Talk:Bell P-39 Airacobra

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Military history (Rated C-Class)
MILHIST This article is within the scope of the Military history WikiProject. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the project and see a list of open tasks. To use this banner, please see the full instructions.
C This article has been rated as C-Class on the quality assessment scale.
WikiProject Aviation / Aircraft (Rated B-class)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of the Aviation WikiProject. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the project and see lists of open tasks and task forces. To use this banner, please see the full instructions.
B-Class article B  This article has been rated as B-Class on the project's quality scale.
Checklist icon
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by the aircraft project.

P-39 performance[edit]

Answering to the 2 previous guys - indeed Spitfire could exceed 450mph, however its wing structure was not able to substain more speed than that with safety.This meant that some high-g would break the wing apast.Instead the P-39 could dive that fast with safety. In recent years what changed people's perconception's about P-39 is the Ubisoft flight simulator IL-2 FB, which as people who flew the P-39 (and several other warbirds) claim that is very close to the real thing as a flight sim can go. I would describe my impressions from the sim, and indeed war vets confirm these impressions.(by the way, I have a pilot lisence, even I have logged hours only in Cessnas 152/182, if that matters). You had to be very able with this plane.For example,with the Spitfire there was not much you could do:Just press 110% power, and try to go to the enemy.Spitfire didn't have even combat flaps.If you were going to make a stupidity, Spit would stall and then just give it a bit of opposite rudder and it would gain some speed and come back to your control. With P-39 you had to play with the throttle, combat flaps to try to get the best of it.P-39 was like a mid-engined car in some ways.It was oversensitive in pitch and this could make difficult for a novice pilot to aim and shoot a target.At least in the flight sim, it felt almost like sliding in the air like a car that slides in its four tires! Roll was fast, even not as fast as P-40 or Fw-190. A P-39 pilot had to be very careful with the rudder too.This was something that was greatly improved in P-63.P-39 didn't like sudden turns of the stick in various directions, something that a novice pilot would often do in his panic to avoid an enemy in its 6 o' clock.This was a certain way to stall.P-39 had a very unusual 30km/h flat spin which was impossible to escape!This was the worst characteristic in this plane. In various maneuvres it was necessary to obtain a certain speed.On the other hand, it could fly in the vertical until almost 30km/h, however this was extremely dangerous for a un-experienced pilot.Only the fantastic Bf-109 was better in this. A Spitfire would just point its nose down, as Yaks would do and other well-mannered planes, however in much higher speed... The P-39 was extremely aerodynamic, actually possibly even better than the P-51 and P-38, two planes that were excellent in this area.Pushing the throttle down, it wouldn't mean an instantaneous fall in speed as it would mean for various aircooled figthers...This would make more difficult to calculate its speed and then been in danger to fly ahead a target. For these reasons the P-39 was from fast to very fast in low altitudes and NOT as bad in medium altitudes, depending on the version and the year-period we are talking about.Don't think that a Spit LF IX was faster in low altitudes...just a bit better in climb speed, due to its more powerful engine. In dive was very fast (again only Bf-109 and the P-38/P-51 were as good). It was, probably to its engine arrangement, more difficult to shoot down than every-other liquid-engined fighter.Its 37mm cannon was really devastating ( I cut in 2 pieces a Ju-88 with just one shell in a mission...), however you needed to approach very close, due to its low muzzle velocity.This again needed an experienced pilot.Instead a novice P-47 pilot could almost spray the sky with bullets of high-velocity muzzles and have a chance to shoot down an enemy plane when the P-39's 2 0.50's were inadequate. Ah, and the car-like canopy was horrible, restricting vision. Conclusion: The P-39 was unpopular because it need an experienced pilot to get the best out of it (something not good at all when thousends of young americans were thrown in battle with absolutely no combat experience).Its canopy would make escape difficult and it didn't fit well to the specific operational needs of the USAAF. In a few words...what a plane! (the flight sim has the versions P-400, P-39D-1, P-39D-2, P-39N, P-39Q-1, P-39Q-10)

Funny. Just watched a doc. on the P-39. Said the visibility from this canopy was excellent and was the inspiration for future "bubble type" canopies. I believe the documentary. It also stated the carlike doors could make escape difficult. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:57, 20 April 2010 (UTC)

One paragraph states P-39 was too heavy compared to its contemporaries which made it inferior to other fighters, then the following parapgraph states it was an air superiority fighter in the hands of VVS. The truth is that while P-39 was somewhat heavier than some of its contemporaries, it was held by many to be one of the best low-altitude fighters of the war in terms of both speed and agility. Soviets liked it so much they worked with Bell on P-63 (least favorite lend-lease aircraft? Hurricane hands down). A remarkable feature of the P-39 was its very clean aerodynamics - I've read pilot accounts of difficulty bleeding off speed. The P-39Q-1 pilot's manual authorizes dives to 523 mph (825 km/h)! Spitfire IX manual says 450 mph (725 km/h) is the limit. - Emt147 Burninate! 17:23, 4 December 2005 (UTC)

I suspect the 450 mph figure for the Spitifre IX is given for a height an Airacobra coudn't even reach. The 450 mph figure you've quoted itself seems strange, as it's not that much faster than a Spitifre IX's top speed in level flight, and the Spitfire had one of the highest Critical Mach numbers ever measured. There should be higher IAS figures given for lower heights, the indicated speed increasing as the air becomes thicker at the lower altitudes. I suspect the highest figure should be around 550 mph for a Sptifire IX, but I don't have the Pilot's Notes myself.
According to Jeffrey Quill's Spitfire - A Test Pilot's Story, the Mark IX's Pilot's Notes gives a table of Vne figures at various heights, one of which works out at M 0.85. Quill's department themselves were diving Spitfire IXs to speeds slightly in excess of Mach 0.86
As mentioned in the article, the Airacobra/P-39s measured performance was considerably down on the figures given to the British Purchasing Commission and on which the 1940 British order was based. The results of an enquiry into this led to the setting up of an evaluation centre, similar to the A&AEE at Martlesham Heath (later Boscombe Down), at Muroc Field in the US. Ian Dunster 12:17, 26 July 2006 (UTC)

Spitfire were FAST also in dives. One of Spit Mk IX reached 960 kmh and more, perhaps over 1100, in a dive. When spit had airframe of the advanced models the structure was reinforced and so, it can reach a real hig mach number. P-39 was strong, no doubt, but its performance at altitude was hampered by rejecting the turbocharger, that was fitted on the same Allison engine in P-38s. This because the 'drag' of the stuff. But this eliminated the possibility to reach high performance with Allison, and none P-39 was fitted with Merlin.--Stefanomencarelli 08:56, 26 July 2007 (UTC)

Seen how P-39s in Italy was badly cutted, i report the whole history written on these aircrafts.

Italy[5] The willing of Cobelligerent Italian Air Force to fight against germans (missions in Italy were generally avoided because fratricide fight weren't well seen by Allied command, so Balkan was the operational zone) sent this airforce to put on first line all Re.2002s and Macchis that it was possible rescue on southern airfields. But these aircrafts were quite worn out and without any industry in the south capable to make them and replacements parts. So these machines dropped quickly in efficency.

When W.Churchill claimed that italians had fought well and needed modern aircraft (24 may 1944, at common's room), british allowed italians to fly on the old ofe, Spitfires. Also americans given some aircrafts: 223th Group leaved P-39s and went on P-47s, so italians were allowed to take these fighters. Totally, atleast 150 were taken on charge, among them, almost all N and Q, but also atleast one L and 5 M. This happened on june 1944. The traing of the 4 Stormo pilots was started and the Airacobra was put in action. N versions were over 200 hours old and dedicated to training, while more modern Q were put on first line. Atleast 19 accidents occurred while italian pilots tryed to take these aircrafts on operational status, among the victims, 25 august, Teresio Martinoli, an 22 victory ace, killed by an allied aircraft after 4 years of air battles.

