Based in Miami, Florida,
this company specialized in conversions of the C-46 and C-82 aircraft as well as producing airliner interior components.
Founded in 1947
at Miami Intl. Airport by company president L.B. Smith, it quickly became one of the foremost aircraft
conversion, overhaul and modification centers in the United States. They did executive aircraft interiors for many types from
the Douglas DC-3 to the Lockheed JetStar.
Their most famous
conversions were ex-military Douglas A-26 Invaders known as the Smith Tempo II executive transports and the Curtiss C-46 Commando
which became the Smith "Super 46". Seven or more C-82 Packets were briefly acquired by L.B. Smith in 1955 where they were
de-militarized for civilian service in Latin America. L.B. Smith was closely associated with a similar company called Aerodex
Inc., who was a
CAA approved aircraft repair station.
The seven seat Super
26, made its first appearance at the National Business Aircraft meeting in Philadelphia in the late ‘50s. The aircraft
cruised at 325 m.p.h. on 60 per cent power, and had a range of 2,100 miles at a take-off gross weight of 35,000 lb.
The company then decided
to completely re engineer the Invader and replaced both spars with ring spars built of aluminium. This also saw a spread of
the wing center section which moved the wings and engines 20 inches outboard from the cabin on each side to reduce noise.
The aircraft, like the On Marks, received DC-6 wheels and brakes, new canopy and cockpit, lengthened nose, rebuilt fuselage,
and numerous other modifications. Named the Biscayne 26, it is thought that only one aircraft was built before the company
decided to start with a clean sheet of paper.
The new aircraft would
have a completely new and much larger fuselage that would ultimately be pressurized.
Two variants were to
be offered, the Tempo I ( unpressurized ) and the Tempo II ( all options included and was to be pressurized ). The Tempo series
was nearly ten feet longer than a standard Invader and because of the ring spars and had a 28-foot stand-erect cabin that
could accommodate up to 13 passengers.
Everything else on
the first Tempo II was completely modernized and was an impressive aircraft, making its first flight as N4204A during October
The new interior of the machine was designed by
Charles Butler Associates in a color scheme featuring gold, wheat and tones of blue. "Cabinetry is of smooth, hand-rubbed
blond walnut," and "the instrument panel and overhead panel was finished in turquoise with eyebrow type lighting”.
Price was to be a reasonable
$375,000 but it appears only two were built. The first one eventually went to the University of Nevada conducting atmospheric
research for over a decade and was lost over the Sierras when it crashed due to extreme airframe icing. The second, registered
N4214A, eventually went to Mexico registered XB-ZOA, with the current status unknown.
I had a great email from Charles Stevens on 13th December
2014, it reads:
wish to thank you for the terrific story on the L. B. Smith Tempo II aircraft. I worked for Smith in Miami
1954 and 1961. I was the electrical/instrument designer on the Tempo. I also designed the cockpit
layout and panels. I was also part of the test
flight crew and spent many hours in the aircraft.
would like to have a photo of the plane if you have one that you could scan and e-mail me.
If you have any questions please ask, I will be
happy to answer if I can.
This is my recollection of the design, building and flying of the L. B. Smith Aircraft company’s
Tempo II heavily modified A/B 26 Invader at the cantilevered Smith hanger on the NW corner of the Miami International airport
during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.
The general manager of the facility was a Mr. Bellomy (sic). There were many people that put in
a lot of time to make this very fine propeller driven 13 passenger corporate aircraft. The chief engineer Mr. Brush, project
engineer Jack, I forgot his last name, electrical engineer John Ewbanks, mechanical stress engineer Mr. Simmons, , electrical
designer Charles Stevens (myself) and all of the shop workers.
Mr. Simmons was the one who developed the wing ring spars and was not only responsible for the
stress testing of the spars but actually conducted the test in the shop.
The A/B 26 airframe was bought into the facility, the empennage and tail surfaces, wings and nose
wheel well were removed and saved while the rest of the airframe was discarded. The nose wheel well was mounted on the fuselage
jig and then the completely new fuselage was built around it. The empennage was split and expanded to match the height of
the new fuselage. The wing ring spars were 4 aluminium plates that served as the anchors for the wing mounting.
There was an opening in the middle of these ring spars that allowed for a person to pass through
for ingress and egress to the cockpit. The fuselage was high enough for a six foot man to walk throughout the cabin and through
to the cockpit. There was an electronic bay between the two sets of spars where most of the equipment was located. The luggage
compartment was located in the middle of the extended nose with radar in the nose and two large inverters located behind the
luggage area. The cabin accommodated 13 passengers and was pressurized for flight at, I believe, 28,000 ft. It had a full
The first test flight was a skip flight down the runway just to see if it would fly, when it was
rolled out for this flight it looked like a ruptured duck. The tail hung down as if it was tail heavy. They brought it in
from the flight and before it flew again one frame length of the fuselage was removed which made it sit level.
