AirCorps Aviation announced today that they have acquired a collection of original North American Aviation engineering drawings. These drawings, part of the newly named “Ken Jungeberg Collection” were stored in the archives of North American’s Columbus, OH factory until 1988. Each drawing is hand-drawn in pencil on tracing vellum, and was used to develop and build the P-51, B-25, T-6, P-82, and many more.
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Ken Jungeberg was the head of the Master Dimensions department at Columbus in 1988 when the factory closed its doors. When he heard that North American was planning to burn all the WWII era drawings in their archive, he knew he had to do something. He began writing letters and making calls to his superiors, advocating to save the drawings. Discouraged by responses that there was nothing he could do, Ken had all but given up, until a twist of fate changed everything.
A situation that would have been a tragedy under normal circumstances turned positive when a pipe burst in the archive room that stored the drawings to be destroyed. The room all but filled with water, cracking the cement foundation, and soaking the contents of the room. North American employees emptied the room, and piled the soaking wet drawings in a heap on the factory floor, where they sat for the next two weeks.
It was at the end of these two weeks that Ken got the call he had been waiting for. He was told that he could have the drawings, if he came to pick them up immediately, and promise that they would never end up “blowing around in a landfill”. Clearly the company was still concerned with preserving the name and reputation that North American was known for. Ken rented a truck and he and several friends loaded the drawings, and took them to a barn where Ken began the monumental task of laying them out to dry. Because the drawings were done in pencil on tracing vellum (a very durable media), the information was essentially undamaged.
Once the drawings were dry enough, Ken sorted, re-rolled, and boxed them up. He took many to his home, and stored the rest at his hangar at the Warren County Airport in Lebanon, OH. The drawings would remain in this same location for the next 32 years, until 2019.
AirCorps Aviation learned of Ken’s collection in the spring of 2019, and in December of that year Ken agreed to transfer ownership to AirCorps. As the new custodian of this important collection of drawings, AirCorps plans to catalog and organize the drawings so they can be utilized by the vintage and legacy aviation industry for the first time in history. “These drawings are going to change what we know about the amazing aircraft that North American manufactured during World War II” says Erik Hokuf, general manager of AirCorps Aviation.
While microfilm and copies of aircraft drawings from this era are not uncommon, few individuals have ever seen a hand-drawn original. The drawings in Ken’s collection largely represent production drawings, and the experimental work that North American’s draftsmen created while developing parts and assemblies that would later be finalized. A perfect example being the drawings distinguished with the prefix 73X. These drawings were used to develop the widely popular P-51 Mustang in just 120 days in 1940, and have never been seen by the general public.
Another exciting example of the experimental work being done, is a tailhook drawing for the P-51. It has been speculated that North American was thinking of modifying the Mustang for use on aircraft carriers, and drawing 109-955033 titled Design Layout – Catapult Hook Install proves that this was true.
While many of the drawings are considered “experimental”, a large number of drawings in the collection are later revisions that are still used today to manufacture warbird parts and assemblies. “It’s hard to understand the collection without seeing it in real life, and comparing it to the microfilm images that we are so familiar with” says Ester Aube, the Data and Library Specialist at AirCorps. Details that have been obscured by the darkening of microfilm over time, over-use, or simply deterioration, can be seen on the original drawing in crystal clarity.
Aside from the obvious technical value of the drawings, it’s hard not to appreciate them from an artistic standpoint. Hearkening back to a time before computers and CAD programs, the draftsmen of North American Aviation created these images with nothing but pencils, drafting tools, and their bare hands – no small feat.
AirCorps unveiled examples from Ken’s collection this weekend at the National Warbird Operators Conference (NWOC) in Mobile, AL, and hopes that others will share their feeling of excitement at viewing these “technical works of art”. Ken has done the vintage and legacy aircraft community a great service through his persistence, and understanding of what these drawings would mean in a historical context. “We cannot thank him enough for the service he performed, and look forward to continuing to work with him as we unpack and sort the drawings” says Aube.
If you would like more information about the Ken Jungeberg collection, or have additional questions, please contact: