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Bell XFL Airabonita

United States (1940)
Picture of Bell XFL Airabonita Carrierborne Interceptor
Picture of Bell XFL Airabonita Carrierborne Interceptor Picture of Bell XFL Airabonita Carrierborne Interceptor
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The Bell XFL-1 Airabonita was a failed attempt to convert the land-based Bell P-39 Airacobra into a viable U.S. Navy carrierborne interceptor.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Bell XFL Airabonita Carrierborne Interceptor.  Entry last updated on 5/16/2016. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

The XFL "Airabonita" was a Bell Aircraft Company product developed in parallel with the P-39 Airacobra, a land-based USAAF (United States Army Air Forces) design that eventually achieved operational status. In essence, the Airabonita was a "navalized" version of the Airacobra with some navy-induced modifications for operations aboard carriers. Despite the attempt, the Airabonita was plagued by engine and undercarriage issues throughout its development and proved wholly underpowered to most other fighter aircraft of the time. The United States Navy eventually decided on other pursuits and the single $125,000 XFL prototype was inevitably laid to rest.

With its origins in the P-39 army design, the XFL model retained most of the same exterior shape. Intended for use by the United States Navy as an interceptor aircraft, the Airabonita was designed as such, with a conventional undercarriage system (with two main landing gears and a tail wheel) as opposed to the tricycle type offered in the P-39. The air frame was revised and reinforced for the rigors of carrier operations. An arrestor hook was added under the base of the empennage. The Airabonita still retained the automobile-style doors for entry and exit.

The aircraft was to be powered by a single Allison XV-1710-6 12-cylinder Vee liquid-cooled inline engine of 1,150 horsepower. The engine was, as in the P-39, mounted aft of the cockpit and powered a forward-mounted, three-blade propeller via a 10.38 foot shaft running under the cockpit floor. It should be noted that this particular engine lacked the turbo charger as found on the XP-39, already a detrimental fact that would do the system in. The coolant radiators were moved from the wing center section and placed in underwing fairings. Armament would have still revolved around the 37mm Oldsmobile T9 cannon firing through the propeller hub. This cannon could be replaced by a single 12.7mm Browning M2/AN heavy machine gun if desired, potentially saving on critical weight while providing a weapon with a higher rate of fire. Additionally, firepower was to be provided through 2 x 7.62mm (.303 caliber) machine guns mounted in the cowl. By any measure, this arrangement would have been a notch under most formidable armament arrays at the time for even the land-based P-39 utilized more heavy caliber machine guns alongside its cannon armament.

The Airabonita achieved first flight on May 13th, 1940 but faced an uphill battle from the start as deliveries of the Allison engines were delayed for a time. This delay compounded the Airabonita's difficulties when the engines did eventually arrive for the powerplants exhibited issues all their own. The use of the conventional undercarriage also worked against the XFL as problems began to develop during testing. As a result, the system had to be shipped back to Bell Aircraft for further revisions in late 1941. By this time, however, the United States Navy decided to pursue a different direction and cancelled development of the XFL in whole. The single XFL-1 prototype was then used in a series of armament tests until it was eventually scrapped.

Performance specifications listed a top speed of 307 miles per hour with a ceiling of 30,900 feet. A range of 1,072 miles was achievable with a rate-of-climb topping 2,630 feet per minute. By all accounts, the XFL would have been wholly outclassed when one considers the speedy F4U Corsair coming out of development. Even the standard naval F4F Wildcat operated better at altitude than the Airabonita seemingly would have. This particular Allison engine - with its single-speed supercharger - also had a tendency to underperform at altitude as it did in the P-40 Warhawk, P-39 Airacobra and even in the P-38 Lightning - the latter needing exhaust-driven superchargers to have acceptable altitude performance.


Picture of the Bell XFL Airabonita Carrierborne Interceptor
Picture of the Bell XFL Airabonita Carrierborne Interceptor



Any available statistics for the Bell XFL Airabonita Carrierborne Interceptor are showcased in the areas immediately below. Categories include basic specifications covering country-of-origin, operational status, manufacture(s) and total quantitative production. Other qualities showcased are related to structural values (namely dimensions), installed power and standard day performance figures, installed or proposed armament and mission equipment (if any), global users (from A-to-Z) and series model variants (if any).






Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

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Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 400mph
Lo: 200mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (336mph).

    Graph average of 300 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the Bell XFL-1 Airabonita's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
1
1


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.


Altitude Visualization
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  Compare this entry against other aircraft using our Comparison Tool  
National Flag Graphic
Origin: United States
Year: 1940
Type: Carrierborne Interceptor
Manufacturer(s): Bell Aircraft Company - USA
Production: 1
Global Operators:
United States (cancelled)
Historical Commitments / Honors:

Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Bell XFL-1 Airabonita model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
1


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
29.82 ft


Meters
9.09 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
35.04 ft


Meters
10.68 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
12.83 ft


Meters
3.91 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
5,165 lb


Kilograms
2,343 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
7,218 lb


Kilograms
3,274 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x Allison XV-1710-6 12-cylinder Vee liquid-cooled inline engine developing 1,150 horsepower.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
336 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
541 kph


Knots
292 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
1,072 mi


Kilometers
1,725 km


Nautical Miles
931 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
30,922 ft


Meters
9,425 m


Miles
5.86 mi


Performance
CLIMB RATE


Feet-per-Minute
2,630 ft/min


Meters-per-Minute
802 m/min

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft heavy machine gun
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Armament - Hardpoints (0):

1 x 37mm cannon OR 1 x 12.7mm machine gun firing through the propeller hub.
2 x 7.62mm machine guns in nose cowl
Variants: Series Model Variants
• Model 12 - Bell Aircraft Designation of XP-39
• XP-39 - Prototype Designation for P-39 Airacobra model for USAAC.
• XFL-1 - Navalized single prototype example based on XP-39; traditional undercarriage with two main gears and tail wheel per USN requirements; 1 x 37mm cannon OR 1 x 12.7mm machine gun as main armament; 2 x 7.62mm machine guns; 1 x Allison XV-1710-6 12-cylinder liquid-cooled inline engine of 1,150 horsepower; underwing radiators; arrestor hook; enlarged vertical surfaces; reinforced airframe.