Culver TD2C-1

Culver TD2C-1

     

The NASM's Culver, serial number 120035, is one of the 1,198 TD2C drones used by the Navy. Records are incomplete, but it may have been transferred from the Army. In May of 1949 it was located at NAS Johnsville, Pennsylvania. In October of that year the radio control equipment was removed and in June 1950 radomes were installed on the wings for tests conducted by a local electronics laboratory. In October 1950, the aircraft was transferred to Air Development Squadron 2 (VX-2) at NAS Chincoteague, Virginia. It was restricted to normal flying because of the mutilation to the wings resulting from the installation and removal of the radomes. Most of the aircraft's total of 184 flying hours were accumulated in the next two years. In June 1952, 120035 received a new engine, but in November of that year it was transferred to Norfolk to be made ready for transfer to the National Air Museum. The Smithsonian took ownership of the TD2C-1 in 1961 and it is currently in storage at the Paul E. Garber Restoration and Preservation Facility in Suitland, Maryland.

Transferred from the United States Navy, Bureau of Weapons.

Physical Description:
Fully aerobatic, yet comfortable enough for cross-country flight. A red radio-controlled drone with retractable landing gear.

Country of Origin
United States of America

Manufacturer
Culver

Date
1950

Type
CRAFT-Aircraft

Materials
Wires strung in the wings, bottom painted with radar reflective paint.
Dimensions
Overall: 254 x 594cm, 826kg, 914cm (8ft 4in. x 19ft 5 7/8in., 1821lb., 29ft 11 13/16in.)

In August 1940, the U.S. Government began to look for a radio-controlled aircraft for use as a target drone in the training of air and anti-aircraft gunners. Some twenty manufacturers of light aircraft were invited to submit designs. Among the entrants was the Culver Aircraft Company of Columbus, Ohio, whose design was the only one chosen and the company thus became the sole supplier of piloted radio-controlled targets to both the Army and Navy.

The Culver TD2C Cadet was the brainchild of the talented aircraft designer, Al Mooney, who began his aviation career in 1925. His father was a railroad engineer, designing and building tunnels, trestles, stations, and other installations, and although Al had been interested in aviation from a young age, he spent his early years following in his father's footsteps. He continued, however, to study the new science of aeronautical engineering in his spare time and impressed a local Denver businessman sufficiently with his knowledge to hire him.

The businessman, J. Don Alexander, produced trailers showing coming attractions at the movies. He was also one of the earliest businessmen to see the value of the airplane in his operations. His plan was to put his salesmen in airplanes to cover the vast territories of the western United States. His problem was that the ubiquitous war-surplus Curtiss Jenny, or any other airplane for that matter, did not have a safe margin of altitude to cross the Rocky Mountains. In true entrepreneurial fashion, Alexander decided to build his own aircraft with the necessary performance.

To accomplish this, he bought the Longren Aircraft Company of Topeka, Kansas and hired the designer of the company's airplane. The design had problems, however, and after his chance meeting with Al Mooney at the Colorado Airways field, Alexander hired Al to find out what was wrong. Al did some calculations and determined that the design was inherently faulty. Taking a risk, he decided to present his ideas for a totally new design to his boss. To his relief, Alexander accepted his proposal, and at nineteen, Al Mooney was officially an aircraft designer.

The resulting design, the Alexander Eaglerock, would become one of the most successful general aviation aircraft of the Twenties. It was the first aircraft to compete with the low-cost, war-surplus Jennys and many of the early pilots soloed in it. And while it is not as well known today as some other designs of the time, it easily outsold them all. The airplane's success, however, did not benefit Al Mooney. Alexander chose to concentrate on selling the aircraft and not on developing the design. Al had little to do and readily accepted an offer to work for another company.

His first design was a biplane, but Al Mooney always had the idea of a small, fast monoplane in mind. He would continue to refine his idea during the next several years, designing aircraft for several companies, including a second stint at Alexander, at Bellanca, and as the head of his own short-lived company. In 1935 he joined the Monocoupe Corporation in St. Louis. At this time he designed what was probably the first light twin, the Monocoach. The Mooney-designed Monosport, however, would continue his dream of a small, fast monoplane, and would lead directly to the Cadet.

By 1937 the Depression was taking its toll on Monocoupe. Under these circumstances, a young, wealthy Monocoupe dealer in Columbus, Ohio, named Knight Culver, offered to buy Al's Monosport design outright and hire its designer for his new company. Culver formed the Dart Manufacturing Corporation which two years later became Culver Aircraft. The company would rename Mooney's design the Dart and put it into production. After further modification, including the addition of a retractable landing gear, the design would become the Culver Cadet. This low-cost, high-performance aircraft was like few others. It was fully aerobatic, yet comfortable enough for cross-country flight.

