Tag Archives: North American Aviation P-51B Mustang

23 September 1943

North American P-51B Mustang in teh full-scale NACA wind tunnel, Langley, Virginia, 23 September 1945. (NASA)
North American Aviation P-51B Mustang fighter in the Full-Scale Tunnel, NACA Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, Hampton, Virginia, 23 September 1943. (NASA)
Drag test of North American Aviation P-51B-1-NA Mustang 43-12105 in the NACA Full-Scale Tunnel. (NASA)
Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

26 July 1944

North American Aviation P-51 Mustangs, “The Bottisham Four,” 26 July 1944. (American Air Museum in Britain UPL 7433)

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-51Ds and one P-51B—of the 375th Fighter Squadron, 361st Fighter Group, 8th Air Force, based at Air Force Station F-374 (RAF Bottisham), Cambridgeshire, England, as they flew 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, 9 August 1944, the number two plane, 44-13926 (E2 S), crashed during a training flight near Stalham, Norfolk, killing the pilot, 2nd Lieutenant Donald D. Dellinger.

Three days later, 12 August 1944, at 1505 hours, 361st Fighter Group commanding officer Colonel Thomas J.J. Christian, Jr., flying the lead plane, Lou IV, was killed and his Mustang destroyed in a dive-bombing attack against the Arras railroad marshaling yards in Boisleux-au-Mont, 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, near Cambron Casteau, Belgium, 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: North American Aviation 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 wife, Marjorie Lou Ashcroft Christian.

Jack Christian was a 1939 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. He served as a B-17 pilot with the 19th Bombardment Group at Clark Field, Philippine Islands. After the B-17s were destroyed in the attacks of 8 December 1941, Christian was at Bataan before being evacuated to Australia.

While ferrying a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, he was shot down over Timor and listed as Missing in Action. He eventually made his way to Allied territory.

A few months later, Christian, while flying a Bell P-400 Airacobra with the 67th Pursuit Squadron, was the first U.S. Army Air Corps pilot to land at Henderson Field, on the island of Guadalcanal, 12 August 1942.

On 10 February 1943, Major Christian was given command of the 361st Fighter Group at Richmond, Virginia. The group deployed to England in November 1943.

For his service in World War II, Colonel Christian was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster (two awards), Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters (four awards) and the Purple Heart.

There is a Special Memorial in honor of Colonel Thomas J.J. Christian, Jr., United States Army Air Corps, at the Faubourg-d’Amiens Cemetery, Arras, Pas-de-Calais, France.

Colonel Thomas Jonathan Jackson ("Jack") Christian, Jr., U.S. Army Air Corps. (American Air Museum in Britain)
Colonel Thomas Jonathan Jackson (“Jack”) Christian, Jr., U.S. Army Air Corps. (American Air Museum in Britain)

**********

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: North American Aviation 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. (Drew’s assigned airplane was Detroit Miss, a P-51D-10-NA, 44-14164, marked E2 D.)

Urban L. Drew joined the U.S. Army Air Corp in 1942 and trained as a P-51 fighter pilot. He joined the 361st Fighter Group in England in October 1943. He flew 75 combat missions with the 361st and shot down six enemy aircraft in aerial combat, two of which were Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighters, destroyed 7 October 1944. Nominated for the Distinguished Service Cross, the medal was denied because his gun camera failed and the shoot-downs were not recorded. His wingman was shot down during the air battle and captured, so Drew’s claims could not be verified. However, the kills were later confirmed with German records, and in 1983, Major Drew was awarded the Air Force Cross. In addition to scoring the first kill of an enemy Me 262 by an Allied pilot, Drew also destroyed the Blohm & Voss BV238-V1, a prototype six-engine flying boat, the world’s largest airplane at the time.

In 1945, Ben Drew was transferred to the 413th Fighter Squadron, 414th Fighter Group, 10th Air Force, in the western Pacific, flying Republic P-47 Thunderbolts from the island of Iwo Jima. He was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, twice, and fifteen Air Medals.

Following World War II, Ben Drew joined the Michigan Air National Guard in which he served until 1950.

Major Drew died in 2013 at the age of 89 years.

