Consolidated XPY-1 photo from Aero Digest February 1929
A pioneer of the long-haul passenger aircraft industry, the Commodore "Clipper" grew out of a Navy design competition in the 1920s to create an aircraft capable of nonstop flights between the mainland of the United States and Panama, Alaska, and the Hawaiian Islands. In response to these requirements, Consolidated produced the prototype XPY-1 Admiral, designed by Isaac M. Laddon, in January 1929. Consolidated lost out on the contract to produce the airplanes for the navy to the Glenn L. Martin Company. Martin produced one prototype XP2M and nine production P3Ms. The aircraft represented a marked change from earlier patrol boat designs such as the Curtiss NC.
In response to losing the Navy contract, Consolidated offered a passenger-carrying version of the XPY-1, which became known as the Commodore. A parasol wingmonoplane with all-metal hull, it could accommodate 32 passengers and a crew of three. The full complement of passengers, located in three cabins, could be carried only on relatively short route segments. For a 1000-mile flight, the boat probably could accommodate no more than 14 people including the crew. Wing and tail construction consisted of a metal frame structure covered with fabric, except for metal-covered leading edges. The Commodore had significant changes from the XPY-1. These included more powerful engines, fuselage shape and structural improvements.
Consolidated Commodore cabin
With a first flight in 1929, a total of 14 Commodore boats were built. Starting February 18, 1930 Commodores were flown by the New York, Rio, Buenos Aires Line from the United States to South America where routes extended as far south as Buenos Aires, a distance of 9000 miles from Miami. One testimony to the Commodore in Pan Am service was made by a Pan Am pilot, Marius Lodeesen who wrote " . . . the good old Consolidated Commodore was the most reliable, trusty air craft of the Pan American fleet during the early 1930s. . . . She was hoisted aloft by two engines. They must have been Pratt and Whitneys because they never gave any trouble. . . Waterlooping the Commodore was impossible. Making a bad landing in her was hard work. She was the loveliest boat I ever flew." As the 1930s progressed the Commodores were gradually superseded by more efficient aircraft such as the Sikorsky S-42, Martin 130, and Boeing 314. A number of them went on to serve with other operators. The Commodore may be considered a first step in the United States along a road that was to lead to the highly efficient monoplane-type patrol and transport flying boats later in the 1930s. The XPY-1 and its civil counterpart, the Commodore, may be considered progenitors in a series of flying boat developments that led to the famous Consolidated PBY Catalina of World War II fame.
The only known Model 16 Commodore remaining has been located in a northern Canadian lake. There is currently an ongoing project to raise and restore this airframe for display at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft. London: Aerospace Publishing.
Taylor, Michael J. H. (1989). Jane's Encyclopedia of Aviation. London: Studio Editions.
World Aircraft Information Files. London: Bright Star Publishing.
O'Neill, Ralph A. (1973). A Dream of Eagles. Boston: San Francisco Book Company/Houghton Mifflin Company.
Lodeneesen, Marius (1984). Captain Lodi Speaking. Boston ASIN: B0006EGX1U: Argonaut Press.
Simpich, Frederick, National Geographic – January 1931, Vol. 59, No. 1, SKYPATHS THROUGH LATIN AMERICA: Flying From Our Nation's Capital Southward Over Jungles, Remote Islands, and Great Cities on an Aerial Survey of the East Coast of South America, with 78 Illustrations
The Consolidated Aircraft Corporation was founded in 1923 by Reuben H. Fleet in Buffalo, New York, the result of the Gallaudet Aircraft Company's liquidation and Fleet's purchase of designs from the Dayton-Wright Company as the subsidiary was being closed by its parent corporation, General Motors. Consolidated became famous, during the 1920s and 1930s, for its line of flying boats. The most successful of the Consolidated patrol boats was the PBY Catalina, which was produced throughout World War II and used extensively by the Allies. Equally famous was the B-24 Liberator, a heavy bomber which, like the Catalina, saw action in both the Pacific and European theaters.
In 1943, Consolidated merged with Vultee Aircraft to form Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft, later known as Convair.
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