Between the first flight and the second a fancy paint job was applied and when it cleared the hanger
to where the control tower could see it the tower spoke up with “My! It sure is pretty, do it fly?”
Most of the test flights were, of course, normal, no problem, however, there were some harry ones.
Early on, a hydraulic line in the right wing root seemed to keep splitting. I happened to be on one of those, I was riding
the photo panel in the cabin, we were doing saw toothed climbs for generator cooling
when I looked through the window and saw red fluid coming off of the right nacelle, told the pilot, he said come on
up we have to get home. When we landed we had no steering so the pilot and co-pilot tried to steer using engine speed and
prop reversing to the point that we ended off the taxiway and in the field. No excitement just inconvenient.
On one of the flights, they were doing saw tooth climbs at 18,000, single engine and the plane
would not stall off, it just sorta floated around and then it went off one wing, went inverted. The pilots fought it and finally
recovered at 8,000. The strange thing is, the person riding the photo panel never knew they were inverted until we went through
debrief and he saw the horizon go inverted. You’re right, that is a drop of 2 miles.
On another flight, again doing single engine parameter, the engine split a exhaust so that the
heat was hitting the firewall opposite the engine electrical box and proceeded to burn through the firewall. They began to
lose engine instruments, 1st the BMEP, not critical; 2nd don’t remember, but 3rd was
the oil pressure. They reduced power, started the cold engine and hoped it would get warn before they need power out of it.
As it worked out, the engine with the fire froze in air, and the second froze after landing. This is as I remember it. Though
the root cause was the split exhaust, the fire detection failed to detect the fire because the detector was too big to fit
into where the flame was. This prompted a replacement of the fire detection system with one that was smaller.
On yet another test flight just before the New York City air show they found that when they were
pressurized at altitude things were normal but when they began to descend the cabin pressure would cycle from +1000fpm to
Since I was designer for instrument systems it fell to me to go on the flight to analyse the problem.
We went to 18,000 just off shore from West Palm Beach headed south. As soon as we started our descent and speed started to
build the cycling started. We thought that it was a function of speed, so back to altitude, we increased power in the level,
I was taking instrument readings Alt., OT and speed. Our top indicated speed was 420, I don’t remember OT but there
was no cycling. We analysed the problem to be not enough dead band in the duct pressure sensor setting and that it was probably
an attitude situation for air entering the intake. When we did debrief when we got back Mr. Bellomy slid back from his desk,
pulled out a flight computer and said “Gentlemen, I don’t know if you thought about it but you were truing at
510?” We adjusted the dead band and on the flight to the air show there was no cycling on let down in NYC.
Martin, I hope this gives you something to work with, if you have any questions feel free to
or if you want and it can’t wait, call. If I think of any more interesting points I will write you.
I asked Chuck
if he had any photos or documentation during his time at Smith's
I didn't save anything, it was 53 years ago and if I had, it probably would be lost by now with all of the moves I've made.
Sorry about that but I guess the only things saved are memories. My job at Smith was my most favourite, I got to be around
aviation and was paid for it.
a little about me. In the 1940's I lived in a small farming town and devoured books that included any thing about
aviation. My family lived about 4-5 blocks from
the town airport and I would spend a lot of time there, talking to the local duster and barnstormers with their jennies that
had been converted to crop dusters. The field was loose rock and often when landing they would kick up a rock through the
wing surface. They would use a circular needle to stitch a patch in place and then dope it up all the time telling stories
about their flying.
this background when I graduated high school and got married had 2 children, I had to go to work with no training I was stuck
in jobs like truck driving, maintenance and other low pay jobs. Then in 1952 I enlisted in the Marine Corp, had my basic in
Paris Island Boot Camp, while there I was called into the Battalion CO's office and was asked "Just what the hell was a man
with 2 children doing enlisting in the Marine Corp during wartime." I told him I wanted to get training in aviation. After
boot I was assigned to airman prep (AP) school in Jacksonville, Florida. After AP school I was assigned to Aviation Electrician
(AE-A) school also in Jacksonville. I graduated top student in that school and then was asked to stay as an instructor. I
taught electrical theory, troubleshooting theory and finished my assignment teaching practical troubleshooting on real aircraft.
Except for the military side it was great duty. I left the military in 1954.
After the military I went to work at L. B. Smith
working there until 1961. I started as a Class C electrician. Due to my troubleshooting ability I was rapidly promoted through
Class B to Class A. One day my boss, John Kelley, asked if I could do drafting, since I had in high school I said yes and
so became the electrical draftsman and then started designing electrical circuits for corporate aircraft and then for the
C-46 line. I was later made lead electrician on the corporate line. In 1957, due to a disagreement with my boss's boss I threatened
to quit. The Chief Engineer Mr. Brush called me in and offered me the position of Electrical Designer. Of course, I jumped
at it. The most complex circuit that I designed in the Tempo aircraft was the prop reversing circuit. No one in the shop could
troubleshoot it so I had to.
I hope this
isn't too much.
a Buddy with similar interest!
Speed and Merry Christmas,