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Bell P-39Q Aircobra

Aircraft specs (P-39M):
  • Engine: 1200hp Allison V-1710-83 inline piston engine
  • Weight: Empty 5,610 lbs.
  • Max Takeoff 8,400 lbs.
  • Wing Span: 34ft. 0 in.
  • Length: 30ft. 2 in.
  • Height: 11ft. 10 in.
  • Maximum Speed at 9500ft: 386 mph
  • Cruising Speed: 200 mph
  • Ceiling: 36,000 ft
  • Range: 650 miles
  • Armament: One 37mm T9 cannon Two 12.7mm (0.5 inch) machine guns Four 7.62mm (0.3 inch) machine guns One 500 lb bomb

The P-39 Aircobra single-seat fighter was designed around a 37mm T-9 cannon which, in order to maximize the airplane’s forward firepower, was fitted to fire through the propeller hub. In order for the cannon to fit inside the nose, the engine was placed behind the cockpit, and drove the propeller via a long shaft which passed under the pilot’s feet. The center of gravity shift caused by the engine’s location resulted in the need for a tricycle landing gear arrangement, the first of it’s kind among WWII fighters.

The P-39 Aircobra was one of America’s first-line pursuit planes in December 1941. It made its initial flight in April 1939 at Wright Field, Ohio, and by the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, nearly 600 had been built. Its unique engine location behind the cockpit caused some pilot concern at first, but experience showed that this was no more of a hazard in a crash landing than with an engine located forward of the cockpit. The P-39’s spin characteristics, however, could be a problem if proper recovery techniques were ignored. 

Bell P-39Q Aircobra