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Production Quality of WW2 Aircraft


dov
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Hallo

 

I got information, about the production quality of WW2 aircraft.

The statistic about Russian aircraft says, that 47% of them failed.

Source is an accurate book about Stalin by Simon S. Montefiore.

As a consequence of this poor quality standard, some high officials of the aircraft industry were punished by Stalin.

What I want to ask, does anybody have any information about the quality standards of allied aircraft or German aircraft?

 

Happy modelling

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I don’t however I would hazard a guess that British quality was pretty constant and that German was too until later in the war when German industry was under pressure from Allied military action, there was a skilled manpower shortage addressed by the use of slave labour and increasing demands for more production 

 

The numbers would be interesting to see if my guess is right

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  • Mike changed the title to Production Quality of WW2 Aircraft

I can well believe that the Soviet aircraft were not made to very high standards, considering the extreme conditions inside the Russian factories (very high temperatures in summer, the exact opposite in winter, dreadful food, poor quality metals, lousy living conditions for the workers, etc, etc). The Soviets were desperate to produce anything at all, to help stem the German invasion. When you add in the horrible conditions of the Russian airfields and maintenance by poorly-trained ground-crew, the figure of 47% seems very realistic.

 

One factor that you have to consider is the enormous volume of Soviet production. The Nazis produced something in the region of 1,300 Tiger 1's and approximately 450 King Tigers, IIRC.  By comparison, I believe the Russians produced nearly 55,000 T-34's. The Russians had a saying: "Quantity has a quality all of its own".

 

Chris. 

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Interesting question.

How do we quantify "failed"? There are so many variables to consider.

How is "47% of them failed" defined? Is that by type or, by numbers produced and placed into service?

While it is no secret that a number of designers felt the wrath of Stalin (Nikolai Polikarpov and, Andrei Tupolev for example), Stalin was also known to interfere where designers tried to improve already functional designs. The IL-2 being a good example. Ilyushin had to go behind Stalin's back to get a rear gun position installed.

A brave thing to do for any designer in Russia!

I'd think we would  need to take a lot of factors into account before making any sort of definitive answer.

With regard to the Allied designs, for every successful design there were of course a lot failures.  Some due to valid technical reasons and, some due  , unfortunately, to hide bound, conservative thinking that always seems to get in the way of innovation. Remember how the Air Ministry reacted to somebody's idea of producing an unarmed, fast bomber built of wood?

 

John

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Just now, Beermonster1958 said:

The IL-2 being a good example. Ilyushin had to go behind Stalin's back to get a rear gun position installed.

A brave thing to do for any designer in Russia!

I remember seeing photos of the rear-gunner's position in a restored Il-2. It was just a thin strip of leather for him to sit on. No lap-belt or any other restraining-devices at all! Let's say that "Health and Safety" was not a major issue for Russian designers at the time. 

 

Chris. 

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At one point 4 out of 5 Belfast built Stirling bombers failed inspection upon delivery to the MUs. The bombers had to be sent to various shadow factories for the faults to be corrected. One of the faults was a reduced number of rivets in vital areas, there were also loose and over tightened bolts, leaking hose joints and gaskets. There were also problems with Belfast built or repaired Sunderlands. Mostly this was the lack of sealant on the hull below the water level

Shortly after this the British Government took over the Belfast Shorts factory

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A 47% rejection rate is calling for a good description of just what was this means..  Presumably it includes the LaGG.3s at the factory taken over by Yakovlev, only found after the snow had melted.  A fairly small percentage, of course, but difficult to blame on production standards.

 

There are  stories of failures in poor production from most of not all the major countries. perhaps most noticeably from Germany late in the war, where it can be blamed on/explained by supply shortages and slave labour.  In Japan the blame lies similarly on supply shortages but also from the military habit of indiscriminate conscription, however important the individual was to manufacturing.

 

The US had its equivalent to Shorts in Brewster, which was closed down and acceptable parts used in (at least) Chance-Vought's Corsair line.  Only a handful of Brewster's Corsair Mk.IIs were released for combat service, though not actually rejected.

 

UK examples include the wing failures of Mosquitos in India and the UK, which turned out to be caused by low gluing standards in the Standard Motors shadow factory.  Apparently it was "known" that English Electric made the best Halifaxes and the London Transport Production Board the worst.  Although there must be the suspicion of bias in the latter charge, the LTPB was not tasked with building any of the later Hercules-engined variants.  In all cases however the final responsibility must lie with the design company, although this must at times have been extremely difficult.  I have recently read of some resentment among EE workers that every 50th aircraft had to be tested by an HP test pilot and/or a Ministry/RAF one, although this was a normal part of quality checking and applied equally to those aircraft produced by the design companies.

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3 hours ago, spruecutter96 said:

I remember seeing photos of the rear-gunner's position in a restored Il-2. It was just a thin strip of leather for him to sit on. No lap-belt or any other restraining-devices at all! Let's say that "Health and Safety" was not a major issue for Russian designers at the time. 

 

Chris. 

 

 I'd say that including a defensive gun position was of some importance with regard to the health and safety of the aircraft and crew!, 😉😂.