Captain Urban L. ("Ben") Drew, United States Army Air Corps. (American Air Museum in Britain)
Captain Urban Leonard (“Ben”) Drew, United States Army Air Corps. (American Air Museum in Britain)

**********

Number three P-51D-5-NA 44-13xxx, E2*A, Sky Bouncer. (U.S. Air Force)
Number Three: North American Aviation P-51D-5-NA 44-13568, E2 A. (U.S. Air Force)
Lieutenant Bruce W. ("Red") Rowlett, U.S. Army Air Corps, Operations Officer, 375th Fighter Squadron. (American Air Museum in Britain)
Lieutenant Bruce W. (“Red”) Rowlett, U.S. Army Air Corps, Operations Officer, 375th Fighter Squadron. (American Air Museum in Britain)

Number Three: P-51-D-5-NA Mustang 44-13568, Sky Bouncer, flown by Captain Bruce W. (“Red”) Rowlett, U.S. Army Air Corps, Operations Officer, 375th Fighter Squadron.

Sky Bouncer, flown by Jared M. Lundin, crash-landed after an engine failure on take off at Cambron-Casteau, Belgium, 3 April 1945. The airplane was destroyed.

Colonel Bruce W. Rowlett, United States Air Force, enlisted as a private soldier in the 36th Infantry Division (then part of the Texas National Guard) in 1940, lying about his age. (He was seventeen). He appled for flight training as an aviation cadet in 1942. After earning his wings as an Air Corps fighter pilot, Lieutenant Rowlett was assigned to the 375th Fighter Squadron, initially flying Republic P-47 Thunderbolts. After completing a 50 mission combat tour, Rowlett volunteered for a second tour, just as the squadron was transitioning to the P-51 Mustang. Nearing the end of the second tour, and after flying 109 combat missions, Captain Rowlett was sent back to the United States.

Red Rowlett remained in the Air Force following World War II. He  later flew in the Berlin Airlift. From 1964 to 1967, Colonel Rowlett was Chief of Air Defense Operations, North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), then was assigned to the Pentagon, as Director of Studies and Analysis, Headquarters, U.S. Air Force, 1968–1971.

Colonel Bruce W. Rowlett, United States Air Force, died at Wichita, Kansas, 28 January 1998, at the age of 74 years.

**********

North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA Mustang 42-106xxxx, SUZY-G. (U.S. Air Force)
Number Four: North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA Mustang 42-106811, SUZY-G. (U.S. Air Force)
Lieutenant Francis T. Glankler (American Air Museum in Britain)
Lieutenant Francis T. Glankler, U.S. Army Air Corps. (American Air Museum in Britain)

Number Four: P-51B-15-NA Mustang 42-106811, E2 H, flown by Captain Francis T. Glankler 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. Lieutenant Glankler was flight leader of D Flight, 375th fighter Squadron.

Lieutenant Glankler and Suzy G crashed-landed in a farm field at Thorpe Park, near Clacton, Essex, in following a mission on 11 September 1944. The Mustang was damaged beyond repair.

(Some sources indicate that another pilot was flying Suzy G, and that the crash occurred following a dog fight with a P-47 Thunderbolt.)

Wreck of North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA 42-106881, Suzy G, in a farm field, Essex England. (U.S. Air Force)
Wreck of North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA 42-106881, Suzy G, in a farm field, Essex England. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation P-51D Mustangs, The Battisham Four, 3
A different formation grouping of “The Bottisham Four.” (U.S. Air Force)

The P-51D was the predominant version of North American Aviation’s legendary World War II 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, which had first been designed for the Royal Air Force. The most visible difference between the previous P-51B and P-51C Mustangs was the cut down rear fuselage and the one-piece bubble canopy.

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).

The P-51 B, -C and -D Mustangs were powered by the Packard Motor Car Company’s license-built version of the Rolls-Royce Merlin, either a V-1650-3 or V-1650-7. These were right-hand tractor, liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,649-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04-liter), single overhead cam 60° V-12 engines, rated at 1,380 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m at 60 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-3), or 1,490 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m. at 61 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-7). (Military Power rating, 15 minute limit.) These were Packard’s versions of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 63 and 66. This engine drove a four-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propeller with a diameter of 11 feet, 2 inches (3.404 meters) through a 0.479:1 gear reduction.

