Scale Matters

The mystery monoplane

Can you help with this model?

By Orin Humphries
February 2020

My flying buddy, Jeral Godfrey, is a member of an RC flying club in the Everett, Wash., area. The club, the Snohomish Radio Aero Club (SRAC), has a field on the north side of Highway 2 between Everett and Monroe. In their clubhouse at the field, Jeral dug out a very old control-line model of a 1930s fighter.
It was in very bad shape. It caught his eye because it was a parasol wing design in the age of biplanes. Jeral asked me to identify the aircraft, and it was one I had modeled for Carrier way back. It is a Boeing XF5B-2. I noticed that its leadouts were on the right wing for clockwise flight, not our conventional counterclockwise rotation. This was pointing at the model’s origin as being in the mid-1930s through the later 1940s. Jeral set about to rebuild and refurbish this historic project

We determined that it originally had an ignition engine due to the bay for the capacitor and the hole in the fuselage for the ignition wire. Which engine was still a mystery to us. I refurbished its original fuel tank and provided historical documents on that military program plus the color scheme and paints for the model.

This design was offered to the Army and to the Navy, being the P-15 and XF5B respectively. It was when voices were calling for monoplanes and several offerings were simply older designs without the bottom wing. This P-15/XF5B sprang from the successful Boeing P-12/F4B. None of these offerings offered an improvement and all were considered inferior to the parent biplane. As a result of these experiments it was decided that monoplanes had to start with a clean sheet of paper. The Grumman XF4B Wildcat actually began as a biplane on paper. With the results of the above trials, the drawing was begun all over as a monoplane.

What to do with this great old model? The RC club appreciates the model’s history but their clubhouse cannot guarantee the model’s safety over the time to come. The club agreed to let Jeral approach museums about accepting this model. This led us to the AMA Museum in Muncie, Ind. The museum was enthusiastic about the model, but they are very cramped for space and have to reject materials unless the materials meet tight requirements. The National Model Aviation Museum has requested additional provenance before they can choose this model over other competitors for a space.

This is where you, dear readers, come in. No one at the RC club today remembers anything about this old model or its builder. The museum needs to know as much of the following bits of information as possible. The more we here can provide, the stronger the case to choose this model for display. The Museum stated that the time frame for this model’s creation as being in the later 1940s when the model’s bellcrank became popular.

  • Who built it?
  • When was it built?
  • Where was it built?
  • Where and when did it fly?
  • What engine did it have?
  • Was it entered in contests?

Jeral was able to select a Super Cyclone ignition engine offered by Bob Parker’s collection and buy it. The engine just dropped in. Bob also sold an original prop for it that was made until 1950 and this one was still in great condition. The RC club won’t stand our expenses until a museum accepts this project. Please help with the ID if you can.

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This page was upated Jan. 19, 2020