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Frontiers May 2013 Issue

‘CHEERIO, NA-49’ In July 1938, employees of North Ameri-can Aviation, a Boeing heritage company, welcomed “Our British Cousins” to the company’s production facility in Ingle-wood, Calif. That’s how the North American Log, the official publication of North American Aviation employees, described representa-tives of the British Air Ministry who had arrived to supervise the manufacture of the NA-49 Harvard trainer. The Log provided a detailed account of the airplane purchase, which marked the beginning of Boeing’s long-standing partnership with the United Kingdom. In June 1938, after an extensive tour of American aircraft plants by a commission of British air experts, the British Air Ministry announced the award of a contract to North American Aviation for the construction of 200 Harvard combat trainers. “For your information,” the Log reported, “the NA-49 has been officially christened the ‘Harvard’ by the British government, this name being chosen because of the fact that the ship is of the training type and of American manufacture. Therefore, the name of an American institution of learning was deemed as appropriate.” After a period of intense activity, the mock-up model was completed in September 1938 and preparation began for the first flight of the Harvard. Late in the afternoon of Sept. 28, the first Harvard, bearing “N7000” in large black letters and the Royal Air Force insignia on its fuselage and wings, was rolled out onto the factory flight ramp at Los Angeles Airport for its initial flight. Air Ministry repre-sentatives were on hand, and the Log reported that the initial flight was “routine.” The Harvard was test-flown more than 38 hours before it went into production. “On the NA-49, everything was tested that could possibly be tested …” the Log said. “The machine gun was tested by the simple expedient of flying the beauty over to the field the other side of Redondo Boulevard and firing the gun into a huge pile of dirt that the W.P.A. Works Progress Administration had been obligingly piling up since sometime last year.” The aircraft was painted “a violent yellow, which saved the flight crew many a headache by enabling them to pick the ship up many miles away,” the Log noted. “This was especially helpful during spin tests.” After the Harvard was tested and approved, production began and North American began shipping the airplanes to the United Kingdom. “The process of crating an aeroplane for export shipment constitutes in itself a fasci-nating chapter in the story of the Harvard,” the Log explained. “A waterproof box, 8 feet by 10 feet 7 inches by 21 feet 8 inches 2.4 by 3.2 by 6.6 meters, is constructed. The fuselage, with the landing gear in full retracted position and the motor, wings and empennage surfaces detached, is securely fastened to the floor of the box.” On Oct. 24, 1938, a shipping crate con-taining Harvard number N7000 was taken to Los Angeles Harbor and loaded on board the English vessel, MS Lochatrine, bound for Liverpool, England. It was then transported to the Shawbury Aerodrome near Shrewsbury for final flight tests. The British Air Ministry, in January 1939, announced that it would purchase an ad-ditional 200 Harvard airplanes from North American Aviation, making the Harvard contract one of the largest U.S. aircraft manufacturing export programs at that time. The Log summed up the program this way: “The Harvard Trainer, or NA-49, will carry the insignia of N.A.A. North American Aviation to Old England with flying colors. Cheerio, NA-49, best of luck!” – Bill Seil 34 BOEING FRONTIERS / MAY 2013


Frontiers May 2013 Issue
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