The 3 groups of 4 Stormo were trained in a small and difficult airfield near Vesuvio, then sent at Galatina airfield in the fall of 1944. 18 sept was the first mission in Albany by a 12 group's P-39. Almost 70 aircraft were operational and until 30-40 at once were sent on balkans. Only november the continous action of strafing of P-39s caused heavy destructions on german side with 1700 hours of flight. Germans almost hadn't aviation, but a fierce flak reaction and accidents caused 10 losses and numerous damaged aircraft. Even if the sturdy and well armed P-39 was almost ideal on ground attacks, these losses weren't few for a single Wing.

After the war in whic almost 3000 flyng hours were made by 4 Stormo, still dozens of P-39s were in charge. 1 april 1946 the remaining 46 P-39s still efficients were sold to Italy at 1% of their cost. Those summer many accidents happened, even mortals. Only n 1947 4 Stormo had P-38s, and P-39s were sent at traing purpuse only, until 1951. By all those italian Airacobra only a T9 gun survive today at Vigna di Valle museum (for all these informations see Marco Gueli's article in the references).

--Stefanomencarelli 14:47, 2 August 2007 (UTC)

Department of airacorrections[edit]

I deleted

"by the Navy in favor of the infamous Brewster Buffalo instead"

as factually wrong (the F2A wasn't named Buffalo by the Navy, & it was to a 1934 program, which even a cursory glance at F2A would have shown...) this

"(which coincidentally also featured a single-speed, single-stage supercharger)."

as irrelevant (especially since single-speed, single-stage superchargers were about as uncommon on period fighters as VW Type 1s on L.A. streets in the '60s (& '70s &...). Also this

"fired with a 900gr ammunition at 610 m."

as hopelessly unclear, & this

"P-39's 1,150hp (at takeoff; 1,014 hp at 6,100 m) V1710 had a single-speed, single-stage supercharger, which brought about a decrease of performance compared to the promising prototype fitted with an exhaust-driven turbo-supercharger"

as wrong or misplaced, & this

"ordered in production but were only capable of 600km/h at 6100 m, with a climb to this altitude in 7.5 minutes."

as extremely questionable. That sounds to me like a rate of climb more like a Spit or 'stang... Oh, & while I was at it, I rewrote. Ta. Trekphiler 15:16, 21 August 2007 (UTC)


This section is way too detailed for inclusion as only 19 a/c are involved. I suggest a sub-article and a brief note on Portugal's use of the aircraft remains. What say you? FWIW Bzuk 23:31, 6 September 2007 (UTC).

Support having a much briefer Portugal section. Binksternet 23:42, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
Support. The present text is too detailed even for Portuguese Air Force and belongs in a separate article. Grant | Talk 01:04, 7 September 2007 (UTC)
Support. Indeed, sorry about that, I was using a book and a website as a reference to create List of aircraft of the Portuguese Air Force, when I found detailed information about the P-39 operational history in Portugal — and I didn't even use all the information :X. Maybe the current content could be moved to an article dedicated to the operators of the Airacobra, like many other aircraft have (i.e. List of C-47 Skytrain operators), or to a dedicated section in the List of aircraft of the Portuguese Air Force article.
Best regards, Get_It 02:10, 7 September 2007 (UTC)
Thank you for this comment. That is exactly the kind of Wikipedia editor that we want. My suggestion is not to cut out this section but to make it a separate article that links back to the main body. FWIW Bzuk 04:23, 7 September 2007 (UTC).
Half a year later and there's been no change to this section. It is still too large, giving undue weight to the very, very minor role of Portugal's few P-39s. Binksternet (talk) 14:47, 16 May 2008 (UTC)
I took a butcher knife to the section, deleting its tables and trimming much of the detail. Hopefully, enough of the meat remains to satisfy readers. Binksternet (talk) 18:27, 15 August 2008 (UTC)


Anybody got free-use images of the 2-seat RP-39? It'd be a great addition. Trekphiler (talk) 02:25, 22 January 2008 (UTC)

After Pearl Harbor[edit]

The statement "about 200 repossessed by the Army" leaves the reader wondering which army it was... US? UK? It should be made clearer. Binksternet (talk) 14:27, 16 May 2008 (UTC)

I fixed that. It was the USAAF, none went to 8th AF and the Soviets got closer to 200 than 250 planes. Markus Becker02 (talk) 12:20, 11 June 2008 (UTC)

No AP ammo issued to VVS[edit]

The statement about the Soviets issuing no armor piercing rounds for their P-39 cannon has no attribution. Where does that come from? Binksternet (talk) 18:29, 15 August 2008 (UTC)

No response for a couple of weeks; I'm taking the mention of AP rounds out of the article. Binksternet (talk) 17:00, 7 September 2008 (UTC)
Took it out again today after it was re-added by User:Resolution Man. Let's see the source for this claim... I'd like to put it back in if we can say it is from a reliable source. Binksternet (talk) 21:10, 30 September 2008 (UTC)
I have often typed in the fact that the USSR never used the P-39 for 'tank busting'...A FACT.....and yet it keeps getting deleted by WHO I don't know ...WHY would someone do that ???Resolution Man (talk) 18:35, 1 October 2008 (UTC)
I will get PROOF by contacting Tonopah Army Air Base historian and a tech book on the Airacobra ! Hang in there !! Frankly I would have left it in there and contacted me rather than keep ripping it out of the page over and over...oh! well ! —Preceding unsigned comment added by Resolution Man (talkcontribs) 18:52, 1 October 2008 (UTC)
I thought someone smart enough to know that the USSR never supplied there P-39s with a certain type of ammo, ever, and that no alternative ammo was ever used, and that P-39s did not attack tanks, ever, would know how to read the edit summaries and the talk page. Per WP's Reliable sources policies, any any info added must have reliable sources, or is subject to removal at any time. In this case, you weren't just adding a fact, but removing commonly known info which you claim is wrong. That sort of extrodinary addition/action needs verifiable sources. Also, the the threshhold on WP is not FACT, but Verifiability - anyone can claim anything on WP, so it needs to be able to verified independently. Hope that helps. - BillCJ (talk) 19:09, 1 October 2008 (UTC)
Thanks, Bill. Binksternet (talk) 22:20, 1 October 2008 (UTC)
I won't get into 'flaming' with you BILLY. And I am a newbie and have not read how to "talk" here on WIK...I just write what I believe to be true, in my way of typing ! I did not remove comments were removed !
I am not as informed as you....though I do believe you meant "their" instead of "there P-39s"....I am just a lad who has many interests and I "heard" and read "somewhere" about no AP going to the Reds.
I will search for what I 'believe' to be true !
STAY, too, Binky ! :):)Resolution Man (talk) 00:06, 2 October 2008 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Resolution Man (talkcontribs) 23:49, 1 October 2008 (UTC)
You'll have more luck gaining consensus here if you avoid belittling other editors by adding 'y' endings on their names. Binksternet (talk) 05:20, 2 October 2008 (UTC)
I'm sorry we did not post a note on your talk page abput this, but it's not required, and I didn't think it was necessary, as I said. You seemed to know what you were doing, so we didn't think you were a newbie. You say you won't get into "flaming", and then that's exactly what you do, so it's obvious you know how to talk on forums. However, this page is not a forum, but specifically for improving the article. Please stop with the juvenile nicknames and typo-highlighting, and focus on supporting your claims with reliable sources. per WP policy. If you don't have any right now, then wait till you find them to respond. It's OK that you didn't know this before, but now you know, and that goes for the namecalling, et al, too. Thanks. - BillCJ (talk) 16:41, 2 October 2008 (UTC)