A Packard Motor Car Company V-1650-7 Merlin V-12 aircraft engine at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. This engine weighs 1,715 pounds (778 kilograms) and produces 1,490 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. Packard built 55,873 of the V-1650 series engines. Continental built another 897. The cost per engine ranged from $12,548 to $17,185. (NASM)
A Packard Motor Car Company V-1650-7 Merlin V-12 aircraft engine at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. This engine weighs 1,715 pounds (778 kilograms) and produces 1,490 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. Packard built 55,873 of the V-1650 series engines. Continental built another 897. The cost per engine ranged from $12,548 to $17,185. (NASM)

The P-51D was slightly slower than the P-51B/C. It had a 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-51B and P-51C were nearly identical, with the B built in California, and the -C in Texas. North American built 1,988 P-51Bs at Inglewood and 1,750 P-51Cs at Dallas. They had a cruise speed of 362 miles per hour (583 kilometers per hour) and their maximum speed was 439 miles per hour (707.5 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). The service ceiling was also 41,900 feet. With internal fuel, the combat range was 755 miles (1,215 kilometers).

The P-51B/C Mustang’s armament consisted of four air-cooled 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. The guns were installed leaning outboard from the vertical to reduce the overall height. This arrangement sometimes lead to ammunition feed problems.

The P-51D was armed with six AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns, with three mounted in each wing. In a change from the earlier airplanes, the guns were mounted vertically to improve ammunition feed. (This resulted in the requirement for a thicker 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.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

24 May 1948

Jackie Cochran with NX23888, May 1948. (FAI)
Jackie Cochran with NX28388, May 1948. (FAI)

24 May 1948: Two days after setting two Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World and U.S. National Aeronautic Association speed records with her P-51B Mustang, Jackie Cochran sets two more.

Flying her “Lucky Strike Green” North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA, serial number 43-24760, civil registration NX28388, Cochran flew an average of 693.780 kilometers per hour (431.094 miles per hour) over a 1,000 kilometer (621.371 miles) closed circuit, without payload, at Santa Rosa Summit, near Indio, California.¹

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 12.18.19

Jackie Cochran bought NX28388 from North American Aviation, Inc., 6 August 1946. Cochran also flew the green P-51B in the 1946 and 1948 Bendix Trophy Races, in which she placed 2nd and 3rd. Her Mustang was flown by Bruce Gimbel in the 1947 Bendix race, placing 4th.

The P-51B and P-51C are virtually Identical. The P-51Bs were built by North American Aviation, Inc., at Inglewood, California. P-51Cs were built at North American’s Dallas, Texas plant. They were 32 feet, 2.97 inches (9.829 meters) long, with a wingspan of 37 feet, 0.31-inch (11.282 meters) and overall height of 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 (5,352 kilograms).

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. NX28388 was powered by a Packard-built V-1650-7, serial number V332415, which was based on the Merlin 66. It was a right-hand tractor, liquid-cooled, supercharged 1,649-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04-liter), single overhead cam (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine, which produced 1,490 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m. at 61 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-7). (Military Power rating, 15 minute limit.) The engine drove a four-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propeller with a diameter of 11 feet, 2 inches (3.404 meters) through a 0.479:1 gear reduction.

Screen-Shot-2014-12-30-at-19.30.27
Jackie Cochran’s North American Aviation P-51B Mustang, NX28388, on the flight line at the Cleveland National Air Races, 1948. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

The P-51B had a cruise speed of 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 755 miles (1,215 kilometers).

In military service, 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 and another 1,750 P-51Cs 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)

While being ferried back to the West Coast after the 1948 Bendix Trophy Race, NX28388 crashed six miles south of Sayre, Oklahoma, 8 September 1948, killing the pilot, Sampson Held. Two witnesses saw a wing come off of the Mustang, followed by an explosion.

Jackie Cochran's National Aeronautic Association Certificate of Record at the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives (© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes)
Jackie Cochran’s National Aeronautic Association Certificate of Record at the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives (© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes)

¹ FAI Record File Numbers 4473, 12148

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

22 May 1948

Jackie Cochran with her record-setting P-51B Mustang, NX28388.

22 May 1948: Jackie Cochran flew her “Lucky Strike Green” North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA Mustang, USAAF serial number 43-24760, civil registration NX28388, over a 2,000 kilometer (1,242.743 miles) closed circuit from Palm Springs, California, to Mesa Gigante, a point near Santa Fe, New Mexico, and return. The flight, timed by H. Dudley Wright, a representative of the National Aeronautic Association, took 2 hours, 46 minutes, 38 seconds.

