In the late 1930's, after extensive examinations of flight test
reports on Burnelli aircraft and extensive wind tunnel tests of military models,
Maj. Gen. H.H. Arnold, Chief of United States Army Air Corps, signed a report to
the Secretary of War which extolled the excellence of the Burnelli Lifting Body
principle of design. The Arnold report ended with this quote: "in my opinion it
is essential, in the interest of national defense, that this procurement be
authorized." This report culminated in an invitation to Vincent J. Burnelli and
associates being invited to the Oval Office in the White House for a meeting
with President Roosevelt. The purpose was to celebrate the signing of a
presidential directive to order large quantities of Burnelli airplanes.
However, this meeting broke up without President Roosevelt signing the
directive, and it has been alleged that, in the midst of the meeting, President
Roosevelt learned that one of Burnelli's backers was Arthur E. Pew of the Sun
Oil Company. President Roosevelt threw his pen across the room and shouted that
Burnelli would never receive any orders.
We at aircrash believe this was a pretext, a
cover to destroy the Burnelli Company for the purpose of
transfering the technology to the Air Trust discussed the introduction of this
web-site as Burnelli was
not part of the establishment. This corruption prevented the production of
the superior, safer and less costly Burnelli
airplanes for World War II. The result of this corruption
were many thousands of avoidable aircrew deaths and the waste of
billions of taxpayer dollars in the production of thousands of
the inferior conventional planes. This waste
of lives and dollars came about because 1) more aircraft were
downed by the enemy and 2) since the carrying
capacity of these aircraft was less than that
of the Burnelli, more of them (including more aircrew) were
required to achieve the same results.
In endeavours to obtain the facts of this meeting after her
husband's death, Mrs. Hazel Burnelli interviewed Mr. Charles F. Mullen, formerly
Chief Engineer for Vincent J. Burnelli at Long Branch, NJ, on May 20, 1973. The
tape is now in the possession of The Burnelli Company, Inc.
The following is a stenographic transcript of this taped
T R A N S C R I P T
HAZEL: Would you tell us about the A-1 bomber and about its performance,
if it had been built. Anyway ... would Pangborn possibly have flown it from this
country to England ... and then they would have flown it from there whenever
required back to Germany, and it would have flown nonstop - would it ?
MULLEN: Surely nonstop. The only way it would have come down on ground
would be shot clown down.
HAZEL: How high would it fly ?
MULLEN: 30,000 feet, and that's higher
than the Messerschmidt would fly. That's the advantage it had over
the Messerschmidt ... if we had built it.
HAZEL: Would it have carried a lot of
MULLEN: It would have carried the
armament that government specifications asked for ... and that was
HAZEL: Incidentally, do you remember
about the radar plane, designed by Vince, that he submitted? He had
designed a plane for radar purposes, and I recall he said the radar
plane of his design would carry more weaponry and other items than
MULLEN: I don't see the advantage of
that ...but we won't argue. In fact, it's got nothing to do with our
Murray Berkow and I took this wind tunnel model down to Langley Field, and we
stayed there all during the wind tunnel tests. I think the engineer in charge
was a man by the name of Stack ... I'm not sure. Stack came to work after the
tests had been completed and asked us if we would assist him in getting a job
with Burnelli after we had got the contract. We assured him we would. He told us
all about how we had won the contest and by what a great margin we had
out-performed Lockheed, Douglas and Boeing, and all the rest of them. The
difference in performance was so great that there could be no question as to who
won the competition.
Therefore, when the meeting was arranged in Washington to go to the
President's Office and have the contract signed, a group of us went to
Washington. I don't know why in the devil I was there ... whether Vince had
invited me down, or I had been in Langley Field and came over ... I don't know.
It's so long ago, I forget it. But, I do know -I think - [Clyde] Pangborn was there. I
think one of the representatives of Canadian Car & Foundry was there.
HAZEL: L.A. Peto ?
