Tag Archives: Fighter

20 August 1955

Colonel Horace A. Hanes with North American Aviation F-100C Super Sabre 53-1709, at Edwards AFB after setting a supersonic speed record, 20 August 1955. (U.S. Air Force)

20 August 1955: Colonel Horace A. Hanes, United States Air Force, flew the first North American Aviation F-100C-1-NA Super Sabre, 53-1709, to Mach 1.246 at 40,000 feet (12,192 meters), setting a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) speed record of 1,323.312 kilometers per hour (822.268 miles per hour) over a measured 15/25-kilometer course at Edwards Air Force Base, California.¹

This was the first supersonic world speed record. It was also the first speed record set at high altitude. Previously, all speed records were set very close to the ground for measurement purposes, but with ever increasing speeds this practice was becoming too dangerous.

For his accomplishment, Colonel Hanes was awarded the Mackay Trophy.

North American Aviation F-100C-1-NA Super Sabre 53-1709, FAI World Speed Record holder. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation F-100C-1-NA Super Sabre 53-1709, FAI World Speed Record holder. (U.S. Air Force)

The North American Aviation F-100C Super Sabre was a single-seat, single-engine swept wing fighter. In addition to its air superiority role, the F-100C was also capable of ground attack.

The F-100C was 47.8 feet (14.57 meters) long (excluding pitot boom) with a wingspan of 38.8 feet (11.83 meters) and overall height of 15.5 feet (4.72 meters). The wings were swept aft 45° at 25% chord. The wings’ angle of incidence was 0° and there was no dihedral or twist. The total wing area was 385 square feet (35.8 square meters). The fighter had an empty weight of 19,197 pounds (8,708 kilograms), and maximum gross weight of 35,618 pounds (16,156 kilograms).

The F-100C was powered by a Pratt & Whitney J57-P-7 engine. The J57 was a two-spool axial-flow turbojet which had a 16-stage compressor section (9 low- and 7 high-pressure stages) and a 3-stage turbine (2 high- and 1 low-pressure stages). Its continuous power rating was 8,000 pounds of thrust (35.586 kilonewtons). The Military Power rating was 9,700 pounds (43.148 kilonewtons) (30-minute limit). Maximum power was 14,800 pounds (43.148 kilonewtons) with afterburner (5-minute limit). The engine was 20 feet, 9.7 inches (6.342 meters) long, 3 feet, 3.9 inches (1.014 meters) in diameter, and weighed 5,075 pounds (2,303 kilograms).

F-100C-1-NA Super Sabre 53-1709 at the North American Aviation, Inc., facility at Air Force Plant 42, near Palmdale, California. (Super Sabre Society)

The F-100C had a maximum speed of 756 knots (870 miles per hour/1,400 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10.668 meters). The service ceiling was 46,900 feet (14,295 meters). The maximum ferry range was 1,630 nautical miles (1,876 statute miles/3,019 kilometers).

The F-100C Super Sabre was armed with four 20 mm M-39 revolver cannon with 200 rounds of ammunition per gun. It could carry 14 unguided 2.75 inch (70 mm) Folding Fin Aerial Rockets in two 7-round pods. It could be loaded with four 1,000-pound, or six 750-pound bombs on underwing hard points. For tactical nuclear strike, the Super Sabre could be armed with a single MK-7 “Special Store.”

NASA 703, the World Record-setting North American Aviation F-100C Super Sabre, parked on the dry lake at Edwards Air Force Base. (NASA)
NASA 703, the World Record-setting North American Aviation F-100C-1-NA Super Sabre, N703NA, parked on the dry lake at Edwards Air Force Base, California. (NASA)

After being used in Air Force testing at Edwards Air Force Base, 53-1709 was transferred to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) High-Speed Flight Station, also located at Edwards AFB. The F-100 was identified as NACA 703 and assigned civil registration N703NA. It was used for variable stability testing at the Ames Flight Research Center, Moffett Field, California, from 4 September 1956 to 2 November 1960, and 11 March 1964 until 21 March 1972. At some point its tail surfaces were upgraded to those of the F-100D series.