According to contemporary newspaper reports, difficulties with the airplane’s oxygen system “prevented Miss Cochran from taking advantage of favorable winds at higher altitudes which might have boosted her speed.”

Her Mustang averaged 720.134 kilometers per hour (447.470 miles per hour), setting two Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Speed,¹ and United States National Aeronautic Association speed record for its class.

Two days later, she would set another speed record in this same P-51. While the FAI records have been superseded, the United States records still stand.

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 12.19.05

Jackie Cochran’s “Lucky Strike Green” North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA Mustang NX28388, #13, with drop tanks, at Van Nuys Metropolitan Airport, California, August 1946. (Unattributed)

Jackie Cochran had broken the previous record, 708.592 kilometers per hour (440.299 miles per hour), which had been set by Lieutenant John J. Hancock, U.S. Air Force, with a Lockheed P-80A Shooting Star jet fighter two years earlier.² [See TDiA, 19 May 1946]

Cochran bought NX28388 from North American Aviation, Inc., 6 August 1946. Cochran also flew the green P-51B in the 1946 and 1948 Bendix Trophy Races, in which she placed 2nd and 3rd. Her Mustang was flown by Bruce Gimbel in the 1947 Bendix race, placing 4th.

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)

Interviewed about the new speed records, Jackie said,

“Last Saturday’s flight was for blood. I bought this P-51 two years ago and ever since have been fixing it up for the one objective of beating the Army’s jet 2,000 kilometer speed record. The Bendix Race and other flights were just incidental. . . .”

WASP NEWSLETTER, July 1948, Volume V, Number Two, at Page 2.

Jackie Cochran’s North American Aviation P-51B Mustang, NX28388, on the flight line at the Cleveland National Air Races, 1948. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

The P-51B and P-51C are virtually Identical. The P-51Bs were built by North American Aviation, Inc., at Inglewood, California. P-51Cs were built at North American’s Dallas, Texas plant. They were 32 feet, 2.97 inches (9.829 meters) long, with a wingspan of 37 feet, 0.31-inch (11.282 meters) and overall height of 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 (5,352 kilograms).

NX28388 n the flight line at the Cleveland National Air Races, 1948. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

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. NX28388 was powered by a Packard-built V-1650-7, serial number V332415, which was based on the Merlin 66. It was a right-hand tractor, liquid-cooled, supercharged 1,649-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04-liter), single overhead cam (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine, which produced 1,490 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m. at 61 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-7). (Military Power rating, 15 minute limit.) The engine drove a four-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propeller with a diameter of 11 feet, 2 inches (3.404 meters) through a 0.479:1 gear reduction.

A Packard Motor Car Company V-1650-7 Merlin V-12 aircraft engine at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. This engine weighs 1,715 pounds (778 kilograms) and produces 1,490 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. Packard built 55,873 of the V-1650 series engines. Continental built another 897. The cost per engine ranged from $12,548 to $17,185. (NASM)

The P-51B had a cruise speed of 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 755 miles (1,215 kilometers).

In military service, 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 and another 1,750 P-51Cs were produced at Dallas, Texas. This was nearly 23% of the total P-51 production.

While being ferried back to the West Coast after the 1948 Bendix Trophy Race, NX28388 crashed six miles south of Sayre, Oklahoma, 8 September 1948, killing the pilot, Sampson Held. Two witnesses saw a wing come off of the Mustang, followed by an explosion.

Jacki Cochran's National Aeronautic Association record in the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives. (Bryan R. Swopes)
Jackie Cochran’s National Aeronautic Association Certificate of Record in the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives. (© Bryan R. Swopes)

¹ FAI Record File Number  4479 and 12321

² FAI Record File Number 8941

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

5 May 1943

North American Aviation P-51B-1-NA Mustang 43-12093 (102-24541), the first production P-51B. (NASA Langley Research Center Vintage Photographs Collection)

5 May 1943: First flight of a production North American Aviation P-51B-1-NA Mustang, 43-12093 (NAA serial number 102-24541).

