Tag Archives: P-51B

24 May 1948

Jackie Cochran with NX23888, May 1948. (FAI)
Jackie Cochran with NX23888, May 1948. (FAI)

24 May 1948: Two days after setting a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world speed record with her P-51 Mustang, Jackie Cochran sets another. Flying her green North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA, serial number 43-24760, civil registration NX23888, Cochran flew an average of 693.78 kilometers per hour (431.095 miles per hour) over a 1,000 kilometer (621.371 miles) closed circuit, without payload, at Santa Rosa Summit, near Indio, California.

FAI Record File Num #12148 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 1 : internal combustion engine
Type of record: Speed over a closed circuit of 1 000 km without payload
Performance: 693.78 km/h
Date: 1948-05-24
Course/Location: Santa Rosa Summit, CA (USA)
Claimant Jacqueline Cochran (USA)
Aeroplane: North American P-51 Mustang (NX28388)
Engine: 1 Packard V-1650 (RR Merlin)

The P-51B was the first version of the North American Aviation fighter to be powered by the Merlin engine in place of the Allison V-1710. Rolls-Royce had selected the Packard Motor Car Company to build Merlin aircraft engines in the United States under license. The Packard-built V-1650-3 was based on the Merlin 63. It was a 1,649-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04-liter) liquid-cooled, supercharged, single overhead cam 60° V-12 engine, which produced 1,490 horsepower at Sea Level, turning at 3,000 r.p.m. with 61 inches of manifold pressure. The engine drove a four-bladed Hamilton-Standard constant speed propeller with a diameter of 11 feet, 2 inches (3.40 meters).

The P-51B was 32 feet, 3 inches (10.135 meters) long, with a wingspan of 37 feet, ¼-inch (11.284 meters). It was 13 feet, 8 inches (4.167 meters) high. The fighter had an empty weight of 6,985 pounds (3,168 kilograms) and a maximum gross weight of 11,800 pounds (5352 kilograms). Its cruise speed was 362 miles per hour (583 kilometers per hour) and the maximum speed was 439 miles per hour (707 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). The service ceiling was 41,900 feet (12,771 meters). With internal fuel the combat range was 955 miles (1,536 kilometers).

1,988 P-51B Mustangs were built at North American’s Inglewood, California plant. 1,750 of the nearly identical P-51C variant were produced at Dallas, Texas. This was nearly 23% of the total P-51 production.

Jackie Cochran's green North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA Mustang, NX28388. (FAI)
Jackie Cochran’s green North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA Mustang, NX28388. (FAI)

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

22 May 1948

Jackie Cochran with her record-setting P-51B Mustang, NX23888.

22 May 1948: Jackie Cochran flew her green North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA Mustang, USAAF serial number 43-24760, civil registration NX23888, over a 2,000 kilometer (1,242.743 miles) closed circuit at Palm Springs, California. Her Mustang averaged 720.13 kilometers per hour (447.468 miles per hour) setting a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Speed Record for its class, without payload. Two days later, she would set another speed record in this same P-51. Cochran also flew NX23888 in the 1946 and 1948 Bendix Trophy Races, in which she placed 2nd and 3rd.

FAI Record File Num #12321 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – retired by changes of the sporting code
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1 (Landplanes)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 1 : internal combustion engine
Type of record: Speed over a closed circuit of 2 000 km without payload
Performance: 720.13 km/h
Date: 1948-05-22
Course/Location: Palm Springs, CA (USA)
Claimant Jacqueline Cochran (USA)
Aeroplane: North American P-51 Mustang (NX-28388)
Engine: 1 Packard V-1650 (RR Merlin)

Jackie Cochran's green North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA Mustang, NX28388. (FAI)
Jackie Cochran’s green North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA Mustang, NX28388. (FAI)

The P-51B was the first version of the North American Aviation fighter to be powered by the Merlin engine in place of the Allison V-1710. Rolls-Royce had selected the Packard Motor Car Company to build Merlin aircraft engines in the United States under license. The Packard-built V-1650-3 was based on the Merlin 63. It was a 1,649-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04-liter) liquid-cooled, supercharged, single overhead cam 60° V-12 engine, which produced 1,490 horsepower at Sea Level, turning at 3,000 r.p.m. with 61 inches of manifold pressure. The engine drove a four-bladed Hamilton-Standard constant speed propeller with a diameter of 11 feet, 2 inches (3.40 meters).

