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Bell XFL Airabonita


Carrierborne Interceptor


United States | 1940



"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."



Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/16/2016 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
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.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Bell XFL-1 Airabonita Carrierborne Interceptor.
1 x Allison XV-1710-6 12-cylinder Vee liquid-cooled inline engine developing 1,150 horsepower.
Propulsion
336 mph
541 kph | 292 kts
Max Speed
30,922 ft
9,425 m | 6 miles
Service Ceiling
1,072 miles
1,725 km | 931 nm
Operational Range
2,630 ft/min
802 m/min
Rate-of-Climb
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Structure
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Bell XFL-1 Airabonita Carrierborne Interceptor.
1
(MANNED)
Crew
29.8 ft
9.09 m
O/A Length
35.0 ft
(10.68 m)
O/A Width
12.8 ft
(3.91 m)
O/A Height
5,165 lb
(2,343 kg)
Empty Weight
7,218 lb
(3,274 kg)
MTOW
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
RANGE
ALT
SPEED
Armament
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Bell XFL Airabonita Carrierborne Interceptor .
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
Notable series variants as part of the Bell XFL Airabonita family line.
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.
Operators
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Bell XFL Airabonita. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 1 Units

Contractor(s): Bell Aircraft Company - USA
National flag of the United States

[ United States (cancelled) ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 400mph
Lo: 200mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (336mph).

Graph Average of 300 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Production Comparison
1
36183
44000
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
Sub
Trans
Super
Hyper
HiHyper
ReEntry
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
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2 / 4
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Image from the Public Domain.
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Image of the Bell XFL Airabonita
Image from the Public Domain.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
AIR-TO-AIR COMBAT
INTERCEPTION
MARITIME / NAVY
X-PLANE
Recognition
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Bell XFL Airabonita Carrierborne Interceptor appears in the following collections:
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