 

John!

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Legend has it that the engine of the Sturmovik was very heavily-armoured for the time. which made it difficult to shoot down when it was diving on your position.

 

Stalin was quoted as saying that the three factors that were essential to the Soviet war-effort were "beans, bullets and the Sturmovik". 

 

Chris. 

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Not a legend: the Il.2 was a flying armoured box, including the engine, radiator and pilot's cabin.  For the early examples with a rear gunner, this did not extend to protect the gunner.

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Hallo

Now I refer from the book:

Wasili mentioned at Potsdam 1945: 80300 a/c produced in Russia during WW2. 47% crashed without meeting any enemy.

This became the fate for minister Schachurin and marshall Nowikow.

1943 the Jak-9 broke apart in midair. Jakowlew gotvin trouble with Stalin.

Two points out of a book.

Just to mention.

Happy modelling 

 

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I suggest that 47% of aircraft crashing without meeting the enemy was probably little or nothing to do with standards of production.  Non-combat losses were about 50% (very rough figure) of total losses world-wide because of the number of aircraft lost in training, pilot error, bad weather.  Not all aircraft were combat aircraft and so never meant to encounter the enemy anyway, but they still crashed.  

 

This is why broad-brush statistics like that are almost certainly misleading unless very heavily qualified by stating just exactly what is meant by each term, what is included and what is not.  Is the 80,300 purely combat types?  Just what is meant by "encountering any enemy?"  Surely not that these were combat aircraft that crashed before setting out to meet the enemy for the first time - what then about aircraft lost due to some production fault but had already flown in combat?  What about all those combat types which never met any enemy despite years of wartime service?  (I grant you that the USSR was short of maritime patrol aircraft, most of which could spend their whole career on operations without ever encountering action; but they had some, and some of those were lost.)

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17 hours ago, Graham Boak said:

A 47% rejection rate is calling for a good description of just what was this means..  Presumably it includes the LaGG.3s at the factory taken over by Yakovlev, only found after the snow had melted.  A fairly small percentage, of course, but difficult to blame on production standards.

 

There are  stories of failures in poor production from most of not all the major countries. perhaps most noticeably from Germany late in the war, where it can be blamed on/explained by supply shortages and slave labour.  In Japan the blame lies similarly on supply shortages but also from the military habit of indiscriminate conscription, however important the individual was to manufacturing.

 

The US had its equivalent to Shorts in Brewster, which was closed down and acceptable parts used in (at least) Chance-Vought's Corsair line.  Only a handful of Brewster's Corsair Mk.IIs were released for combat service, though not actually rejected.

 

UK examples include the wing failures of Mosquitos in India and the UK, which turned out to be caused by low gluing standards in the Standard Motors shadow factory.  Apparently it was "known" that English Electric made the best Halifaxes and the London Transport Production Board the worst.  Although there must be the suspicion of bias in the latter charge, the LTPB was not tasked with building any of the later Hercules-engined variants.  In all cases however the final responsibility must lie with the design company, although this must at times have been extremely difficult.  I have recently read of some resentment among EE workers that every 50th aircraft had to be tested by an HP test pilot and/or a Ministry/RAF one, although this was a normal part of quality checking and applied equally to those aircraft produced by the design companies.

The position of the Brewster built F3A-1 version of the Corsair is curious. The usual story is that the aircraft were inferior. But Dana Bell in his Aircraft Pictorial #8 F4U-1 Corsair Vol 2 states:-

 

“Though Brewster Corsairs are often cited as inferior, Navy records do not agree.” And Brewster engineers had handled certain Corsair modifications, which suggests confidence in their engineering ability.

 

Some 735 Corsairs were built by Brewster of which 430 were delivered to the RN as Corsair III and it is true that they were only issued to second line units but the usual reason cited is the old inferior aircraft one.

 

Where Brewster did have major problems was with its management and labour relations which Dana notes increased costs and delayed deliveries. Not even direct control of the company by the USN could resolve them and the Corsair contract was cancelled on 1 July 1944 after which it stopped making aircraft and was wound up in 1946.

 

No doubt the location of its factory, in the middle of a built up area, and it using a multi storey building didn’t help either.

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The following is me remembering an in depth article in a history or aeroplane magazine from a number of years back

* Inspectors found B-17s, B-24s and Grumman Avengers built very badly, Some so badly they went straight to the scrapyard but most were returned to the factories, shadow factories, for to be put right. Amongst the many faults was a reduction of rivets in the airframes. This led to a new type of inspector who had to make sure all rivets were put in and done right.

The reason for the bad construction was that the workers had learnt of the short front-line life of their aircraft so they thought there was no good reason to do thorough work on the aeroplane if it was only going to last a couple of weeks.

Those who were responsible for spreading these rumours were sacked, some charged with sabotage and the main workforce put to rights about their job.

The whole scenario led to a delay, a short delay, but still a delay, of new machines being delivered to where they were sorely needed

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In summary, no matter how and where the production faults lay, it is the question of human losses.

 

How many aircrews lost their life, due to low production quality?

No matter where and when.

