Friday, January 6, 2012

Alaskan Airacobras

The Bell P-39 Airacobra held several "firsts" for military aviation...first fighter to use tricycle landing gear, first to use a mid-fuselage engine installation. In the hands of Soviet pilots (over 4,700 P-39s were sent to the Soviet Union, almost half of all that were built), the P-39 is credited for more kills than any other U.S.-produced fighter aircraft.

Today's photo, last of our Alaskan collection, shows a lineup of three P-39F-1s (the closest aircraft is tail number 17334, the second one back is 17284) ready for the next fight. The Airacobras were a rugged aircraft, which made them ideal for Alaskan operations, and were operated from the Aleutian island of Adak by the 54th and 57th fighter squadrons against Japanese forces who had invaded the islands Attu and Kiska. Because the P-39 lacked a turbosupercharger, it did much better at low and medium altitudes.

Only one F-model, tail 17215 is known to have survived into the 21st Century, and it is in Australia.

8/19/2012 update: Tail number 41-7284 was destroyed in a crash on 5 April 1942, 20 miles west of New Orleans...a long way from Alaska.

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