The P-51B was 32 feet, 3 inches (10.135 meters) long, with a wingspan of 37 feet, ¼-inch (11.284 meters). It was 13 feet, 8 inches (4.167 meters) high. The fighter had an empty weight of 6,985 pounds (3,168 kilograms) and a maximum gross weight of 11,800 pounds (5352 kilograms). Its cruise speed was 362 miles per hour (583 kilometers per hour) and the maximum speed was 439 miles per hour (707 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). The service ceiling was 41,900 feet (12,771 meters). With internal fuel the combat range was 955 miles (1,536 kilometers).

1,988 P-51B Mustangs were built at North American’s Inglewood, California plant. 1,750 of the nearly identical P-51C variant were produced at Dallas, Texas. This was nearly 23% of the total P-51 production.

Jackie Cochran’s green P-51B, NX23888, on the flight line at the Cleveland National Air Races, 1948.

While being ferried back to the West Coast after the 1948 Bendix Trophy Race, one of the Mustang’s main landing gear failed to retract. Unwilling to risk crashing on an attempted one-wheel landing, the pilot bailed out. NX23888 crashed and was destroyed.

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

11 January 1944

LCOL James H. Howard, USAAF, with his North American Aviation P-51B-5-NA Mustang, 43-6315, DING HAO! (LIFE Magazine)
LCOL James H. Howard, USAAF, with his North American Aviation P-51B-5-NA Mustang, 43-6315, DING HAO! (LIFE Magazine)

11 January 1944: Major James Howell Howard, USAAF, commander of the 356th Fighter Squadron, 354th Fighter Group, Eighth Air Force, led fifty P-51 Mustangs escorting three divisions of B-17 Flying Fortresses on a raid against Oschersleben, near Berlin, Germany. As defending Luftwaffe fighters attacked the bomber formation, Major Howard immediately went on the offensive and shot down a twin engine Messerschmitt Bf 110 Zerstörer long range fighter. During this engagement, Howard became separated from his group, but climbed back to rejoin the bombers.

More that thirty German fighters were attacking the bomber formation and Major Howard single-handedly went after them. He shot down two, probably shot down two more and damaged at least another two. He continued to attack even after he had run out of ammunition and was low on fuel. When he returned to his base at RAF Boxted, his Mustang had just a single bullet hole. For this action, James H. Howard was awarded the Medal of Honor. He is the only fighter pilot in the European Theater to have received this Medal.

Before the War, Howard had been a U.S. Navy pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) at Pearl Harbor. In June 1941 he went to join the American Volunteer Group—the “Flying Tigers”—in Burma, fighting for the Chinese against Japan. He is credited for shooting down 6 Japanese fighters. The Mustang that he flew on the day of the aerial battle near Oschersleben was named DING HAO! and carried the victory marks from those AVG actions. ["Ding Hao" was an American World War II slang term based on the Chinese phrase, ”挺好的“ ("ting hao de") meaning "very good" or "number one".]

Lieutenant Colonel James H. Howard adds another victory mark to his P-51B-5-NA Mustang, 43-6315, DING HAO! (U.S. Air Force)
Lieutenant Colonel James H. Howard adds another victory mark to his P-51B-5-NA Mustang, 43-6315, DING HAO! (U.S. Air Force)

MEDAL OF HONOR

HOWARD, JAMES H.

(Air Mission)

Rank and organization: Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army Air Corps.

Place and date: Over Oschersleben, Germany, 11 January 1944.

Entered service at: St. Louis, Missouri. Birth: Canton, China.

G.O. No.: 45, 5 June 1944.

Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy near Oschersleben, Germany on 11 January 1944. On that day Colonel Howard was the leader of a group of P-51 aircraft providing support for a heavy bomber formation on a long range mission deep in enemy territory. As Colonel Howard’s group met the bombers in the target area the bomber force was attacked by numerous enemy fighters. Colonel Howard, with his group, and at once engaged the enemy and himself destroyed a German ME-110. As a result of this attack Colonel Howard lost contact with his group and at once returned to the level of the bomber formation. He then saw that the bombers were being heavily attacked by enemy planes and that no other friendly fighters were at hand. While Colonel Howard could have waited to attempt to assemble his group before engaging the enemy, he chose instead to attack single-handed a formation of more than thirty German airplanes. With utter disregard for his own safety he immediately pressed home determined attacks for some thirty minutes, during which time he destroyed three enemy airplanes and probably destroyed and damaged others. Toward the end of this engagement three of his guns went out of action and his fuel supply was becoming dangerously low. Despite these handicaps and the almost insuperable odds against him, Colonel Howard continued his aggressive action in an attempt to protect the bombers from the numerous fighters. His skill, courage, and intrepidity on this occasion set an example of heroism which will be an inspiration to the Armed Forces of the United States.

The P-51B was the first version of the North American Aviation fighter to be powered by the Merlin engine in place of the Allison V-1710. Rolls-Royce had selected the Packard Motor Car Company to build Merlin aircraft engines in the United States under license. The Packard-built V-1650-3 was based on the Merlin 63. It was a 1,649-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04-liter) liquid-cooled, supercharged, single overhead cam 60° V-12 engine, which produced 1,490 horsepower at Sea Level, turning at 3,000 r.p.m. with 61 inches of manifold pressure. The engine drove a four-bladed Hamilton-Standard constant speed propeller with a diameter of 11 feet, 2 inches (3.404 meters).

Identical to the Inglewood, California-built North American Aviation P-51B Mustang, this is a Dallas, Texas-built P-51C-1-NT, 42-103023. This fighter was delivered to the Royal Air Force as Mustang III, FB129. It was shot down 9 September 1944. (North American Aviation, Inc.)
Identical to the Inglewood, California-built North American Aviation P-51B Mustang, this is a Dallas, Texas-built P-51C-1-NT, 42-103023. This fighter was delivered to the Royal Air Force as Mustang III, FB129. It was shot down 9 September 1944. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

The P-51B was 32 feet, 3 inches (10.135 meters) long, with a wingspan of 37 feet, ¼-inch (11.284 meters). It was 13 feet, 8 inches (4.167 meters) high. The fighter had an empty weight of 6,985 pounds (3,168 kilograms) and a maximum gross weight of 11,800 pounds (5352 kilograms). Its cruise speed was 362 miles per hour (583 kilometers per hour) and the maximum speed was 439 miles per hour (707 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). The service ceiling was 41,900 feet (12,771 meters). With internal fuel the combat range was 955 miles (1,536 kilometers).

Armament consisted of four Browning AN/M2 .50-caliber machine guns, mounted two in each wing, with 350 rounds per gun for the inboard guns and 280 rounds per gun for the outboard.

1,988 P-51B Mustangs were built at North American’s Inglewood, California plant. 1,750 of the nearly identical P-51C variant were produced at Dallas, Texas. This was nearly 23% of the total P-51 production.

DING HAO!, James H. Howard’s P-51B Mustang, was lost in combat 23 July 1944.

Lieutenant Colonel James H. Howard, U.S. Army Air Corps, with DING HAO!, his P-51B Mustang, at RAF Boxted, 1944. (U.S. Air Force)
Lieutenant Colonel James H. Howard, U.S. Army Air Corps, with DING HAO!, his P-51B Mustang, at RAF Boxted, 1944. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2014, Bryan R. Swopes

26 July 1944

North American Aviation P-51 Mustangs, "The Bottisham Four", 26 July 1944. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation P-51 Mustangs, “The Bottisham Four”, 26 July 1944. (U.S. Air Force)

26 July 1944: This iconic World War II photograph, “The Bottisham Four”, is one of a series depicting a flight of four North American Aviation P-51 Mustang fighters, three P-51D and one P-51B, of the 375th Fighter Squadron, 361st Fighter Group, based at RAF Bottisham, Cambridgeshire, England, as they fly formation with a B-17 Flying Fortress camera ship from the 91st Bombardment Group (Heavy).