Today, the FAI world-record setting F-100C is displayed at the Castle Air Museum, marked as F-100D 55-2879.

World-record-setting North American Aviation F-100C-1-NA Super Sabre 53-1709 and the NACA (NASA after 1958) F-100C Variable Stability Team at the Ames Flight Research Center. Left to right: Don Heinle, Mel Sadoff, Dick Bray, Walt MacNeill, G. Allan Smith,Jack Ratcliff, John Foster, Jim Swain, Howard Clark, Don Olson, Dan Hegarty, Gil Parra, Eric Johnson and Fred Drinkwater. (NASA)
Horace A. Hanes, 1937. (The Index)

Horace Albert Hanes was born at Fayette, Illinois, 1 March 1916, the first of two children of Albert Lee Hanes, a farmer, and Martha Elizabeth Jones Hanes. Hanes grew up in Bellflower, Illinois. He attended Normal Community High School at Normal, Illinois, graduating in 1933, and then Illinois State Normal University, also located in Normal. He participated in basketball and track and field. He graduated in 1938 with a bachelor of arts degree in education. He worked as a teacher and athletic coach.

Hanes married Miss Virginia Kumber, a school teacher, in Covington, Indiana, 9 October 1937. The ceremony was officiated by Rev. Lawrence P. Green.

Horace Hanes entered the U.S. Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet, 8 October 1938. He graduated from flight training 25 August 1939 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant, Air Reserve. Lieutenant Hanes was assigned to the 18th Pursuit Group at Wheeler Field, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, which was equipped with Curtiss-Wright P-36 Hawk and P-40 Warhawk “pursuits.”

Curtiss-Wright P-40B Warhawks of the 44th Pursuit Squadron, 18th Pursuit Group. (U.S. Air Force)

Hanes was commissioned as a second lieutenant, Air Corps, United States Army, 1 July 1940. While retaining his permanent rank of second lieutenant, Hanes advanced to the rank of first lieutenant, Army of the United States (A.U.S.), 10 October 1941. He returned to the United States and served with the Air Training Command.

Lieutenant Hanes was promoted to captain, A.U.S. (A.C.), 1 March 1942, and placed in command of a P-47 Thunderbolt squadron based in Florida, the 312th Fighter Squadron, 338 Fighter Group. On 26 November 1942, Hanes was promoted to the rank of major, A.U.S. On 1 July 1943, Hanes was promoted to the permanent rank of first lieutenant, Air Corps, United States Army. He retained this permanent rank until after the war.

Lockheed P-38J-15-LO Lightning 43-28777, 71st Fighter Squadron, 1st Fighter Group. (U.S. Air Force)

Major Hanes was deployed to Europe in August 1943, commanding the 71st Fighter Squadron (Twin Engine), 1st Fighter Group, at Mateur Airfield, Tunisia. The 71st had been the first operational P-38 squadron. After flying 30 combat missions, Major Hanes’ P-38 went down over Yugoslavia in January 1944. For the next three months he evaded capture. Hanes returned to the United States in April 1944 and was assigned to command Punta Gorda Army Airfield, a fighter training base on the western coast of Florida.

Hanes was promoted to lieutenant colonel, A.U.S., 1 August 1944, and to colonel, A.U.S., 23 October 1945. In January 1946, Colonel Hanes assumed command of the 31st Fighter Group, which deployed to Giebelstadt Army Airfield in southwest Germany. The group operated P-51D Mustangs and the new Lockheed P-80B Shooting Star jet fighter. In 1947, Colonel Hanes took command of the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Group at March Air Force Base, Riverside, California. The 67th was equipped with the Douglas RB-26 Invader and the Lockheed RF-80 Shooting Star.

From January to July 1949, Colonel Hanes attended the Armed Forces Staff College, and then was assigned as Chief of the Air Defense Division within the Directorate of Research and Development, Headquarters, U.S. Air Force. From July 1952 to June 1953, he attended the Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama, and then became Director of Flight Test at the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base. It was while at Edwards that Colonel Hanes set the world speed record. He remained at the AFFTC for four years.