Compare the Merlin-powered P-51B, above, to this Allison-engined P-51A-1-NA Mustang, 43-6008 (99-22111). (NASA)

North American Aviation, Inc., located at Mines Field, Los Angeles, California (now, Los Angeles International Airport, or more commonly, LAX), contracted with the British Purchasing Commission to produce a new fighter designed around the liquid-cooled Allison Engineering Company V-1710-F3R V-12 engine. Just 117 days later, the first prototype, the NA-73X, was completed. The airplane made its first flight on 26 October 1940, with free-lance test pilot Vance Breese. The British ordered 320 fighters for the Royal Air Force, and named it the Mustang Mk.I. Soon after, a second order for 300 airplanes came through. On 23 April 1941, North American test pilot Louis Sanford Wait flew the first production airplane, RAF serial number AG345.

The first production Mustang Mk.I, AG345, first flight, 23 April 1941. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

The Mk.I was 30 miles per hour (48 kilometers per hour) faster than its contemporary, the Curtiss-Wright P-40 Warhawk, though both used the same engine and propeller. Below 15,000 feet (4,572 meters), the Mustang was also 30–35 m.p.h (48–56 kilometers per hour) faster than a Supermarine Spitfire, which had the more powerful Roll-Royce Merlin V-12.

Allison V-1710-39 (F3R) V-12 aircraft engine, right rear quarter view. (Allison)

The Mustang Mk.I was heavily armed with eight machine guns. Two Browning .50-caliber machine guns were positioned under the engine, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc. Two more .50s and four .303-caliber Browning Mark II machine guns were installed in the wings.

Two Mustang Mk.Is, the fourth and tenth production airplanes, were turned over to the United States Army Air Corps for testing at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio. These were designated XP-51 by the Air Corps. Test pilot Robert Creed Chilton took the first XP-51, 41-038 (ex-RAF AG348) for its first flight, 20 May 1941. Both airplanes were also extensively tested by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, Hampton, Virginia.

North American Aviation XP-51 at Wright Field. (Charles M. Daniels Collection, San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

The Air Corps initially ordered the airplane as a dive bomber, designated A-36 Apache. With various changes from the British fighter, on 23 June 1942, the Air Corps ordered 1,200 fighters as the P-51A. Chilton flew the first production P-51A, 43-6003, on 3 February 1943.

In England, tests were made of the Mustang Mk.I with Rolls-Royce Merlin 61 and 65 V-12 engines installed in place of the Allison V-1710. Called the Mustang X, it proved to be a superior fighter, particularly at high altitude. The RAF ordered it as the Mustang Mk.III.

Identical to the Inglewood, California-built North American Aviation P-51B Mustang, this is a Dallas, Texas-built P-51C-1-NT, 42-103023. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

In the United States, the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan, had begun building Merlin engines under license from Rolls-Royce. These American engines were designated V-1650. North American modified two P-51As from the production line to install the Packard V-1650-3. These were designated XP-51B. Testing revealed that the new variant was so good that the Army Air Corps limited its order for P-51As to 310 airplanes and production was changed to the P-51B.

The P-51B and P-51C are virtually identical. The P-51Bs were built by North American Aviation, Inc., at Inglewood, California. P-51Cs were built at North American’s Dallas, Texas plant. They were 32 feet, 2.97 inches (9.829 meters) long, with a wingspan of 37 feet, 0.31-inch (11.282 meters) and overall height of 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 (5,352 kilograms).

P-51Bs and Cs were powered by a right-hand tractor, liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,649-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04-liter) Packard V-1650-3 or -7 Merlin single overhead cam (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine which produced 1,380 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m at 60 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-3) or 1,490 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m. at 61 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-7). (Military Power rating, 15 minute limit.) These were license-built versions of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 63 and 66. The engine drove a four-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propeller with a diameter of 11 feet, 2 inches (3.404 meters) through a 0.479:1 gear reduction.

A Packard Motor Car Company V-1650-7 Merlin V-12 aircraft engine at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. This engine weighs 1,715 pounds (778 kilograms) and produces 1,490 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. Packard built 55,873 of the V-1650 series engines. Continental built another 897. The cost per engine ranged from $12,548 to $17,185. (NASM)

The P-51B/C had a cruise speed of 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 755 miles (1,215 kilometers).

In U.S. service, armament consisted of four air-cooled 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 and another 1,750 P-51Cs were produced at Dallas, Texas. This was nearly 23% of the total P-51 production.

North American P-51B Mustang with identification stripes. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather