Book Reviews 4

Westinghouse J46 Axial Turbojet Family
Development History and Technical Profiles

by Paul J. Christiansen

Softbound, 8.5" x 11.0" x 0.7", 286 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0-692764-556
Bleeg Publishing LLC (2016)

Recommended Retail Price: $47.95

77 illustrations, black and white

Reviewed by Kimble D. McCutcheon - 26 Nov 2016

Paul Christiansen continues his excellent series on Westinghouse gas turbines in his latest book, which covers the J46 family. This is an in-depth account of how the Westinghouse Aviation Gas Turbine division attempted to bridge the gap between the U.S. Navy’s ever-changing requirements and the emerging technologies that might have met them.

The J46 was expected to have been a relatively straightforward development of the Westinghouse J34. However, the integration of an afterburner and all-new electronic control system, coupled with the Navy’s predilection for changing requirements and plans to use the J46 in a number of very different airframes, proved to be more than Westinghouse could accomplish within the aggressive schedule. Several aircraft projects that were to have used the J46 were cancelled and the Vought F7U-3, the only J46-powered aircraft to enter production, had a short service life, partially due to engine issues.

Christiansen begins with a review of the J34 program, which produced many developments and improvements that were central to the J46 program. He then describes elements of the J34-WE-22 and -38 that were to have been shared with the XJ46-WE-2 and ultimately covers procurement and development of the XJ46-WE-2 and -4. Three chapters cover XJ46 and J46-WE-8/A/B and -12/A/B development, production and service. Other chapters chronicle J46-WE-18 and XJ46-WE-1, -3, -5 and -7 development, J46 flight testing, and J46 improvement/growth programs. Christiansen’s Analysis and Conclusions chapter reiterates how the Navy’s indecision and focus on superfluous details added to the technical problems both the J46 and F7U-3 programs faced. Appendices provide engine ratings and specifications, operating limits, a (long) list of YJ46-WE-8A field service problems, and a list of surviving J46 examples.

With 925 citations from 204 sources (nearly all primary), this book, like its predecessor, provides valuable insight into early U.S. gas turbine development. Christiansen is hinting that a book on the early Westinghouse engines (19A, 19B, 9.5A, 9.5B, and 19XB2A, which became the J30) is in the works; this I shall anxiously await.

AEHS Members can get Westinghouse J46 Axial Turbojet Family at a 20% discount by using the discount code from the Members’ Bulletin Board. The book is also available from Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Westinghouse J40 Axial Turbojet Family
Development History and Technical Profiles
by Paul J. Christiansen

Softbound, 8.5" x 11.0" x 0.6", 274 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0692358528

Recommended Retail Price: $47.95

125 pictures/diagrams, black and white

Reviewed by Kimble D. McCutcheon - 22 Apr 2015

After WWII, the U.S. Navy identified a requirement for a 7,500 lbT-class turbojet, and requested proposals based on that requirement in 1947. The Westinghouse Advanced Gas Turbine Division (WAGT) proposed an engine whose performance appeared to better the engines proposed by Allison, Pratt & Whitney and Wright Aero; it also was to have the shortest development schedule and lowest program cost. The Navy awarded WAGT a contract on 30 June 1947. WAGT had designed and built the ~1,500 lbT-class J30, which was first U.S. axial flow turbojet. WAGT then scaled up the J30, resulting in the ~3,000 lbT-class J34. Having successfully doubled the thrust once, WAGT reasoned it would be easy to do it again with the J40.

WAGT encountered trouble from the start with the intake, compressor, combustor, turbine, afterburner and engine control system. Weight grew, dimensions changed and components got moved about. WAGT had neither the in-depth engine cycle understanding nor the resources to address the challenges it faced. It had no in-house experimental machine shop, so it had to depend on vendors to supply and rework parts, causing contract overruns and schedule slips.

After the contract was awarded, world events led the Navy to change the J40 requirements over and over again. The acquisition of nuclear weapons by the U.S.S.R., along with the Korean War, led to the need for even more powerful engines, and resulted in the Navy contracting for a number of J40 variants. The WAGT J40 program never produced viable engines, and the aircraft programs that depended on them suffered accordingly. The experience led Westinghouse to exit the aircraft engine market in 1965.

