This Automobile Is a Complete Airport (Dec, 1938)
This Automobile Is a Complete Airport
TWELVE-TON TOOL BOX ON WHEELS TURNS ANY LEVEL COW PASTURE INTO A SERVICE BASE WITH ALL EQUIPMENT FOR REPAIRING PLANES.
ROLLING swiftly down highways on ten oversize balloon tires, a revolutionary airport-in-miniature for use by passenger air lines and military air forces now provides quick and complete assistance to stranded airplanes. This curious “twelve-ton tool box” is the invention of Kibbey W. Couse, of East Orange, N. J. It is capable of turning any level cow pasture into an airport complete with machine shop, repair parts, floodlights, and radio.
The machine can race to the scene of a forced landing at forty-five miles an hour. It can climb hills with a thirty-five-degree grade. It can roll over rough ground and across ditches. It can tilt thirty-five degrees from a vertical position without tipping over. It can even slide, sledlike, across stretches of soft mud, resting on the smooth, welded-steel bottom and propelled by endless treads attached to the rear wheels. A scientifically designed plow forms a sort of keel at the nose of the machine and reduces resistance as it moves ahead.
Reaching the scene of the forced landing, the crew riding in the rolling airport are ready for any emergency. On board they have 3,000 different tools and machines. There are kits for repairing metal wings and fabric wings; kits for overhauling motors; kits for radio testing and repair. There are aids to sheet-metal working, carpentry, blacksmithing, electric-arc welding. There is a complete machine shop including a lathe, drill presses, and a milling machine. An electric still provides distilled water, cooled by a special radiator, for use in storage batteries, while a bench is equipped for recharging six batteries at a time. A compact air compressor provides power for air hammers, drills, and a grinder that spins at 12,000 revolutions a minute.
Extending from the rear of the big truck is a fifteen-foot boom. A seventy-five-foot steel cable runs over it to a two-ton winch. This equipment permits the mechanics to hoist big engines from planes for complete overhauls. In fact, when the mobile airport goes on a run, it is equipped for doing anything from shoeing a horse to rebuilding an airplane.
When a temporary airport is set up, the cab of the truck becomes the operations office. It contains a card file and a typewriter stand so that careful records can be kept of the work done. It also contains the powerful two- way radio equipment which can function either as a radiotelephone or as wireless telegraph. Beside the radio stand is a master switch. By flipping this, the operator can cut off any electric machines being used in the rear compartments of the truck if they are causing interference. The radio equipment can be used when the truck is rushing along a highway as well as when it has come to a stop. Seats within the roomy cab fold down into beds for two men.
The steel sides of the big machine are hinged so they can be raised to form awnings shielding the workers from sun and rain. In winter, a coal stove heats the interior. In addition, the blacksmith forge is so made that the sides can be removed to turn it into a supplementary heating unit. The spare wheels, complete with tires, are carried in front on a steel-tubing framework where they act as bumpers and enable the mobile airport to push like an elephant in helping to remove trucks or field guns from the mire.
Part of the equipment of the truck which will be of special value in military service is the electric generator and a complete set of searchlights, floodlights, and boundary lights. The beams of the searchlights, thrown upward, can be seen by airmen from a distance of fifty miles, while the floodlights will illuminate the makeshift field and help the pilot land. By tilting the beam of the small searchlight mounted on the cab of the vehicle, the men on the ground can indicate the direction of the wind when a plane is coming in for a night landing.
In crossing rivers or in working on seaplanes, the mobile airport can be run onto a pair of standard army pontoons. Anchored near an air-and-water craft, it would have all the equipment required for either minor or extensive repairs. On the highways, these rolling machine shops can repair motor cars or army trucks which have broken down and are obstructing the advance. Also, the inventor points out, each truck has the facilities that might be required not only to repair itself but to build additional mobile airports of the same design.