Hanes took command of the 58th Fighter-Bomber Wing at Osan Air Base, Republic of South Korea, July 1957. The 58th flew the North American Aviation F-86F Sabre. He then spent three years in Japan as Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, Fifth Air Force.

In July 1964, Brigadier General Hanes took command of the 9th Aerospace Defense Division at Ent Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, Colorado. On 24 September 1964, Hanes was promoted to the rank of major general, with his date of rank retroactive to 1 April 1960. After two years, Hanes returned to Europe as Assistant Chief of Staff, Operations, Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers Europe.

Major General Hanes’ final assignment was as Vice Commander, Aerospace Defense Command. He  retired from the United States Air Force in 1973.

During his military Career, Major General Horace Albert Hanes, United States Air Force, was awarded the Distinguished Service medal, the Silver Star, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster (two awards), the Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters (six awards), the Air Force Commendation medal and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award ribbon.

Major General Hanes died at his home in Bloomington, Indiana, 3 December 2002. He was buried alongside his wife, Virginia (who died in 1996) at the United States Air Force Academy Cemetery, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Major General Horace Hanes, United States Air Force
Major General Horace Albert  Hanes, United States Air Force

¹ FAI Record File Number 8867

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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20 August 1944

North American Aviation Mustang Mk.I AG346 at Speke Aerodrome, Liverpool, England, November 1941. © IWM (ATP 10608C)

20 August 1944: Mustang Mk.I AG346, while flying with No. 168 Squadron, Second Tactical Air Force, Royal Air Force, from a forward airfield at Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes, Normandy, France, was shot down near Gacé by antiaircraft fire.

The very first operational North American Mustang, AG346 (North American serial number 73-3099) was the second airplane to come off the assembly line at Inglewood, California.

After flight testing by North American’s test pilots and Royal Air Force fighter pilots Chris Clarkson and Michael “Red Knight” Crossley, AG346 was crated and then shipped to England, arriving at Liverpool, 24 October 1941. It was taken to the Lockheed facility at Speke Aerodrome (now, Liverpool John Lennon Airport, LPL) where it was reassembled and put through additional performance and flight tests.

AG346 was then assigned to an operational RAF fighter squadron. It served with Nos. 225, 63 and 26 Squadrons before being assigned to No. 41 Operations Training Unit. AG346 was returned to operations with No. 16 Squadron, and finally, No. 168 Squadron.

A North American Aviation Mustang Mk.I of No. 168 Squadron, Royal Air Force, banking over Pierrefitte-en-Cinglais, Normandy, on a tactical reconnaissance sortie, August 1944. Allied tanks can be seen on the road below. © IWM (C 4559)

The Mustang Mk.I was a new fighter built by North American Aviation, Inc., for the Royal Air Force. The RAF had contracted with NAA to design and build a fighter with a liquid-cooled Allison V-1710 12-cylinder engine. The first order from the British Purchasing Commission was for 320 airplanes, and a second order for another 300 soon followed.

The Mustang Mk.I (NAA Model NA-73) was a single-place, single-engine fighter primarily of metal construction with fabric control surfaces. It was 32 feet, 3 inches (9.830 meters) long with a wingspan of 37 feet, 5/16-inches (11.373 meters) and height of 12 feet, 2½ inches (3.721 meters). The airplane’s empty weight was 6,280 pounds (2,849 kilograms) and loaded weight was 8,400 pounds (3,810 kilograms).

North American Aviation Inc. Mustang Mk.I fighter, AG348, built for the Royal Air Force, at Mines Field, Los Angeles, California, 1941. This airplane would be transferred to the U.S. Army Air Corps as XP-51 41-038. North American Aviation, Inc., photograph. (Ray Wagner Collection/SDASM)

The Mustang Mk.I was powered by a liquid-cooled, supercharged 1,710.597-cubic-inch-displacement (28.032 liter) Allison Engineering Company V-1710-F3R (V-1710-39) single overhead camshaft (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine with four valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 6.65:1. The engine had a takeoff rating of 1,150 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level with 45.5 inches of manifold pressure (1.51 Bar), and a war emergency rating of 1,490 horsepower with 56 inches of manifold pressure (1.90 Bar). The Allison drove a 10 foot, 9 inch (3.277 meter) diameter, three-bladed, Curtiss Electric constant-speed propeller through a 2.00:1 gear reduction. The V-1710-39 was 7 feet, 4.38 inches (2.245 meters) long, 3 feet, 0.54 inches (0.928 meters) high, and 2 feet, 5.29 inches (0.744 meters) wide. It weighed 1,310 pounds (594 kilograms).

