbs gross weight.
  3. The XCG-16 glider could be towed up to its full gross weight by the C-46A aircraft.
  4. The range of the XCG-16 glider-towplane combination was increased over that of other glider-towplane combinations of similar gross weight because of the aerodynamic cleanness of the XCG-16 glider.
  5. The XCG-16 glider required approximately the same power for takeoff and climb as other gliders with comparable useful loads.
  6. The two small cargo compartments of the XCG-16 glider did not permit the transport of large equipment commensurate with a 10,000 lb airborne tactical load.
  7. A major redesign of the XCG-16 was necessary to make the glider operationally and tactically suitable.

It was recommended that no further consideration be given the XCG-16 glider for tactical use in its existing form.

To read through the evaluation in depth, please click through the image gallery above, which also features many high resolution photos of this innovative but ultimately unsuccessful combat glider. Also, stay tuned for a second post on the XCG-16 which will feature additional images of this rare bird.

All images from NARA Archives II, College Park, MD, RG 341


Project No. 4084G452.1, “Report of the Army Air Forces Board, Orlando, Florida, Subject: Preliminary Report of Operational and Tactical Suitability Test of the XCG-16 Glider” November 2, 1944, in the files of the National Archives II at College Park, MD, RG 341

  5 Responses to “General Airborne Transport XCG-16 Military Transport / Assault Glider (Part 1)”

  1. Idea of use gliders was interesting as well they are silent and excellent platform for clandestine troop delivery but it most cases paratroopers was main operators

  2. The statements in the AAF report are contradictory. It says a C-47A could barely tow the XCG-16 but then says it had a longer range because of its “aerodynamic cleanliness.” If it was so hard to tow, wouldn’t that use up ‘more’ fuel and result in a ‘shorter’ range?

    It says, “The two small cargo compartments of the XCG-16 glider did not permit the transport of large equipment…” Yet, from the pictures, you can see that it could easily fit a jeep and a howitzer and still fit boxes of artilery rounds, extra fuel for the jeep and still some troops around the equipment.

    The report says it took “approximately the same power for takeoff and climb as other gliders with comparable useful loads.” There was no other glider with comperable, useful loads. If it took as much power to get a CG-4A off the ground then it seems that using the same power to get more than twice the cargo or troops into the air was the best deal.

    The XCG-16 carried 40 troops and two pilots. The Waco CG-4A carried only 14/15 troops ‘or’ a single jeep and 3 troops. The CG-4A killed so many troops that some called it “The Canvas Coffin.”

    The XCG-16 surpassed every requirement for a military glider with the added bonus of better control and safety for the lives of the troops it would carry into battle. Seems to me that this is just more ‘military intellegence’ at work or, more than likely, greased palms to get the contract. Guess things never change for getting the large, military contracts.

  3. Mr. Burnelli,

    In reading your comments it appears you are ignoring a few words of the report. The C-47 could tow the glider satisfactorily only up to around 17,000 lb gross weight. The C-46 could tow the glider satisfactorily at the glider gross weight. Thus, only the C-46 or larger tugs could take advantage of the aerodynamic cleanness of the design.

    Transport of large equipment means 6×6 truck, 155 howitzer, not a Jeep or 57mm or 105mm, or trailer.

    YES, there were other gliders with comparable or larger load capacity: CG-13A, Horsa, CG-10A. These gliders were tested at CCAAF before or at same time as the XCG-16. Criz and others involved with the MC-1 and XCG-16, like you, tried to always compare the XCG-16 only to the CG-4A and ignored the larger gliders that were also being built or tested.

    “The CG-4A killed so many troops …” You have read too many novels or generalized, exaggerated statements about the CG-4A glider. Not including glider pilot casualties, 82 AB trooper KIA in the CG-4A for Normandy were .73 of one percent (that is, less than 3/4 of one percent) of 1,363 total men. For Market, the KIA was one tenth of one percent for 5,233 men.

    The XCG-16 test reports do not state it provided better safety for the crew or the occupants, nor did it provide any better control than did the other gliders (and it did not). The crash of the MC-1 illustrated that control or recovery from a spin was not very good. The XCG-16 certainly did not meet or surpass every requirement for a military glider. Matter of fact, it did not begin to meet the requirements for the larger glider designs that generated the XCG-9, XCG-10, XCG-10A, XCG-11, XCG-12 and XCG-13 designs. There could have been some palm greasing to get the original 1,000 article XCG-16 contract, but more likely, it was purely the influence of certain men and their knowledge of how to bypass the AAF for contracting by using the Commerce Department for contracting.

    The C-60 pilot who towed the MC-1 on most, if not all, of its flights including the fatal last flight told me the glider was fun to fly and flew well. Other pilots who flew the glider at CCAAF told me it was a nice glider to fly. That does not mean it surpassed every military requirement or met any military requirements.

    Charles Day

  4. Thank you for your clarifications Mr. Day. I don’t have the aviation background to access all the information that you brought out. Very nice. Sounds like you know of some of this from personal experience. Yes, I read the Canvas Coffin on a questionable site.

    I do have a few more points about the XCG-16A. I thought it was only up against the CG-4A in competition and not the larger gliders you mentioned. Also, the crash of the MC-1 was not from lack of recovery ability. It was from a lack of flight preparation of an experimental plane.

    A ballast load was placed into the MC-1 unsecured. The plane lurched from the prop-wash of the tow plane. This sent the unsecured ballast to a corner of the MC-1 interior. After that severe of a balance shift, no plane could recover. I can’t site where to find this statement right now but you may have alread seen it somewhere.

    Yes, the XCG-16A had issues but most seemed easily overcome and wouldn’t being in competition with larger gliders call for a larger model to compete? If it could carry twice the load of the CG-4A, wouldn’t it out carry a larger glider if it were built to those height and width specs? I mean, you don’t ask a Jeep to compete with the load a 6X6 truck can carry.

    I appreciate your input and knowledge of the subject.

  5. @Burnelli Support,

    Pretty sure the deal breakers on the XCG-16A were 1) the poor lateral vision and zero rear vision and 2) the sole main egress being in the nose combined with the ramp being integral.

    1) Is a problem readily apparent from the in cockpit photos. The pilot can’t see under the plane at all. Compare this to more standard glider configurations where, in the worse case, the pilot could see all around and down over 180 degrees. That was very import to glider pilots who depended on ground visibility far more than other type of aircraft. Correcting that problem would require relocating the cockpit which was not a trivial problem.

    2) It was a standing joke for glider pilots that they didn’t land, they crashed, so crash characteristics were vitally important. Probably half or so of all gliders were wrecked in landing. In the XCG-16A, a crash could jam the front door shut leaving passengers to exit through the small hole in the top (or cut their way through the sides.) Such a crash would leave any non-man-carried equipment stranded inside, at best taking hours to hack out (which sometimes happened to other gliders far less susceptible.)

    In sum, the XCG-16A flew well but it didn’t land well as an assault glider. Since the entire point of an assault glider was to be able to land its passengers and cargo intact and ready to fight on unprepared ground, it didn’t really matter how superior in any facet the glider might have been, it failed on the key points.

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