Oxygen tank installation, and control surfaces for the wing and empennage were the focus of restoration work this month. The Thunderbolt is getting closer to the time that the R-2800 will be hung on the mounts.
The oxygen tanks were moved to a different location when the Christmas tree fuel tank was installed. Aaron has worked hard to duplicate this field modification.
The last major airframe assemblies besides the engine installation are the control surfaces. Flaps, ailerons, elevators and rudder are all in progress.
Aaron completed much of the hydraulic plumbing and wiring in the main gear wheel wells this month.
You probably noticed the Maytag and Kellett Aircraft Company logos on some of the previously pictured parts. These companies were important subcontractors on the P-47. I’ve written a bit about subcontractors in past updates but I think it is worth revisiting the subject.
Republic, and all the other major aircraft manufacturers, depended on subcontractors to support the massive production effort that was required during the war. Many subcontractors had produced consumer goods before the war and completely reworked their production lines to accommodate producing aircraft parts or assemblies.
“The air industry was called upon,” said the late Robert Gross, wartime President of Lockheed Aircraft Corp., “to build thousands of something it had built – only dozens of before. It was like a youth who is suddenly expected to go to college before he was graduated from primary school.” 1
To meet the unprecedented demand, aviation companies had to subcontract as many assemblies as they could, often utilizing companies never before involved in aviation production. The flexibility and willingness to make these drastic changes in support of the war effort was the essence of what came to be known as the Arsenal of Democracy.
“Non aviation firms had to dismantle their plants and rebuild them for a vastly different type of work, they had to learn about tolerances undreamed of in their peacetime production, they had to retrain even their most skilled people.” 2
“The aviation firms, on the other hand, had to divert valuable management and engineering talent to the task of putting the licensees in business at a time when they could not spare a single worker from their own programs. They had to build the initial parts, components, and assemblies to provide the licensee with a “shakedown” assembly line. Pratt & Whitney, for instance, had to contribute 100 man-years of production and engineering talent to educate its licensees-Ford, Buick, Chevrolet, and Nash-Kelvinator-in the art of aircraft-engine production. The pressures were certainly not conducive to harmonious relations, yet the introduction of these new companies to aviation production was carried out with a minimum of friction.“ 3
1 Karl G. Harr, Jr., Industry and World War II,AIR FORCE I SPACE DIGEST • September 1965, p55
2 Karl G. Harr, Jr., Industry and World War II,AIR FORCE I SPACE DIGEST • September 1965, p58
3 Karl G. Harr, Jr., Industry and World War II,AIR FORCE I SPACE DIGEST • September 1965, p61
Maytag took on so many government contracts during WWII that eventually 97% of its manufacturing was devoted to the war effort. During that time, the company built parts for 16 combat planes. Maytag’s production of Packard-Merlin engine block castings for the P-51 has been called a “lifesaver” for the U.S. and Allied armed forces.
A more traditionally aviation-related subcontractor on the P-47 was Kellett Aircraft Corporation.
Kellett Autogyro Company was a maker of autogyro aircraft in the 1930’s and 40’s and helicopters from the late 1940’s through the 1950s. Kellett Autogiro Company changed its name to Kellett Aircraft Corporation in 1943 to reflect that it was also a manufacturer of helicopters.
H. Wallace Kellett was president of both Kellett Aircraft Company from its founding in 1929 and of Republic Aviation Corporation from 1939. He became Repuiblic’s chairman of the board in 1943 and remained in that office through 1945.
While famous for their autogyros, during the war, a major proportion of Kellett production was in the subcontracting division. Kellett produced ailerons and flaps for the P-47, engine mounts for the B-24, flaps for the Martin Baltimore, stabilizers for the Curtiss Helldiver, welded parts for the Grumman Wildcat, flaps and other assemblies for the P-40 and other items. 4
4 Howard Mingos, The 1944 Aircraft Yearbook, Official Publication of the Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce of America, Lancair Publications, New York, New York.
Maytag and Kellett were just two of many P-47 subcontractors. Below is a list of a few of the more important subcontractors for the Evansville Indiana Republic plant and what they produced for the Thunderbolt.
Fantastic to see such detailed reporting on the work you all are doing! I’ve always absolutely loved WWII aircraft, particularly fighter aircraft. Seeing this and reading the included information helps to give me a better grasp of the effort and ingenuity it took to build these machines of war. Thank you for your effort in reporting this!
Thanks for the kind words, Earl. I am glad you enjoy the updates.
Both the work of the original Republic factory workers and the restorers here at Aircorps Aviation is amazing.