Burnelli CBY-3 Restoration

The long awaited restoration of the only existing Burnelli designed "blended fuselage" is now underway.

Burnelli CBY-3 Loadmaster
Future color scheme for the Burnelli CBY-3 "Loadmaster"

Background

The Museum's CBY-3, built by the Canadian Car and Foundry, was the last of Vincent Burnelli's "lifting fuselage" aircraft. Two Wright engines were mounted side-by-side on the forward edge of the fuselage and instead of a conventional tail the CBY-3 had twin tail mounted booms that extended rearward from the main fuselage. While most aircraft designs have circular cross-section fuselages, the Burnelli has a 20 foot wide rectangular cross-section. The fuselage is in the shape of an airfoil which allows it to assist the wings in providing lift. This results not only in a wide-body cabin, but also gave the plane impressive performance. It could carry a ton more payload than a DC-3 and needed only 650 feet to takeoff.

A prolific designer, Burnelli believed that his design was stronger, safer and more efficient than conventional designs. Although eight prototypes were built between 1923 and 1945, none gained acceptance from the aircraft industry nor achieved production. This is the sole remaining Burnelli example and the only CBY-3.

Prior to the Air Museum acquiring the CBY-3 “Loadmaster” from Friendship Airport in Baltimore in 1972. It had been abandoned for ten years and during that time the engines, engine mounts and cowls had been stripped from the aircraft, as well as the cockpit instrumentation. The CBY-3 had also been vandalized and had incurred structural damage to the rear landing gear. While awaiting restoration at the Air Museum's previous location on Rte 75, the CBY-3 had a close call with the tornado that devastated our museum in 1979. The aircraft was peppered with debris causing damage to its skin.

Burnelli CBY-3 Loadmaster
1957 photo of the CBY-3 at Beacon Field Airport.
Courtesy of the Friends of Beacon Field Airport.

General Aircraft Specifications

Length:   54' 6"
Height:   20' 8"
Wingspan:   86'
Empty Weight:   16,900 lbs.
Gross Weight:   27,000 lbs.
Range:   1,025 mi.
Cruise Speed:   170 mph
Maximum Speed:   235 mph
Service Ceiling:   24,000'
Powerplant:   2 X Wright R-2600-13
Year:   1945
Registration:   N17N

Work Completed Through April, 2014

Tail Assembly and Flight Control Surfaces

The two tail booms were refurbished along with the 33 foot long horizontal stabilizer and the two vertical tail fins. To aid in the assembly of the entire empennage an assembly jig was designed and built by the museum restoration staff. Missing mounting brackets for the stabilizer and fins were manufactured and donated by Peerless Tool & Machining Co. Three aerodynamic fairings that mount to the rear of the horizontal stabilizer needed extensive repairs and a fourth had to be built from scratch. The missing fairing was built by David Paqua, owner of Franklin Glass and Aluminum in Stamford. As components were completed they were assembled on the jig which will eventually allow the installation of the fully assembled empennage to be mated to the fuselage as one unit.

Burnelli CBY-3 Loadmaster
Twin tail booms mounted in the empennage assembly jig.
Burnelli CBY-3 Loadmaster
Assembled empennage during the test fitting of the rudders and elevators.

The fabric covered flight control surfaces include two ailerons, two rudders, a large central elevator that mounts between the tail booms, and two smaller elevators that mount outside the vertical fins. Existing remnants of the fabric were removed and catalogued for future reference. The control surfaces were sent to Blastech Overhaul and Repair Corp. to be media blasted in order to remove layers of peeling paint and residue. Work is currently proceeding on repairs to numerous fatigue cracks and corrosion damage to these parts. We plan to begin the fabric resurfacing of these components this summer.

Sheet metal damage to the wing flaps has also been repaired and these parts have been put into storage for future installation.

Burnelli CBY-3 Loadmaster
Volunteer Steve Seiser makes body repairs to the damaged wing flap.
Burnelli CBY-3 Loadmaster
Volunteer Al Pereira makes structural repairs to the flight control structures.

Cockpit Instruments and Controls

The pilots’ console – mounted between the pilots – was removed and entirely disassembled for complete restoration. Missing parts were manufactured and all of the hundreds of parts were treated for rust and corrosion. This required extensive photo-documentation and cataloguing to assure proper reassembly. All of the cockpit flight instruments and radios were missing from the aircraft. We are in the process of attempting to acquire these components consistent with the early 1960’s timeframe when the CBY-3 was still operating. Many of the basic flight instruments were available from NEAM’s inventory and are being fitted to the instrument panel. In addition we are trying to find a pair of pilot seats consistent with commercial aircraft from the early to mid 1940’s when the CBY-3 was built.

Burnelli CBY-3 Loadmaster
Volunteer Ralph Redman restores the main instrument panel.
Burnelli CBY-3 Loadmaster
Volunteer John Smith restores the pilot control console.
Burnelli CBY-3 Loadmaster
Pilot control console prior to removal from the CBY-3.
Burnelli CBY-3 Loadmaster
Partial restoration of the pilot control console.

Engines and Propellers

At the end of its service life the CBY-3 was powered by two Wright 2600 engines. While the original engines, mounts and cowlings were missing from the aircraft, NEAM had two Wright 2600s in its inventory. Both have been cosmetically refurbished by the museum’s engine restoration crew and will be installed at a later date. Work is currently underway to put together a set of engine cowlings and to adapt engine mounts to fit the CBY-3. We are also in the process of determining the most appropriate propeller configuration and acquiring these components.

Burnelli CBY-3 Loadmaster
Volunteers Connie Lachendro (l) and Jim Godin (r) restore the two Wright 2600 engines destimed for the CBY-3.

Aircraft Move to Restoration Facility and Wing Removal

Burnelli CBY-3 Loadmaster
Volunteer John Gavitt with one of the two cradles he designed and built to facilitate the removal of the wings.

Prior to moving the aircraft to our restoration area the remaining two (of four) main gear wheels were removed and the wheel bearings were cleaned and lubricated. The CBY-3 was then removed from its hardstands and positioned to facilitate interior cleaning of the fuselage and removal of its wings. Two custom-built cradles were designed and built to accommodate the shape and weight of each wing during the removal process which is scheduled to take place in May, 2014.

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36 Perimeter Rd., Windsor Locks, CT,
860-623-3305