The retracting landing gear
is not big news in today’s world. But, in the 1920’s it was headline news. The idea of retractable landing gear had just come into existence around that time. Built in 1917, J.W.Wartin’s Kitten was one of the first planes that had retractable landing gear but this plane was incapable of flying. Later in 1920’s two new aircraft
were launched – the Dayton Wright’s RB-1 of 1920 and the Verville Sperry R-3 of 1922. Both of these had retractable gear but unfortunately both of these planes were rarities at that time.
The Streamlining Study
The Boeing Monomail and the Lockheed Orion which were introduced later in the 1930s were the pioneers in developing retractable landing gear. These two planes proved that is was a viable design. Some of the latest planes of that period had landing gear that would fold backwards & tuck themselves in the lower side of the wing once they took off. In a streamlining study, the Boeing Mail which had an incredible speed of 158mph was shaped in such a way that its speedy passage through the skies met with minimum air resistance. This amazing 100%- metal aircraft had been put on regular service and it flew the airmail route between Chicago and SF.
A Technological Leap
The Boeing Mail showed how far airplane designers had progressed since the birdcage biplanes that existed 15 years ago. These used to be intersected with struts & wire braces. Now, the fuselage of the monomial was cigar shaped and tapering. The only break in the fuselage was the pilot’s windshield space. The wind resistance was further reduced by a specially developed cowling. This mechanism and the retractable gearwas definitely a technological leap for the aviation industry.