In late 1940 the United States Army began to look for a target drone to help train the expected influx of pilots as war approached. The drone was to be radio-controlled for target use, but it also had to be piloted for ferry, delivery, and training purposes. The Culver Cadet was a prime candidate and Al was approached about the possibility of Culver manufacturing the drone. After being rejected by Continental and Lycoming for supplies of suitable engines, the Franklin engine company agreed, and Culver decided to produce the drone. The type chosen was the Franklin O-200 (and later the O-300), which after the war would also be used to power the Tucker automobile. Work on fitting the radio-control apparatus to the Cadet to produce a prototype began immediately.

About this time, Culver decided that he did not want to continue in the aircraft manufacturing business because of the pressure of increased orders. The company floundered through new owners, but a group that included Walter Beech of Beechcraft shortly replaced them. After December 7, 1941, the company ceased all civilian production and concentrated totally on drones for the military.

The new drone was originally designated the RAT-8 for Radio Aircraft Target-8. RAT was soon changed to PQ, which stood for piloted (P) drone (Q). Smaller, un-piloted drones were built by film actor Reginald Denny's Radioplanes company in California, and were designated OQ. When the PQ was flown into gunfire without a pilot, it was called a NOLO flight. The radio operator who controlled the drone on these types of flights usually flew in a Cessna UC-78 "Bamboo Bomber" mother ship. Late in 1941 the United States Navy ordered 200 drones which they designated as TDC (for Target Drone Culver).

The PQ-8 was not immediately successful in its intended role. At first, anti-aircraft gunners were shooting down few of the aircraft. It turned out that because the aircraft had been designed to use non-strategic wood for its construction, it did not return a good radar picture - an early form of stealth! The army ordered wires to be strung in the wings, and the bottom to be painted with radar reflective paint, thus curing the problem.

In 1943 Al Mooney designed a strengthened drone with retractable landing gear, which was officially accepted on July 4, and was designated the PQ-14. Of the 1,348 army drones built, 1,201 were transferred to the Navy as TD2C-1s. The drones were very popular with the ferry pilots who would pick them up at the factory and fly them to Texas for installation of the radio control equipment. They would take off and engage in mock dogfights over the factory in the hot little drone before flying off in formation. The last version, which never went into production, was even designed to include a radial engine, making it almost a scaled-down "fighter".

The Culver drones continued to fly for the Air Force and the Navy in various programs after the war. The National Air and Space Museum's Deputy Director, Lieutenant Colonel Donald S. Lopez, USAF, (Ret.) was involved in one such experiment. The Air Force was developing a device that could record the location of rounds of ammunition fired at a target. The target itself, therefore, could be smaller and more easily towed, but the device could track the location of bullets in a larger area. The test platform chosen for the experiment was the Culver drone. Col. Lopez was a test pilot at Eglin Field at the time and was selected to test the system by flying firing passes at the drone in his F-84. To make sure that the bullets actually missed the drone so that the device could record the misses, his fighter carried only two guns and he was required to fire from maximum range and a high angle of deflection. Col. Lopez's gunnery training was so thorough, however that even with the difficult shot, he destroyed the drone after firing only seven or eight rounds. The B-17 carrying the monitoring equipment and the scientists who were running the project, instead of landing, immediately headed back to Wright Field and the project was never heard from again.

Not all the military drones were destroyed in service, however, and a few still fly today in private hands.

The NASM's Culver, serial number 120035, is one of the 1,198 TD2C drones used by the Navy. Records are incomplete, but it may have been transferred from the Army. In May of 1949 it was located at NAS Johnsville, Pennsylvania. In October of that year the radio control equipment was removed and in June 1950 radomes were installed on the wings for tests conducted by a local electronics laboratory. In October 1950, the aircraft was transferred to Air Development Squadron 2 (VX-2) at NAS Chincoteague, Virginia. It was restricted to normal flying because of the mutilation to the wings resulting from the installation and removal of the radomes. Most of the aircraft's total of 184 flying hours were accumulated in the next two years. In June 1952, 120035 received a new engine, but in November of that year it was transferred to Norfolk to be made ready for transfer to the National Air Museum. The Smithsonian took ownership of the TD2C-1 in 1961 and it is currently in storage at the Paul E. Garber Restoration and Preservation Facility in Suitland, Maryland.