This engine gave the Mustang Mk.I a maximum speed of 382 miles per hour (615 kilometers per hour) and cruise speed of 300 miles per hour (483 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 30,800 feet (9,388 meters) and range was 750 miles (1,207 kilometers).

North American Aviation Mustang Mk.I AG365 of the Air Fighting Development Unit at Duxford, Cambridgeshire, February 1942. © IWM (CH17966)

The Mustang Mk.I was equipped with four Browning .303 Mk.II machine guns, two in each wing, and four Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns, with one in each wing and two mounted in the nose under the engine.

The British would recommend that the Allison be replaced by the Rolls Royce Merlin V-12. This became the Mustang Mk.III and the U.S.A.A.F. P-51B. Eventually, over 15,000 Mustangs were built, and it was a highly successful combat aircraft. Today, after 70 years, the Mustang is one of the most recognizable of all airplanes.

AG346 was the first one to go to war.

No. 168 Squadron was a reconnaissance unit. Its motto was Rerum cognoscere causas (“To know the cause of things”)

Mustang Mk.1 of No. 168 Squadron, Royal Air Force. (RAF)
Mustang Mk.I of No. 168 Squadron, Royal Air Force. (RAF)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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16 August 1969

The highly-modified Grumman F8F-2 Bearcat, N1111L, Conquest I, at the Reno Air Races. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Darryl Greenamyer

16 August 1969: Former Lockheed SR-71 test pilot Darryl Greenamyer flew his modified Grumman F8F-2 Bearcat, Conquest I (Bu. No. 121646, FAA registration N1111L) to 776.45 kilometers per hour (482.46 miles per hour) over a 3 kilometer course at Edwards Air Force Base, California.¹ In setting a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world record speed for piston engine airplanes (Class C-1, Group I), he broke the record that had stood since 1936, set by Fritz Wendel in a prototype Messerschmitt Me 209.² The Bearcat won the National Air Races six times.

Darryl George Greenamyer was born 13 August 1936 at Southgate, California. He is the second son of George Petit Greenamyer, a gold miner, and Bette Bessent Greenamyer, a waitress.

Greenamyer served as a pilot in the United States Air Force, and as a civilian test pilot for Lockheed, flying the Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird. In 1970, he was honored with the Iven C. Kincheloe Award by the Society of Experimental Test Pilots for outstanding professional accomplishment in the conduct of flight testing.

On 21 January 1977, Greenamyer married Miss Mary Terese Croft in a civil ceremony in Arlington, Virginia.

Conquest I was built by the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation in 1948 as an F8F-2 Bearcat, a carrier-based light weight fighter. The production F8F-2 Bearcat was 27 feet, 8 inches (8.432 meters) long with a wingspan of 35 feet, 6 inches (10.820 meters) and overall height of 13 feet, 5 inches (4.089 meters). Its empty weight was 7,070 pounds (3,206.9 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight was 12,947 pounds (5,872.7 kilograms).

Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat with wings folded. (Northrop Grumman)

The production F8F-2 used an air-cooled, supercharged, 2,804.4-cubic-inch-displacement (45.956 liter) Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp E12 (R-2800-30W) twin-row 18-cylinder radial engine with a compression ration of 6.75:1. The R-2800-30W was rated at 1,720 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 1,450 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. at 22,000 feet (6,706 meters). The Takeoff and Military Power ratings were 2,250 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 1,600 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. at 22,000 feet (6,706 meters). These power ratings required 115/145 aviation gasoline and water/alcohol injection and 115/145 aviation gasoline. The engine drove an Aeroproducts Inc. four-bladed propeller with a diameter of 12 feet, 7 inches (3.835 meters) through a 0.450:1 gear reduction. The R-2800-30W was 8 feet, 2.75 inches (2.508 meters) long, 4 feet, 5.00 inches (1.346 meters) in diameter and weighed 2,560 pounds (1,161.2 kilograms).

