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Cornelius XFG-1

Cornelius XFG-1The Cornelius XFG-1 was an unusual experimental glider designed to fulfill an even more unusual role. The unpowered aircraft was designed to be towed behind a larger aircraft, such as a B-29 bomber, and act as an additional fuel supply to extend the range of the towing aircraft.

Before the campaign of island hopping moved American air bases closer to the Japanese homeland, bombers simply didnt have the fuel capacity necessary to reach Tokyo and return to base. The famous Doolittle Raid of 1942 saw North American B-25 Mitchell bombers take off from the deck of the USS Hornet, but then continue on to mainland China, where many of the bombers crashed and their crews were killed or captured.

George Cornelius had been experimenting with gliders of different design, and one of his early designs was the Cornelius Mallard, a radical aircraft that featured a forward swept wing, vertical stabilizer, but no horizontal stabilizer. The functions of the horizontal stabilizer, or elevator, were carried out by elevators placed close to the fuselage, while ailerons farther out on the wing performed their usual function.

The idea was that once the towing aircraft had consumed the 677 gallons (2,563 liters) of fuel within the Cornelius XFG-1's tanks, the glider would disengage and the single pilot on board would glide it back to a prearranged airstrip or suitable field. An unmanned single-use version was also proposed which would simply be cut loose once emptied and return uncontrolled to the ground. It was never entirely clear exactly where the pilots were supposed to land their flying drop tank.

The Cornelius XFG-1 featured forward-swept wings and no horizontal stabilizer. Its designer, George Cornelius, had been experimenting with unconventional aircraft since the 1920s, and the XFG-1 was based loosely on the design of one of his previous creations, the Cornelius Mallard.

The XFG-1 (FG stood for Fuel Glider) first flew towards the end of the Second World War in 1944. Two prototypes were built, and together they made 32 test flights. Sadly one of the prototypes was lost, and its pilot killed, when it went into an unrecoverable spin before impacting the ground.

The program was canceled in 1945 as the requirement for extra-long range bombing missions was becoming less of an issue as the allies captured more and more territory in the final months of the war.

In the end the entire concept of a towed refueling aircraft was dropped as aircraft designers and engineers increasingly concentrated their efforts on creating dedicated tanker aircraft for air-to-air refueling.



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