B and B : I am a newbie to the WIK and I am not used to the autocratic style I seem to have run into with you two. With that said, I will do my research and endeavor to get definitive proof to my claims but I must admit that it such an obscure item that I am a wee bit weary of all this banter and I am beginning to wonder if it is all worth it....I will get back to you if I feel like it. Case Closed !!! Resolution Man (talk) 19:05, 2 October 2008 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Resolution Man (talkcontribs) 17:45, 2 October 2008 (UTC)

Obscure items can be fun additions to WP articles, they just need to be sourced. Good luck! Binksternet (talk) 19:25, 2 October 2008 (UTC)

Took me a year but I found that James Gebhardt's article on "P-39 in Soveit Use" states that M80 AP shot was NOT issued to the Soviet Air Force and therefore the Airacobra was NOT a tank a Google on P-39 to find his writings. I KNEW I read this before and now my info. can remain in WIKI's story on this aircraft and NOT be editied out. Q.E.D. !!!!!!!!!!!!! RESOLUTION MAN —Preceding unsigned comment added by Resolution Man (talkcontribs) 03:17, 16 October 2009 (UTC)

Took me a year but I found my 'back-up' info. that M80 ammo. was NOT issued to Soviet Air Forces in the writings of James Gebhardt "P-39 in Soviet Use", and thus it was a myth that P-39 was a 'tank buster'. I knew I had read it in a reliable source so do not edit my recent addition to WIK's article on the P-39. ( RESOLUTION MAN )

One, it's written very badly - do I have your permission to clean it up for you? Two, you need to give the publisher's information on the book (Publisher, location, ISBN, and year) and the pages where this info is found. Three, I think you posted this one section too low, so someone else might not get what you're referring to. - BilCat (talk) 03:23, 16 October 2009 (UTC)
It was Loza who authored this information. Gebhardt was the translator and editor, not the author. I corrected the book cite but we can still use a page number. Binksternet (talk) 15:08, 16 October 2009 (UTC)
  • He probably can't count that high :P - BilCat (talk) 04:30, 17 October 2009 (UTC)'s written very isn't that "cleaned it up" without my permission....a year later and still you guys "rag on me"...BUT....I got what I wanted that the craft was NOT a tank buster, so I'm happy !RESOLUTION MAN —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:06, 17 October 2009 (UTC)

I didn't touch the new addition at all, so I don't know what you're talking about. Anyway, it's only one source. Other sources should be presented if they disagree, and are from reliable sources. - BilCat (talk) 04:30, 17 October 2009 (UTC)

I now see in the article section that NO AP being issued to the Russkies confirms my statements from months ago that this craft was NOT a tank buster...I am vindicated ! What a waste of time all those past months !...BUT.....I do compliment the mods. for 'eating crow'....Resolution Man (talk) 17:47, 18 November 2009 (UTC) And a tad more info. that the craft was NOT a tank buster : see Man (talk) 01:33, 13 December 2009 (UTC)

The documentary I mentioned above said the Soviets loved the P-39. That 37mm was a great tank buster. The doc. is an ongoing series called "Great Planes" and can't dismissed out of hand. But I'm sure you'll do it anyway. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:21, 20 April 2010 (UTC) shan't be dismissed out of is simply that the show does not have correct information because NO AP ammo. was issued and an airplane cannot kill a tank without AP ammo.Resolution Man (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 03:03, 26 September 2010 (UTC).

Again "someone" keeps removing info re the myth of tank busting where I pass on info from the well known book "Attack of the Airacobras" re Soviet way of referring to"ground support" refers to attacking German bombers about to unload on Soviet troops below...and therefore not using the planes to 'tank bust' but to help troops on the ground by knocking out bombers above. I want to know how can I word such so that it won't be continually taken down !!! ????Resolution Man (talk) 21:44, 2 January 2011 (UTC) 1/2/'11

I do not think your English skills are sufficient to write a succinct entry about the myth of tank-busting. If you cite an author who "sheds light on the myth" of tank busting by P-39s, the article must already have introduced the fact that there was a myth. To kill the myth, you first need to describe the myth. Do you know who started the myth? Do you know what authors kept it going, which ones continued the myth? Do you have a timeline of the myth? I keep removing your Dmitriy Loza bit because of the absence of the description of the myth. Binksternet (talk) 22:34, 2 January 2011 (UTC)

OHHHH ! LORD! I KNEW it was going to be you, Binks etc.......The myth bit has been completely rejected...I was only adding confirmation from a Soviet POV. Just forget it ! You seem to want discourage folk and I have to say that you wore me you must be gloating !

You have not read Loza's book apparently, otherwise you would not have ripped my comments out of the text !

At least it is NOW accepted that the P-39 was NOT a tank buster and that was my goal more than a year ago and despite your skeptic style and 'deleting passion', I won the day and I'm done ! ...oppssss...I nearly forgot... your comment re my "english skills" rude of you...absolutely rude ! I do so want to make a ruder comment to you but I have restraint ! (talk) (talk) 01:31, 5 January 2011 (UTC)01:30, 5 January 2011 (UTC)Jan 4, 2011

P-39 Airacobra and XFL-1 Airabonita Inverted Timeline[edit]

William Green's book War Planes of the Second World War, Volume Four: Fighters. (Macdonald & Co. Ltd., 1961, ISBN 0-356-01448-7) and Bert Kinzey's P-39 Airacobra - in detail (Squadron/Signal Publications Inc., 1999, ISBN 1-88897-416-4 Invalid ISBN) both state pretty clearly that the P-39 was not based on the XFL-1 Airabonita, but that the Naval aircraft was derived from the Airacobra and that the Navy's interest in the turbocharged XP-39's performance was a major reason the XFL-1 project was started in the first place. Additionally, the time the US Army sent the RFQ out on what became the Airacobra was well before the Navy's interest developed.

The fact the XP-39 flew two years before the XFL-1 is pretty telling as well.

This needs to be changed.

Bwob (talk) 10:04, 14 September 2008 (UTC)

I have the source that is listed after this claim (Donald 1997), and it contains no such info. The XFL-1 is only disc ussed near the end of the P-39 entry, and the XFL-1 is clearly stated as a derivitive of the P-39. - BillCJ (talk) 20:47, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

Quantum Of Solace[edit]

I believe the fighter plane pictured in the new James Bond film is a P-39. I could be mistaken, though. I'll wait for viable sources.

No, it is an Aermacchi SF-260.VaderSS (talk) 15:33, 28 September 2010 (UTC)

Airiacobra not sent to the USSR from the UK[edit]

In the section about Airacobras in the UK it reads:

The Airacobras already in the UK, along with the remainder of the first batch being built in the US, were sent to the Soviet Air force, the sole exception being AH574, which was passed to the Royal Navy and used for experimental work,

BX195 also remained in the UK... Or it's wreckage did at any rate, having crashed in what is now the Yorkshire Dales National Park in 1942. and
I wonder if it's notable enough to add to the article, especially given the amount that was pulled out of the sink hole on the moor there. Also the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has a small bit of record about it on their HER (Historic Environment Record) although checking that would come under original research, hence why I linked to those two web-pages. If it's thought to be notable enough to put down that crash, or if no one says otherwise in the next week or so then I'll add it. --Tethran (talk) 09:41, 17 January 2009 (UTC)

NACA takes out turbo[edit]

Lots of good additions to the article lately, but none addressing the sequence of events leading NACA and the Army Air Corps' assistant fighter guy to take out the P-39's turbo, and thus relegating the plane to also-ran status in Western Europe where high altitude was key. Doesn't David Donald in 1997 have anything more to say about what the supposed performance improvement was? I know it was for better streamlining, but somebody needs to point out that the slightly better streamlining that was achieved at the cost of turbo was the death of the plane's original specs, and not really necessary. Careful airflow studies on the P-38 shaped its various vents and scoops into extremely low-drag forms—the same could have been done on the P-39 so that it could have retained its turbo. Binksternet (talk) 13:57, 13 May 2009 (UTC)

