|FIRST CROSS-COUNTRY FLIGHT OF
PACKARD DIESEL POWERED
STINSON "DETROITER", X7654, 1929
|Packard diesel-powered Stinson "Detroiter", 1929|
Packard Craft on Trip to Langley Field Is Hailed by Technical Experts as Greatest Step Since War
Fuel Cost is $4.68: Engine is Guarded
Touch of Button Starts Drastic New Crude Oil Type; Radio Is Effective
By Francis D. Walton
A Staff Correspondent
LANGLEY FIELD, Va., May 14.---Technical leaders in American aviation gathered here today from all parts of the country for the fourth annual meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, the government technical agency for the study of unsolved aviation problems which was founded by President Wilson. They came to hear the report of the Advisory Committee on the problems disposed of during the last year and to renew conferences regarding the elimination of gasoline internal combustion engines from aviation.
While these flying experts were gathering, a plane flew here last night on a non-stop flight from Detroit. Today, while the technicians conferred and asked each other what the chances were for having some time in the next ten years a satisfactory Diesel type motor for airplanes, an answer to their problem remained in the visiting ships hangar, padlocked with heavy steel chains.
Under the chains and under the double padlocks which held a tarpaulin over the motor which powered the Detroit plane was conceded to be the answer to one of the really outstanding problems of aeronautics since the war.
The motor, which uses crude petroleum as fuel, and the plane are owned by the airplane division of the Packard Motor Company. The gesture in bringing the revolutionary type of engine into the meeting place of all of their rivals was accepted as being a beau geste by Packard officials in answer to much criticism from the aircraft industry in general that the claims of the Packard company were unfounded.
The "mystery motor" was uncovered late in the afternoon by L. M. Woolson, its designer, to a small group composed of two newspaper correspondents, three flyers and the aircraft engineer. To all outward appearances the motor appeared to measure up in all particulars to the claim of the Packard engineers.
The nnon-stop Detriot flight on Monday night appeared as an effective answer to doubts which had been raised regarding the feasibility of the Detroit motor. It was the first long distance cross-country flight which ever had been made with a Diesel type airplane motor. The performance in this flight was sufficient to indicate to the laymanits revolutionary nature.
First the plane made the flight on ordinary domestic furnace oil. It accomplished the trip at an average speed of eighty-five miles an hour, through adverse weather. The airline distance is 560 miles, but the plane, in fighting its way around and through rainstorms, traveled approximately 650 miles. The cost of the fuel for the flight was $4.68. The cost of high test aviation gasoline such as that used by all of the other hundred-odd planes which were flown here for the technical meeting, for a flight from Detroit, wouild have been approximately $24.
Developement of the Diesel engine for use in ocean liners was the cause of a sensational revolution in marine propulsion. The same advantage is now claimed for the Diesel engine in aircraft. In addition to low fuel cost, the fire hazard is eliminated. Also, radio can be operated for the first time in an airplane without the ordinary interference which develops through the use of electric ignition systems on gasoline aircraft engines.
Captain Woolson, who made the flight here from Detroit with Walter Lees, said that the radio interference problem was completely solved.
The plane is equipped with radio apparatus and has the radio call sign W8XC.
"The radio reception while flying," said Captain Woolson, "is every bit as good as if you were listening to the finest set in the quiet of your drawing room."
Secrecy which Packard officials have thrown about their motor is said to have been motivated purely by economic reasons. "There is no patent obtainable on a Diesel motor which will serve in airplanes. In order to capitalize their solution of the problem, the Packard officials had to make plans for standard production many months ago. A modern factory, with approximately 300,000 square feet of floor area, is now completion in Detroit. Their plant, it is said, will be used exclusively for the Packard aircraft Diesel engine. The date for the start of production work has not been set.
Captain Woolson was without authority to show the motor when he arrived here last night. It was pursuant of strict orders received from his home office that the literally locked up the engine with chain and padlocks when he landed. Because of the secret which, it has been known, he has been carrying for the last year, the presence of Captain Woolson caused much interest. Correespondents besieged him for some report of his work. Late in the afternoon hje received telegraphic permission to show the motor to the correspondents. None of the rivals of Packard in the aircraft field was to be permitted at the showing.
With no small amount of ceremony, padlocks were loosened and the tarpaulin taken off. The motor resembles the ordinary air-cooled gasoline motor in general appearance. The frontal area of resistance is somewhat less than the gasoline type. It is a nine-cylinder single-valve type.
One of the great problems in the construction of a Diesel airplane engine has been the reduction of the engine's weight. Ordinary Diesel engines are of enormous weight. According to Captain Woolson, the Packard design weighs less than three pounds a horse-power, which compares favorably with radial air-cooled gasoline engines.
Another of the more interesting difficulties reported to have been solved by Captain Woolson and his aids was the manner in which the Diesel engine, which requires great pressure to start, was actually started.
At a signal from Captain Woolson, a man seated in the cockpit of the plane pushed a button. Instantly there was an enormous explosion, indicating that the engine was firing and was ready to start.
"Could anything be simpler?" Woolson asked.
"It seems to me," said Major Thomas G. Lanphier, former commander of the 1st. Pursuit group and one of the three flyers permitted to see the motor, "that you used gunpowder or guncotton to kick it over."
Captain Woolson only smiled as he answered: "You will leave us with our mystery, will you not?"
Among the many aviation men who came here for today's conference and the annual inspection of the advisory committee laboratories were Orville Wright, Charles Lanier Lawrence, president of the Wright Aeronautical Corporation; Admiral WIlliam A. Moffett, chief of the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics; William P. McCracken, Assistant Secretary of Commerce in charge of aeronautics; and David M. Ingalls, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Aeronautics.
Packard Stock Rises 16 1/2 Points
Packard Motor stock was the outstanding feature in yesterday's trading on the New York Exchange. After opening at 129 1/2, it dropped to 128 1/2. Here wild buying set in on favorable reports connected with its new Diesel type airplane engine, and it scored a rapid additional advance.