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USN Qas Parachute rig


airborneaviator
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airborneaviator

Hey all. I’ve been interested in WW2 Naval Aviation for a long time but just started actively collecting items about a year ago. Through dumb luck I managed to get what has been a holy grail piece of kit for me for a long time. I’m definitely not an expert so let me know if I’m incorrect about something. The pack tray and seat cushion seem to have started life as Navy contracted seat parachute items that were later modified to be a Qas style chute. The harness also has an interesting reinforcing piece sewn on near the leg clip that I don’t think I’ve seen on other harnesses. If anyone knows what that’s about I’d love to know.

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pararaftanr2

You have a QAS harness, manufactured at the Naval Aircraft Factory in June of 1945 with a Navy backpad. The backpad is installed upside down however. There are two central vertical straps and the longer of the two should be at the top, not the bottom, when properly configured. I believe that extra piece of  webbing you asked about is for the lanyard on the AN-6520 pararaft to pass through and was done at the NAF as a standard part of the harness. You are correct that the pack (Pioneer) and seat cushion (Switlik) are both originally from Navy contract AN-6510-1 seat parachutes and have been converted to use as part of a QAS 'chute assembly. Of course the canopy, pack risers with "D" rings to attach it to the harness and the ripcord are missing and would need to be present to assemble it properly. That extra piece of canvas with the dome snaps sewn to the back edge of the seat cushion was know as the "connector web cover" and was to hold the pack risers in place, facilitating easier connection of the harness' lift web snaps to the "D" rings. 

 

These three pages from T.O. 22-45 should help, although they show a QAS mated with an early PK-1 pararaft, rather than the AN-6520 raft.

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airborneaviator

Thanks for the heads up about the backpad, it’s now correctly oriented. Those pictures are also fantastic. I have an AN6520 raft so once I get it repacked I’ll have to assemble the whole stack, those pics will be useful with that for sure. Do we have any idea how common converted seat chutes were compared to purpose built Qas? All the original Qas packs I’ve seen have been the NAF type, but I’ve not been active in this area too long. 

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pararaftanr2

In the Spring of 1943, studies were being conducted in the US to develop a practical QAS parachute and a Navy technical order was released in July 1943 with instructions for units in the field on how to convert both Navy standard seat and AN seat parachutes to the QAS configuration. These converted seat parachutes would have preceded any NAF made, or commercially manufactured Navy contract, QAS 'chutes in service use.  Converted packs will retain their original data plate and mention "seat type", or "AN-6510-1" whereas factory made examples will specify "QAS", or "QAS and Seat" on the pack data plate. The conversion instructions in the T.O. even specify how to add a "lobe" to the chest buckle, but in vintage photos, you will see this was most often not done on the early conversions. The lobe and the "wings" on the riser snaphooks would be found on all the factory produced QASs however. When coming from the factory, the NAF harness, such as yours, would be mated with an NAF pack, but once in the field, it would not be impossible to find an NAF harness paired with a modified AN seat pack like yours as both were interchangeable. The same goes for seat and back cushions, as both Navy and AN types could end up being intermingled.

 

 

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BlueBookGuy

Paul always a fascinating topic, at least when a collector not particularly Navy-enthusiast (like I was time ago) has got nearer these things and learned to appreciate them.

Please is there an earliest date    - basing on vintage photos or official documentation  -   of when the QAS made its appearance in operating units? Is that July 1943 T.O. the first input to use of QAS gear anyway (i.e.  guys you'll make up by what you already have at hand's reach, while we're tooling up for this new item) or some factory-made QAS actually went to airmen first?

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jerry_k

The converted qas went first in mid 1943? Factory made qas were introduced in mid 1944? Never seen earlier date factory made qas...

 

Cheers,

Jerry

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BlueBookGuy

Hello Jerry

I had figured out (but, basing on nothing particular) it was earlier for the factory-made ones. Evidently great numbers of standard parachutes were well worth the effort of modifying to the new configuration? Remember noticing the Navy-only type of harness (the 'X' straps on chest like in this topic) as worn by pilots in very late summer 1943, and not sure whether that particular harness was used in Navy one-piece seat parachutes.

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jerry_k

Navy also used a seat type AN6510 (navy contraced) in late 1943... both types Navy and AN were converted for qas in 1943. It was worth for sure, especially for carrier based units...

