On termination of the LOC contract, reflecting some earlier aspects of its work, Stn 597 was accorded a new role, as a Storage & Experimental Station.
The nerve centre of the facility was the Modification & Technical Control Section, which was composed of project engineers and support personnel including some local civilians. Most of the engineers were USAAF but a significant number were highly-experienced former-LOC men who had been persuaded to stay on to become US civil servants occupying key positions in the new set-up.
Very briefly, the work carried out by ‘Mod & Tech’, using the state-of-the-art technology available, included investigation of theories relating to aircraft materials and systems – radar and photo-reconnaissance equipment for instance – and the design of modifications.
The work was highly secretive, the importance and significance of just one aspect of it being reflected in periodic visits by men like USAAF photo-reconnaissance specialists Colonel George Goddard and Lt Colonel Elliott Roosevelt, for example.
The P-38 ‘Droop Snoot’ project, which had commenced with significant LOC involvement, was completed during the ‘Mod & Tech’ period.
Logistics was also the basis of American involvement at other airfields. At Sydenham for example, which adjoined Belfast port, fighter aircraft shipped from the USA were first handled by LOC personnel detached from Langford Lodge.
The first type to arrive in quantity, in November 1942, was the P-38 Lightning, large numbers of which were then towed along 25 miles of road to Langford Lodge. Later came P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs which were assembled at Sydenham before being flown to the air depot to be made ready and flown on to combat units in Britain. This task was largely performed by USAAF ferry pilots assisted by a few LOC civilian test pilots, the military ferry pilots being members of 27th Air Transport Group squadrons based initially at Maghaberry [AAF Stn 239], later at Langford Lodge itself. As the US 79th Station Hospital was nearby, at Moira, Maghaberry was also employed by casualty evacuation aircraft, both of the 8th and 9th Air Forces.
Another aspect of the supply of aircraft to the USAAF in the UK was the ferrying of thousands of bombers and large transport types across the Atlantic, to facilitate which four airfields were developed as Transatlantic Ferry Terminals, Nutts Corner being one.
Although, like Prestwick, Valley and St Mawgan, it remained under RAF control, there was a significant American presence and it was designated AAF Stn 235.
USAAF aircraft arrivals were recorded in gradually increasing numbers from July 1943 yet the 1404th AAF Base Unit wasn’t established there until July 1944, followed in September by a RAWIN Station, to obtain essential data for weather forecasting.
July 1944 was in fact the Terminal’s record-breaking month when 372 aircraft arrived – 246 B-17s, 90 B-24s, 12 B-26s and 24 C-47s.
Lockheed P-38 Lightning being taken by road to Langford Lodge.The aircraft is being transported minus outer wings and props on a special trailer towed by an Autocar U7144T tractor. Some posturing for the camera appears to be going on.
by Ernie Cromie
One corner of the 'Mod & Tech' drawing office at Langford Lodge. The man at right foreground is Bill Govan who lived in north Belfast until his death. The man on the left wearing a Tech Rep jacket is Howard McGonigal, one of the LOC engineers who was persuaded to stay on to head-up one of the teams of engineers. Behind Bill Govan are a number of USAAF men, the pipe-smoker being Staff Sgt Bill Burns from Oklahoma. Al Nance, also from Oklahoma, can just be seen at the back, far right, head bowed possibly looking at a drawing or document.
P-47 Thunderbolt that has arrived as deck cargo, being unloaded from the deck of a tanker at Sydenham, Belfast on the 8th August 1943. The aircraft is still without its tail or propeller, reassembly being carried out at Sydenham.