MULLEN: L.A. Peto was there. I don't
know whether Drury was there or not ... it strikes me he was . But
if he was, I don't know why he did not answer to Roosevelt instead
of Peto. It would have been the natural thing, I would think. So ...
therefore ... I begin to doubt whether Drury was there or not. He
may have been ... I don't know. But anyway, Roosevelt was about to
sign this contract ... we were all going to have champagne ... Harry
Hopkins was doing serving, and Roosevelt just casually asked "how
are you going to finance this operation, because it will require a
terrific amount of money to take an unlimited order, such as I am
going to write? They take all they could build, as fast as they
could get them, that was the idea. So, Peto explained to him that
the resources of Canadian Car & Foundry were quite strong, and
if that wasn't enough money to operate or get going properly - or if
we needed more money - we always could refer to Sun Oil Company
through Mr. Pew. Well ... Mr. Roosevelt went into a conniption fit,
threw his pen across the room - and almost fairly went wild - and
proclaimed loudly that this concern would never get an order as long
as he was alive. Because Pew had spent money trying to ...
HAZEL : ...
finance Wendell Wilkie's campaign.
MULLEN: That's right. So that's why
Roosevelt got mad.
So, the meeting apparently broke up on a bad note, and the gang came back to
the hotel where I was ... I even forget the name of the hotel ...
HAZEL: Mayflower ...
MULLEN: Yes - Mayflower ... Maybe it was
... Could have been. Anyway, the fact that the Burnelli fighter
bomber - the A-1 - that we tested at Langley Field and won the
competition, the fact that we won that competition, did -us no good,
because we never were allowed to build the airplane.
HAZEL: Well, I know that Jean Roche
...You remember Jean Roche?
MULLEN: Yes, very well.
HAZEL: He took me over to NASA at
Langley Field back in '64 - '65, and he told me that 'they had tests
made there in the wind tunnel ... and that they were very, very
satisfactory ... and, in fact, they were excellent. He said they
sent them on to Washington DC, and they don't know what ever became
of them ... they just evaporated.
MULLEN: I don't know what
Roosevelt did. Oh, I do know - I do know - what he did in order to
prevent Burnelli's company from getting a contract with the
government. The only way Roosevelt could accomplish this was to
demand that the Air Force eliminate that
type or category of aircraft being made. Now, the fact that they no
longer had it even on the drafting board now, even the concerns that
Lockheed, Douglas and Boeing all of whom had designed a damned good
airplane and could have been built in lieu of ours. They were not as
good as ours - we know - but they were not bad. They were not bad.
Now, the fact that he (Roosevelt) eliminated the category, took it
out of existence, no one could build it. And as a result of which,
the bombing that the United States did - daylight bombing from
London to Berlin and back -
was very costly, both in planes and in crews. The amount of money
we spent that was shot down because of the Messerschmidt being able
to lick anything the British had - or we had - until the Republic
Aviation got over there with the P-47. Now, the P-47 was super
charged and could fly 10,000 feet higher than the Messerschmidt. The
Republic planes knocked Messerschmidts out of the air. From that
time on, Berlin was licked. We could fly to Berlin and back and lose
nothing. Now, the wing tanks were put on the P-47 at Farmingdale,
Long Island, and it just so happened that I was in charge of the
factory the night the first airplane with wing tanks on was put
out... so, I had - you might say - the honor of escorting the first
P-47 that was able to go to Berlin and back and get home safe.
HAZEL: Is that right ?
MULLEN: Yes. But, Roosevelt committed a crime
which - had the public known it at the time - they would have tarred
and feathered him. Thousands of men were lost, and billions of
dollars were lost, because of the fact that the Air Force did not
have the planes they wanted or needed ... and should have had ...
and could have had, had he (Roosevelt) not denied them.
It is obvious that a cigar shaped airplane in the middle, held by two wings,
is a dead weight in the middle - isn't it? Everything is the strain on the
wings. If you have in the middle a lifting element, there is no strain on the
wings at all. The payload that is carried is the only load that you are lifting
... (indecipherable) ... The airplane is like a bird that flies itself.
HAZEL: I can remember, Robert Q.
Williams was flying one time and had his hands off - we have
photographs of it - he said, no hands - flying - no hands.
MULLEN: It's a damn .... It is a crime -
It's a crime that that airplane didn't come into its own.
When anybody criticises or speaks derogatorily of the Burnelli aircraft
design - lifting fuselage design - all one has to do is to refer them to the
results of that Langley Field test in 1941 on the A-1 bomber, and they would be
answered fully. At that time it out-performed every top airplane manufacturer in
the country who submitted designs in the same competition we were in.
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