Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Ellis D 'Sam' Shannon 1908 - 1982

Convair Chief Test Pilot Ellis D. 'Sam' Shannon
Sam Shannon exiting the Convair XF2Y Seadart after the maiden flight
Sam Shannon performed the maiden flight of the Convair XF-92A at Edwards AFB
Maiden flight of the Convair CV340, flown by Sam Shannon and Phil Prophett

Ellis D. 'Sam' Shannon was born in Andalusia, Alabama,and began his aviation career in 1929 when he joined the Army AirCorps. During 1930-1932, he flew a number of different airplanes, including the old Keystone bombers. In the latter part of 1932, he went to China to train Chinese pilots for General ChiangKaishek. He served for three years as an aviation instructor and assistant advisor to the National Government of China.

He went to work for the Martin Company in 1936, and for the next two years Sam was in Mexico and Central and South America,flying, demonstrating, and instructing on the Martin Model B-10. In 1940, Sam was selected to head Engineering Flight Test for the Martin Company, and between 1940 and 1943 he tested the Martin Baltimore twin-engine bomber, Martin B-26 (which he flew 560 miles per hour during one test, an amazing speed for 1941) and then did most of the development flying on the Martin PBM3 and about half the development flying on the Martin Mars.

In February 1943, he came to Consolidated Vultee(later Convair) as Chief of the newly-established Flight Research Department. From 1943 until the end of the war in 1945, he flew nearly every airplane developed at San Diego, various models of the B-24,including the B-24K, and the PB4Y-2. He also flew the XP4Y-I (Model 31), XB-32, and RY-3. He was also at the Nashville Division flying the early A-31.

Near the end of the war, he flew the Model 39, and also made some flights on the XP-81 at Muroc. He made the first flight of the four-engine jet XB-46 and about half the total test program on that aircraft. Shortly after WWII, he flew experimental aircraft suchas the Stinson Voyager, Stinson Skycoach, Spratt Conntrollable Wing,and Gwinn Aircar. In 1947, Sam flew the Model 110 (prototype to the Convair 240), and the Model 340, which followed in 1948.

In September of 1948, Sam made the first flight of the XF-92A, becoming the first person to fly a delta wing aircraft. He was also active in the development testing of the XL-13. In 1950, he flew the XP5Y-1, and the following year was active in the development and certification of the Convair 340. The following year, he flew the XF2Y-1, the Sea Dart, the first Navy delta wing seaplane, and in 1954 participated in the early development of the F-l02. In 1955, Shannon did open-sea testing with the SeaDart, evaluating both the single-ski and twin-ski configurations. That was the last intensive testing for Sam. In October 1956, he officially retired from test flying.