1930’s: LIGHT METAL WINGS I

main spar box Boeing
picture source: navyaviation.tpub.com

“…The ability of sheet metal to carry an increasing load after it had begun to buckle – which in conventional structures was regarded as failure – was crucial to the development of metal airplanes. It had first been discovered in 1925 by Dr.Herbert Wagner, who was then working for the Rohrbach Metall-Flugzeugbau in Berlin, Germany, but his findings were not published until 1928 in English by NACA. Northrop’s work was done independantly. Wagner went further than Northrop in his analysis of the way in which a thin sheet of metal behaves when supported at the edges, as it is in airplane structures, and he evolved the theory of the diagonal-tension field beam to explain it. This theory, and elaborations of it, formed the basis for the development of a/c structures from the mid 1930’s onward. But it was not applied to the early Northrop airplanes or the Douglas DC-1-2-3. Northrop’s construction gave a good enough ratio of strength to weight for these airplanes, and the use of Wagner’s theory would have added to the complication and cost of design…”

The above quotation is from: Ronald E.Miller; David Sawers, “The Technical Development of Modern Aviation” (Routledge & Kegan Paul: London; 1968) p.65
In August 1933 Paul Kuhn  wrote an explanation of Wagner’s theory as NACA Technical Note No. 469 “A Summary of Design Formulas for Beams Having Thin Webs in Diagonal Tension”,  Langley Memorial Aernautical Laboratory. Washington,. A copy of this paper may be downloaded from the Herbert Wagner page on this website.

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