A-36 Dive Brakes

I would like to comment about information contained in the North American A-36 description about dive brakes being wired shut in combat areas. I have addressed this issue several times with other web sites that have been promoting this view point. My father, Major Charles E Waddell was a flight leader in the 27th FBG and flew A-36s on numerous missions (there aren't many of those pilots left). He has become a source for many investigating WWII FBG aircraft (e.g.: Straight Down by Peter C Smith).

    My father stated he has never heard of this "wiring shut" of dive brakes. In fact, he adamantly states that the dive brakes were an awesome addition to this aircraft that, in his opinion, was the best "purpose-built" low-level fighter-bomber he ever flew, including P-40, P-47, P-51, F-80, F-86. He said that the A-36 with air brakes extended during a vertical dive became very stable and would allow the pilot to drop his ordinance "into a pickle barrel." I have attended several of his reunions and have heard similar comments from other A-36 pilots.

    After discussing this with him at length, he suspects that there may have been some unit commanders (mostly training units) that ordered them wired because they were concerned about having boys killed if they forgot to retract dive brakes during training. But, he said, he never saw one wired shut, and that on the front line that kind of risk was insignificant considering the type of work being done.

    In my own investigation I have found some pilots stating that they had them wired shut because they didn't like the thought of them opening asymmetrically. I don't personally think this was very extensive, however. (— Mark R Waddell 7/2/03)