Original WWII U.S. B-17 Flying Fortress Type C-1 Autopilot Control Panel

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. The C-1 Autopilot system was used extensively in WW2-era bomber aircraft of the US Army Air Forces, including the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, the Consolidated B-24 Liberator, and the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. This module, one of 10, is the control panel, typically installed at the pedestal between the pilot and co-pilot. The other modules are three servo units (aileron, rudder, elevator), a directional stabilizer, the vertical flight gyro, amplifier, inverter, and junction box, with a later generation adding the rate gyro and rate gyro adapter unit in Boeing B-50 bombers.  Was also installed with a "formation stick" controller in some aircraft.

This example is offered in very good condition. It measures approximately: 8" x 8" x 4"

The World War II C1 autopilot for the Norden bombsights used on B17, B24 and B29 bombers. A requirement for the successful use of the Norden bomb-sight was a steady and controllable aircraft platform achieved by use of a gyroscopic autopilot. Minnesota Honeywell Regulator Company developed and produced the C1 autopilot as an improvement over the original Sperry Gyroscope auto pilot.

The Honeywell C-1 Autopilot was an electronic-mechanical system designed to reduce the amount of fatigue that pilots felt while hand flying the aircraft for long periods by automatically flying an airplane in straight and level flight. It could also be used to fly the aircraft through gentle maneuvers such as banks, turns and slight altitude changes. When coupled with the Norden bombsight, it created a stable platform that was necessary to bomb targets accurately from high altitude.
This autopilot consisted of two spinning gyroscopes located in cases attached to the airplane. One gyroscope, called the Flight Gyro, was located near the aircraft’s center of gravity and detected changes in roll and pitch. The Directional Gyro, located in the bombsight stabilizer, detected changes in yaw. Using a series of electrical signals, the C-1 Autopilot controlled the aircraft with servos connected to the control surfaces of the aircraft. Either the pilot or the bombardier could control the aircraft.
The C-1 Autopilot system was used extensively in WW2-era bomber aircraft of the US Army Air Forces, including the B-17 Flying Fortress, the Consolidated B-24 Liberator and the B-29 Superfortress. The control panel would typically be installed at the pedestal between the pilot and co-pilot. The C-1 revolutionized precision bombing in the war effort, and was ultimately used on the Enola Gay and Bockscar B-29 bombers that dropped atomic bombs on Japan in 1945, bringing the end of hostilities of WW2.

On July 28, 1935, a four-engine plane took off from Boeing Field in south Seattle on its first flight. Rolling out of the Boeing hangar, it was simply known as the Model 299. Seattle Times reporter Richard Smith dubbed the new plane, with its many machine-gun mounts, the Flying Fortress, a name that Boeing quickly adopted and trademarked. The U.S. Army Air Corps designated the plane as the B-17.

In response to the Army’s request for a large, multiengine bomber, the prototype, financed entirely by Boeing, went from design board to flight test in less than 12 months.

The B-17 was a low-wing monoplane that combined aerodynamic features of the XB-15 giant bomber, still in the design stage, and the Model 247 transport. The B-17 was the first Boeing military aircraft with a flight deck instead of an open cockpit and was armed with bombs and five .30-caliber machine guns mounted in clear blisters.

The first B-17s saw combat in 1941, when the British Royal Air Force took delivery of several B-17s for high-altitude missions. As World War II intensified, the bombers needed additional armament and armor.

The B-17E, the first mass-produced model Flying Fortress, carried nine machine guns and a 4,000-pound bomb load. It was several tons heavier than the prototypes and bristled with armament. It was the first Boeing airplane with the distinctive — and enormous — tail for improved control and stability during high-altitude bombing. Each version was more heavily armed.

In the Pacific, the planes earned a deadly reputation with the Japanese, who dubbed them four-engine fighters. The Fortresses were also legendary for their ability to stay in the air after taking brutal poundings.

Seventy-five years after the B-17’s first flight, an 88 year-old veteran sent The Boeing Company a letter. After explaining how he returned to England after a bombing raid over Germany with 179 flak holes and only two out of the four engines, he wrote: I’m glad to be alive. Thank you for making such a good airplane.

Gen. Carl Spaatz, the American air commander in Europe, said, Without the B-17 we may have lost the war.

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