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Schatzberg, Eric, 1956- / Wings of wood, wings of metal : culture and technical choice in American airplane materials, 1914-1945

2. Engineering enthusiasm: World War I and the origins of the metal airplane,   pp. [22]-43

Page 34

Figure 2.5. Results of a static test of the JN-4 metal wing structure, 1918. From
K. M. Lane and Alexander Klemin, "Sand Load Test of JN-4 (Art Metal) Steel
Wings," n.d., box 193, Klemin Papers, Department of Special Collections, Univer-
sity Research Library, UCLA.
a load of 13,160 pounds without failure, a 19 percent advantage. The engi-
neers concluded that "by reducing the weight of the steel wings slightly they
could be made quite as light and strong as the wood wings."30 By this time,
of course, the war was over, and metal airplanes would make no contribu-
tion to the U.S. war effort.
Three months after the Armistice, the army's Airplane Engineering Divi-
sion at McCook Field published a detailed (but still confidential) account
summarizing the wartime program in metal construction. In this report,
army engineers cautiously endorsed metal wing structures. Metal had cer-
tain advantages in quantity production, they argued, and offered greater
uniformity than wood. In certain cases metal structures had greater strength
than wood for equal weight, although this required "an entirely new type of
construction." The McCook field engineers remained pessimistic about
prospects for all-metal airplanes, however, and insisted that metal was not

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