Since the details of production organization and process were of interest to the readership of the trade magazines that are my primary sources, there is a pretty good selection of articles dealing with various aspects of producing the aircraft and getting them ready for the firing line.
Even with the prodigious output of the airplane manufacturers, it was simply not possible to produce planes fast enough to make them disposable. As a result, maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities were a key element in maintaining a sufficient force to pursue the war plans. Ordinary maintenance and repair took place on or next to the flightline, at the operational base. Repairs sufficient to get a crashlanded plane back into the air, at least sufficiently so to get it back to a fixed base for more extensive repair, were effected in the field. More serious repair jobs were sent to depot-level bases, like "Little America". Planes still flyable but needing even more extensive work repairs or upgrades could be flown back to the USA, to places like Oklahoma City Air Depot for complete overhaul, up to virtually rebuilding the plane.
- "Lofting Speeds Production for Consolidated" [ HTML ] describes the lofting process of preparation for production.
- Two articles, "Turning the X-RAY on the Hiring Line" [ HTML ] and "Management's Part in Personnel Relations" [ HTML ] outline hiring and personnel practices at Lockheed during the industry buildup before the war.
- "RAF Maintenance" [ HTML ] describes the organization and operation of RAF Maintenance Command.
- "Winged Victory for the Allies becomes more likely While Germany Waits" [ HTML ] projects the production capacities of the US, UK and Germany and concludes that Germany will be smothered by Allied warplane production.
- "Where Are Those Profits?" [ PDF, 4.7 MiB ] , [ HTML ] responds to complaints about profiteering on airplane contracts. It shows the locations of suppliers and subcontractors to Boeing for production of the B-17. The article also details how moneys were spent by Beech Aircraft Corp for the development and first article delivery of a "Beech Twin."
- "Canada's Warplane Industry" [ HTML ] describes the state of Canada's aircraft industry as of the fall of 1940, with a listing of the models then in production.
- Before the war the Army Air Corps had already established an overhaul-and-repair facilities at Harrisburg, PA, Dayton, OH, Sacramento, CA, and San Antonio, TX. "San Antonio Air Depot"[ PDF, 14.6 MiB ] , [ HTML ] showcased the depot at Duncan Field, San Antonio.
- "248 Factories Build the Flying Fortress" [ PDF, 6.8 MiB ] , [ HTML ] lists some of the many subcontractors involved in the production of the big bomber. From the timing of the article (June, 1941), the planes being built were probably B-17Es.
- The mobilization of American industry was unprecedented. Not only were all of the aircraft companies mobilized and set for rapid growth, but much of the rest of American manufacturing industry, especially those with experience in forging, casting, and sheet-metal work. A chart of automotive participation in the war effort shows how broadly the net was cast. As the war progressed, the involvement of these manufacturers became even deeper, with Goodyear building the F4U Corsair as the FG-1 and General Motors (through their ad hoc Easter Aircraft division) building the TBF Avenger as the TBM, for example. Also, this early in the process the Packard Merlin engines had not yet been fitted to the P-51; this chart was published the month before Pearl Harbor.
- "Keep 'Em Flying Abroad" [ HTML ] is an account of how Bell Aircraft set up service centers in England to support the Airacobra in RAF service.
- "The War and Aircraft Maintenance" [ HTML ] details the difficulties in establishing a service organization sufficient to meet the needs of sustained combat with the large numbers of planes planned.
- "British Service Teams Study American Aircraft"[ HTML ] tells of the British program to train service personnel (and trainers) on American aircraft. A point raised is the difference in tooling systems screw threads, fastener sizes, screw head systems, etc and the need for American tools to service American planes in England.
- "Building Morale In British Factories" [ HTML ] tells how British factories use posters, squadron visits and pilot appearances to bolster the morale of the workforce in their aircraft factories.
- In February, 1942, everyone needed their morale boosted. "Seventy Percent Ahead of Schedule" [ PDF, 4.3 MiB ] , [ HTML ], relating the production surge at Boeing in response to the attack at Pearl Harbor offered a bright spot in an otherwise dismal picture.
- "Echelon of the RAF" [ HTML ] discusses the maintenance/repair service organization of the RAF.
