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Author Topic: USAAF Tailplane ID  (Read 3581 times)

Wayne O'Neill

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USAAF Tailplane ID
« on: July 02, 2013, 05:14:57 PM »

Need a break from squinting at underwater and aerial photographs? Here’s another mystery to solve… I recently had a camping holiday with my family at small sea-side community near the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef (Queensland, Australia). While we were there we visited the local museum where they have displayed what appears to be a tailplane from a USAAF aircraft (roundel still partly visible). The wreckage was apparently washed onto the beach in January 1980. It’s displayed in a rustic old building that was formerly a private museum which has been relocated to stand beside the newer public museum building.

The information panel on the wreckage reads: “This aeroplane section is most likely a moveable tailplane from an American WWII aircraft (definitely American). Probably a T-Tail type aircraft and appears to have several bullet holes from under the aircraft exiting the upper surface. Inside the tailplane is a brass bracket connected with a bearing for control rod for a trim tab on each tip (tips missing).This bracket is marked ‘5911’. There appears to be some blue foam packing interior.”

Would anybody be able to hazard a guess what aircraft this part might have come from? There was a great deal of US presence in this part of the world during the war and many planes and personnel were lost to incidents that occurred away from battle zones. These pages give a rundown of most of the known WWII losses in my state: http://www.ozatwar.com/rofqld.htm http://www.ozatwar.com/prangs1.htm http://www.ozatwar.com/ronqld.htm I’ve looked at images for most of the US aircraft types but haven’t seen anything that looks like a match yet.

Is it possible that the information pointing to WWII aircraft is inaccurate? There also appears to be some information about rockets adjacent to the display which I didn’t get to read at the time (short visit with small kids in tow), so I’m not sure if it’s related to the artefact. Any information would be appreciated. My aircraft knowledge is almost non-existent, but I’m sure there are folks here who are very familiar with military craft. If anyone can provide a definitive ID I’ll pass the info on to the museum.
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Dave McDaniel

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Re: USAAF Tailplane ID
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2013, 09:51:56 PM »

 Judging by the size of the wing and the placement of the roundel and the bullet holes, I'd say it is the discarded wing of a RCAT. Remotely Controlled Aerial Target. They are a modular built, propeller driven, recoverable aircraft used by the US military to train anti-aircraft batteries on both land and sea. My guess is that this wing of a Navy RCAT that was recovered and deemed unrepairable and discarded or crashed and lost at sea, judging from your narrative. The US Army classified them as recoverable, The Navy may have classified them as expendable do to the difficulties of recovery at sea but I can't say for sure.

Although it may not be one of the vertical stabilizers off of one of Doolittles' Raiders B-25's, it's still an interesting artifact. I had an opportunity in the early 80's to try my hand at shooting one down. I was using a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on a armored personnel carrier (APC). I think it ran out of gas about the same time I ran out of ammo! I don't think I touched it. They were quick and very agile. You'll notice the wing in the picture has no ailerons. They only had rudder and elevators with a lot of authority and maneuvered  more like a bat than an airplane. I figure if I did hit it, it must have flown into the bullet! Nowadays it's CRT's, joysticks and Gattling guns. RCAT (the company) is still in business today.

Cheers,
Dave
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Wayne O'Neill

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Re: USAAF Tailplane ID
« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2013, 11:22:16 PM »

Bingo - thanks so much for that Dave, it all makes sense now! It looks a lot like the Northrop MQM-36 Shelduck in this picture (has the same bulge in the middle of the leading edge and the roudel is in the correct position):
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jacksnell707/6847358587/lightbox/

Cheers
Wayne
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Dave McDaniel

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Re: USAAF Tailplane ID
« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2013, 11:10:06 AM »

Glad I could help.

Cheers,
Dave
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