None of these aircraft would survive the war. Fourteen days after this photo was taken the number two plane, E2 S, crashed, killing the pilot. Three days later, 12 August 1944, at 1505 hours, group commanding officer Colonel Thomas J.J. Christian, Jr., flying the lead plane, Lou IV, was killed and his Mustang destroyed when dive bombing the Arras marshaling yards in France. The number four plane, the P-51B Suzy G, crash-landed following a combat mission and was destroyed, 11 September 1944. Sky Bouncer, the number three P-51D, crashed on takeoff 3 April 1945.

Lead: P-51D-5-NA 44-13410, E2*C, named Lou IV after the pilot's daughter. (U.S. Air Force)
Lead: P-51D-5-NA Mustang 44-13410, E2 C. (U.S. Air Force)

Lead: P-51D-5-NA 44-13410, E2 C, flown by group commander Colonel Thomas J.J. Christian, Jr., and named Lou IV after his daughter.

Number two P-51D-5-NA 44-13926, E2*S (note the dorsal fin fillet at base of vertical fin). (U.S. Air Force)
Number Two: P-51D-5-NA  Mustang 44-13926, E2 S. (Note the dorsal fin fillet at base of vertical fin for increased longitudinal stability). (U.S. Air Force)

Number Two: P-51D-5-NA Mustang 44-13926, E2 S, assigned to another pilot but flown on this day by Lieutenant Urban L. (“Ben”) Drew.

Number three P-51D-5-NA 44-13xxx, E2*A, Sky Bouncer. (U.S. Air Force)
Number Three: P-51D-5-NA 44-13568, E2 A. (U.S. Air Force)

Number Three: P-51D-5-NA 44-13568, E2 A, named Sky Bouncer, piloted by squadron operations officer Captain Bruce W. (“Red”) Rowlett.

North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA Mustang 42-106xxxx, SUZY-G. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA Mustang 42-106811, E2 H. (U.S. Air Force)

Number Four: P-51B-15-NA Mustang 42-106811, E2 H, flown by Captain Francis T. Glanker and named Suzy G after his wife. The underlined letter H indicates that this airplane is the second in the squadron identified with that letter.

North American Aviation P-51D Mustangs, The Battisham Four, 3

The P-51D was the predominant version of the North American Aviation fighter, with a total of 8,156 produced by North American at Inglewood, California and Dallas, Texas, and 200 by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation in Australia. It was a single-seat, single engine fighter, powered by the Packard Motor Car Company’s license-built version of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 63, either a V-1650-3 or V-1650-7. These were a 1,649-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04-liter) liquid-cooled, supercharged, single overhead cam 60° V-12 engines, which produced 1,490 horsepower at Sea Level, turning at 3,000 r.p.m. with 61 inches of manifold pressure. The engine drove a four-bladed Hamilton-Standard constant speed propeller with a diameter of 11 feet, 2 inches (3.40 meters).

The P-51D was 32 feet, 3.5 inches (9.843 meters) long, with a wingspan of 37 feet (11.278 meters). It was 13 feet, 4.5 inches (4.077 meters) high. The fighter had an empty weight of 7,635 pounds (3,463.2 kilograms) and a maximum takeoff weight of 12,100 pounds (5,488.5 kilograms). Its maximum speed was 437 miles per hour (703.3 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). The service ceiling was 41,900 feet (12,771 meters). With internal fuel the maximum range was 1,650 miles (2,655 kilometers).

The P-51D was armed with six AN/M2 .50-caliber machine guns, with three mounted in each wing. 400 rounds of ammunition was provided for the inner pair of guns, and 270 rounds for each of the outer two pairs of guns, for a total of 1,880 rounds of ammunition. This was armor piercing, incendiary and tracer ammunition. The fighter could also carry a 1,000 pound (453.6 kilogram) bomb under each wing, in place of drop tanks, or up to ten rockets.