Christiansen describes the procurement, development, specifications and technical details of the J-40-1, -2, -4, -6, -8, -10, -12, -14, -16, -18, -20, -22, -24 and -26 in great detail, with 853 citations from more than 106 different sources, nearly all of which are primary. He charts the operating envelopes for various models and lists the component vendors. He also summarizes the U.S. House of Representative Government Operations Committee hearings that concentrated on McDonnell F3H aircraft that were grounded and undergoing rework or being scrapped because of J40 problems.

Christiansen’s book not only presents a detailed account of the J40, but also illuminates the huge challenges facing all engine manufacturers in those early days of jets.

Greatness and Decline

by Lewis Eltscher and Edward Young

Hardbound, 213 pages.
Available from

Reviewed by Clayton Huben

This is a good book for those who are curious as to how a major US manufacturer of airplanes and engines during WW II came into being and then essentially disappeared in the post war years. The book begins by telling the history of Glen H. Curtiss and the Wright brothers and their early involvement in aviation. During this period they were bitter rivals, and surprisingly, the Wrights became more successful building engines and Curtiss was better known for his airplanes. The fortunes of both companies rose with WW I and then declined as surplus aircraft and engines flooded the market. The aviation industry again began to flourish during the late 1920s and the two companies merged on 27 June 1929. In 1929 6,034 military and commercial aircraft were produced. In October of that year the stock market crashed and it would be 10 years before the production levels of 1929 would again be seen. During the intervening years prior to WW II, Wright Aeronautical Corporation was saved from bankruptcy by its air-cooled radial engines. WW II changed everything and Curtiss-Wright was at its peak of power and prestige in 1943 although its management and engineering was over extended and barely able to keep up with production let alone new development. A series of poor management decisions following WW II led to its ultimate decline. In the words of one former employee, "Curtiss-Wright did five billion dollars worth of business during World War II and never recovered."

The book is primarily concerned with the business and management aspects of the companies. Nevertheless, it does cover the products, both engines and airplanes, in terms of their timing, problems and competitive advantage. For example, the R-3350 played a major role in the ultimate failure of the company. After a troubled history starting with its inception in 1936 and the problems in the B-29 during WW II, it led to C-Ws president R.T. Hurley's arrogant belief that it could compete with turbojets in the post war commercial airline fleets.

There are 16 photographs and nine charts dealing primarily with production and sales. This is a good read for anyone interested in either Curtiss-Wright or the first half century history of the reciprocating engine in the United States.


British Light Aeroplanes
Their Evolution, Development and Perfection

by Arthur Ord-Hume

Hardbound, approx 8" x 10", 656 pages
1,027 photographs, 98 three-view drawings

Reviewed by Richard Kamm

It always comes as a pleasant surprise to find a book that presents a subject in a new and better way. Such a book is British Light Aeroplanes, Their Evolution, Development and Perfection 1920-1940 by Arthur Ord-Hume. This book not only covers the British light airplanes produced between 1920 and 1940, but it also covers the light aircraft engines and small propellers produced during that period. Chapter 7 (28 pages) is titled "The Wayward Engine - Aviation's Weakest Link. Chapter 9 (16 pages) is titled "Chronology of British Light Aircraft & Engines - 1920-1940". Chapter 12 (47 pages, 41 pages on engines and 6 pages on propellers) is "British Light Aircraft Engines and Propellers 1920-1940" with individual sections for each engine and propeller manufacturer. There is even a separate 4-page Index for Engine Manufacturers & Engines.

As you can see by the description, there are many illustrations of aircraft and engines throughout the book, yet this is not one of the current styles of text-less picture books. The pictures and illustrations in the book are in support of the extensive text. The greater part of most pages is text.

Also of interest in this book is the author's description of the double-dealings and financial shenanigans of some of the aircraft and engine manufacturers during that era.

It should be noted that the engine portion includes several engines, mostly converted motorcycle engines, which I could not find in any other book (including the 1939 Aerosphere). This is the first book I can think of that adequately covers both the aircraft and engines of a specific era and it should become a benchmark for future publications. Despite its cost (70 British pounds or approximately $120 US), I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the development of the light airplane and its engine.

Seven Decades of Progress
A Heritage Of Aircraft Turbine Technology

Hardbound ,223 pages
General Electric Company,1979
ISBN 0-8168-8355-6
Aero Publishers, Inc., Fallbrook, CA

Reviewed by Gary Brossett

The book began as a research project in 1975, at the request of Gerhard Neumann, a prominent figure in General Electric's history in the 60s and 70s. It chronicles GE's Aircraft Engine Group from early turbosuperchargers, through America's first turbojet, to modern high bypass turbofan engines. It is packed with engine photos and biographies of key historical figures in GE's history.

