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General Airbourne Transport MC-1 / XCG-16


William Hawley Bowlus, a sailplane and glider manufacturer, designed a flying wing glider, the MC-1 in February 1942. Its design was a departure from single fuselage designs and incorporated a twin boom design. The MC-1 was an all-wood twin boom military transport glider of 91ft 10in span, featuring an aerofoil-sectioned lifting fuselage between the booms in which either cargo or troops could be carried in two 16ft x 7ft compartments. The load could be four tons of cargo or 48 armed troops. The front of the wing opened upwards and downwards like a pair of jaws, the bottom doors doubling as a loading ramp. A mock-up of the troop accommodation shows that the compartment tapered towards the trailing edge, allowing little headroom for those unfortunates at the back. The crew of two sat in tandem beneath a continuous canopy atop the centre section.

A single fin and rudder was mounted on the tailplane between the booms. The tricycle landing gear was retractable, and flaps were fitted to the outer wing panels and the fuselage centre section. The MC-1 was constructed mainly of plywood, although all flying surfaces and flaps were fabric-covered.

Early test flights of a full scale model proved disastrous when unsecured weighted bags shifted causing it to become unbalanced and killing the pilot and several passengers.

Hawley's General Airbourne Transport Company received a contract in November 1943 to build the glider. The first glider was delivered six months late at three times the cost in the summer of 1943.

The MC-1 was test flown by the company and Richard duPont was the instigator of a demonstration for the military on September 11, 1943 from March Field.
The pilot of the glider was Col P. E. Gable, deputy director of the Army Air Corps assault glider program. The copilot was Howard Morrison, a long time associate of Bowlus and a test pilot.




Several VIPs set off on the flight. They included Richard Dupont, special assistant to Gen Arnold; Col Ernest Gabel, another glider specialist on the staff of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, and C. C. Chandler, thrice soaring champion. In order to bring the glider up to more-or-less full load, bags of sand and lead shot were loaded aboard but apparently were in securely lashed some reports say they were not lashed to the glider at all. The glider was towed off from March Field by a Lockheed C-60. During turbulence the bags shifted aft and set up a porpoising moment. The tow release did not release at first pull but released on the third porpoise of the MC-1. It released from the glider. The glider entered a flat spin from which it failed to recover. Three managed to take to their parachutes but the other occupants, including Dupont, perished. Only one survived the jump.

One report says that Gable had less than 6 hours total time on gliders and allowed the XCG-16 to fly into the wake of the C-60, causing the glidcr to pitch violently and breaking the cable. The ballast shifted aft, and the glider entered the flat spin.

Despite this tragic occurrence the company persevered with a further XCG-16, albeit six months late and costing three times the estimate. It was tested at Clinton Army Air Field and at Orlando, Florida. This is probably the aircraft tested by GAT test pilot Paul E. Tuntland and Northrop test pilot J. Meyers together with army officers from the glider branch at Dayton Ohio. Total flying time for the tests was 34 hours, including 50 landings made under Service operating conditions.

Once the factory flight tests on the XCG-16 were completed, glider pilots at CCAAF flew the XCG-16  on over 70 flights in October of 1944 before the glider was rejected.  
In his pilot's test report summary, Tuntland had this to say about the handling of the XCG-16: "In my opinion the XCG-16 has excellent handling qualities. During the flight tests I had the impression of flying a large sail plane. It is laterally stable in that it has a tendency to over-bank in steep spirals. I always had good lateral control at the slower airspeeds and higher angles of attack. Longitudinal control was normal with high elevator forces noted at increased airspeeds. "Directional control was good throughout the normal speed range. There was sufficient vertical area in the tail group to maintain good directional control throughout the approach and landing roll, even in moderate crosswinds. There was no tendency to yaw before or during the landing roll except in a crosswind, where normal correction was satisfactory. The subject aircraft is very maneuverable, being capable of rolling from one vertical turn to another in a minimum of time. On one occasion I was able to soar the aircraft in moderate lift conditions. Stalling characteristics are excellent. The first stall warning is indicated about 15 m.p.h. above actual stalling speed. This aircraft made normal landings at between 40 and 75 m.p.h. with the average about 48 m.p.h. A minimum of longitudinal trimming control was necessary in a c.g. shift from 24 per cent MAC to 36 per cent MAC. Normal landings were made with the flaps retracted at approximately 70 m.p.h.

"The copilot's lateral vision is rather poor from the rear cockpit. The pilot's front cockpit vision is excellent forward, and good towards the sides.

"The ground cushioning effect is very noticeable and is a desirable feature of the type, assisting soft ground contact from a rough approach.

"Any glider of either tricycle or conventional landing gear that has sufficient vertical tail surfaces for directional stability will tend to turn into the wind during crosswind landings at high or low angles of attack. In this respect the XCG-16 glider has absolutely no objectionable qualities compared to any other aircraft with which I have had experience. The tendency to turn could be readily corrected by the action of the rudder and of the brakes at slow speeds."

The report is dated October 31, 1944. Despite the favorable flying qualities of the XCG-16 there were a number of operational snags; rather too many, as it turned out. These included: inadequate protection in the event of a crash; insufficient exits for crew in the event of an emergency; unsatisfactory loading ramps; poor location of flight equipment, and critical lateral loading. After tests by the AAF Board at Clinton Army Air Field and at Orlando, the contract for the XCG-16 was cancelled on November 30, 1944.

Span: 91 ft 10 in.
Length: 48 ft 4 in
Height: 18 ft 4 in.
Aspect ratio:7.4:1
All up weight: 19,580 lb.
Empty weight: 9,500 lb
Cargo: 10,080 lb.
Max speed: 220 mph
Stall speed flaps down: 58 mph
Stall speed flaps up: 62 mph


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