From what I can gather the aerodynamic improvements were made after the XP-39 was tested extensively in the NACA wind tunnel at Langley - the XP-39 was then rebuilt into the XP-39B. One of the modifications made was to delete the turbo-charger which was mounted under the centre-section. According to Bowers the decision to scrap the turbo was made by the Army in January 1940. The army did not envisage its fighters being used in anything other than a low altitude ground support role; unfortunately the Army was paying for the aircraft, so what the Army wanted, it got.
It could be argued that pointing out that removing the turbo was unnecessary is conjecture because it is difficult to know what improvements could have been made to the airframe had the turbo been retained. It could, for example, be argued that the position of the turbo in the lower centre section would have lead to problems with dirt and debris in operational service; considering the airfields that the P-39 later operated from this could have been very real - the P-38 turbos were on top of the tail booms, well away from the ground and the P-47 turbo was fully enclosed. Would it have been possible to redesign the installation to have made it less vulnerable? Possibly, but, again this could only be hypothetical- it didn't happen and, without anything solid to go on as to what modifications could have been made (eg; repositioning the turbo?) this can only be speculative. Thanks, BTW for picking up my errors! Twas late at night/early morning here in EnZed and I really should have been heading for the sack. By the time I'd gotten through with what I'd done..Minorhistorian (talk) 22:42, 13 May 2009 (UTC)
it's really a pity that P-39s werent' selected for carrier service. At least, there was no dirt and debrifs on carriers. In any case, apart the mechanical semplification there is no doubt (combat proof, not speculations) that P-39s were disavantaged by the lack of power at altitude. And this explains why V-VS fough with them effectively, while anglo-american not. With P-39s should had been a nightmare to protect a B-17s wing over Germany. Just like with Mustang 'A', after all.--Stefanomencarelli (talk) 21:36, 14 May 2009 (UTC)
The FOD issue may be overstated. We know today it's a problem for turbines, but did the AAC/AAF in '39? If so, how did the P-51 pass muster? TREKphiler any time you're ready, Uhura 20:14, 20 April 2010 (UTC)
At the time the only high-temperature material usable for the exhaust ducting to a turbocharger was stainless steel which is heavy. This would have increased the aircraft weight over that of the one without a turbo. A case of 'swings and roundabouts', more power from the engine, but more weight (and hence drag) for the engine to pull along. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:55, 25 February 2017 (UTC)

Interceptor aircraft?[edit]

I took out wikilinks to interceptor aircraft, as the intention of Ben Kelsey (as expressed in his book The Dragon's Teeth?) was to get a heavier fighter with a stronger punch, more capable of dog-fighting than the fighters of other nations. As defined at its article, an interceptor aircraft is for downing enemy attack aircraft such as bombers, but with a corresponding reduction in dog-fighting capabilities. Kelsey intended no such reduction, and the P-39 showed no such reduction. Kelsey used the word "interceptor" on paper to bypass Air Corps restrictions on the weaponry of pursuit planes. He did not think of the term as it is defined today. Binksternet (talk) 18:34, 5 July 2010 (UTC)

Overhyped in the US and the UK[edit]

I do not see that one article in Popular Science, "World's Deadliest Fighting Ship", can be extrapolated to support the notion that many British and Americans bought into the superiority of the P-39. It may be true, but what we need is an expert observer saying exactly that, not a link to a magazine article of the day. So far, no reliable source says that the Airacobra was over-hyped. I would like to see one. Binksternet (talk) 04:34, 16 September 2010 (UTC)

Dear Binksternet,

It is more than one article. It is the British themselves in states and reports. Below is what I was going to add (ie if you had waited just five minutes for that reference). Books have even states that. Bell did a lot of over hyping that cost lives. That I did not even go into. Yes, the Russians did good. I do not take that away. When I first reported that Russian archives that Professor Zaloga at last got access to after the fall of the USSR revealed the wanted the P-39 more for the air-to-air role than the air-to-ground as had been believed for decades after WW2 in the West I caught h*ll (along with the revelation that the Russians had Mig-15 aces during the Korean War). Finally, I believe it is time that someone else above our pay grade look into this issue. I don't get into editing wars. But this page is more a love-fest for the P-39 (ie it is a beautiful aircraft like the USN A-5 was, but sometimes looks are not enough). But I would like to insert a simple statement on how the RAF were originally going to order the P-39 (one 20mm cannon and four .303 machine guns all in the nose), but if that is not going to allowed for now, then please speak up. But I have the photo showing that one off model.

Jack E. Hammond

Note> What I was preparing to post with references when the revert was done.

One of the major reasons that the P-39 was found wanting with the UK and the US in the air-to-air role was Bell's over-hyping of the P-39 in ads and articles to the general public. Many pilots who flew the P-39 in combat were taken in by those ads and articles. A good example is the Popular Science, November 1941, article titled "World's Deadliest Fighting Ship" the first large article on P-39 published in US for general public. The very impressive cover photo showed the P-39 with one cannon in the nose and two machine guns in the nose and six more machine guns mounted in the wings. It was almost three years into the war before the general public in the US found out about the poor performance of the P-39 in air-to-air combat. The RAF in particular were upset over Bell's being less than honest about the P-39 performance. They were expecting a fighter that could easily achieve 400mph in combat. Even before the P-39 reached service with the RAF one unidentified author stated in the May 1940 issue of Aeroplane that the performance and weight of the P-39 "is not possible with the big motor, the shaft drive, the tricycle undercarriage, the armament specification and the range and wing load claimed" and that Bell "...must have discovered some wonderful new law of nature if they can build and aeroplane which weighs no more than a Hawker Hurricane, yet has more horse power, radiators in the wings, about 300lb more fuel, a cannon, a trcycle undercarriage, a long extension shaft and a constant-speed airscrew. ... The idea seems to be to get a spectacular top speed for advertising purposes anyway. When they are exported for War they have to be modified to make them lethal." (the last remark was meant as an insult by the British to Bell) Later when the first P-39 arrived in the UK for testing and the RAF asked for answers the USAAC officer sent to the UK with the P-39 stated "The loss of top speed from and alleged 392mph to 359mph can not be accounted for and will have to be addressed investigated in the USA." 'reference - Air Enthusiast/August 1971 The Calamitious Cobra Gordon Swanborough ISBN 0-385-08171-5 publisher Pilot Press Limited.'

Dear Binksternet,
Btw, I got to discuss the P-39 history with the USAAF/USAAC with a Major Marion F. Kirby of the 8th AF, 475 GG in the Pacific, and I asked about the P-39's nickname (ie the Klunker) and he stated did I want the nickname used around children or just adults. US pilots just did not find the P-39 lacking. They hated it. Besides its bad performance it lacked range due to the lack of fuselage space. All this Bell knew, but refused to pass on or acknowledge because they had put so much of their heart into the design. That is ok. Until it cost lives. Jack Jackehammond (talk) 05:38, 16 September 2010 (UTC)

Your reference of the 1971 article in Air Enthusiast is written by who? Do you have a copy of that issue? Binksternet (talk) 05:40, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
Dear Mr Binksternet, author Gordon Swanborough and yes I do have a copy. And can I post the information about how the RAF originally wanted to order the P-39 with all its armament in the nose -- to free the wing up for additional fuel -- or will it be reverted. Jack Jackehammond (talk) 05:47, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
Note> AE is took over from Royal Air Force Flying Review and then became what is today's AIR INTERNATIONAL and AIR ENTHUSIAST was for aviation history, till it was dropped about two years ago. Jackehammond (talk) 05:49, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
"But this page is more a love-fest for the P-39" Don't worry Jack. Exactly the same thing happened in the P-47 article.Flanker235 (talk) 12:15, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
IIRC there is some information on the RAF view of the Airacobra in the book Fly for Your Life, Larry Forrester's - who is better known as a screenwriter - 1956 biography of Robert Stanford Tuck who had flown Hurricanes in the Battle of Britain and who was attached to the British Air Mission in Washington shortly thereafter. I last read it over thirty years ago but I'm pretty sure it goes into some depth about the poor performance of the P-39. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:07, 16 June 2013 (UTC)

