Conservation in Canada's Aircraft Industry

by James Montagnes Aviation's Canadian Correspondent

Constantly tracking down "the better way," Dominion aviation companies hove effected prime savings in materials, man-hours, and money …. Special exhibits apprise plant men of new methods.

To aid the continuous search for better methods of production and the conservation of labor, time, and materials, the Canadian government's wartime Department of Munitions & Supply has held special exhibits in Toronto and Montreal showing results of conservation measures taken by various manufacturers. To these exhibits were invited not only the factory executives and engineers but also every war worker.

By seeing what the other factory is doing to save materials and to develop new production processes and methods saving time, labor, and money, visitors to this exposition obtained ideas which can be adapted in their particular plants and are encouraged to develop new conservation measures. The exhibit likewise informed the war worker and the executive of the practical results of the suggestion box technique.

A considerable section of the conservation exhibit was given over to the aircraft industry and what it has accomplished — in labor and time saving; processes, in the substitution of critical materials by new materials, and in the saving of weight in the final assembly of aircraft. Savings have been accomplished in big items as well as small. The exhibits were so arranged that each product was shown in its old form and in its new form, with a card showing exactly what the item is for, what it was formerly made of and how processed, and what annual savings in time, material, machine tools, and dollars resulted from the new process and new material. The whole story is there to see.

Among the firms taking part in the displays were Boeing, Canadian Car & Foundry, Canadian Vickers, Canadian Westinghouse, de Havilland, Fairchild Aircraft, Fleet Aircraft, Noorduyn Aviation, and Ottawa Car & Aircraft.

One example of savings effected is found in the small item of identification labels. Formerly these were engraved wherever necessary on the aircraft, requiring cellulose and acetate sheet and engraving equipment. Today, on all aircraft and on all equipment going into Canadian aircraft, decalcomania transfers are affixed where engraved labels were formerly used. On the Bristol-designed Bolingbroke bomber, Fairchild Aircraft, Ltd, estimates that this new method saves 3,250 lb of the original material and 20,000 hr of labor in a year.

Similarly, there is the item of aircraft insignia of the Royal Canadian Air Force, a large circle in red, white and blue. Formerly these markings were applied by a spray-paint process, requiring careful hand work in the affixing of rubber content masking tape. Now decalcomania transfers are used.

Identification tags were formerly made of brass, punched and stamped. Now adhesive tape is used, savring 2,300 lb of brass sheet each year on the Bolingbroke alone. Moreover, need for a punch press and stamping machinery has thus been obviated.

Furthermore, the micro-switch housing on the Bolingbroke used to he made of built-up steel, sheet welded, and with ball bearings and machined parts, There has now been substituted an aluminum alloy casting with oilite bushing, saving 600 lb of sheet steel, 600 ball bearings, and 10,000 hr of labor. Thus one milling machine and a lathe are freed and an annual saving of $75,000 has been chalked up.

Plywood has been widely used on the Canadian-built Avro Anson, twin-engine bomber trainer built by Federal Aircraft, Ltd, a government-owned and operated company. Parachute stowage compartments, four on each Anson, were formerly made of aluminum sheet and used rubber shock cord. They were processed with punch press and by hand. Now plywood, webbing, and springs make up the compartment, which becomes a cabinet maker's product, calling for woodworking machinery instead of the punch press. The four compartments are now fabricated with an annual saving of about 15,000 lb of original materials, about 87,000 hr of labor, and about $130,000 in labor and materials.

Biggest saving from the switch to plywood is in reduction of man-hours. More than 2,000,000 hr are saved by production speed-up on the Anson fuselage, accounting for a considerable part of the $1,280,000 saving on the fuselage cost.

Plywood has been used with equal savings on the Anson to make the code book stowage compartment, the bomb door, a compartment for calculating equipment, seats, tank cover, 22 inspection doors, detachable gun panel, inspection panels, pilot's map case, aileron chain guard, and aerial mast, the last now being made of laminated wood instead of streamlined steel tube and welded plate. The items formerly involved use of aluminum sheet punch-pressed and hand-formed. The savings of 2,750,000 man-hours plus material costs reduction runs close to $3,500,000 annually.

Pilot's seat cushions and prone bomber's cushion used to be leather covered and rubber filled. The shortage of rubber required a substitute, and meanwhile the leather was changed to Fabrikoid. Now crew members sit and bombardiers lie on curled hair filled cushions.

Metal parts have also come in for redesigned new construction, of which the following instances are samples: The shackle for the elevator lever on the Anson, once made of machined bar stock, now is comprised of steel plate and round bar, saving 5,100 lb of material and 2,000 hr of labor a year. The locking handle on this aircraft, formerly made of machined and welded bar stock, now consists of welded scrap tubing and bar stock, eliminating two machine tools and saving 1,250 lb of material and 1,850 hr of labor a year. Eyebolts which were formerly machined from round bar stock are now screwed and welded from the same stock, saving 7,000 lb of material and 2,500 hr of labor. Sprockets are now made with a smaller bar stock and contain five less rivets. And a hand control which was formerly machined bar stock is now made of cast aluminum and has a machined hub, saving 2,750 lb of material and 2,200 hr of work.

Standardized parts have been substituted wherever possible for specially designed parts. Thus cabin lighting in the Bolingbroke, which initially was of special welded aluminum construction, has been replaced by purchase of standard parts. Hydraulic control valves on this aircraft formerly were made of duralumin bar and forgings, steel tubing, bronze bar, sheet steel, and steel chain. Now a standard aircraft part which can be purchased outside the factory is used, thus conserving thousands of pounds of specially constructed metal material, eliminating milling machines, turret lathe, engine lathes, and screw machines, and saving upwards of $25,000 a year in labor and material.

Simplification of construction has also resulted from the conservation measures. The radio rack on the Bolingbroke bomber used to call for assembly of 26 pieces of tubing and plate. Now, by using the same type tubing and adding sectional bends of welded construction, the assembly has been brought down to 8 pieces. And where formerly the radio rack was sandblasted, cadmium plated, and painted, it is now given a heavy enamel finish. The redesign not only saves $61,000 in labor and material but also frees welding equipment, drill jigs, and sheet metal equipment.

Compression springs which formerly had the ends ground square now have the ends closed but not ground, saving the work of a grinder and 1,000 hr of labor a year on one type of aircraft. Sheet metal spinnings, formerly hand formed, are now processed by metal spinning. A window operating mechanism has been redesigned to save, on one specific plane, 1,200 lb of metal a year and 16,250 hr of labor, while freeing six machine tools.

A mahogany radio operator's table has been replaced by one made of wallboard, and plywood navigator's and wireless operator's tables have been redesigned to allow improved methods of plywood construction to save thousands of hours of labor.

These are just a sampling of the measures which have been taken by the Canadian aircraft industry to conserve materials, time, and labor, and there is a constant search for more methods of saving raw materials, skilled and unskilled labor, machine tools, and time.

Canada's wartime aviation industry, under the leadership of Director General of Aircraft Production Ralph P Bell, has stressed conservation from the very beginning. The program is now part of a Dominion-wide industrial conservation campaign covering all branches of Canadian war industry.

This article was originally published in the September, 1943, issue of Aviation magazine, vol 42, no 9, pp 181, 285-286.
The original article includes 1 photo of the exhibit.
Photo is not credited.