LetsGoSeeIt.com - Your Guide to Southern California and Beyond


Bell P-39 Airacobra
Bell P-39 Airacobra
Bell P-39 Airacobra
Ground Attack Fighter
First Flight: 1939
First Use: October 1941
Total Built: 9,558
Manufacturer: Bell
Wingspan: 34 feet 0 inch
Length: 30 feet 2 inch
Height: 13 feet 6 1/2 inch
Engines: one twelve cylinder 1,200 hp Allison V-1710-85
Max. Speed: 385 MPH
Service Ceiling: 35,000 feet
Max. Range: 800 miles
Payload: 500lb ordinance (8,200 lb max weight)
Armament: four .50 cal in the wings, one 37mm cannon in the nose fired through propeller shaft
Crew: 1
Versions: Recon
Cost: $46,000 in 1940

This World War II fighter bomber was first flown by the Royal Air Force in 1941. It was easily recognizable by the tricycle landing gear and car door type cockpit entry. Another less noticeable but very distinguishable fact is that the engine is mounted behind the pilot. The propeller is driven by a shaft linked to a gearbox in the nose. Although not used much by the United States, it was very successful in Russia as part of the Lend Lease program. Over 5,000 aircraft were given to The Russian Air Force where its 37mm cannon was very effective as a tank killer. One drawback was a lack of ventilation in the cockpit. When the big 37mm nose mounted cannon fired, carbon monoxide levels in the cockpit reached almost lethal concentrations and the compass was rendered useless.

The March Field Museum P-39 is a Q model, serial number 42-20000, manufactured by Bell Aircraft in Buffalo, New York and delivered to the US Army Air Force on 23 June 1943. It served in the United States throughout World War II in the 339th Fighter Bomber Group at Walterboro, South Carolina; 430th Base Unit in Ephrata, Washington; and the 464th Base Unit in McChord, Washington.

It was discarded as surplus in January of 1945.

This artifact is on loan from the U.S. Air Force Museum Program.