Car doors.[edit]

Hudson Motor Car Company built the cabins and either based the P-39 and P-63 doors on their car doors or the doors may have simply been actual Hudson car doors. Bizzybody (talk) 10:03, 16 September 2010 (UTC)

I doubt very much that ordinary car doors, which in most American vehicles of the 1930s and 40s would have been sheet steel pressings, would have been used; the design of the doors was Bell's, they were made of lightweight alloys, and Hudson were simply the subcontracters selected to manufacture these components.
Have you a reference to Hudson building the cabins and doors? It would be an interesting addition to the article. Minorhistorian (talk) 10:27, 16 September 2010 (UTC)

What does "very limited ammunition" mean?[edit]

What does the phrase "very limited ammunition" mean? Is it referring to few different types of ammunition available, or the amount of ammunition that could be carried in the plane? Could this be made clearer in the text? -- Dougher (talk) 23:46, 9 September 2011 (UTC)

Where does it say this? Min✪rhist✪rianMTalk 11:18, 10 September 2011 (UTC)
2nd para of "Design and development" section:"Although devastating when it worked, the T9 had very limited ammunition, a low rate of fire, and was prone to jamming" - I suspect that this is a reference to the small ammunition capcity of the gun's magazine - 15 rounds in early aircraft and 30 rounds in later aircraft.Nigel Ish (talk) 13:51, 10 September 2011 (UTC)

First flight date and early history[edit]

I have used Birch Matthews' book extensively in my alterations. Birch was a former Bell employee had access to extensive Bell documents and drawings in writing his book, something I doubt most other authors had who wrote about the P-39. Among other things, he nailed down the correct first flight date. He also had access to Bell financials and in his book he shows how Bell aircraft cashflow was in precarious state during the development of the XP-39, justifying the use of the word "desperate" regarding Larry Bell's proposal to remove the turbocharger. If you don't like my changes, please look at the Matthews book before removing anything. Aeroweanie (talk) 03:04, 26 September 2011 (UTC)

  • Since you have the book, provide relevant page numbers, as well. FWiW Bzuk (talk) 03:24, 26 September 2011 (UTC).
What was the actual date???? - BilCat (talk) 14:58, 10 December 2012 (UTC)
I checked the diffs, and the year that AW added was 1939. I've added the source to the infobox, along with a note. If the Matthews' book isn't accepted as definitive (I don't know if it is, or if it should be), then the solution per WP guidelines is to cite both years, and note that there is a discrepancy among reliable sources. - BilCat (talk) 15:36, 10 December 2012 (UTC)
Walter Boyne says 6 April 1939 in Air Warfare: An International Encyclopedia, page 76. Lockheed engineer Warren Bodie writing about the XP-38 says the XP-39 first flew in April 1939. Binksternet (talk) 15:55, 10 December 2012 (UTC)
However, Boyne contradicts himself in Beyond the Wild Blue: A History of the U.S. Air Force, 1947–2007, page 452, where he says 6 April 1938. Mike Spick wrote in 2002 that the XP-39 flew on 6 April 1938. Robert Schlaifer wrote that the XP-39 flew in April 1939. Binksternet (talk) 16:08, 10 December 2012 (UTC)
It might be possible to find an article from a contemporary newspaper or magazine in online archives. This would give a more direct source for the date. Popular Mechanics often covered such events. - BilCat (talk) 16:17, 10 December 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I would frame this entirely the other way as a preponderance of sources from Boyne, Dorr, Donald, Angelucci, Bowers and the USAF all list the date of the first flight as April 6, 1938. FWiW FWiW (talk) 18:27, 10 December 2012 (UTC).

In Airpower, November 1978, Peter M Bowers says the XP-39 contract was signed in October 1937 and the prototype completed in March 1939, nine months past the contract delivery date, which must have been July 1938: had the XP-39 been completed and flown in March-April 1938 from contract to hardware would have taken about five months, three months ahead of the contract's delivery date. Not forgetting that Bell, which was still a small company, was working on the YFM-1 Airacuda. Ergo April 1938 is unlikely.
Of further note the XP-39B, which was the reconfigured XP-39, first flew 25 November 1939 - the XP-39 in its original form flew for a relatively brief period before it was shipped off to NACA at Langley, stripped down and tested in the wind tunnel before being shipped back to Bell for reconstruction. If 6 April 1938 is correct the change from XP-39 to XP-39B would have taken 20 months. Min✪rhist✪rianMTalk 21:28, 10 December 2012 (UTC)
According to Angelucci and Bowers (1987), the extensive modifications demanded by the USAAC included reduced wingspan, stretched fuselage, repositioning the air inlets, and more importantly specifying a 1,090 hp Allison V-170-37 without turbosupercharger. The modified XP-39, nearly a completely new airframe, redesignated the XP-39B, had its maiden flight in November 1939. Recently, the aviation historian, Larry Dwyer has done some research on the background of the P-39 and confirms that the date of the XP-39's first flight was April 6, 1938. FWiW FWiW (talk) 21:49, 10 December 2012 (UTC).
In his book Beyond the Wild Blue, Boyne not only says 1938 but he says the P-39 was used by the Soviets to attack tanks on the ground, which we know to be false. I think this source can be discounted as poorly researched. Robert F. Dorr says 6 April 1939 was the first flight, piloted by Bell test pilot James Taylor. René J. Francillon wrote the same thing in 1969: American fighters of World War Two. Francillon has a lot of detail about the development and flight; he says the prototype neared completion in March 1939, Bell aircraft hull serial number 38-326. The aircraft was partially disassembled and then trucked "in great secrecy" to Wright Field near Dayton, Ohio, for USAAC tests. The first flight was 6 April 1939 with James Taylor at the controls. At 20,000 ft, 390 mph was attained for this unarmed and unarmored version. Arthur Pearcy in his 1993 Flying the Frontiers: NACA and NASA Experimental Aircraft writes that the XP-39 first flew "in the spring of 1939" after which it was taken to Langley wind tunnel on 6 June 1939. Full scale wind tunnel testing was ordered by "Hap" Arnold on 9 June 1939. Gordon Swanborough wrote in 1963's United States military aircraft since 1909: "The XP-39 (38-326) was first flown at Dayton by James Taylor in April 1939, and on the 27th of the same month, the Army ordered a service test batch of 12 YP-39s and one YP-39A, the latter to have no turbo-supercharger." Binksternet (talk) 04:46, 11 December 2012 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I hope this doesn't shock you that someone gets it wrong, and the mistake is compounded by the next people that repeat the error. From a contemporary article, dated April 6, 1938 and that appears in the Chronicle of Aviation, 1992, p. 356: "New Airacobra is first to carry cannon" Dayton, Ohio, April 6, 1938. The XP-39, the second radical fighter design by the young Bell aircraft Corporation made its first flight from Wright Field today with Jimmy Taylor at the controls." Seems pretty definitive. FWiW FWiW (talk) 05:47, 11 December 2012 (UTC).

