New England Air Museum Restoration of Only Surviving CBY-3 “Loadmaster”

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Restoration to static display has begun on the Burnelli CBY-3 “Loadmaster” owned by the New England Air Museum (NEAM) in Windsor Locks, CT. Aircraft designer Vincent Burnelli was a pioneer in the effort to design and build aircraft which incorporated a “blended wing” concept where the rectangular fuselage contributes significantly to lift, in the case of the CBY-3, fully 40% of the lift. Burnelli, born in Texas from Italian, immigrants began designing aircraft in 1915 and had a major hand in the design of the famed Lawson Airliner, America’s first twin-engined commercial airliner. Beginning in 1920 he began building blended wing prototypes. He called his concept a “lifting body.” When he died in 1964 he had just completed a design for a turbo-jet powered version with the jet engines mounted on pylons above the wing.

A side view of the Burnelli CBY-3 Loadmaster. Photo taken at Beacon Field Airport, Virginia, circa 1959. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
A side view of the Burnelli CBY-3 Loadmaster. Photo taken at Beacon Field Airport, Virginia, circa 1959. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

The CBY-3 was the last of about twelve lifting body aircraft of various designs to be built and flown. It was constructed at the Canadian Car & Foundry Co. in Montreal in 1945 and successfully flew as a cargo transport in Canada, South America and the United States until the early 1960’s. Commercial orders were not forthcoming however, as war surplus cargo aircraft were available in large numbers and the “lifting body” was viewed as radical for its time.

NEAM’s CBY-3 is the only surviving aircraft of Burnelli’s designs. The aircraft had been abandoned in Baltimore in the early 60’s and had been stripped of its engines, mounts and cowlings as well as most of its instrumentation prior to being acquired by NEAM in 1973. The weather has also taken its toll, most significantly debris damage from an F-4 tornado that struck the Hartford area in 1979. The twin tail booms, the 33 foot long horizontal stabilizer, tail fins and all of the fabric covered flight control surfaces are undergoing restoration in NEAM’S restoration facility. Two Wright 2600 engines and many instruments from NEAM’s inventory will eventually be installed and are currently undergoing refurbishment. Additional parts and assemblies will need to be located and acquired, including engine mounts and cowlings (which are compatible with the B-25), a set of four 15.00-16 main gear tires and two 9.00-6 tail wheels. Next April the wings will be removed and the fuselage will be moved into NEAM’s restoration building.

Work has started on the twin tail booms.
Work has started on the twin tail booms.

New England Air Museum is the largest aviation museum in New England. Located at the Bradley International Airport, New England Air Museum was organized in 1959. It is owned and operated by the Connecticut Aeronautical Historical Association and is a non-profit educational institution. As a non-profit organization 501(c)(3), the Museum depends on the generous support of individuals and businesses to fulfill its mission. Click HERE to donate or become a member.

4 Comments

  1. Glad to hear this aircraft is being restored. I started to gather information on the CBY-3 from Chalmers Goodling many years ago. I started to design plans to build a quarter scale remote control version. Seeing your efforts to restore her has sparked my interest in getting back to building my model.
    Thanks, please keep us updated.

    • Hello Jim,

      Glad to hear you’re inspired to restart your plans for a 1/4 scale CBY-3. Wow! Quarter scale? That’s thinking big. I was inspired by the Burnelli story in April 2006. I’ve made it my life’s passion to get his name back into general public and universities for study. Built a successful RC of Burnelli’s last design, the GB-888. It flew very well for a small, 30″ design. I’m now working on a 4 foot, 4 ducted fan model I hope to have flying soon.

      I’d like to see some of the information you got from Mr. Goodlin if you don’t mind sharing. Also, the 3-views for the CBY-3 online are incorrect. The wings don’t have a double taper. They are angled from the front wing root to the tip but come out straight from the body at the trailing edge. This is shown in an original, 1947 brochure I got from a friend in Canada.

      Going up to Temple, TX to the Central Texas Air Show today. Going to spread the news about Burnelli’s history and possible future of the work of this great aviation visionary who was born in their town.

      Good luck with your project. Hope to hear from you soon.

  2. I love seeing the progress that is being made on this wonderful piece of history! A hearty thank you goes out to the museum, the volunteers and all of the individual and corporate donors, especially the Mortensen Foundation! My father was a columnist and transportation editor for the Washington Post in the thirties where he met and befriended Vincent Burnelli. After the war and a tour of duty in Germany and France they renewed their friendship. I recall several Sunday afternoon trips that we made to visit Vincent and Hazel at their apartment near Washington, DC….he would let me play with his models….one of which suffered a crash at my hands – but true to it’s design, survived with only a couple of dents. It wasn’t until much later that I learned what a truly great, although unsung designer he was. I just remembered him as uncle Vincent…..I sincerely hope the restoration of the CBY-3 will give him some of the recognition that he did not receive during his lifetime. Also, looking at images of Lockheed-Martin’s Wing-Body Airlifter Concept, it would be hard to believe that they were not paying attention to some of Vincent’s advanced concept drawings and models! Again, thanks for the wonderful work preserving this amazing aircraft!!!

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