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Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation


Photograph of B-24s on the Fort
        Worth assembly line of Consolidated Vultee

U.S. Air Force. Via ibiblio.org

Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation was formed on 17 March 1943 as a merger of Consolidated Aircraft and Vultee Aircraft. Both companies had previously operated independently under the umbrella of AVCO.

Consolidated Aircraft dated back to 1923 and was incorporated by Reuben Fleet, a former Army pilot who had helped organize mail service. Fleet intended for the company to specialize in Army trainer aircraft, but  the company found its true niche in flying boats, first with the P2Y Ranger in 1933 and then with the PBY Catalina in 1933. The firm moved to San Diego in late 1935 to take advantage of the more favorable climate. Approached in 1939 to become a second manufacturer for the B-17 Flying Fortress, Consolidated instead developed the B-24 Liberator heavy bomber, which was arguably superior to the Flying Fortress. In 1941, Fleet sold his interest in Consolidated to Vultee, though he remained active with the company until 1946.

Vultee Aircraft was founded as Airplane Development Corporation in 1932 by Gerard Vultee and Vince Breese. The company originally specialized in passenger aircraft, but changed hands several times before becoming Vultee Aircraft, Inc., in November 1939. Gerard Vultee, a capable aircraft designer, had been killed in a crash in Arizona in January 1938.

When Fleet sold his interests to AVCO in December 1941, the head of AVCO, Victor Emanuel, "... was deeply worried, since we knew nothing about big airplanes and the situation was a danger to our country" (quoted by Klein 2013). Emanuel persuaded Tom Girdler, CEO of Republic Steel, to become CEO of Consolidated and Vultee as well. An opponent of both organized labor and the New Deal, Gridler surprised everyone by cooperating with both to improve output at the airplane factories. Girdler was unimpressed with the romance of aircraft manufacture, regarding aircraft as simply another article to be mass produced. Vultee had pioneered the use of assembly lines in the aircraft manufacturing industry, but now Girdler applied methods of mass production throughout the Consolidated and Vultee plants.By March 1942 Consolidated was running a 3000' (1000m) assembly line for the LIberators in three eight-hour shifts six days a week. To man the assembly line, Girdler added some 2500 women to the work force.

In addition to the Liberator and Catalina, Consolidated Vultee produced the Coronado flying boats at its San Diego plant. The company delivered more than 28,000 airframes between December 1941 and August 1945. However, most of the production of the Liberator was done by Ford at the Willow Run plant.

Consolidated Vultee in San Diego produced an average of about 40 PBY, 10 PB2Y, and 164 B-24 airframes a month. The company set up additional plants for B-24 production at Fort Worth, Nashville, New Orleans, and Wayne (MI), which produced an average total of about 114 airframes a month.


References

AAFSD

Bodie (1991)

CentennialOfFlight.gov (accessed 2011-9-25)

Creed (1985)

Klein (2013)



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