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Bell P-39 Airacobra
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WORLD WAR II
SPECIAL COMMEMORATION
One of the 25 airplanes that won it
still flying 70 years after victory.

AIR&SPACE Smithsonian, May 2015
1600 11/07/2015
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I'd Rather Be Flying From Hangar 18
in the...
Bell P-39 Airacobra
(Featuring some of the Ol'Kunnel's favorite airplanes!)

Bell P-39 Airacobra


    The radically new P-39 Airacobra, begun in the late 1930s, was one of the first "modern" Air Corps fighters--the only one built around a cannon and not an engine. Bell's unusually streamlined design placed the engine behind the pilot, inside the fuselage, so as to allow frontal installation of the "bomber-killing" 37 mm cannon. Tricycle landing gear and car-like doors and windows in the cockpit were also innovative. Because it was light in weight, the P-39 was very fast at some altitudes.
     . . . The P-39 had a great virtue. It was available when war broke out in the Pacific. The infant Fifth Air Force was desperate for aircraft and it is generally conceded that the P-39 did well in the close support role at Guadalcanal and a host of other battles. US P-39s were used extensively in North Africa and Italy. On the Eastern Front, the USSR found the P-39 to be superb at low altitudes, where its tank-killing capability was used to great effect against German armor.
     --Walter J. Boyne, AIR FORCE Magazine, November 2007
In Brief
  • Designed built by Bell
  • first flight April 6, 1938
  • crew of one
  • Allison V-1710-85 engine
  • number built 9,558
  • Specific to P-39Q:
  • max speed 385 mph
  • cruise speed 200 mph
  • max range 650 mi
  • armament single 37 mm cnnon, four 50 cal machine guns [2 in nose, 2 in wings], single 500 lb bomb
  • weight [max] 8,300 lb
  • span 34 ft
  • length 30 ft 2 in
  • height 12 ft 5 in

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Interesting Facts
  • Half of P-39s transferred to Soviet Union
  • scored first US victory in Europe in WWII [Aug. 14, 1942]
  • also named MOdel 14 [RAF] abd P-400 {USAAF}
  • Russian nicknames of britchik [“little shaver”--shaving being slang for strafing]
    and kobrusha, or “dear little cobra”
  • appears in 2006 Russian film, “Peregon”
  • P-39 lost in 1942 found in Fiji in 2004
  • built in 16 models, 48 variants
  • besides US, Russia, and Britain,
    flown by Free France, Australia, Italy, Poland, and Portugal.

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