The Burnelli Web Site
Todays 'new concept' was designed over 60 years ago
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INTERVIEW OF

MR. CHARLES F. MULLEN

BY MRS. V.J.BURNELLI

In the late 1930's, after extensive examinations of flight test reports on Burnelli aircraft and extensive wind tunnel tests of military models, Maj. Gen. H.H. Arnold, Chief of United States Army Air Corps, signed a report to the Secretary of War which extolled the excellence of the Burnelli Lifting Body principle of design. The Arnold report ended with this quote: "in my opinion it is essential, in the interest of national defense, that this procurement be authorized." This report culminated in an invitation to Vincent J. Burnelli and associates being invited to the Oval Office in the White House for a meeting with President Roosevelt. The purpose was to celebrate the signing of a presidential directive to order large quantities of Burnelli airplanes. However, this meeting broke up without President Roosevelt signing the directive, and it has been alleged that, in the midst of the meeting, President Roosevelt learned that one of Burnelli's backers was Arthur E. Pew of the Sun Oil Company. President Roosevelt threw his pen across the room and shouted that Burnelli would never receive any orders. 

We at aircrash believe this was a pretext, a cover to destroy the Burnelli Company for the purpose of transfering the technology to the Air Trust discussed the introduction of this web-site as Burnelli was not part of the establishment.  This corruption prevented the production of the superior, safer and less costly Burnelli airplanes for World War II.  The result of this corruption were many thousands of avoidable aircrew deaths and the waste of billions of taxpayer dollars in the production of thousands of the inferior conventional planes.  This waste of  lives and dollars came about because 1) more aircraft were downed by the enemy and 2) since the carrying capacity of these aircraft was less than that of the Burnelli, more of them (including more aircrew) were required to achieve the same results. 

In endeavours to obtain the facts of this meeting after her husband's death, Mrs. Hazel Burnelli interviewed Mr. Charles F. Mullen, formerly Chief Engineer for Vincent J. Burnelli at Long Branch, NJ, on May 20, 1973. The tape is now in the possession of The Burnelli Company, Inc.

The following is a stenographic transcript of this taped interview:

 

T R A N S C R I P T

 

Picture of Burnelli A-1 Bomber won competition but contract awarded to competitor (we believe for B-26)HAZEL: Would you tell us about the A-1 bomber and about its performance, if it had been built. Anyway ... would Pangborn possibly have flown it from this country to England ... and then they would have flown it from there whenever required back to Germany, and it would have flown nonstop - would it ?

MULLEN: Surely nonstop. The only way it would have come down on ground would be shot clown down.

HAZEL: How high would it fly ?

MULLEN: 30,000 feet, and that's higher than the Messerschmidt would fly. That's the advantage it had over the Messerschmidt ... if we had built it.

HAZEL: Would it have carried a lot of armaments ?

MULLEN: It would have carried the armament that government specifications asked for ... and that was apparently ample.

HAZEL: Incidentally, do you remember about the radar plane, designed by Vince, that he submitted? He had designed a plane for radar purposes, and I recall he said the radar plane of his design would carry more weaponry and other items than the Grumman.

MULLEN: I don't see the advantage of that ...but we won't argue. In fact, it's got nothing to do with our problem here.

Murray Berkow and I took this wind tunnel model down to Langley Field, and we stayed there all during the wind tunnel tests. I think the engineer in charge was a man by the name of Stack ... I'm not sure. Stack came to work after the tests had been completed and asked us if we would assist him in getting a job with Burnelli after we had got the contract. We assured him we would. He told us all about how we had won the contest and by what a great margin we had out-performed Lockheed, Douglas and Boeing, and all the rest of them. The difference in performance was so great that there could be no question as to who won the competition.

Therefore, when the meeting was arranged in Washington to go to the President's Office and have the contract signed, a group of us went to Washington. I don't know why in the devil I was there ... whether Vince had invited me down, or I had been in Langley Field and came over ... I don't know. It's so long ago, I forget it. But, I do know -I think - [Clyde] Pangborn was there. I think one of the representatives of Canadian Car & Foundry was there.

HAZEL: L.A. Peto ?

