News Notes From Britain

by George Abrahamson

London (Special to Aviation)— Official figures of British aviation since 1940 were given by Capt Harold Balfour, UnderSecretary of State for Air. In 1940, 5,500,000 mi were flown by the British Overseas Airways Corporation in aid of the war effort; in 1941 there was an increase; and in 1942 the figure will be about 8,000,000 mi. Two Short G-class flying boats taken over by the Air Ministry at the beginning of the war were returned toward the end of last year. One of them, with accommodation for about 40 passengers, is now flying to and from Lisbon; the other one will be soon.

The Airgraph Service, introduced with outstanding success for mail of British forces in the Middle East, has been extended to civilian mail from East Africa to Great Britain. Hitherto air mail from Kenya went by air to South Africa and thence by sea to England. The new service which saves cargo space by carriage of micro-photographic copies of the air mail letters will speed up communications a great deal; shortly it will be available in the opposite direction. Air mail will also be resumed between England and Sweden, but postage will be 1s 3d per half ounce (as on the North Atlantic route) instead of 2½d charged for all letters before the war. "Present circumstances preclude any statement concerning the route by which the mail will be flown," but that there is a northern service of British Airways has been known for several months.

Britain's largest underground aircraft factory has begun operations and will be in full production on engines, components and accessories by August, giving employment to 14,000 workers in two shifts of ten hours. Situated in an unused quarry from which a million tons of stone had still to be cleared, this underground aircraft factory which is only one of a number building or built is equipped with three sources of fluorescent light, its own artesian well and water reservoir, five air intakes and five exhaust shafts of 20 ft. diameter, eight passenger lifts for 50 persons each, and a machine hoist and shaft for pieces up to 20 tons. The total cost of the factory which is approximately three-quarters of a mile square is about £5,500,000. Buildings on the surface include six hostels, each accommodating 1,000 persons, communal restaurants, shops, a cinema and other adjuncts of a self-contained community. Experience in underground aircraft factories completed earlier shows the rate of illness among workers to be low.

Details of the Westland Whirlwind, British single-seat twin-engine fighter, for nearly two years in service but all this time kept on the secret list, have now been published. The machine is 32¼' long and 10½' high, the wing span is 45'. Four 20-mm shell-firing guns are mounted.

The German aircraft industry moves east, and new plant and extensions are reported from various centers in Austria, Bohemia, Moravia, and Pomerania. Most of the new plants are built by well-known firms domiciled in western and central provinces of Germany which prefer the safety from air raids in the east even though materials and skilled labor are easier to procure in the old industrial districts. The movement to the east finds a counterpart in transfer of orders for components to the occupied countries of the west. The Dutch firm of Fokkers is reported to operate plants in Belgium and France, and several French aluminum producers have extended their works to meet German orders for light metal.

Crankshaft bearings using synthetic resins are an industrial possibility, according to German experiments, if a new manufacturing method is used. Resin-impregnated tissues (linen, asbestos, glass wool) in thin layers of 1/12 in were wound round the metal part, secured to the metal surface by pressure, and subjected to a hardening process. The pressed resin bearings are inferior to lead bronze and light metal bearings, even if suitably formed, in heat and tear resistance, but superior by absence of corrosion, constant surface hardness from -180° to +135° C, and high adsorption of oil and fat molecules. Experiments on several types of engine crankshafts with 2,200 rpm and for slide bearings are claimed to have been very satisfactory.

The Focke-Wulf Fw-190, Germany's new single-seat fighter, first encountered in combat last fall, can also be described now. It has attracted some interest because it differs in design from other German types. With a span of 37' it has a wing area of 194 sq ft. Its length is 29', loaded weight 7,000 lb, service ceiling 38,000 ft. Top speed is estimated at 370 mph, and action range 525 mi at 300 mph. The engine is an 1600-hp BMW 801 14-cylinder two-row radial engine with fully enclosed cowling and fan-assisted air cooling. The shallow cockpit is protected by a completely transparent hooding giving the pilot a good field of view. Armament seems to consist of six machine guns in the wings.

This column was a subhead of "Aviation Abroad" in the June, 1942, issue of Aviation magazine, vol 41, no 6, pp 233-234.