Twin-Boom Transport Aircraft

Text by Divan Muller
Twin-boom transport aircraft may be virtually extinct in our modern times, but not so long ago; they were a fairly common sight around the world. These aircraft benefitted from easy access for cargo, through large doors which were unobstructed by tail assemblies. On the ground, these aircraft had a relatively low tailfin height, whilst in flight, cargo or parachutists could be dropped from the unobstructed rear fuselage.
Burnelli's aircraft

During the 1920s and 1930s, American engineer Vincent Burnelli developed several interesting-looking aircraft and pioneered the 'lifting body', a concept in which the aircraft's fuselage itself produced lift. One of his more notable designs was the UB-14. The first of three examples completed its maiden flight in 1934. Although not designed as a dedicated transport aircraft, the twin-boom lifting body airliner could carry a fair amount of cargo. A licence-built version of the UB-14 was used as French General Charles de Gaulle's personal aircraft during World War II. Burnelli used the UB-14 concept to develop the CBY-3 Loadmaster. One example of this twin-boom transport aircraft was built in Canada in 1944. The CBY-3 showed tremendous potential, but failed to attract any orders. Despite the fact that the aircraft type never entered production, the prototype was used as a commercial transport aircraft until the mid-1960s.
Fairchild C-82 and C-119

As World War II raged in Europe during the early 1940s, the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) realised that it needed a new dedicated transport aircraft to replace the aircraft in its wartime inventory, which were originally developed as commercial airliners. As an answer to this requirement, Fairchild Aircraft produced the C-82 Packet. The prototype first flew in September 1944, with the first examples entering service with the USAAF as World War II came to an end in 1945. Although it failed to have an impact on World War II, the C-82 played a more important role during the subsequent Berlin Airlift. The USAAF retired its fleet in 1954, but the aircraft continued to serve several operators in North and South America. Unlike Burnelli's CBY-3, which was developed at the same time, the C-82 was fairly successful, with more than 220 examples built.
That said, to a large extent, the C-82 could be seen as an initial development of a vastly more capable and successful transport aircraft, namely the C-119 Flying Boxcar. The C-119 was a complete redesign of the C-82 and featured a stronger airframe and more powerful engines. Fairchild's new aircraft completed its maiden flight in November 1947, after which almost 1 200 examples were built. C-119s saw widespread use all over the world, whilst serving more than a dozen air forces. U.S.
 Air Force (USAF) aircraft were used extensively as tactical transport aircraft during the Korean War of the early 1950s. Later during the Vietnam War of the 1960s and 1970s, C-119s were used in a different role, when about fifty aircraft were converted to AC-119 gunship variants. Aircraft known as 'Shadows' were armed with four 7.62 mm Miniguns, whilst 'Stingers' were armed with two additional Vulcan 20 mm cannons. All of these aircraft were left in South Vietnam when the USA withdrew from the conflict.

Fairchild developed one more twin-boom transport aircraft worth mentioning. In 1950, engineers effectively removed the lover half of a C-119's fuselage. The remaining fuselage was raised, allowing the aircraft to carry large cargo pods. Only one prototype was built, but the aircraft, named the XC-120 Packplane, never entered production.
Nord Noratlas

Meanwhile in Europe, France realised that it too needed to replace its World War II era Douglas C-47s and Junkers Ju-52s. Nord Aviation responded with the Nord 2500, which first flew in September 1949. The Armée de l'Air (ADA - French Air Force) considered it too slow and underpowered, but a second prototype, the Nord 2501, proved to meet all of the ADA's requirements. The aircraft entered production as the Nord Noratlas, with a total of more than 420 examples built for more than twenty military and civilian operators. Despite the fact that it was designed specifically to serve as a transport aircraft, the Noratlas was used in a variety of roles. The Israeli Air Force, for example, used its aircraft as maritime patrol platforms and even as long range bombers.
Armstrong Whitworth Argosy

Britain's contribution to the world of twin-boom transport aircraft came in the form of the Armstrong Whitworth Company’s final aircraft, the Argosy. It was the result of an Air Ministry requirement announced in 1955, which called for the development of a military transport aircraft, which would also meet civil aviation requirements. In order to reduce development costs, the Argosy's wings were based on those of the Avro Shackleton, whilst the engines and nacelles were similar to those of a Vickers Viscount. It has also been speculated that its twin booms were identical to Gloster Meteor fuselages. Seventeen civilian variants, designated AW650s, were built, whilst 56 military AW660s were built for the Royal Air Force. Civil aircraft saw service with a variety of operators in ten countries. Despite its lack of commercial success, which was mainly due to its cost-cutting production process, the Argosy still proved to be a capable aircraft. That said, a pilot once described landing the Argosy as "landing a cottage from the bedroom window."