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Thread: Aircraft obsolescence

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    Default Aircraft obsolescence

    I am trying to find out the procedures in the AM/RAF for dealing with aircraft obsolescence. I am hoping there might be some knowledge out there among members or even references that I could follow-up at the TNA. I have searched a fair bit on Discovery and followed up possible leads at Kew (when it was open) but without much luck.

    I have assumed that the procedure would be associated with the appropriate AP (Air Publication) for the aircraft type but I have not been able to confirm that. The fragments of information I have found seem to indicate that obsolescence was announced in a fairly low key way perhaps in AM Weekly Orders or something similar eg “…from (date) the Spitfire I is deemed obsolete…” That announcement did not mean that all units flying the type would be immediately re-equipped. The key issue seems to be that from that date no more money should be spent on the specified aircraft… all work to modify aircraft before issue should stop… aircraft should no longer be repaired if damaged or faulty… unserviceable aircraft were to be struck off charge and/or reduced to spares…

    From an analysis of Forms 78 it seems possible to make a rough guess about obsolescence but if there are more precise records I would be very pleased to know about it.

    Any help gratefully received

    Steve

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    Default Re: Aircraft obsolescence

    Steve, Hi,
    I presume you are talking about 'planned obsolescence'? Petter had more than the outlines of the Canberra on the back of the traditional 'fag-packet' by mid-1944. At that stage D-Day had just happened, and we were still yet to win the war using (inter alia) the Lancaster (or its son, the Lincoln) which the Canberra would make obsolescent. But that was planned, inasmuch as the engineering was there - all it needed was those two rare commodities, political will and sufficient money. It was a well known system wherein the major variables were usually the continuing/regular supply of political will, and large amounts of money.
    That is a totally different kettle of fish from the occasion when the Crew Chief, in the depths of some Valiant in 1964, found a big crack (it was something like that!). They looked at a lot of Valiants. They all had it. Somebody up at the Air House had to tell Their Airships "The Valiant is obsolete"!! We were lucky? The Valiant had been a rapidly produced, low-cost(relatively!!), stop-gap. The other two V's were longer in the gestation (and, maybe, more expensive?) but they eventually filled the gap! (Indeed, I was privileged to provide some of the "Met" for the BLACK BUCK missions on Op CORPORATE).
    The two scenarios are distinct. One is planned - the other wasn't. Authors should be aware of the difference!
    HTH
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Default Re: Aircraft obsolescence

    Steve, I have no great depth of knowledge on the RAF's inner thinking on aircraft obsolescence, then obsoleteness (yes that really is a word!), but I have my own ideas on how it probably worked. I think that all new aircraft types, once they had been approved for any type of production (limited, or even mass production) were assumed to be suitable for purpose and it was hoped that (barring the usual annoying "bugs" in the design or in chosen components, which could be remedied with a bit of effort) they would rise to the challenge and eventually prove themselves in operational service, so a certain amount of faith was called for before production was approved. Leading up to WW2, certain risks were taken in ordering some fairly radical new types into mass production, such as the Lerwick, Beaufort and Botha, as well as the Stirling, Manchester and the Whirlwind fighter, many of which had brand new designs of engines, turrets, control systems, etc. Another "odd" aircraft of this vintage, from well-known manufacturer (the "Don" trainer) is remembered (if at all) for the ill-thought out specification which gave rise to it in the first place, and its short and miserable career with the RAF. As Board members well know, most of the named aircraft were only partially, or not at all successful, for various reasons, although the Whirlwind was interesting in that, although having some limitations, was kept in front line service for longer than you would expect. I am certain it was declared "obsolescent" at some point, but I am not certain as to exactly what that entailed, but probably that no further development or modification of the type was permitted (unless modifications were introduced for reasons of flying safety), and likely it might be taken off operational flying, and perhaps relegated to any non-operational duties which it might have some capability to fulfil. When declared obsolete it was likely considered that no real purpose for retraining the type in further service (operational or even training or even "miscellaneous"), at which point any remaining spare parts held by the RAF (or even the manufacturer) could be disposed of as scrap, or converted to fit other duties. After a certain point, all Air Publications pertaining to the type would also be declared obsolete, and could be destroyed, or converted to paper pulp. Some aircraft produced in largish numbers, even if their performance was rather mediocre, managed to make themselves useful in secondary roles, such as Ansons, Defiants, Rocs, Battles, and even the dreaded Botha, but NOT the unfortunate Lerwick (just too dangerous I think!) My 10 cents worth. Basically the RAF/Air Ministry valued aircraft capable of carrying out the job asked of them, equipped with reliable airframes, engines and equipment, and capable of being flown by "ordinary", rapidly trained flying personnel, and maintained by equally quickly trained erks under the supervision of some higher trained NCOs trained at Halton, etc.

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    Default Re: Aircraft obsolescence

    I know pigeons (the birds) were declared obsolete and recalled to the Air Ministry as I recall reading the instruction. I assume in this case the Air Ministry was the issuing depot rather than some building in London.

    That aside I do recall reading that many of the SLG's stored early marks of various aircraft and I believe some that were no longer deemed useful. If this was the case they would have gone to an MU and their records might throw some light on the fate of these aircraft. Unlike the post war storage when there were plenty of storage areas available, the wartime storage must have been short lived and rotated. I would guess reduce to produce or tarted up and sent to Russia. Not a helpful answer unless MU records show anything.

    What do the various Air Britain bibles say? I don't own any but a thumb through the later dates of each mark of a type might show something consistent.

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    Default Re: Aircraft obsolescence

    Thank you gentlemen for your efforts.

    I realise the language is more complicated than I anticipated. Clearly I should not have used “obsolescence” because “planned obsolescence” is definitely not what I meant. “Obsoleteness” is closer to what I intended but I guess I mean a process for “declaring aircraft obsolete”. I realise that individual aircraft will be written off because closer examination shows the fuselage is twisted or whatever. But I am fairly sure there was some kind of announcement to tell operational units, repair units and the CRO etc to stop any further work on a type that is now considered to be obsolete.

    PNK I have got the Air Britain serial books and I don’t think there are any clues there other than the fact that many aircraft are recorded as “SOC date”… I have looked at Forms 78 and they do show broad patterns. An individual aircraft is categorised ‘AC’ at the unit and may perhaps be passed to an MU or into the CRO where it is then re-categorised perhaps to ‘B’ and then to ‘E’ or in some cases straight to ‘E’ and then SOC. It is possible to conclude “well that seems to have started in autumn 1944” or whatever but I was hoping to find a bit more precision than that. Perhaps incorrectly I am assuming that there was somewhere in the RAF/AM where somebody made the decision “these aircraft are now obsolete”.

    Perhaps someone else will come along and dip their toe in this murky water…

    Thanks again

    Steve

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    Default Re: Aircraft obsolescence

    I did come across some Admiralty Fleet Orders online and they may contain declarations of obsolete aircraft used by the Fleet Air Arm. As some information was the same as the Air Ministry in relation to aircraft you might be lucky to find an Air Ministry version, Air Publications were often the same.

    Just found the site, but not sure if you can search the site or the relevant PDF file of the year.

    https://www.navy.gov.au/media-room/p...y-fleet-orders

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    Default Re: Aircraft obsolescence

    Thanks again PNK that seems like an enormously valuable resource...I'll have to try to work out a way to investigate it.
    Steve

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