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Author Topic: Western Electric No. 53-A Test Set  (Read 9192 times)

C.W. Herndon

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Western Electric No. 53-A Test Set
« on: July 12, 2014, 10:44:30 AM »

I have for some time now been curious about the "Western Electric No. 53-A Test Set" mentioned in the TIGHAR article shown in the 1st picture below. I spent many hours looking for information about this test set but could find nothing. I finally asked myself what would be the part of the radios that AE and FN might test and the answer that kept coming back was "nothing". I then thought that if that were the case, then what kind of test set might they carry along. I decided that most radio repair shops would likely have at least part if not all of the equipment necessary for testing and repairing the radios of the day. The one thing I could think of that they might not have was the equipment necessary to test the "American vacuum tubes" in the Electric's radio sets. Further investigation revealed that the Hickok Electrical Instrument Company made a T53 tube tester during the time period close to the time of the flight (see picture 2 below). I also discovered that Hickok made some electrical equipment for Western Electric. I have not found a direct link showing that this test set was one but, IMO, it sure looks like it might be the case. Picture 3 below shows one of the cases in which the T53 tube testers were packaged.
Woody (former 3316R)
"the watcher"
 
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Andrew M McKenna

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Re: Western Electric No. 53-A Test Set
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2014, 09:12:18 PM »

Interesting.  With the numbers "53" being the same, it is easy to think there is a connection.

And if the guts of the unit were removed, it would look like a sextant box.....

Any numbers on that instrument?

Andrew
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James Champion

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Re: Western Electric No. 53-A Test Set
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2014, 11:02:55 PM »

With Amelia so focused on keeping the weight down, to the point of compromising the radio setup, I doubt she would have carried any extra equipment. It would have been easier to have carried an extra set of tubes for the radios, but I doubt she even had that.
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C.W. Herndon

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Re: Western Electric No. 53-A Test Set
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2014, 03:05:55 AM »

Interesting.  With the numbers "53" being the same, it is easy to think there is a connection.

And if the guts of the unit were removed, it would look like a sextant box.....

Any numbers on that instrument?

Andrew

Andrew, I had the same thought as you about the box looking like a sextant box....

Yes, there are numbers on the faceplate of the Hickok tube tester. Below is a better view of the area where the numbers are.
Woody (former 3316R)
"the watcher"
 
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Steve Lyle Gunderson

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Re: Western Electric No. 53-A Test Set
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2014, 04:54:04 AM »

Is this tube tester battery powered or do you have to plug it in ?
Steve G
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C.W. Herndon

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Re: Western Electric No. 53-A Test Set
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2014, 09:24:56 AM »

Is this tube tester battery powered or do you have to plug it in ?

Steve, it is 110-120vac so it has to be plugged in to a power source providing that voltage. Needless to say, it could not be used inside the Electra.
Woody (former 3316R)
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C.W. Herndon

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Re: Western Electric No. 53-A Test Set
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2014, 09:51:48 AM »

With Amelia so focused on keeping the weight down, to the point of compromising the radio setup, I doubt she would have carried any extra equipment. It would have been easier to have carried an extra set of tubes for the radios, but I doubt she even had that.

James, to the best of my knowledge, there is no known list of the items taken along on the second attempt flight. There was, however, a detailed list of the items left inside the aircraft after the ground loop and aborted takeoff from Luke Field during the first attempt. The U.S. Navy made a complete inventory of the items that they shipped back to the states. If you look at item 5, on sheet 1 you will find "3 Transmitter Tubes #282 A" listed. These tubes were used in the Western Electric Type 13C transmitter installed in the Electra and shown in the electrical circuit diagram on page 6 of the reference below.

There is no mention of the #53 test set being among the items shipped with the aircraft. The question of the test set was raised because of an item found on Nikumaroro during one of TIGHAR's visits there.
Woody (former 3316R)
"the watcher"
 
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Monty Fowler

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Re: Western Electric No. 53-A Test Set
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2014, 09:06:27 PM »

It's an intriguing hypothesis, but, to me, one look at the photo of the faceplate of that thing, with all the knobs and dials and lights and instructions, and my immediate thought was, No way in you know what would Amelia want to have anything to do with it. She was known to be very, ummm, "impatient" with any electronics beyond those absolutely necessary to make the aircraft go.

Witness her removing the Hooven Radio Compass (which may have ultimately saved her life if only she'd kept it), her reluctance to learn Morse Code, etc.

LTM,
Monty Fowler, TIGHAR No. 2189 ECSP

Ex-TIGHAR member No. 2189 E C R SP, 1998-2016
 
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Mike Shawn

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Re: Western Electric No. 53-A Test Set
« Reply #8 on: October 12, 2014, 09:29:27 PM »

 I've been reading this post with interest and I think I might have found a lead.  The website www.kadiak.org lists a document entitled Western Electric USAF collection - 53A Mobile Oscillator J64053A, TE-55, November 1961 (black binder).  An oscillator would be used to provide a variable frequency (VFO) for the radio set.  The radio would most often operate using crystals (fixed frequency) and the VFO would provide a means of contacting stations operating on non-standard channels.  That was my initial thought.  The kadiak site op was kind enough to send me a photo of the unit in question but this thing is HUGH and would not be on the plane.  Perhaps WE made a portable version for use with mobile radio sets.
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