Is the article actually shown, with the date or is it cited? Plus I'd still like someone to explain how it was possible for the XP-39 to be nine months overdue on its contracted date in April 1938, when the contract for the prototype was signed in October 1937 - the time line just doesn't add up without some strange convolutions in logic. As for the possibility of mix-ups - that can go both ways: for example, here (go down past RAF video) the date of a Popular Mechanics article "P-39 compared with Republic P-41' is cited as "August 1938" - yet here it is plainly the August 1939 issue. The fact that at least two well known authors Boyd and Bowers), who seemingly had access to Bell's records, can cite both 1938 and 1939 suggests that there is some confusion in the records themselves, particularly when Bowers specifically claimed that the prototype was completed nine months after the contract date. I guess we'll just have to continue with the note that there is conflicting information which (seemingly) dates right back to the late 1930s. Min✪rhist✪rianMTalk 11:03, 11 December 2012 (UTC)
Bzuk, I would like to see a scan of that article, connecting its title with its date. Binksternet (talk) 13:55, 11 December 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Yes, in answering an earlier request, the article is complete with an illustration of the XP-39 in flight. (A scan of the article is available and can be sent out via email attachment.) The seeming contradiction in the dates and speed of construction of the prototype may stem from Bell taking on the work almost immediately from its unveiling of the Model 3 "proof-of-concept" design mock-up on 24 May 1937, then extensively modified into the Model 4 (later to be known as the XP-39) after the successful submission to the USAAC on 16 May 1937 and the signing of a formal contract on 7 October 1937. FWiW FWiW (talk) 14:37, 11 December 2012 (UTC).

Bzuk sent me a scan of the article complete with the 1938 date. In neighboring articles are other famous events from earlier in 1938 such as Sir Alan Cobham performing the first in-flight refueling of an Imperial Airways "C" class flying boat. The description of the XP-39 flight is definitive. I think we must abandon all the 1939 cites because of this very firm proof otherwise. Binksternet (talk) 21:29, 11 December 2012 (UTC)
We should keep the note in the text that mentions that some sources note that the date is in 1939 as some do, and to help alleviate future changes. Bzuk, thanks for following upnon the suggestion to check contemporary sources, and please add the cite info to the article when you can. Also, canyou send me the scan also? Thanks. - BilCat (talk) 21:41, 11 December 2012 (UTC)
If we can get a scan of the actual 1938 journal issue it would be even better. Bzuk's scan is from the 1992 book which gathers contemporary articles from each year and republishes them chronologically. Conceivably, the 1992 editors could have made a mistake. Binksternet (talk) 22:28, 11 December 2012 (UTC)
I have no problem with this; great research, and it shows the value of having editors who are prepared to dig around. Thanks Bzuk, for clearing this one up. I also think there should be a note pointing out that both 1938 and '39 have been cited, but that there is very strong evidence that 1938 is correct. Min✪rhist✪rianMTalk 22:42, 11 December 2012 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────The two books below put the first P-39 flight on April 6, 1938.

  1. David Mondey. The Concise Guide to American Aircraft of World War II. New York: Smithmark Publishers, 1982. 12.
  2. Jay Frank Dial. Aircraft in Profile Volume 7, The Bell P-39 Airacobra. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1970. 262.

The following book puts the date at April 6, 1939.

  1. Ray Wagner. American Combat Planes. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1982. 267.

I think Aircraft in Profile Volume 7, The Bell P-39 Airacobra (published 1970) was correct with 1938 and later histories made an error of 1939 and the mistake kept being copied. Frank Strnad who coauthored Picture History of Aviation on Long Island said this was very common. One guy makes a mistake and everyone keeps repeating it. Frank used to find mistakes all the time in many aero history publications. However, I’m still not sure. I just ordered Bell Aircraft Since 1935 from the library and I’ll check the date in that. The Putnam books are among the best.

Lpdwyer (talk) 02:33, 12 December 2012 (UTC) ────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────According to one reference, there was a test flight of the unmodified XP-39 on April 6, 1939 which was prematurely ended when engine overheating occurred. I also would like to be doubly sure of the 1938 date of the maiden flight by finding at least one more contemporary source. FWiW, there is an extensive 10,000 volume collection of magazines in our local air museum that may provide the answer, as I am almost certain that the major tomes, all vacillate from one date to the other. FWiW (talk) 05:57, 12 December 2012 (UTC). ──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I think I'm wrong about the 1938 date. A curator form the National Museum of the US Air Force answered my email and sent me the following:

"Dear LPDwyer

Thank you for contacting the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Unfortunately, we have no official resource on file which confirms the date of the first flight for the XP-39. However, we do have on file a privately published resource which follows the P-39 procurement and development process in minute detail.

Messner, Warren A. “America’s Mid-Engine Fighters, The Bell P-39 Airacobra & P-63 Kingcobra”. (1994)

The sheer amount of documentation and description provided in this resource conclusively shows the first flight occurred in 1939 and not 1938."

I’m trying to procure a copy of Messner’s document in the hopes of clearing up this mystery. In the meantime I think we should set the first flight date at April 6, 1939. --Lpdwyer (talk) 00:37, 18 December 2012 (UTC)

Wow, I feel whipsawed. Any hard confirmation of 1939 would clear up the troubling problem of what Bell was doing between April 1938 and June 1939—them sitting on their hands made no sense. Binksternet (talk) 00:52, 18 December 2012 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────After a fruitless search in our air museum library, I found Janes was no help as the only edition I located was the 1939 edition that merely indicated that information on testing was not available. Neither Aeroplane, Flight nor any other contemporary sources had a first flight date, which makes me think that a newspaper archive might still be the only conclusive sources. Perhaps Dayton or Buffalo newspapers have a microfile/microfiche or electronic record of the period. FWiW (talk) 01:28, 18 December 2012 (UTC).

We'll probably find out the first flight was 31 February 1939. Might as well keep the note stating that different sources have different dates. If Bell Helicopter have kept an archive I would have thought that the various authors who have been quoted would have already gone through them. Ah well, don't 'cha just love historical research? Min✪rhist✪rianMTalk 01:44, 18 December 2012 (UTC)
LOL. Or April eleventy-first. Binksternet (talk) 02:42, 18 December 2012 (UTC)
In the overall scheme of things, I have waaaay more sources saying 1938, including Lloyd Jones. Looking at editor Michael O'Leary's account in Air Progress Warbird, September/October 1988, pp. 22–23, he notes that a great deal of secrecy was involved with Bell Aircraft trucking the prototype XP-39 around on flatbeds and sent by rail to Wright Field. He states unequivocally that the first flight was on 6 April 1938 but that publicity was suppressed until the first public announcement of the aircraft that was made on 9 February 1939. When Bell undertook production of 13 YP-39s, they were to the XP-39 "interceptor" standard, ordered on 23 April 1939. The large number of modifications demanded by the USAAC led to a modification of the XP-39 to that of a low level role, resulting in the YP-39B, and a revamping of all the service test examples to the new standard. This timeline goes a long way to explain the delay from test flight to production status. FWiW (talk) 01:48, 18 December 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I just got a copy of Bell Aircraft Since 1935 from the library and the author, Alain J. Pelletier, puts the date at April 6, 1938. Here is a summary of the beginning of the P-39 section.

On March 19, 1937 the USAAC issued specification X-609 for a new fighter. Bell aircraft created two designs, Model 3 and Model 4. Both designs were presented to the USAAC and Model 4 was retained for further development. A contract was awarded October 7, 1937 under the USAAC designation XP-39 for a single prototype to be ready August 1938. Construction of the prototype began in Buffalo and in the early spring of 1938, construction of S/N 38-326 was completed. The maiden flight was on April 6, 1938. “On June 6, after some sixty flying hours had been logged, the XP-39 was sent to Langley Field NACA wind tunnel.” The prototype was back in the air November 25, 1939. The aircraft was destroyed in an accident after only 28 hours of flying. On April 13, 1939, the USAAC signed a contract for 13 YP-39s (Model 12). The first YP-39 made its maiden flight on September 13, 1940.

Alain J. Pelletier. Bell Aircraft Since 1935. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1992. 25-28.

