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Author Topic: Fuel tank changes and problems  (Read 326 times)

Ric Gillespie

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Fuel tank changes and problems
« on: July 23, 2020, 01:50:47 PM »

For the Electra book, I've been tracing the evolution of c/n 1055's long range fuel system.  It's becoming apparent that they had a lot of trouble with it. The specifics of the problems are not described in the available written records so we have to extrapolate from the written and photographic records we have.
George Putnam first approached Lockheed in December 1935, asking if they could produce an Electra the would fly 4,500 miles un-refueled. Amelia was contemplating a world flight and anticipated a non-stop crossing of the Pacific from Honolulu to Tokyo - a distance of about 3,800 miles, plus the traditional 20% reserve. Lockheed ran the numbers and told Putnam a Model 10E could carry enough fuel, 1,200 gallons, to do the job. They later produced Report 487 to confirm their finding.

On July 19, 1936, c/n 1055, still owned by Lockheed and registered as X16020, was equipped with 6 wing tanks and 7 fuselage tanks totaling 1,198 gallons. Two fueling ports on the side of the cabin served 5 of the fuselage tanks. The two forward tanks were served by a single port in the cabin roof.

Earhart took possession on July 24. By August 3, all 7 fuselage tanks had been removed and the cabin floor reinforced with a "false floor" on top of the standard flooring.  The refueling ports were unchanged.  The tanks were still out on August 7 when Earhart submitted an application requesting the airplane be licensed in the Restricted category.  The license was granted approving the airplane to carry 394 gallons of fuel.

Exactly when the fuselage tanks were re-installed is not recorded, but by the time Paul Mantz used the airplane for Hollywood stunt work in the last week of July, there four re-fueling ports in the side of the cabin.

On September 4, 1936 Earhart, accompanied by Helen Richie, competed in the cross-country Bendix Trophy Race from New York to Los Angeles.  If all the tanks were back in the airplane and working properly, Earhart and Richie should have been able to cover the 2,500 mile distance non-stop, easily winning the race. None of the other competitors had that much range. But Earhart and Richie made a refueling stop in Kansas City and also wired shut the cockpit latch that had blown open shortly after takeoff from New York. They finished dead last.

A November 27, 1936, Bureau of Air Commerce inspection in Garden City, New York found the airplane equipped with 6 wing tanks and 6 fuselage tanks for a total fuel capacity of 1,151 gallons. There were still 4 re-fueling ports in the side of the cabin plus 2 in the cabin roof - one for each of the two forward tanks.
So each of the 6 fuselage tanks now had its own refueling port.

Apparently everything was still not working right because there was one more change to the fuel system.  Some time after late December 1936 but before February 8, 1937, one of the ports added in September was closed over and a new fourth re-fueling port was added.

No further changes in the tankage or re-fueling ports is apparent in later photos.
Below is a photo taken on February 8, 1937 annotated to show the various refueling ports and their relation to Fuselage Stations.
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Randy Conrad

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Re: Fuel tank changes and problems
« Reply #1 on: August 01, 2020, 08:31:51 AM »

Fuel tanks layout
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Fuel tank changes and problems
« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2020, 09:00:42 AM »

Fuel tanks layout

That schematic is from the 11/27/36 Bureau of Air Commerce inspection in Garden City, NY.
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