- "Production Report to the Nation" [ PDF, 6.9 MiB ] , [ HTML ] addresses public perceptions that were troubling to general morale. In the early stages of the war there were a lot of articles that spun up the accomplishments on the home front. The theme of denouncing naysayers carried through the war.
Morale didn't seem to need as much help after the Doolittle raid and the Battle of Midway.
- "Production Will Smash the Axis" [ PDF, 5.8 MiB ] , [ HTML ] discusses the types scheduled for mass production. This list contains most of the planes that did the heavy lifting in the war, at least up into 1944.
- "Underground Factory" [ HTML ] describes British efforts to move factory facilities underground to forestall bombing damage.
- "Mass Producing The A-20 Bombers" [ HTML ] describes production of the attack bomber at Douglas plants.
- "Spitfire Hospital" [ HTML ] is a short, illustrated article on Spitfire repair depots.
- "B-24s in Quantity Production" [ HTML ] describes the layout and operation of Consolidated's San Diego plant. The layout and production flow are substantially identical to those described for their Fort Worth plant and Ford's Willow Run facility below.
- "War Production of Aircraft" [ PDF, 15 MiB ] , [ HTML ] reports on a joint meeting of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and the Engineering Society of Detroit (ESD), where a number of production- and performance-related issues were discussed.
- "Canada's Aircraft Industry" [ HTML ] describes the state of Canadian aircraft industry as of mid-1942. The changes from a previous report on the industry ("Canada's Warplane Industry", above) are instructive.
- Two editorials in the September, 1942, issue of Aviation were pertinent here:
- "The Aviation Industry is doing its job" [ PDF, 4.1 MiB ] , [ HTML ] lists some of the prodigious accomplishments of the industry in increasing output.
- "Bombers or Cargo Planes?" [ PDF, 1.8 MiB ] , [ HTML ] is about a disagreement in strategy, but it points out some of the inherent difficulties in ramping up production specifically, the problem of finding or creating trained personnel.
- "Engine Production" [ HTML ] goes into the background and adaptations involved in bringing the British aero-engine industry up to wartime requirements.
- "Production Our Home Front" [ HTML ] details several instances of the startling rate at which US industry adapted itself to war production. His view of the future is somewhat overoptimistic, but this article offers a good example of the industrialization of warfare in the modern era.
- Recycling is not a post-Hippie invention. "Sweeping Planes Off From The Floor" [ PDF, 9.7 MiB ] , [ HTML ] describes measures taken at various of the major manufacturers to recover, reuse or recycle waste and leftover materials, in order to ease material shortages, improve the ability to meet schedules, and save money.
- "Producing the B-25 Bomber" [ HTML ] describes the Mitchell production line flow at North American's Inglewood plant.
- "Industry Row" [ HTML ] that's "row" as in cat-fight, not "row" as in objects-arrayed-linearly discusses a breakup of the Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce of America. This seems to have been an East-Coast/West-Coast thing, with the Southern California group pulling out.
- "Modification Centers
An American Military Innovation" [ HTML ] describes Consolidated Aircraft's approach to the mod center.
- "Single Assembly Line Produces Both Bombers and Transports" [ HTML ] describes the main elements of the production of a B-24 and the changes made to produce C-87s on the same production line.
- In the spring of 1943, Aviation published a 3-part series on flight-testing, "Flight Testing is a Sound Business" [ PDF, 24.4 MiB ] , [ HTML ] at Boeing, authored by their chief test pilot, Edmund T "Eddie" Allen, who had died while testing the XB-29 in February, 1943. Allen was the person most responsible for establishing flight testing as an engineering discipline.
- "UAL Modification Center" is a photo taken in one of the hangars at Cheyenne. The Cheyenne Modification Center was described in some detail in a later article, "Modification Center" [ PDF, 11.1 MiB ] , [ HTML ].
- "Yank Modification Center Rises in England" [ PDF, 3.2 MiB ] , [ HTML ] describes the correspondent's trip to "Little America", a near-the-front modification center run by Lockheed Overseas Corporation. This site seems to have been located at Langford Lodge, in Northern Ireland.
