Case History of R-2600 Engine Project Lockland Investigation
Compiled by the Historical Office,
Air Technical Service Command (Wright Field), January 1945
Edited by AEHS member Jay Smith
(New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame and Museum)
A subcommittee of the Truman Committee held hearings in Cincinnati, Ohio in April 1943 on the Lockland Plant of the Wright Aeronautical Corporation. “In January 1943, the committee received complaints from some of the Army inspectors at the Wright Aeronautical Corporation at Lockland, Ohio, alleging various improper practices in inspection resulting in faulty material and engines being produced and delivered to the Government. A preliminary investigation disclosed that there was considerable basis for the complaints and that the alleged conditions were of such a nature that, if they existed, they should have been known by ranking company officials and the top Army supervision.”
Sixteen witnesses testified (Air Corps, Government and company inspectors) on management, defective materials, faulty inspections, and labor. Some illustrative observations:
Witnesses testified on these defects of Lockland production:
After testimony Assistant Secretary of War for Air Robert A. Lovett asked Senator Ferguson “for authority to take corrective steps.” Senators Ferguson, Kilgore, and Wallgren agreed to an inspection of the Lockland plant, and asked that disciplinary steps be delayed to not interfere with Committee investigations. In early April Secretary Lovett appointed a committee to meet at the Wright-Lockland plant to determine:
The committee met at the Lockland plant on April 9. Part of the committee was to investigate the veracity of personnel testifying before the Truman Committee, and to question company and Government personnel. The other part formed a subcommittee to concentrate on technical aspects of the problem such as technical supervision of engineering and inspection.
An April 11 interim report criticized company management and Air Force supervision for these sins:
The report observed that “The housekeeping and general appearance of many portions of the plant were a disgrace to the company and to the Air Forces.” An interim report of April 17 complained of “unsafe material” in completed ready-to-ship engines, and listed remedial steps taken by the Committee:
Mr. Lovett and General Knudsen favored the suggestion that the class A inspection rating be removed until the plant improved to meet the inspection rating standards. Thus on April 22, 1943 the rating became B instead of A.
The Army Air Forces District Supervisor instructed Wright Aeronautical to restore the original run-in time, “doubling the present total of green and final run.” All engines produced at Lockland and delivered to the Army Air Forces for three months before March 17, 1943 were to be traced and inspected. CTI-1321 (May 8, 1943) provided for better inspection methods and a weekly report on inspected spare parts—95% of re-inspections showed about 30% of spare parts were outside of blueprint tolerances.
More rigid inspections inevitably slowed production. April 1943 produced 1,481 engines instead of the target of 1,800. Of 1,700 engines scheduled for May, 829 were completed. This continued for several months. Wright Aeronautical complained that:
The Air Corps rejected these excuses. A letter by General Branshaw to the Wright Corporation stated there’d been “no change in the standards of acceptability of aircraft engines.” Major Ainsley E. Stuart, an inspector at Lockland advised the contractor should change his “attitude of stalling and really attempt to turn out engines.”
Lockland was not alone with its problems. General Echols wrote July 1943 that “We still have a problem in this plant [Lockland], …the same … faced … [by] all other aircraft plants which are being expanded rapidly; that is, the problem of getting a large enough number of adequately trained inspectors.”
The Chief, Bureau of Aeronautics, Navy Department, sought assurance of future production schedules of R-2600 engines for the Navy. These engines were giving satisfactory service, he stated, especially in Navy TBF-1 aircraft in the South Pacific and Army B-25s world-wide. He agreed the irregularities found by the Truman Committee required correction but felt the reduced output of engines was out of proportion to the irregularities’ seriousness.
In July 1943 Robert P. Patterson (Under Secretary of War) and Assistant Secretary of War for Air Robert A. Lovett requested a checking and inspection of all Wright engines produced before the Lockland investigation. Materiel Command (Wright Field) then set up inspections and analyses of the service histories of R-2600 engines made at Wright-Lockland from January 18 to April 18, 1943 and a similar project for 100 engines produced at Lockland just before April 18, 1943. These reports were submitted August 1943 through July 1944. The project showed average running times of the 100-engine group of more than 775 hours per engine and flying time of 669.4 hours per engine of those made between January 18 and April 18, 1943. Conclusion: these engines performed satisfactorily.
The Truman Committee continued vigilant in 1944. Materiel Command concluded the Lockland plant’s management, production, performance and quality was satisfactory. Occasional production losses could be attributed to routine problems facing all Army Air Forces contractors and to the attention paid to the plant by the Truman Committee’s investigation.
In August 1944 the Chief, Materiel Division, Washington suggested the Technical Executive (Lieutenant Colonel C. D. Seftenberg, Wright Field) determine if Wright-Lockland reports were routine and of no interest to the Truman Committee. The Technical Executive replied that was the opinion of Material Command. However, the Office of Legislative Services wanted the Army Air Forces to furnish R-2600 reports to the Truman Committee despite Material Command’s opinion. The Colonel sent the requested routine report, noting that no special performance reports had been prepared on Lockland-built R-2600 engines after the inspections and analyses of January 18 to April 18, 1943 and the 100 engines produced at Lockland just before April 18, 1943.
1. Investigation of the National Defense Program. Additional report of the Special Committee Investigating the National Defense Program, pursuant to S. Res. 71 (77th Congress, and S Res. 6, 78th Congress) resolutions authorizing and directing an investigation of the national defense program. United States. Congress. Senate. Special Committee Investigating the National Defense Program. (Submitted under the authority of the order of the Senate of July 7, 1943). Report No. 10, Part 10. Washington, U. S. Government Printing Office, 1943. Page 16.
2. “As production became substantial the company [Wright Aeronautical] was awarded an A inspection rating by the Army Air Forces. Such a rating put prime responsibility for inspection on the company. The Army subsequently maintained only a comparatively small inspection staff which was engaged in spot checking. A rating of this type is warranted where a company has proven its ability to turn out a product of high quality. According to the testimony the rating was given at a time when an inspector of high caliber was in charge of company inspection. He left the company’s employ shortly after the award was made. The rating was removed by the Board of Investigation of the Army almost immediately after it commenced its investigation.” Investigation of the National Defense Program. Additional report of the Special Committee Investigating the National Defense Program, pursuant to S. Res. 71 (77th Congress, and S Res. 6, 78th Congress) resolutions authorizing and directing an investigation of the national defense program. United States. Congress. Senate. Special Committee Investigating the National Defense Program. (Submitted under the authority of the order of the Senate of July 7, 1943). Report No. 10, Part 10. Washington, U. S. Government Printing Office, 1943. Page 16.
3. For an overview of aircraft (including engines) production problems, see Problems of Accelerating Aircraft Production During World War II; a Report. Tom Lilley, et al. Harvard University. Graduate School of Business Administration. Division of Research.