 

Cheers,

Jerry

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pararaftanr2

Franco & Jerry,

As of mid April 1943, the QAS was still in testing at NAS Lakehurst. The first T.O. introducing the QAS, telling fliers how to wear it and parachute riggers how to make it, is from July 1943, so I do not think any factory-made examples would have been produced and shipped to the fleet in that short a time period. The first Essex class carrier to see combat, USS Yorktown (CV-10) launched it's first offensive strike on the last day of August 1943. Vintage photos of CAG-5 fliers on Yorktown during that first cruise show them wearing converted QAS harnesses, both Navy and AN types. I would think this is the earliest example of their use in combat. There were three T.O.s issued on the QAS, two have been previously mentioned (1943 and 1945), but the second one, dated 30 August 1944, shows that "wings" have been added to the riser snaphooks. No instructions are given as to how to make these, so they must have been factory made, and one can assume, complete factory-made  QAS parachutes were being made at that time as well, or shortly thereafter.

 

The two images below show a Yorktown flier from VB-5 wearing a converted AN QAS harness and an illustration with the "winged" snaphook from the 1944 T.O. .

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pararaftanr2
25 minutes ago, BlueBookGuy said:

Hello Jerry

I had figured out (but, basing on nothing particular) it was earlier for the factory-made ones. Evidently great numbers of standard parachutes were well worth the effort of modifying to the new configuration? Remember noticing the Navy-only type of harness (the 'X' straps on chest like in this topic) as worn by pilots in very late summer 1943, and not sure whether that particular harness was used in Navy one-piece seat parachutes.

Yes, the Navy started the war with all of their parachute harnesses, including those for the standard seat type, made from linen webbing (no black tic marks) and featuring the "V" shaped chest straps. 

Below, another image from CAG-5, showing a QAS converted from a Navy standard seat parachute worn by John Gray of VF-5.

 

 

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airborneaviator

So based on that time frame I would imagine factory made Qas rigs probably started appearing in the summer of 1944? I guess on those converted models without the lobe the straps from the pack tray would clip into the single v ring on the chest strap? Seems like that would be less than ideal. 

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pararaftanr2

You are correct about the pack attaching straps being snapped onto the 'V" ring of the chest strap in early conversions. That proved to be a bit crowded though, so some riggers came up with an unofficial improvement and attached an additional "V" ring to each side of the harness for the attaching straps.

 

 

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jerry_k

Thanks Paul for mentioned about CAG-5. When I think about early converted QAS always these series photos came to my mind. Coincidence? I do not think so :)

 

Another photo of Lt Commander Harry Harrison from CAG-5 come to my mind and brings me a memories about my small project of old AN6510 harness:

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Cheers,

Jerry

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pararaftanr2

I remember it well Jerry. A shame you no longer have it.

Here are some other views of Harrison, without the oxygen mask covering his face, but wearing a converted AN QAS harness in all of them.

 

 

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BlueBookGuy

Thanx Paul,

those are interesting infos. So we can say from July through August 1943 there were QAS harnesses available to airmen  -   that's a full two years of combat use of QAS up to August 1945.  Prior to this, 19 - 20 months of standard seat parachutes, not a small timeframe either. Would be interesting to know if Navy's officials ever considered using some model of back-type 'chutes, at least for airmen sitting in fighter-style cockpits.

One could think, theorically not much differencies (strictly speaking of the parachute itself) came into play if putting the two basic types in comparison.

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airborneaviator

I could be mistaken but I believe the primary factor that dictates the use of the seat type or back type is canopy clearance. P51s for example don’t have a lot of head clearance so by the time you’ve got the pack tray, life raft, and seat cushion, you wouldn’t have enough canopy clearance. But if you did have enough head clearance in a Hellcat, TBM, or any other Navy aircraft, it seems like a back chute would’ve been a better system. Trying to get out of an aircraft with the pile of the Qas system strapped to your backend was probably pretty sketchy.

