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Today's design choices =limited chances of surviving a crash
1924 - Vincent Justus Burnelli standing in front of Burnelli RB-2The Burnelli Conspiracy (continued)

The C.A.A. also remonstrated with Burnelli for his use of the retractable landing gear in the CB-16, citing it as being not only a hazard, but also a serious maintenance problem. Obligingly, Burnelli returned to fixed gear in his UB-20 in 1930. This was the first aircraft in the world to employ the use of flat metal, stressed skin construction.

About this time, the potential of commercial aviation was beginning to penetrate conservative thought, so Burnelli, with his partner, Ingliss Uppercue of New York Cadillac note, decided to build the UB-14 in competition with the Douglas DC-2. The UB-14 turned out to be a very impressive airplane, and, in spite of the deep economic depression, it attracted serious attention in the U.S. and abroad. Unfortunately, at that time, Uppercue suffered disastrous financial losses and was unable to fund the original marketing and production program. Despite this setback, Burnelli was able to sell an executive version to his old friend, P.W. Chapman, but disaster struck on the delivery flight. In the excitement, the maintenance crew forgot to attach the aileron hinge bolts and here is what happened:

Extract from Report of Louis T. Reichers Test Pilot, Re: crash of UB-14, January 13, 1935

"The indicated air speed was 195 m.p.h. at the time it became essential for me to make a crash landing (through maintenance neglect which caused control system failure). I flew the ship into the ground from about 200 ft. altitude and estimate the speed of contact at about 130 m.p.h. the right wing being nearly vertical and absorbing the first shock. This impact caused the airplane to cart- wheel tearing off the engines and crashing the wings and tail group with the body tumbling, though remaining intact, and no fuel leaked from the wing tanks.

It is my firm belief that the fact that the box body strength of this type combined with the engines forward and the landing gear retracted saved myself and the engineer crew and had the cabin been fully occupied with passengers with safety belts properly attached, no passengers would have been injured.

This crash landing, in my opinion, is an extraordinary example of the crash safety that can be provided by the lifting body type of design."

Signed: Louis T. Reichers*

*Later Colonel, Chief of Engineering Section, Air Transport Command.

(For more pictures and an expose on aircraft structure as a means of insuring passenger protection see 1941 Mechanix Illustrated article: "Crashes Can Be Harmless" . You might also want to get the Video of the Burnelli Story from The Burnelli Company.

Fortunately, Burnelli recovered from the disaster and, before long, had the UB-14B flying with two newer P&W 750HP Hornet Engines. This aircraft had an empty weight of 9,250 lbs. and a gross weight of 21,500 lbs., with a cruising speed of over 200 MPH.