Pelletier’s book is the most comprehensive and detailed of any of the ten books I have recently looked at on the P-39. I’ve made up my mind. I'm going with April 6, 1938.
--Lpdwyer (talk) 00:35, 28 December 2012 (UTC)

Pelletier's account, or your transcription of it, contains some awkward problems. One is the difference between the prototype having 60 hours by June, then down to 28 hours at the point of its destruction after 25 November 1939. The second is that the NACA wind tunnel tests are always reported, even in disparate sources, as being June 1939, not June 1938. So what was the prototype doing for 14 months between first flight and NACA tests? It's possible there is a good reason, but I would like to know what it is. Binksternet (talk) 05:28, 28 December 2012 (UTC)
"June 1939, not June 1938" At the risk of asking the stupidly obvious, you don't suppose that could be a misprint, do you? TREKphiler any time you're ready, Uhura 06:12, 28 December 2012 (UTC)
I wrote that; it is not a 'misprint'. There are dozens of sources for the June 1939 wind tunnel testing of the XP-39. A few: NASA, NASA, Flickr, originally NACA, NASA, Youtube (a wind tunnel 'tuft' film that concludes with a frame dating it to August 1939), "On 9 June 1939, he formally requested that NACA carry out immediate full-scale tunnel testing on the XP-39." (From aviation historian Arthur Pearcy), "Actually Langley had received the XP-39 from Wright Field three days before Arnold's request, which had been put in writing on 6 June..." (from historian James R. Hansen). In NASA's publication Scientific and Technical Aerospace Reports, they list a 15 March 1939 series of spin tests performed on a 1/20-scale model of the XP-39 by research engineer Charles J. Donlan. So Langley was involved from March 1939 with a small model and then in June/August/September 1939 with full-scale wind tunnel testes. Binksternet (talk) 16:32, 28 December 2012 (UTC)
"I wrote that" I didn't mean you, nor all the sources saying '39. I meant, if there's one source saying '38 (only one?), did that one get it wrong by something so simple? Even if not, I suggest, if there are many saying it's '39, it makes no difference if one says '38, because weight of evidence is against it. TREKphiler any time you're ready, Uhura 00:22, 29 December 2012 (UTC)

Re the flying hours: surely the 60 hrs logged by June refers to the prototype in its original form before being modified to the XP-39B, after which it flew another 28 hrs, then crashed? Anyway, it is clear that there is more than enough evidence for keeping the note stating that the sources differ over the date of the first flight. :) Min✪rhist✪rianMTalk 09:20, 29 December 2012 (UTC) ──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── My assumption is that the author meant that 60 hours were logged and then an additional 28 hours were logged for a total of 88 hours. If a contract was awarded in 1937 and supposed to be ready by August 1938, it should be obvious the USAAC meant, “ready to fly.” It is implied that the prototype was completed ahead of schedule. From June 1938 until the next flight on November 25, 1939, the airplane would have gone through wind tunnel tests (June 1939) and the conversion from the XP-39 to the XP-39B. I’m convinced Pelletier is correct that April 6, 1938 is the XP-39’s first flight.

I scanned in the pages of the book relevant to the first flight date. See link. P-39.pdf
Lpdwyer (talk) 12:40, 31 December 2012 (UTC)

Further discussion[edit]

Birch Matthews cites Bell Aircraft Corporation Report No. 4Y021, dated 21 December 1938 which details the ground tests that preceded the first flight. He also cites the Bell Aircraft Corporation log of activities at Wright Field 27 December 1938 to 8 May 1939 and he gives a day-by-day history of the tests that led to the first flight. The first flight WAS 6 April 1939.Aeroweanie (talk) 04:12, 27 May 2013 (UTC)
I've reverted your changes to the article as being non-consensual, especially since you haven't bothered to praticipate in the lengthy discussions here. It's up to you to build a new consensus here first, and not to unilaterally impose your own opinion. You've been on WP long enough to know better. - BilCat (talk) 06:01, 28 May 2013 (UTC)

Explain this picture - the date is right on the photo. It couldn't possibly have flown in 1938, as it was still under construction at the end of the the year. consensus means nothing if original sources are not being used. Matthews cites two original sources, instead of what another book said. In the introduction to his book, Matthews states that one of his motivations to write the book was all of the incorrect information that keeps getting repeated about the P-39 and P-63. Aeroweanie (talk) 03:40, 30 May 2013 (UTC)

Again, you aren't even trying to have an interactive discussion. Several sources have been presented above, some of which claim to also have researched Bell documents.
You cited 2 documents in your changes to the article. Are these documents in the Matthews' book? If so, you can't cite them individually, only the book itself.
Finally, you added this item: "ARMY TESTS FAST CRAFT; XP-39, Tiny Pursuit Ship, Called World's Fastest And Most Fierce Plane" New York Times April 1939. If you bothered to read the previous discussions, you'll see that we have been trying to find contemporary sources to help verify the dates. How did you find the NYT article? That is a great find! I've purchased the article to read it, and it does imply 1939 as the year of first flight, though it's not totally clear. The NYT article names Henry Taylor as the pilot of the first flight, while Pelletier's book names James Taylor. What name is given by Matthews? - BilCat (talk) 11:21, 31 May 2013 (UTC) BilCat (talk) 13:00, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
The availability of an article from The New York Times may be the ultimate authoritative contemporary source. Despite the toooing-and-froiing that has taken place, it is likely prudent to insert a note to the reader that the date of the first flight remains contentious. FWiW Bzuk (talk) 13:54, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
I found the NYT article with the first Google search I tried. Regarding first flight details, here are scans of the two relevant pages from Matthews' book. And no, I do not have copies of the two references Matthews cites.
To be fair, I also checked my copy of Larry Bell's biography ("Larry; A Biography of Lawrence D. Bell" by Donald J. Norton, Nelson-Hall, Chicago IL, 1981) and in the text, it lists the first flight date as April 6, 1938 (page 91). On the other hand, it also has a photo on page 89 that has a caption that reads: "This is the XP-39A on December 3, 1938, before it was given the designation P-39. 'Bell Model 3' was undergoing ground tests when this photograph was taken". This implies to me that it hadn't flown, as an aircraft first undergoes ground tests before first flight. Aeroweanie (talk) 03:33, 4 June 2013 (UTC)

First Fighter to have the engine installed behind the pilot[edit]

Ok, before starting an editing war:)

13:58, 15 April 2012‎ Bzuk‎ . . (78,672 bytes) (+85)‎ . . (The Fe.2 is not a similar aircraft)
11:49, 15 April 2012‎ Lowkyalur . . (78,587 bytes) (-85)‎ . . (removed the statement that it was the first fighter with mid-engine placement. WW1 pushers like Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2 had this before, just not with a front propeller.)

I think it doesn't matter if the F.E.2 is similar or not, I'm just looking at the fact that the F.E.2 is a fighter aircraft, and had the engine behind the pilot well before the Airacobra did feature it. Therefore the general statement that "It was the first fighter in history [..] to have the engine installed in the center fuselage, behind the pilot" is wrong and should be removed. Bzuk please explain your reasoning why the sentence should stand as is.
--Lowkyalur (talk) 10:10, 5 May 2012 (UTC)

I've reworded it to make it a bit clearer. The difference is that the Aircobra was a tractor configuration, while the FE.2 etc was a pusher.Nigel Ish (talk) 10:37, 5 May 2012 (UTC)
cool. --Lowkyalur (talk) 15:53, 5 May 2012 (UTC)
There is also the Beardmore W.B.IV which was an unsucessful tractor biplane fighter with the wngine behind the pilot which makes the original statement incorrect - how its written now should be ok though.Nigel Ish (talk) 16:27, 5 May 2012 (UTC)
Perhaps it would be better to state that the P-39 was one of only two mass-produced piston engined fighters to have the engine in the mid-fuselage behind the pilot? The P-63 was the other. Another prototype built well before the P-39 was the Westland F.7/30...Min✪rhist✪rianMTalk 22:16, 5 May 2012 (UTC)

First fighter with tricycle undercarriage?[edit]

Yes and no.

There were many aircraft in WWI which were photographed with nosewheels but were, in fact, taildraggers. The British Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2 was often seen with a nosewheel. They were fitted this way to prevent nose-overs.