The NASM's Culver, serial number 120035, is one of the 1,198 TD2C drones used by the Navy. Records are incomplete, but it may have been transferred from the Army. In May of 1949 it was located at NAS Johnsville, Pennsylvania. In October of that year the radio control equipment was removed and in June 1950 radomes were installed on the wings for tests conducted by a local electronics laboratory. In October 1950, the aircraft was transferred to Air Development Squadron 2 (VX-2) at NAS Chincoteague, Virginia. It was restricted to normal flying because of the mutilation to the wings resulting from the installation and removal of the radomes. Most of the aircraft's total of 184 flying hours were accumulated in the next two years. In June 1952, 120035 received a new engine, but in November of that year it was transferred to Norfolk to be made ready for transfer to the National Air Museum. The Smithsonian took ownership of the TD2C-1 in 1961 and it is currently in storage at the Paul E. Garber Restoration and Preservation Facility in Suitland, Maryland.

Transferred from the United States Navy, Bureau of Weapons.

Physical Description:
Fully aerobatic, yet comfortable enough for cross-country flight. A red radio-controlled drone with retractable landing gear.

Country of Origin
United States of America

Manufacturer
Culver

Date
1950

Type
CRAFT-Aircraft

Materials
Wires strung in the wings, bottom painted with radar reflective paint.
Dimensions
Overall: 254 x 594cm, 826kg, 914cm (8ft 4in. x 19ft 5 7/8in., 1821lb., 29ft 11 13/16in.)

In August 1940, the U.S. Government began to look for a radio-controlled aircraft for use as a target drone in the training of air and anti-aircraft gunners. Some twenty manufacturers of light aircraft were invited to submit designs. Among the entrants was the Culver Aircraft Company of Columbus, Ohio, whose design was the only one chosen and the company thus became the sole supplier of piloted radio-controlled targets to both the Army and Navy.

The Culver TD2C Cadet was the brainchild of the talented aircraft designer, Al Mooney, who began his aviation career in 1925. His father was a railroad engineer, designing and building tunnels, trestles, stations, and other installations, and although Al had been interested in aviation from a young age, he spent his early years following in his father's footsteps. He continued, however, to study the new science of aeronautical engineering in his spare time and impressed a local Denver businessman sufficiently with his knowledge to hire him.

The businessman, J. Don Alexander, produced trailers showing coming attractions at the movies. He was also one of the earliest businessmen to see the value of the airplane in his operations. His plan was to put his salesmen in airplanes to cover the vast territories of the western United States. His problem was that the ubiquitous war-surplus Curtiss Jenny, or any other airplane for that matter, did not have a safe margin of altitude to cross the Rocky Mountains. In true entrepreneurial fashion, Alexander decided to build his own aircraft with the necessary performance.

To accomplish this, he bought the Longren Aircraft Company of Topeka, Kansas and hired the designer of the company's airplane. The design had problems, however, and after his chance meeting with Al Mooney at the Colorado Airways field, Alexander hired Al to find out what was wrong. Al did some calculations and determined that the design was inherently faulty. Taking a risk, he decided to present his ideas for a totally new design to his boss. To his relief, Alexander accepted his proposal, and at nineteen, Al Mooney was officially an aircraft designer.

The resulting design, the Alexander Eaglerock, would become one of the most successful general aviation aircraft of the Twenties. It was the first aircraft to compete with the low-cost, war-surplus Jennys and many of the early pilots soloed in it. And while it is not as well known today as some other designs of the time, it easily outsold them all. The airplane's success, however, did not benefit Al Mooney. Alexander chose to concentrate on selling the aircraft and not on developing the design. Al had little to do and readily accepted an offer to work for another company.

His first design was a biplane, but Al Mooney always had the idea of a small, fast monoplane in mind. He would continue to refine his idea during the next several years, designing aircraft for several companies, including a second stint at Alexander, at Bellanca, and as the head of his own short-lived company. In 1935 he joined the Monocoupe Corporation in St. Louis. At this time he designed what was probably the first light twin, the Monocoach. The Mooney-designed Monosport, however, would continue his dream of a small, fast monoplane, and would lead directly to the Cadet.

By 1937 the Depression was taking its toll on Monocoupe. Under these circumstances, a young, wealthy Monocoupe dealer in Columbus, Ohio, named Knight Culver, offered to buy Al's Monosport design outright and hire its designer for his new company. Culver formed the Dart Manufacturing Corporation which two years later became Culver Aircraft. The company would rename Mooney's design the Dart and put it into production. After further modification, including the addition of a retractable landing gear, the design would become the Culver Cadet. This low-cost, high-performance aircraft was like few others. It was fully aerobatic, yet comfortable enough for cross-country flight.

