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Bell P-39

The Bell P-39 'Airacobra' was a strange little fighter that didn't get any respect. First flown on April 6, 1938, this plane had the engine mounted behind the pilot to improve manouverability. It also had tricycle landing gear which improved visibility during taxi and takeoff. Early versions utilized a 37mm cannon in the spinner, two .50 caliber machine guns in the nose, and .30 caliber machine guns in the wings. The first production type was the P-39C. The P-39D replaced the 37mm cannon with a smaller 20mm with more ammunition. The last version was the P-39Q which had .50 caliber machine gun pods slung under the wings. The P-39 had poor high-altitude performance because of the Allison engine that propelled it. The U.S.A.A.F. and the RAF took examples, as did Russia. The British version was called the P-400 by American airman and, when the RAF gave their P-400's back, pilots joked that the P-400 was a P-40 with a zero on it's tail. A carrier version called the Airabonita was developed with a tailwheel instead of a nosewheel, but it was abandoned.

The tricycle landing gear of the P-39 greatly improved the visibility on taxi and takeoff.

The Airabonita carrier version of the P-39. Here the landing gear are in the extended position.