Radio Compass Loop Antenna Housing (USA), ca. 1940
This is a Radio Compass Loop Antenna Housing.
This radio-antenna used for navigation was found on the exterior of most airplanes during World War II. Earlier radio-direction-finder antennas from the 1920s and ‘30s, consisting of wire coils over a circular form, imparted substantial aerodynamic drag; metal housings were not ideal because they disrupted signal reception. This so-called "football," made of Bakelite, the first totally synthetic plastic, became the answer to the problem. Bakelite was lightweight, transparent to radio waves, resistant to heat, cold, water, as well as most acids, and was a superb electrical insulator, all critical for aviation design. Created by Belgian chemist Leo H. Baekeland in 1907, Bakelite was used in airplane parts as early as World War I. It was a powered resinous material that could be molded into any shape and could not be melted or remolded. This radio-antenna housing is molded from cloth-filled Bakelite, which provides strength and increases its moldability.
It is credited
Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 1977.0368.65.
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Its dimensions are
H x W x D: 35 x 23 x 67 cm (13 3/4 x 9 1/16 x 26 3/8 in.); from Reg. office L x Diam.: 26 in. x 9 in. Streamline housing with mount bracket
This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Tools: Extending Our Reach.