The Do-Everything Bomber
With its bid to replace the Convair B-36 bomber, did Douglas promise too much?
- By John Aldaz and Sir George Cox
- Air & Space magazine, January 2010
(Page 2 of 2)
By including so many options, the Model 1211-J's designers tried to make the bomber a paragon of multi-tasking self-sufficiency. They had hoped to sell the Air Force not just a single bomber but a family of aircraft, with a variety of airframes to choose from, including custom options and mission-specific add-ons. But would asking so much of the 1211-J compromise its ability to do its main job: put bombs on target? "I've always been a minimalist in aircraft design," says aerospace historian and author Dick Hallion. "When you take a look at this Douglas design, there's a lot of frou-frou. There are a lot of things here that wouldn't work out well operationally. There are a lot of issues that make turboprops unreliable: gearbox issues, shafting issues, the propellers themselves. These are all complex problems that need to be worked out." And even if Douglas engineers could have solved the 1211-J's problems, the bomber's fussy design would have made it a maintenance nightmare.
The Douglas designers of course hoped to dazzle the Air Force with possibility, but no matter how much versatility they put into the 1211-J, it wasn't enough to interest LeMay, who kept pushing for the more practical, turbojet-powered B-52. In the spring of 1951, Air Force chief of staff General Hoyt Vandenberg approved the Boeing proposal. Given the stupendous—and ongoing—career of the B-52, this was certainly a wise decision.
John Aldaz and Sir George Cox have collected hundreds of original aircraft manufacturer models.