There was however, one fighter which was fitted with nose gear and no tail skid. It was an Italian fighter called the S.I.T. Voisin III.[1]

However, while it wasn't a taildragger, it had four wheels rather than three. It also had the engine behind the pilot but was a pusher design rather than a tractor.

  • Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War I. London. Studio Editions Ltd, 1993, p.208. ISBN 1-85170-347-0

Flanker235 (talk) 12:46, 23 May 2012 (UTC)

The S.I.T. Viosin III was more accurately described as equipped with a four-wheel chassis or running gear that formed the undercarriage, much like the Bell Oionus I of an earlier vintage. FWiW Bzuk (talk) 13:12, 23 May 2012 (UTC).
Which I have already said. Besides which, the Oionus I was not a fighter. Flanker235 (talk) 11:06, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
It's easier to let the reliable sources speak, and they say this was the first such fighter. Binksternet (talk) 14:22, 23 May 2012 (UTC)
Are you seriously saying Jane's is not a reliable source????? Even when a photograph is included? Flanker235 (talk) 11:07, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
I'm saying the Voisin's four wheels, two in front and two in back, all the same size, is not a tricycle undercarriage. Binksternet (talk) 15:42, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
Actually, it was the other poster who said that. You were the one who implied that there were more reliable sources than Jane's. I have already acknowledged that there were four wheels, not three (as "tricycle" explicitly implies). The way I see it, there are two components to it: 1) that it have three wheels and 2) that it not be a tail dragger. While four wheels would make ground handling more difficult, it would still have been a radical step to be using a configuration that was not a tail dragger. I don't know if you've done any flying but if you have then you would understand that pilots would probably have had difficulties with potential ground looping. What I'm saying is that there were more conceptual challenges with this layout than whether or not it had three wheels. I'm not arguing that this was actually "tricycle" gear per se, merely that the concept was around a long time before the P-39.Flanker235 (talk) 23:29, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
Nobody here is saying the P-39 was the first non-tail-dragger fighter. Binksternet (talk) 00:14, 26 May 2012 (UTC)
I'd add, unless the aircraft was designed & manufactured with trike gear, it would seem not to qualify. I've seen several conversions or trial versions, none adopted or manufactured. All predate the P-39. None, IMO, qualify as "first". TREKphiler any time you're ready, Uhura 17:35, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
If the April 39 first flight is correct rather than April 38 (see above), then the SNCASE SE.100, with a first flight of 29 March, and sort of a tricycle (definitely with a large nosewheel, but with small "mainwheels" retracting into the tail) has it just beat. Not sure whether it is worth mentioning in the article, particularly owing to the uncertainty about when the P39's 1st flight was.Nigel Ish (talk) 21:42, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
The Lockheed P-38 Lightning prototype first flew on 27 January 1939, with tricycle landing gear. Binksternet (talk) 21:58, 31 May 2013 (UTC)


This article states: "The comparatively low-speed, low-altitude nature of most air combat on the Russian Front suited the P-39's strengths: sturdy construction, reliable radio gear, and adequate firepower." How does having "reliable radio gear" equate to strength in "low-speed, low-altitude" combat (or for that matter, why wouldn't reliable radios be equally essential in high-speed, high-altitude combat?) What's the source for this profound observation? Also, no sure why "adequate firepower" wouldn't be essential no matter at what altitude and speed the engagement was taking place - never heard of any combat where inadequate firepower was sufficient, let alone a strength. Thus, we're left with sturdy construction - no doubt the P-39 had this is spades, — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:00, 29 July 2013 (UTC)

The writer is saying that because the Russians used the P-39 in a low-speed, low-altitude environment they could eschew aircraft with heavy and aerodynamically costly two-speed two-stage superchargers built for esoteric ideologically-driven high-altitude, high-speed warfare environments in favor of a model that focused on what was essential to the Russians' needs in their mud-and-blood environment: sturdy construction (i.e. an aircraft that could take a beating and get its pilot home alive without both needing to be "struck off charge" immediately thereafter, especially in settings where maintenance and medical facilities were primitive); reliable radio gear - to facilitate vigorous communication between pilots and ground controllers/spotters, as opposed to the much more sterile communication environments pilots of Russia's allies were trained to maintain; and adequate firepower i.e. firepower that wasn't inadequate to the Russians' needs like that found in the early-model Spitfires and Hurricanes with their .303s that the Russians also received in quantity. Such are the strengths of the P-39, and this part of the article is written well enough as it is.BLZebubba (talk) 00:07, 10 November 2013 (UTC)
The two most important things in a combat aeroplane are whether it can do its job, and whether it can survive against the opposition. In 1940 against JG1 and JG2 the RAF found that neither the Airacobra nor Tomahawk could when used as fighters.
That's why the Airacobra was ditched and the Tomahawk/Kittyhawk relegated to army co-operation at low level and then later used with the Desert Air Force in support of the Eighth Army, again at low level.
In 1940 the British were fighting (and subsequently winning) the greatest air battle the world had even known - the Battle of Britain - so one suspects they knew a little of what they were talking about. At the time BTW, the Soviet Air Force's aircraft were still lined up on airfields all over the Soviet Union doing nothing. Just ready in fact for six months later when in 1941 the same Luftwaffe that had been so recently defeated by the RAF joined in with the other German invasion forces and wiped out almost the entire Soviet Air Force while it was still on the ground.
If this had not been allowed to happen the British would never have needed to have sent the Soviet Union the Hurricanes and Spitfires of which you complain about, and which were much needed by they themselves a short while later in places such as Singapore and Burma. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:19, 4 October 2015 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

Hello fellow Wikipedians,

I have just modified one external link on Bell P-39 Airacobra. Please take a moment to review my edit. If you have any questions, or need the bot to ignore the links, or the page altogether, please visit this simple FaQ for additional information. I made the following changes:

When you have finished reviewing my changes, please set the checked parameter below to true or failed to let others know (documentation at {{Sourcecheck}}).

You may set the |checked=, on this template, to true or failed to let other editors know you reviewed the change. If you find any errors, please use the tools below to fix them or call an editor by setting |needhelp= to your help request.

  • If you have discovered URLs which were erroneously considered dead by the bot, you can report them with this tool.
  • If you found an error with any archives or the URLs themselves, you can fix them with this tool.

If you are unable to use these tools, you may set |needhelp=<your help request> on this template to request help from an experienced user. Please include details about your problem, to help other editors.

Cheers.—cyberbot IITalk to my owner:Online 08:41, 26 April 2016 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:Bell P-39 Airacobra/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

I don't see how this is more than a start class article. There's a lot of text about the P-39's development and flying characteristics, but very little about its operational usage. The Airacobra's role in the Pacific and North Africa is notably absent, and its use by the Russians is only very briefly discussed. There is also an unusual emphasis on the Airacobra's role as a postwar racer.M Van Houten 20:44, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

Last edited at 16:32, 12 June 2010 (UTC). Substituted at 09:23, 29 April 2016 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

Hello fellow Wikipedians,

I have just modified 6 external links on Bell P-39 Airacobra. Please take a moment to review my edit. If you have any questions, or need the bot to ignore the links, or the page altogether, please visit this simple FaQ for additional information. I made the following changes:

When you have finished reviewing my changes, please set the checked parameter below to true or failed to let others know (documentation at {{Sourcecheck}}).

You may set the |checked=, on this template, to true or failed to let other editors know you reviewed the change. If you find any errors, please use the tools below to fix them or call an editor by setting |needhelp= to your help request.

  • If you have discovered URLs which were erroneously considered dead by the bot, you can report them with this tool.
  • If you found an error with any archives or the URLs themselves, you can fix them with this tool.

If you are unable to use these tools, you may set |needhelp=<your help request> on this template to request help from an experienced user. Please include details about your problem, to help other editors.

Cheers.—InternetArchiveBot (Report bug) 08:11, 30 October 2016 (UTC)

  1. ^ Fighting Aircraft of WWI 1919, p. 208.