Bell P-39 Airacobra Color Photographs Part III

One of the thirteen YP-39 Airacobras in flight, probably in the Fall of 1940. The YP-39s were initially unarmed and lacked the various scoops which would appear on later variants, which resulted in a very clean look. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)
Another view of a highly-polished YP-39 which would make for an attractive model if you could pull off the mirror-like finish. This photo also provides a good view of the Curtiss Electric propeller. An unusual detail is the lack of yellow warning tips on the propeller blades, but this appears to be the case with many Airacobra photos. (NASM, Hans Groenhoff collection)
With war looming U.S. aircraft production swelled in 1941. This is the apron outside Bell’s factory at Buffalo, New York, where final assembly of a large number of Airacobras is being completed in the open.
Many Airacobras never left the States, but served as advanced trainers as squadrons worked up for deployment. This P-39 displays large “buzz numbers” on the nose which made the aircraft easy to identify if the pilot was performing unauthorized maneuvers.
This is a P-39 from the 354th Fighter Group while the unit was working up at Portland, Oregon during the Summer of 1943.
The Royal Air Force received approximately 200 Airacobras from and order of 676 before they cancelled the order. Only 601 Squadron flew the P-39 operationally with the RAF, and only on a single combat mission over the continent. Here RAF armorers make a great show of loading ammo bins for the camera.
A beautiful photograph of a P-39K during the Summer of 1942 showing the centerline drop tank installation to good advantage.
Access to the aircraft was through a “car door” on each side of the cockpit which could be jettisoned in case of emergency. This photograph provides several useful details for modelers of the aircraft and pilot’s flight gear. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)
This is the unrestored interior of the P-39 in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum. This is a spectacular example of original colors and markings, as well as the wear patterns the aircraft would display while in service. (NASM)
In 2004 P-39Q serial number 44-2911 was found in Lake Mart-Yavr, above the Arctic Circle in Siberia. The Airacobra had suffered an engine failure and crashed into the lake on 19NOV44. The remains of pilot Lt. Ivan Baranovsky were still inside. The aircraft is currently on display at the Niagara Museum of Flight, near where it was built.

Part I here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2022/06/23/bell-p-39-airacobra-color-photographs-part-i/

Bell P-39 Airacobra Color Photographs Part II

A beautiful photograph of two early Airacobras. The camouflaged aircraft in the foreground with its engine running is a P-39C which appears to have no guns fitted. The natural metal aircraft in the background is one of the thirteen YP-39s built. (NASM, Hans Groenhoff collection)
The 118th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron did its advanced training on P-39Ns at Aiken Army Airfield in South Carolina. This is a fine study of one of their aircraft.
Pilots of the 118th TRS pose on the nose of one of their P-39Ns. The squadron deployed to the CBI where they finished the war flying Mustangs.
Another 118th TRS Airacobra provides a good view of the insignia on the “car door”, as well as standard markings for the Summer of 1943.
The flightline at Hamilton Field, July 1943 showing a P-39N of the 357th Fighter Group. Several Liberators and a Flying Fortress are visible in the background.
Five color photographs of the same aircraft, a rarity and a boon for modelers. The P-39 was known as the Airacobra I in Royal Air Force service. This is AH621, running up her engine at Buffalo New York in 1941. She was delivered to the Royal Canadian Air Force for evaluation but crashed on 26NOV41. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)
The aircraft is painted in the RAF Day Fighter scheme, U.S. equivalents of Dark Green and Dark Earth with a very light substitute for Sky on the undersides. Note the unusually high demarcation of the underside color. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)
The Royal Air Force ordered 676 Airacobras, receiving their first in September 1941. The USAAC decision to eliminate the turbosupercharger limited their effectiveness over Europe, the RAF reporting poor climb rates and a drop-off in power at altitude. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)
Only No. 601 Squadron flew the Airacobra in Royal Air Force service, and they only flew one operational mission before the type was relegated to training and other secondary duties. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)
Approximately 200 of the RAF order was diverted to the Soviets. The Airacobra was enthusiastically received by the VVS, which operated almost exclusively at low altitude. Another 200 were requisitioned by the USAAF after Pearl Harbor and sent to the Pacific as the P-400. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)