If we count 50% and more losses in this field, warfare gets even more obscure.

 

In today’s aviation, hoe does it look like?

Do we get things right done?

I am not quite sure.

Even if I look at loss figures of highly praised aircraft like the already withdrawn Harrier.

 

Happy modelling

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11 minutes ago, dov said:

 

If we count 50% and more losses in this field, warfare gets even more obscure.

 

 

That's an unbelievably large IF.   But yes, warfare is very obscure.  Aviation is a very complex business, losses occur for a very wide range of reasons.  Not all of which are knowable now or then.

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On 17/06/2021 at 10:37, Black Knight said:

This led to a new type of inspector who had to make sure all rivets were put in and done right.

 

Ah, the original 'rivet counter'..  ;) 

 

There's a fascinating read over on Massimo Tessitori's VVS site, about La-7s in Czech service after the war.  Apparently, Lavochkin only guaranteed the integrity of the airframes for two years after production - mainly, I think because of the wood/laminate construction and possibly because of the likely combat life-expectancy around that time.  However, the Czechs flew them right through to 1950 or thereabouts, as stress tests showed that although some of the structures had lost as much as 50% of their integrity, they were still sufficiently robust to continue in service.  Not sure how the pilots themselves would have felt about that....

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On 6/16/2021 at 10:27 PM, spruecutter96 said:

No lap-belt or any other restraining-devices at all! Let's say that "Health and Safety" was not a major issue for Russian designers at the time. 

 

Like the lack of ejection seats for some of the aircrew of Victors and Vulcans...!

 

 

I seem to recall an interesting bit about poor manufacturing/consistency standards with the exhaust components of Halifax engines in Merrick's Handley Page Halifax - from hell to victory and beyond.

I daresay any time there are multiple factories set up in short timespans in wartime, you are bound to get manufacturing 'discrepancies'!

 

An interesting paper on Germany's industrial culture - plus the effects of enemy action, sabotage and slave labour - can be found here: https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=830366 

 

Edited by Blimpyboy
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Somewhere in my hazy memory, I seem to remember that both the Spitfire and the E-Model BF-109 had a nasty habit of losing their wings, if they were put into a very steep dive. This is not to imply that either aircraft was poorly produced, but these flying conditions probably tested both airframes to their limits and beyond....

 

Chris.  

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Didn't one of the very early prototypes of the Heinkel He-126 "Peoples' Fighter" have the leading-edge of its wing fall off, when it was being demonstrated to a number of Luftwaffe generals? IIRC, the pilot didn't survive the incident. This is perhaps not too surprising considering that it went from concept to flight in just a few months.

 

Chris.  

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Going slightly off-topic (apologies), but I remember seeing a documentary about German AFV's a while back. With those that were made by slave-labour, the workers often went to some trouble to sabotage the vehicles (cigarette butts in oil-lines, deliberate misalignment of vital components, half-cut fuel lines, etc). Considering that these workers were risking death by their actions, I can only admire their courage.   

 

Chris. 

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On 6/17/2021 at 10:08 AM, EwenS said:

Where Brewster did have major problems was with its management and labour relations which Dana notes increased costs and delayed deliveries

Contrary to the popular image of British wartime industry, there were a number of vital work-forces who went out on strike during the conflict. Reportedly, this so outraged Churchill that he attempted to have many of the strikers fired, unsuccessfully. He was told that the introduction and training of new workers would take far too long to be practical and the striking workers were negotiated with. The British Prime Minister had to simply "bite his tongue" on the matter. 

 

Apparently, relations between these industries and the government remained "strained" throughout the rest of the war. I wonder if this had anything to do with the British public effectively rejecting Churchill at the war's end?

 

Chris. 

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43 minutes ago, spruecutter96 said:

Didn't one of the very early prototypes of the Heinkel He-126 "Peoples' Fighter" have the leading-edge of its wing fall off, when it was being demonstrated to a number of Luftwaffe generals? IIRC, the pilot didn't survive the incident. This is perhaps not too surprising considering that it went from concept to flight in just a few months.

 

Chris.  

 

It was the He 162, a rather different aircraft from the Hs 126. Yes, the prototype experienced fatal wing failure during a demonstration to generals.  The fault was traced to allied bombing destroying the preferred adhesive manufacturer and the alternative used had too high an acid content leading to deterioration of critical parts.

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Hello

Bear in mind that in WWII aircraft were not expected to last. I think Mustang had had design limit of 800 hours. I also remember reading in one of the books about SAAF that Liberators in their bomber squadrons had been struck off charge after 500 hours. No doubt, some good machines had been scrapped before their time, but not many lasted that long anyway.

Still, such numbers pale in comparison with late war German production. There is an old anecdote about Bf 109 G fighters Switzerland bought in 1944. Allegedly they complained about a component, which failed after 16 hours. In the laconic answer from the manufacturer it had been explained, that it was designed to fail after eight hours. This is exaggeration, of course, but there is a cold calculation behind such thinking. Why waste man hours and raw material on planes, designed to serve for years, when attrition and obsolescence would eliminate them rather sooner than later. Cheers

Jure

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