The Bearcat had a top speed of 421 miles per hour (677.5 kilometers per hour). It could climb at 4,570 feet per minute (23.2 meters per second) and had a service ceiling of 38,700 feet (11,796 meters). Its range was 1,105 miles (1,778 kilometers).

Conquest I‘s wings were shortened by 7 feet (2.134 meters). The new wingspan is 28 feet, 6 inches (8.687 meters). The R-2800 engine of Greenamyer’s racer was modified to produce 3,100 horsepower. It drove an Aeroproducts propeller from a Douglas AD-6 Skyraider, which had a diameter of 13 feet, 6 inches (4.115 meters). The spinner from a North American Aviation P-51H Mustang was used.

Conquest I is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. It was given to the museum by Greenamyer in exchange for an F8F-1 Bearcat, Bu. No. 90446. It is on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly, Virginia.

Darryl Greenamyer’s record-setting Grumman F8F-2 Bearcat racer, Conquest I. (National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)

¹ FAI Record File Number 10366

² FAI Record File Number 8743

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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14 August 1953

Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation CA-26 Sabre A94-101 (Royal Australian Air Force)

14 August 1953: Near Avalon Field, Geelong, Victoria, Australia, Flight Lieutenant William H. Scott, Royal Australian Air Force, the 28-year-old Chief Test Pilot of the Government Aircraft Factories, put the new Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, Pty. Ltd., prototype into shallow dive from 25,000 feet (7,620 meters) over Port Phillip Bay. This was the new airplane’s sixth test flight. Scott passed 670 miles per hour (1,078 kilometers per hour) and broke the “sound barrier.” A triple sonic boom was heard throughout the Melbourne area.

The aircraft was the CA-26 Sabre, A94-101. The Australian-built Sabre had made its first flight 1 August, also with Flt. Lt. Scott in the cockpit. After about a week there were reports of sonic booms in the area around Melbourne.

CAC Sabre A94-101
Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation CA-26 Sabre A94-101 (Royal Australian Air Force)

Based on the highly successful North American Aviation F-86F Sabre, the C.A.C. variant used a license-built Rolls-Royce Avon RA.7 turbojet with 7,350 pounds of thrust. The Sabre’s fuselage had to be extensively redesigned to allow installation of the new engine. Although it was about the same size as the J47 it replaced, the Avon needed a much larger intake duct. And because it weighed less than the J47, it had to be moved aft to maintain the Sabre’s center of gravity. Only about 40% of the original structure remained.

Other changes were replacing the fighter’s basic armament of six .50-caliber Browning machine guns with two 30 mm ADEN revolver cannon. In testing, it was found that the muzzle blast of the ADEN cannons could cause the engine to flame out. “Maxim” shock wave baffles were installed to eliminate the problem.

Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation CA-26 Sabre A94-901. (Royal Australian Air Force)

The aircraft, often called the “Avon Sabre,” was put into production as the CA-27 Sabre Mk 30. Twenty-two aircraft were built in the version. With the introduction of the Mark 31, the original Sabres were upgraded to the new standard. Sixty-nine Sabre Mk 32 fighters were built with the Avon 25 engine and increased fuel capacity.

The CA-27 was in service with the Royal Australian Service from 1954 until 1971. Several were transferred to Malaysia and Indonesia and operated for those countries until 1982.

CAC CA-27 Sabre Mk 32 A94-901
Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation CA-27 Sabre Mk 32 A94-901 (RAAF)

The prototype CA-26 Sabre, A94-901, flew with several RAAF squadrons, including the 76 Squadron “Black Panthers” Aerobatic Team, 1961–1965. It was withdrawn from service in 1966. The Sabre was restored by Hawker de Havilland at Bankstown Airport, before being sent to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society Museum (“HARS”) at Illawarra Regional Airport, south of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The airplane is again in the livery of the “Black Panthers.”