MULLEN: L.A. Peto was there. I don't know whether Drury was there or not ... it strikes me he was . But if he was, I don't know why he did not answer to Roosevelt instead of Peto. It would have been the natural thing, I would think. So ... therefore ... I begin to doubt whether Drury was there or not. He may have been ... I don't know. But anyway, Roosevelt was about to sign this contract ... we were all going to have champagne ... Harry Hopkins was doing serving, and Roosevelt just casually asked "how are you going to finance this operation, because it will require a terrific amount of money to take an unlimited order, such as I am going to write? They take all they could build, as fast as they could get them, that was the idea. So, Peto explained to him that the resources of Canadian Car & Foundry were quite strong, and if that wasn't enough money to operate or get going properly - or if we needed more money - we always could refer to Sun Oil Company through Mr. Pew. Well ... Mr. Roosevelt went into a conniption fit, threw his pen across the room - and almost fairly went wild - and proclaimed loudly that this concern would never get an order as long as he was alive. Because Pew had spent money trying to ...

HAZEL : ... finance Wendell Wilkie's campaign.

MULLEN: That's right. So that's why Roosevelt got mad.

So, the meeting apparently broke up on a bad note, and the gang came back to the hotel where I was ... I even forget the name of the hotel ...

HAZEL: Mayflower ...

MULLEN: Yes - Mayflower ... Maybe it was ... Could have been. Anyway, the fact that the Burnelli fighter bomber - the A-1 - that we tested at Langley Field and won the competition, the fact that we won that competition, did -us no good, because we never were allowed to build the airplane.

HAZEL: Well, I know that Jean Roche ...You remember Jean Roche?

MULLEN: Yes, very well.

HAZEL: He took me over to NASA at Langley Field back in '64 - '65, and he told me that 'they had tests made there in the wind tunnel ... and that they were very, very satisfactory ... and, in fact, they were excellent. He said they sent them on to Washington DC, and they don't know what ever became of them ... they just evaporated.

Republic P-47 bomberMULLEN: I don't know what Roosevelt did. Oh, I do know - I do know - what he did in order to prevent Burnelli's company from getting a contract with the government. The only way Roosevelt could accomplish this was to demand that the Air Force eliminate that type or category of aircraft being made. Now, the fact that they no longer had it even on the drafting board now, even the concerns that Lockheed, Douglas and Boeing all of whom had designed a damned good airplane and could have been built in lieu of ours. They were not as good as ours - we know - but they were not bad. They were not bad. Now, the fact that he (Roosevelt) eliminated the category, took it out of existence, no one could build it. And as a result of which, the bombing that the United States did - daylight bombing from London to Berlin and back -  was very costly, both in planes and in crews. The amount of money we spent that was shot down because of the Messerschmidt being able to lick anything the British had - or we had - until the Republic Aviation got over there with the P-47. Now, the P-47 was super charged and could fly 10,000 feet higher than the Messerschmidt. The Republic planes knocked Messerschmidts out of the air. From that time on, Berlin was licked. We could fly to Berlin and back and lose nothing. Now, the wing tanks were put on the P-47 at Farmingdale, Long Island, and it just so happened that I was in charge of the factory the night the first airplane with wing tanks on was put out... so, I had - you might say - the honor of escorting the first P-47 that was able to go to Berlin and back and get home safe.

HAZEL: Is that right ?

MULLEN: Yes. But, Roosevelt committed a crime which - had the public known it at the time - they would have tarred and feathered him. Thousands of men were lost, and billions of dollars were lost, because of the fact that the Air Force did not have the planes they wanted or needed ... and should have had ... and could have had, had he (Roosevelt) not denied them.

It is obvious that a cigar shaped airplane in the middle, held by two wings, is a dead weight in the middle - isn't it? Everything is the strain on the wings. If you have in the middle a lifting element, there is no strain on the wings at all. The payload that is carried is the only load that you are lifting ... (indecipherable) ... The airplane is like a bird that flies itself.

HAZEL: I can remember, Robert Q. Williams was flying one time and had his hands off - we have photographs of it - he said, no hands - flying - no hands.

MULLEN: It's a damn .... It is a crime - It's a crime that that airplane didn't come into its own.

When anybody criticises or speaks derogatorily of the Burnelli aircraft design - lifting fuselage design - all one has to do is to refer them to the results of that Langley Field test in 1941 on the A-1 bomber, and they would be answered fully. At that time it out-performed every top airplane manufacturer in the country who submitted designs in the same competition we were in. Period.

- E N D -

 

* Mr. Jean Roche was the U.S. Army Air Corps/USAF Chief of Airplane Design at Langley Field and Wright Field for 43 years.

 

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