In late 1940 the United States Army began to look for a target drone to help train the expected influx of pilots as war approached. The drone was to be radio-controlled for target use, but it also had to be piloted for ferry, delivery, and training purposes. The Culver Cadet was a prime candidate and Al was approached about the possibility of Culver manufacturing the drone. After being rejected by Continental and Lycoming for supplies of suitable engines, the Franklin engine company agreed, and Culver decided to produce the drone. The type chosen was the Franklin O-200 (and later the O-300), which after the war would also be used to power the Tucker automobile. Work on fitting the radio-control apparatus to the Cadet to produce a prototype began immediately.

About this time, Culver decided that he did not want to continue in the aircraft manufacturing business because of the pressure of increased orders. The company floundered through new owners, but a group that included Walter Beech of Beechcraft shortly replaced them. After December 7, 1941, the company ceased all civilian production and concentrated totally on drones for the military.

The new drone was originally designated the RAT-8 for Radio Aircraft Target-8. RAT was soon changed to PQ, which stood for piloted (P) drone (Q). Smaller, un-piloted drones were built by film actor Reginald Denny's Radioplanes company in California, and were designated OQ. When the PQ was flown into gunfire without a pilot, it was called a NOLO flight. The radio operator who controlled the drone on these types of flights usually flew in a Cessna UC-78 "Bamboo Bomber" mother ship. Late in 1941 the United States Navy ordered 200 drones which they designated as TDC (for Target Drone Culver).

The PQ-8 was not immediately successful in its intended role. At first, anti-aircraft gunners were shooting down few of the aircraft. It turned out that because the aircraft had been designed to use non-strategic wood for its construction, it did not return a good radar picture - an early form of stealth! The army ordered wires to be strung in the wings, and the bottom to be painted with radar reflective paint, thus curing the problem.

In 1943 Al Mooney designed a strengthened drone with retractable landing gear, which was officially accepted on July 4, and was designated the PQ-14. Of the 1,348 army drones built, 1,201 were transferred to the Navy as TD2C-1s. The drones were very popular with the ferry pilots who would pick them up at the factory and fly them to Texas for installation of the radio control equipment. They would take off and engage in mock dogfights over the factory in the hot little drone before flying off in formation. The last version, which never went into production, was even designed to include a radial engine, making it almost a scaled-down "fighter".

The Culver drones continued to fly for the Air Force and the Navy in various programs after the war. The National Air and Space Museum's Deputy Director, Lieutenant Colonel Donald S. Lopez, USAF, (Ret.) was involved in one such experiment. The Air Force was developing a device that could record the location of rounds of ammunition fired at a target. The target itself, therefore, could be smaller and more easily towed, but the device could track the location of bullets in a larger area. The test platform chosen for the experiment was the Culver drone. Col. Lopez was a test pilot at Eglin Field at the time and was selected to test the system by flying firing passes at the drone in his F-84. To make sure that the bullets actually missed the drone so that the device could record the misses, his fighter carried only two guns and he was required to fire from maximum range and a high angle of deflection. Col. Lopez's gunnery training was so thorough, however that even with the difficult shot, he destroyed the drone after firing only seven or eight rounds. The B-17 carrying the monitoring equipment and the scientists who were running the project, instead of landing, immediately headed back to Wright Field and the project was never heard from again.

Not all the military drones were destroyed in service, however, and a few still fly today in private hands.

The NASM's Culver, serial number 120035, is one of the 1,198 TD2C drones used by the Navy. Records are incomplete, but it may have been transferred from the Army. In May of 1949 it was located at NAS Johnsville, Pennsylvania. In October of that year the radio control equipment was removed and in June 1950 radomes were installed on the wings for tests conducted by a local electronics laboratory. In October 1950, the aircraft was transferred to Air Development Squadron 2 (VX-2) at NAS Chincoteague, Virginia. It was restricted to normal flying because of the mutilation to the wings resulting from the installation and removal of the radomes. Most of the aircraft's total of 184 flying hours were accumulated in the next two years. In June 1952, 120035 received a new engine, but in November of that year it was transferred to Norfolk to be made ready for transfer to the National Air Museum. The Smithsonian took ownership of the TD2C-1 in 1961 and it is currently in storage at the Paul E. Garber Restoration and Preservation Facility in Suitland, Maryland.

ID: A19610116000