A94-901 ias it appeared when assigned to 76 Squadron “Black Panthers,” 1961–1965. (HARS Museum)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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9 August 1939

Bell XP-39 Airacobra 38-326 in the NACA Full Scale Wind Tunnel at Langley Field, Virginia, 9 August 1939. The man at the base of the supports shows scale. (NASA)

9 August 1939: After General Henry H. Arnold had ordered that the prototype Bell Aircraft Corporation XP-39 Airacobra be evaluated in the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) Full-Scale Tunnel at the Langley Memorial Aeronautics Laboratory, Langley Field, Virginia, it was flown there from Wright Field. It was hoped that aerodynamic improvements would allow the prototype to exceed 400 miles per hour (644 kilometers per hour).

NACA engineers placed the full-size airplane inside the large wind tunnel for testing. A number of specific areas for aerodynamic improvement were found. After those changes were made by Bell, the XP-39’s top speed had improved by 16%.

Bell XP-39 Airacobra 38-326 in the NACA Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory Full-Scale Wind Tunnel, Langley Field, Virginia, 9 August 1939. The fuselage has had all protrusions removed. Right profile. (National Aeronautics and Space Administration NACA 18423)

The Bell XP-39 Airacobra was a single-place, single-engine prototype fighter with a low wing and retractable tricycle landing gears. The airplane was primarily built of aluminum, though control surfaces were fabric covered.

As originally built, the XP-39 was 28 feet, 8 inches (8.738 meters) long with a wingspan of 35 feet, 10 inches (10.922 meters). The prototype had an empty weight of 3,995 pounds (1,812 kilograms) and gross weight of 5,550 pounds (2,517 kilograms). Changes recommended by NACA resulted in a recontoured canopy, lengthened the airplane to 29 feet, 9 inches (9.068 meters) and reduced the wing span to 34 feet, 0 inches (10.362 meters). Its empty weight increased to 4,530 pounds (2,055 kilograms) and gross weight to 5,834 pounds (2,646 kilograms).

Bell XP-39 in the NACA wind tunnel at Langley Field. (NASA)
Bell XP-39 Airacobra 38-326 in the NACA wind tunnel at Langley Field. The man at the base of the supports shows scale. (NASA)

The XP-39 was unarmed, but it had been designed around the American Armament Corporation T9 37 mm autocannon, later designated Gun, Automatic, 37 mm, M4 (Aircraft). The cannon and ammunition were in the forward fuselage, above the engine driveshaft. The gun fired through the reduction gear box and propeller hub.

The XP-39 was originally powered by a liquid-cooled, turbosupercharged and supercharged 1,710.597-cubic-inch-displacement (28.032 liter) Allison Engineering Co. V-1710-E2 (V-1710-17), a single overhead cam (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine with a compression ratio of 6.65:1. The V-1710-17 had a Maximum Continuous Power rating of 1,000 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters), and Takeoff/Military Power rating of 1,150 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. at 25,000 feet, burning 91 octane gasoline. The engine was installed in an unusual configuration behind the cockpit, with a two-piece drive shaft passing under the cockpit and turning the three-bladed Curtiss Electric constant-speed propeller through a remotely-mounted 1.8:1 gear reduction gear box. The V-1710-17 was 16 feet, 1.79 inches (4.922 meters) long, including the drive shaft and remote gear box. It was 2 feet, 11.45 inches (0.900 meters) high, 2 feet, 5.28 inches (0.744 meters) wide and weighed 1,350 pounds (612 kilograms).

Bell XP-39B prototype, s/n 38-326, at Bell Aircraft Co., Buffalo, New York

Army Air Corps strategy changed the role of the P-39 from a high-altitude interceptor to a low-altitude tactical strike fighter. The original turbocharged V-1710-17 was replaced with a V-1710-37 (V-1710-E5) engine. The turbosupercharger had been removed, which reduced the airplane’s power at altitudes above 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). The V-1710-37 had a maximum power of 1,090 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. at 13,300 feet (4,054 meters). With the NACA-recommended aerodynamic changes and the new engine, the prototype Airacobra was redesignated XP-39B.

A Bell P-39 Airacobra fires all of its guns at night. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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