Hello, aircraft fans!
In this edition of the Plane Crash, you’ll find out about the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, which was one of the greatest aircraft of WWII. Get ready, because as of Super Bowl week, I’m going to be writing a football blog post. So everybody root for San Francisco, and rejoice that the Patriots won’t make it to Super Bowl XLVII. Jack Harbaugh must be pretty darn excited.
On January 20th, 1939, one of the greatest aircraft of all time, had its first test flight. The programme had begun in 1937, due to a USAAC requirement. This aircraft could go an amazing 360 M.P.H. at 20,000 feet, and 290 M.P.H. at sea level. It had a crew number of one, a maximum speed of 414 M.P.H., a range of 2,260 miles, a service ceiling of 44,000 feet, and a weight of 21,600 pounds (loaded). It had an outstanding armament of one 20mm cannon, four 12.7mm machine guns; along with a bomb and rocket load of 4,000 pounds. Despite its superiority, it has always tended to be overshadowed by Republic’s P-47 Thunderbolt and the P-51 Mustang of North American. That is mainly because both other aircraft did best in both theatres of the war, but the P-38 was mainly used in the Pacific Theatre. But there were still those pilots like Robin Olds.
The Lightning was adequately named, for it immediately set speed records. A loopy pilot Lieutenant (later Brigadier General) Benjamin S. Kelsey had logged just 7 hours in the XP-38 when he decided to try to break Howard Hughes’s transcontinental flight time record of seven hours, twenty-eight minutes, and thirty seconds. Kelsey took-off on February 11th, 1939, and the aircraft blazed across the country. But on his descent to Mitchell Army Air Field on Long Island, New York, disaster struck. After seven hours and two minutes of flight, carburetor icing took away both engine’s power, and the aerocraft crashed on a golf course. Kelsey came out splendidly, but the aircraft was damaged beyond repair. Despite the tragedy, it brought the government’s and the public’s attention to their new 414-M.P.H. fighter.
There were only a few downsides with the P-38, them being maneuverability, engine number, and the two 1063kW (1425hp) Allison V-1710-91 12-cylinder Vee-type unreliable engines. Even though the two engines were crucial to speed, descent had to be started much earlier than in most other aircraft. The Allison engines were hard to operate in cold weather, but the P-38 was still used often flying from Normandy or other Allied bases, including Andover in Hampshire, down to the Deutschland region of Europe.
Lockheed surprisingly made the only U.S. fighter that was in production before and after the war. Major Richard I. Bong, the highest-scoring pilot in U.S.A.F. history, shot down a total of 40 aircraft; while Tommy McGuire shot down 38 before being shot down over the Philippines in 1945. Also, the amazing feat of killing Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was flown by P-38s. They flew from Guadalcanal to destroy Yamamoto’s aircraft over Kahili Atoll. Making the 1,100 round-trip was no easy feat. It was truly a WWII classic.
Have a great day!