- "Reduction of Man-Hours In Aircraft Production" [ HTML ] describes the methods Consolidated Vultee used to control construction labor and time.
- "Fighters and Bombers Fly Home for Repair" [ PDF, 14.1 MiB ] , [ HTML ] describes operations at Tinker Field, Oklahoma City, OK. The narrative follows the repairs on a B-17E, the AWOL Kid
- The July, 1943, issue of Aviation had articles describing production methods of several different manufacturers of warplanes.
- "Mass Producing Fortresses" [ PDF, 3.6 MiB ] , [ HTML ] gives an additional glimpse into the Boeing methods of mass production of B-17s.
- "Warbird Clinic" [ HTML ] describes the activities at the TWA-run modification center at Kansas City.
- "Lightning Line Brews Triple Trouble for Axis" [ HTML ] describes the operation of the P-38 assembly line in considerable detail.
- "Conservation in Canada's Aircraft Industry" [ HTML ] details measures taken to save time and materials in Canadian aircraft construction, with emphasis on the Bolingbroke and Anson.
- Max Karant's "At Deadline" [ PDF, 440 KiB ] , [ HTML ] column for September, 1943, relates how well the efforts of the maintenance crews are appreciated by the flight crews.
- A newsclip photo shows women mechanics at the Spokane Depot at work on a B-17.
- "Modeling AAF Equipment" [ HTML ] , [ PDF, 9 MiB ] describes the use of scale models in developing supporting facilities and equipment without tying up a full-sized aircraft. The group described worked at Wright Field.
- "Sighted Wreck, Repaired Same" [ PDF, 14.1 MiB ] , [ HTML ] details the field repair of a crashlanded B-17, the "T___ S___".
Having worked with men who had served in the 8th, I am morally certain the bird would have been the Tough Shit.
- Field maintenance takes place under conditions that are far removed from those on the factory floor. "Combat Maintenance Is Tough" [ PDF, 12.7 MiB ] , [ HTML ] discusses a lot of the problems that are faced in the field and the organizational system in place to support the maintenance crews. The article includes a personal account of working in the conditions of North Africa. It also makes some suggestions as to how operating procedures might be changed to make the front-line mechanic's life easier.
- "'43 Output Doubled the Miracle" [ PDF, 7.7 MiB ] , [ HTML ] details the prodigious increase in production capacity in the American aircraft industry during 1943. The end of the article lists results from most of the major players in the industry.
- "Boypower" [ PDF, 7.5 MiB ] , [ HTML ] describes the program in Southern California to have high-school and junior-college students work in the local aircraft factories to help make up the shortage in manpower. This would probably not be possible in the modern era.
- "How to Weigh an Airplane" [ PDF, 10.4 MiB ] , [ HTML ] explains how the weight and center of gravity are determined. This is usually done after each design change or after a change of materials, since weight and CG are so critical in the operation of the plane. The article is from engineers at Lockheed, but the procedures were pretty similar industry-wide.
- "Modification Center" [ PDF, 11.1 MiB ] , [ HTML ] goes into some background and describes typical operations of the United Air Lines operations at the Cheyenne Modification Center, which was crucial in the delivery of operations-ready B-17s to the fronts around the world.
- "Consolidated Vultee San Diego Production Flow Plan" [ HTML ] describes Convair's production and production-control methods. This article describes actions at the San Diego plant.
- "Accepted: One Fortress" [ PDF, 9.7 MiB ] , [ HTML ] details the typical process for taking an airframe off the end of the production line and turning it into a ready-to-fly bomber. The procedure is Lockheed's, but the process was much the same at the other manufacturers and at the depots where major repairs were effected.
- "Aircraft Breakdown for Increased Production" [ PDF, 20.6 MiB ] , [ HTML ] describes some of the engineering considerations involved in making a design practical to produce. Examples are made with the Ventura and the B-17.
- "Crash Landing" [ PDF, 19.6 MiB ] , [ HTML ] describes field repairs of Sir Baboon McGoon. The plane appears to be a B-17F and seems to have a tail flash for the 91 Bomb Group, but the tail number is not decipherable. The final photo is a color shot of the plane starting engines, getting ready to fly out.