Bell P-39 Airacobra Fighter / Fighter-Bomber Aircraft
Though an American-originated fighter, the Bell P-39 Aircobra found greater success with the Soviets during World War 2.
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The Bell P-39 Airacobra is yet another in the long line aircraft studies stemming from World War 2 in the "what-might-have been" category. The system had all the looks of a top performer, armament that could go head-to-head with any contemporary and a design philosophy that could have brought about a whole new era is aircraft engineering. Unfortunately for the aircraft, several key requirements effectively doomed the Airacobra as a subjective failure - never quite living up to expectations. Still, the system served well enough, save for its intended role of high performance fighter, and went on to become a steady performer in the low-level attack role (excelling in combat under 10,000 feet). She was sent en masse to the Soviets via Lend-Lease and shunned by the British altogether - the latter finding that the aircraft (as advertised) possessed none of the capabilities being marketed by the Bell prototype.
P-39 Quick Glance
Generally a very pleasing aircraft to look at, the P-39 design came about at a time when streamlining aircraft shapes were just coming into their own. The P-39 was a vast departure from most aircraft being conceived of at the time and featured several design elements that distinguished the type from her contemporaries. Chief among these was in the internal layout, the Allison series engine mounted in the middle of the fuselage just aft of the cockpit. Engineers ran an extended shaft from the engine through a center bearing underneath the pilots feet to the front fuselage section where the three-blade propeller and reduction gear were mounted. As a result of this engine placement, the engine had to be fed through intakes mounted along the fuselage as opposed to a conventional placement in the nose. In early P-39 forms, this meant intakes were added to the sides of the fuselage just aft of the cockpit. Other forms mounted these intakes along the wing roots and the most identifiable form saw the intake affixed to the top of the fuselage. Wings were low-mounted monoplane assemblies and the empennage featured a traditional "T-style" arrangement with a single vertical fin. The P-39 also featured a powered tricycle landing gear system, a relatively new concept in the art of aircraft design for the time.