“Design For Survival” is a black-and-white educational film from the Atomic Age telling the viewer of advancements in air travel. Produced for the Aircraft Industry Association by Arthur Lodge Productions, the late 1950s film opens with various aircraft in flight including the NB-36H Nuclear Test Aircraft (NTA) bomber aircraft equipped with a nuclear reactor (a test bed for the time when, the narrator assures us, nuclear aircraft will be the norm). Also shown is the rocket powered Bell X-2 (mark 01:19) and beginning at mark 02:00 reminds us of the role fighters and bombers had in the Allied victory in World War II. We watch bombers being assembled (mark 03:48) including the B-29’s (Enola Gay and Bockscar) that dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (mark 04:28). Moving on to a postwar America, the film explains how the aircraft quickly moved from dropping bombs to transporting the public, thanks in part to the jet engine as a diagram explains how that type of engine works starting at mark 07:15. Although the US learned during the Korean War that the Soviet Union also had been making advancements in jet engines, US jets were still superior as a fighter is shown taking off at mark 09:20. To continue meeting the needs of the jet age, new aircraft facilities were constructed across the United States and we learn how science and engineering were taking bigger roles in aircraft design. Mark 13:48 takes us to a “modern” jet airplane factory and we glimpse production lines creating the latest aircraft as well as engineers (mark 15:40) reviewing schematics. By mark 16:36 there is a quick review of various types of aircraft wings in place in the late 1950s and a review of how metals react under different circumstances. Although the airline industry had been impacted by peaks and valleys regarding supply and demand (mark 21:30) the film notes that overall the industry has remained relatively stable.
The nuclear reactor shown in flight at the start of the movie was part of the USAF Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion (ANP) program and the preceding Nuclear Energy for the Propulsion of Aircraft (NEPA) project worked to develop a nuclear propulsion system for aircraft. The United States Army Air Forces initiated Project NEPA on May 28, 1946. After funding of $10 million in 1947, NEPA operated until May 1951, when the project was transferred to the joint Atomic Energy Commission (AEC)/USAF ANP. The USAF pursued two different systems for nuclear-powered jet engines, the Direct Air Cycle concept, which was developed by General Electric, and Indirect Air Cycle, which was assigned to Pratt & Whitney. The program was intended to develop and test the Convair X-6, but was cancelled in 1961 before that aircraft was built.
On September 5, 1951, the USAF awarded Convair a contract to fly a nuclear reactor on board a modified Convair B-36 Peacemaker under the MX-1589 project of the ANP program. The NB-36H Nuclear Test Aircraft (NTA) was to study shielding requirements for an airborne reactor, to determine whether a nuclear aircraft was feasible. This was the only known airborne reactor experiment by the U.S. with an operational nuclear reactor on board. The NTA flew a total of 47 times testing the reactor over West Texas and Southern New Mexico. The reactor, named the Aircraft Shield Test Reactor (ASTR), was operational but did not power the aircraft, rather the primary purpose of the flight program was shield testing. Based on the results of the NTA, the X-6 and the entire nuclear aircraft program was abandoned in 1961.
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This film is part of the Periscope Film LLC archive, one of the largest historic military, transportation, and aviation stock footage collections in the USA. Entirely film backed, this material is available for licensing in 24p HD, 2k and 4k. For more information visit http://www.PeriscopeFilm.com