The pictorial walk through GE's engine history alone makes the book a keeper on any turbine engine enthusiast's bookshelf. The book is filled with pages of outstanding photos, such as the X211 nuclear engine and GE1 demonstrator. The text explains the evolution of engine lines, such as the GE1, great grandfather of the modern F110 (F-16 fighter), F101 (B-1B bomber) and F118 (U-2 Reconnaissance aircraft) engines.

The text focuses on design, demo and production of engines at GE. Technical specifications are limited to thrust and power ratings.

    The Prelude
    The Twenties
    The Thirties
    The Forties
    The Fifties
    The Sixties
    The Seventies
    Engine Chronology 

Negative Gravity
A Life of Beatrice Shilling

by Matthew Freudenberg

Softbound, 136 pages
Matthew Freudenberg
Charlton Orchards
Creech St. Michael

Reviewed by Graham White

Beatrice "Tilly" Shilling is a legend in Merlin lore. It was Ms. Shilling who overcame the serious negative "G" cutout problems with SU carburetor equipped Merlins. The tale has been told many times but briefly the SU carburetor was not equipped to handle negative "G" without first starving the engine for fuel and then over compensating and drowning the engine with an over rich mixture. The solution was disarmingly simple, a restrictor orifice fitted to the fuel supply line. In a way it's too bad that Ms. Shilling's reputation at the Royal Aircraft Establishment was based on this one, albeit major, accomplishment.

Prior to WWII she was an expert motor cycle rider who participated at the famous Brooklands speedway, basically a British equivalent to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Unfortunately but understandably, Brooklands was demolished during WWII as it stuck out like a sore thumb and would have made an ideal navigation reference point for German bombers. The book delves into the frustration Ms. Shilling suffered for not being promoted and blamed it on her sex. Reading between the lines I got the impression that, true, she lived in a very chauvinistic time when it was rare to have female physicists running the show. However, part of the blame should have rested with Ms. Shilling. As author Matthew Freudenberg astutely pointed out, she was not what would today be known as a "power dresser", in fact she looked pretty awful. One interesting photograph in the book shows her consulting with Dan Gurney in 1967 when he was campaigning his All American Eagle Formula 1 racer. At the time his Harry Weslake designed V-12 was suffering overheating problems and Ms. Shilling was brought in as a consultant. In the photo she looked like a frumpy old British housewife with hand bag draped over her arm and yet despite this persona she was one of the most brilliant engineers of her time — fascinating.

Today, she would no doubt be regarded as politically incorrect. Exacerbating the situation for her was the fact she showed little respect for her superiors. I can certainly empathize with that attitude, however, the consequences are few or no promotions. One has to respect her single mindedness and independence because she must have surely realized that it cost her big time. If she had been a male and knew how to play the game there is no doubt she would have ended up running the RAE.

The book also explores her personal life, particularly her relationship with her husband and his WWII service as a Lancaster bomber pilot who completed 36 missions. Overall, I rate this book as an excellent read and well worth the money.

Pioneer Mechanics in Aviation
by Giacinta Bradley Koontz

Softcover, 114mm x 217mm x 8mm, 161 pages
ISBN: 0-9768554-3-7
Running Iron Publications (2011)

Recommended Retail Price: US $30.00
Kindle Edition: US $30.00

152 photographs and drawings

Reviewed by Kimble D. McCutcheon

It is always a thrill when an AEHS member writes and publishes a book. Giacinta Bradley Koontz’s book Pioneer Mechanics in Aviation is no exception. “Gia” is probably best known for her columns and contributions to Aircraft Maintenance Technician, Ground Support Worldwide, Director of Maintenance, Helimx and Air & Space. She also authored The Harriet Quimby Scrapbook, the life of America’s First Birdwoman (1875-1912).

Based in part on her aforementioned columns, Pioneer Mechanics in Aviation is a series of 24 biographical vignettes about men and women whose names are both familiar and not. These include Charlie Taylor, Charles Manly, Fredrick Rentschler, Winfield Kinner, Katherine Stinson, Martin Sensenich, Bud Gurney, Bernard Pietenpol, Mary Solbrig, Jerosla Dobias, Willa Chappell, Phoebe Omlie and Ruth Nichols.

This book is different from most other books reviewed here in that it concentrates less on the technical and more on the people. Its production quality is excellent and its stories are wonderful. It has dozens of vintage photographs and a full set of references.