Bell P-39N Airacobra – Little Sir Echo – Small Fry

Bell P-39 Airacobra - Little Sir Echo

This is P-39N-5 “Little Sir Echo / Small Fry” Serial Number 42-19027 which served with the USAAF 5th Air Force (AF), 71st Tactical Reconnaissance Group (TRG), 82nd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (TRS), from June 1943 to July 16, 1944. It was abandoned at Tadji, Papua New Guinea, a Japanese airfield that was liberated by the US Army on April 26, 1944. Tadji became a major Allied air depot for American and Australian forces, and the resting place for this P-39 for the next thirty years. It is now on static display at the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, CA.

This specific P-39 was delivered to the US Army on April 28, 1943, and sent to the Pacific in May. Lyndall W. Tate was assigned to this aircraft. Lyndall was born Oct 20, 1920 in Texas, and passed away Sept 15, 2008. He served over 28 years in the military. If anyone else has any further information on Lyndall, please let us know more about this hero. The aircraft was recovered from Tadji in a 1974 salvage operation funded by David Talichet’s Yesterday’s Air Force (MARC). It currently is on static display at the Planes of Fame museum. It still supports its original markings of Olive Drab over Neutral Grey with White New Guinea theatre markings on tail unit, wing leading edges and spinner (thin White band on nose). In addition it features an interesting shark mouth on the center drop-tank.

The Bell P-39 was one of the US’s main-line fighters when war first broke out in the Pacific at the beginning of World War II. It was unique at the time for having a tricycle undercarriage and a mid-mounted engine located behind the pilot. This arrangement was due to the proposed installation of a powerful 30 mm cannon in the nose. Ultimately, the P-39 was unable to achieve the same performance of later US and European fighters, mainly due to a lack of a turbo-supercharged engine which greatly limited the P-39’s ceiling and speed. However, its low-altitude performance, mid-mounted engine, and armor plating allowed it to become a great ground-support aircraft, most notably used by the Soviet Air Force. In the end, the Bell P-39 became Bell’s most successful fixed-wing aircraft that they ever produced.

North American P-51 Mustang

U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) fighter aircraft manufactured by North American Aviation, Inc., between 1942 and 1945. In its role as a long-range bomber escort in the European Theater of Operations during World War II, the P-51 exhibited its greatest influence and is credited by many as the airplane that shifted the European airwar in favor of the allied forces.

This P-51 was used by the USAFF, USAF and various U.S. Air National Guard units during and after World War II, performing a variety of missions, including interception of enemy aircraft, long-range bomber escort, armament support for land and sea forces, photographic reconnaissance and flight training.

The P-51 performed at levels surpassing other single-engine, propeller driven fighter aircraft during World War II.  The wingspan of 44-73287 is 37.03 feet and has a wing area of 236 square feet. The plane’s two-section, semimonocoque fuselage is constructed entirely of aluminum alloy and is 32 feet and 2 5/8 inches in length.

Laminar flow airfoil was used during World War II in the design of the wings for the North American P-51 Mustang, as well as some other aircraft. Operationally, the wing did not enhance performance as dramatically as tunnel tests suggested. For the best performance, manufacturing tolerances had to be perfect and maintenance of wing surfaces needed to be thorough. The rush of mass production during the war and the tasks of meticulous maintenance in combat zones never met the standards of NACA laboratories. Still, the work on the laminar flow wing pointed the way to a new family of successful high-speed airfoils. These and other NACA wing sections became the patterns for aircraft around the world.

P-51 Mustang

Lone Survivor – A True American Hero?

I don’t mean to turn this blog into a review site, but I felt as if I needed to write about a book I recently read.  This has easily been one of the best books I have read this year.  But, it certainly was not due to the stellar writing, in fact even though Marcus Luttrell used a professional writer to help tell his story, the book is just poorly written.  And the conservative, flag-waving, jingoistic preaching is a bit over-whelming at times. 

However, the story of this SEAL team’s heroism is so compelling that I just could not put the book down.  Deep in Taliban held Afghanistan, Luttrell’s SEAL team had a decision to make, kill a group of three shepherds who found their hiding spot, or let them go, knowing that they would inform the Taliban as to their whereabouts.   Shortly after letting them go, they were attacked by a 200 crazed Taliban, intent on kill the four American SEALs. 

Operation Redwing was aimed at capturing or killing Ahmad Shah, a Taliban leader in Kunar province whose attacks had been taking a heavy toll on Marines operating in eastern Afghanistan. The four SEALs,Lt. Michael Murphy, Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class Matthew Axelson, Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Danny Dietz and Luttrell were the leading edge of the operation, charged with locating Shah and his forces.

The battle went from bad to worse when the Taliban shot down the MH-47 Chinook helicopter carrying the quick reaction force that was sent out to rescue the SEAL team, killing all 16 personnel on board, eight SEALs and eight aviators from the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.

Even before the book reaches the action packed battle scenes, the author goes into a very personal reflection of his life and his journey through SEAL training.  The author’s description of what is required to become a Navy SEAL is vivid and intense. After reading what those soldiers go through, you can’t help but feel that Navy SEALs are true American heroes and tough as nails.

If you don’t get a chance to read the book, it is rumored that a movie based on the book will be released sometime next year.  If you have already read the book, tell me what you think.  Is Marcus Luttrell an American hero?  Would you want your son or daughter to see him as a role-model?