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pararaftanr2

When operating on a crowded flight deck, the standard seat parachute was quite awkward, and even hazardous. At the time, each parachute harness had to be adjusted to fit the individual, so the parachutes could not be left in the cockpit as plane assignments varied. The adoption of the QAS allowed the individual to wear just his personally adjusted harness while the parachute pack and raft could stay in the pilot's seat of the aircraft. In land based Navy and Marine squadrons, this was not a problem, so the standard seat parachutes were the norm there. Late in the war a "QF" harness was developed. This "Quick Fit" type had special adjuster buckles at the legs and chest straps that allowed the harness to be tightened, or loosened, easily after it was put on and eliminated the need to adjust, then tack, the harness in place.

 

One thing to consider is that the cockpits of the Navy single seat planes were large enough that the seat could be adjusted for height. Back parachutes were available in the Navy throughout the war, but seat parachutes for their single seat pilots were preferred until the Bearcat came along. The use of seat parachutes also allowed for a backpad survival kit, which was preferred by the Navy up until the Pk-1 kit was introduced in 1945. It may seem counterintuitive, but the bulky combination of a seat parachute, cushion and and life raft, although heavy, were also quite buoyant due to the air trapped in the folds of the parachute canopy. If a flier didn't have time to slip out of the parachute harness immediately upon ditching, it would keep him afloat long enough to release the parachute harness and inflate his life vest.

 

A Navy seat parachute with "QF" harness can be seen below:

 

 

 

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BlueBookGuy

thanx Paul

I wasn't aware of that buoyancy matter  -   yes it sounds a bit strange, personally I'd have seen the whole as a dangerous encumbrance for an airmen who finds himself in the water being strapped to all that stuff. Nice to still learn something new about these unique things.

 

 

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On 6/15/2021 at 5:29 AM, airborneaviator said:

Thanks for the heads up about the backpad, it’s now correctly oriented. Those pictures are also fantastic. I have an AN6520 raft so once I get it repacked I’ll have to assemble the whole stack, those pics will be useful with that for sure. Do we have any idea how common converted seat chutes were compared to purpose built Qas? All the original Qas packs I’ve seen have been the NAF type, but I’ve not been active in this area too long. 

 

What is your AN-6520-1? any modifications to the case?

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airborneaviator

Actually I should have clarified that, I have an the case but not a raft. The case is interesting though, it’s had the snap hooks cut off. I’ll get some pictures of it in a little while.

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What you have is a USAAF pararaft, and not a Navy contract type. The snaps, as you mention that are cut off, were irrelevant to Navy parachute systems. The snap hooks were cut off when used with standard seat types for comfort reasons, the snap hooks were for attachment to USAAF QAC and back-type parachutes.

But yes, pics would be great to confirm but I'm 99.999% sure its USAAF.

 

I was inquiring because you may have a dickens of time attaching a pararaft to your new QAS system. The first image in post #13 is of the original prescribed method for attachment. The pararaft case was tacked by thread at the four corners of the parachute pack. You will note that the case you have there is a slot, that was solely intended for use with seat type harness, the leg straps weave though and when secured holds the case in place. The new QAS system, those legs straps were no longer integrated on the parachute pack. If you want a to attach a pararaft you'll first need a Navy contract type, then if you were so inclined, you could thread the four corners onto the tie-tapes of the parachute pack. 

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airborneaviator

Yeah it’s for sure an AAF case, I’ll get some pictures but the contract number is definitely AAF. I’m still on the lookout for a Navy contract, ideally with the raft as well. Even if I do find the proper raft I don’t plan on attempting to actually tack it together, I don’t really like messing with original stuff in a permanent way, and I definitely wouldn’t chance it with my sewing skills. But once I get everything packed up it should still look great. 

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airborneaviator

Here’s some photos. Nothing too exciting but it’ll do until I find a better example39B11EAB-0983-4542-A055-F18A1888030F.jpeg.7ddd415b223521d31cca33f0b1843c29.jpegAFA8ED67-4F17-44F9-9C31-228A7FB004EA.jpeg.a6a4e62f5528d11d56626f31af2cf8f3.jpeg7DA06ACE-4A10-4291-95C7-9B9909DA6694.jpeg.6bdff5df936350544fbf0a2d3efdcff2.jpeg

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Something is better than nothing. It is a fine example of a case. You say "better example", there is nothing wrong with that one. It has the internal pockets and guy line, it's all there and you can read the markings. Again, the missing snap hooks are no big deal, it was prescribed by technical order to cut them off (optional) when used with seat parachute. 

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