Part III here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2022/07/06/bell-p-39-airacobra-color-photographs-part-iii/

Bell P-39 Airacobra Color Photographs Part I

The Bell P-39 Airacobra was originally intended to be a high-altitude interceptor, featuring a turbo-supercharger and heavy armament centered around a 37mm cannon firing through the propeller hub. To allow for a heavy concentration of guns in the forward fuselage, the engine was mounted behind the pilot and drove the propeller via a long transmission.
Wind tunnel tests resulted in several refinements to the design, and Bell delivered a total of thirteen YP-39 development aircraft, one of which is seen here. The USAAC preferred aircraft optimized for low-altitude work, so the turbo-supercharger was dropped from the design. This Airacobra is unarmed.
Bell submitted a modified design for competition for a U.S. Navy requirement for a carrier-borne interceptor. The result was the XFL-1 Airabonita, which was designed using a conventional tricycle landing gear configuration. Note the tailhook under the fuselage.
The Airabonita failed its carrier qualifications due to weak landing gear. Only a single prototype was produced.
A flight of P-39Ds, the large “buzz numbers” on the forward fuselage denoting training aircraft. Note the prominent exhaust stains along the length of the fuselage.
A pair of P-39Cs of the 8th Pursuit Squadron are seen here participating in the 1941 Carolina Maneuvers in 1941. The red cross markings are carried in six positions and designate the aircraft are part of “Red Force”. The individual aircraft numbers are repeated on the leading edge of the wings. (NASM, Hans Groenhoff collection)
A posed photo purportedly showing the loading of the guns of a P-39C armed with a 20mm cannon firing through the propeller hub. A close examination reveals the “armorer” on the wing is a Captain. Modelers note the overspray where the white band on the nose was masked off. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)
P-39Ds at Selfridge Field during the Summer of 1941. They belong to the appropriately-named “Cobras” of the 39th Pursuit Squadron, 31st Pursuit Group.
A close-up showing the emblem of the 39th Pursuit Squadron on the “car door”, along with details of the fuselage.
Diorama bait as a P-39F of the 54th Fighter Group is being serviced in the open at Adak, Alaska. The effects of the harsh environment are evident in the condition of the paint and weathering of the camouflage.

Part II here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2022/06/29/bell-p-39-airacobra-color-photographs-part-ii/

Bell P-59 Airacomet Color Photographs

The Bell P-59 Airacomet was America’s first jet fighter design. It used a copy of Britain’s W.1 engine, which was produced by General Electric as the GE J31. It flew for the first time on 01OCT42. Pictured here is the prototype at Muroc Dry Lake in late 1942.
Like most early jets, the P-59 was underpowered and had a short range. Engine reliability was also an issue, constant maintenance was required. In fly-offs the P-59 was out-matched by both the P-38 Lightening and P-47 Thunderbolt.
On the other hand, the Airacomet was designed with a heavy armament carried in the nose. The first aircraft were equipped with two 37mm cannon. This was later changed to one 37mm cannon and three .50 caliber machine guns.
Cockpit layout was conventional. This is a photograph of the restored P-59B cockpit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Dayton, Ohio.
A total of 66 Airacomets of all types were built, including 20 P-59A and 30 P-59B production aircraft. The lackluster performance prevented the type from ever being used in combat and the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star being selected for service.
Two YP-49A development aircraft, 42-108778 and 42-108779 were delivered to the Navy for carrier compatibility trails. The Navy designated the type YF2L-1 and assigned them BuNo 63960 and 63961 respectively. Here 42-108778 is being examined by Navy personnel.
A fine study of two YP-59A’s in flight. While the type was not successful, it was used for training and familiarization flights to introduce USAAF personnel to the new technology.
This overhead view shows extensive wear to the Olive Drab over Neutral Gray finish of one of the the YP-59A development aircraft.
A 1947 photograph of a YP-59A named “Mystic Mistress” at an open house at Wright Patterson AFB. If you look closely, you can see an open observer’s cockpit has been fitted forward into the armament bay. Five Airacomets were converted in this manner, and were used during flight tests and to control other Airacomets configured as drones.