The P-39 Airacobra was a unique design, having the engine mounted behind the pilot, with a drive shaft that ran between the pilot's feet to a gear box in the nose of the airplane to turn the propeller. Bell engineers reasoned that placing the weight of the engine near the center of gravity would improve the aircraft's maneuverability.
Removing the engine from the nose of the airplane left room to install heavy firepower: a 37-mm cannon firing through the propeller shaft with two 0.50-caliber machine guns mounted above. The N model also had two 0.30- caliber guns mounted in each wing.
The P-39's engine was the Allison V-1710 and, as on the P-38, it was intended to utilize a turbosupercharger to increase its high-altitude performance. Unfortunately for the P-39, all of the available superchargers were diverted to P-38 production. Thus, the P-39 earned a reputation as a bit of a "dog" as a fighter among U.S. and British pilots.
The aircraft was used quite effectively in the ground attack role in North Africa. This was not lost on Russian observers, who persuaded their government to obtain more than 4,000 P-39s under the Lend-Lease program. The Russians used the P-39 as a very effective low- and medium-altitude fighter in The Great Patriotic War.
The Museum's P-39 "Small Fry/Little Sir Echo" was recovered from Tadji Airfield in New Guinea by David Tallichet's team in the 1974 and donated to the Planes of Fame.
The Museum's P-39 "Little Sir Echo/Small Fry" was a combat veteran of World War II. This black and white photo shows the Museum's aircraft in New Guinea on May 28, 1944 where it was part of the 82d Reconnaissance Squadron.
Status: Restoring to Static Display
Manufacturer: Bell Aircraft Company
Model: P-39N Airacobra
Serial Number: 42-19027
Max T/O Weight: 8,200 lb.
Span: 34 ft. 0 in.
Length: 30 ft. 2 in.
Height: 11 ft. 10 in.
Maximum Speed: 385 mph
Cruise Speed: 200 mph
Rate of Climb: 3,600 ft/min
Power Plant: 1 x Allison V-1710-85 V-12 liquid-cooled engine, 1,200 hp.
Range: 650 miles
Service Ceiling: 38,270 ft.
Armament: One 37mm cannon, two 0.50 caliber and four 0.30 caliber machine guns