Plane of the Weeks #29 & #30: Incom-FreiTek T-70 Starfighter

This week’s plane of the week is the fictional Incom-FreiTek T-70 X-wing starfighter, as seen in Star Wars Episode 7. Brought to you absolutely spoiler-free by the Mos Eisley Chamber of Commerce. Visit Mos Eisley! You’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy!

image

This X-wing fighter is a fictional starfighter from the new Star Wars movie. It is depicted as the primary “warplane” of the Resistance. It is used in Star Wars: The Force Awakens in roles similar to that of American “Attack” planes such as the A-10 or the F/A-18.

image

Fictional politics time! Just a short explaination of the three main groups in The Force Awakens, making the rest of this article easier to understand.

There are three main groups in Episode 7. The most important group is the Republic. This is the government of the Star Wars galaxy. The First Order is a militant faction formed from the remains of the evil Galactic Empire from the original trilogy. They want to take over the galaxy and “finish what [Darth Vader] started”. The Republic refused to do anything about the First Order’s attacks, so General Leia Organa Solo (formerly Princess Leia of the original trilogy; played by Carrie Fischer) formed the Resistance to “resist” the First Order. A few rich supporters of the Resistance donated a fleet of T-70 X-wings, and here we are. This will be an overview of the T-70 and a comparison of the T-70 to its predecessor, the T-65.

image

The Incom-FreiTek T-70 X-wing starfighter was in use by the Resistance 30 years after the Battle of Endor. By that time, it had been replaced in New Republic service by the T-85 X-wing. The Resistance was unable to build sufficient numbers of the T-70, and had to rely on covert New Republic support. (The T-85 does not appear in the film and as such, I don’t have to write about it. It has been claimed that Poe Dameron, Black Leader, flew a T-85, but the same site also said elsewhere that his X-wing was a T-70, so I’ll just go with that. The T-85 was an even newer and better version of the X-wing than the T-70.)

The craft were donated by sympathizing members of the Republic, and the Resistance operated a fleet of the X-wings out of their base on D’Qar. Blue Squadron had their X-wings stationed in a hangar at the base.

image

The T-70 X-wing fighter model was on display at 2015’s Star Wars Celebration Anaheim, which gave its model name and that it was used by the Resistance. The fighter has appeared in both Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens teaser trailers. The X-wing was one of the exclusive blueprints in Star Wars: Ships of the Galaxy, released on Force Friday on September 4, 2015.

imageimageimage

For Episode VII, at least one full-size mockup was built for scenes. The design of the T-70 X-wing fighter strongly resembles the early design of the first X-Wing seen in the original concept art done by Ralph McQuarrie for A New Hope, although the resemblance was only discovered after the design was finalized. At one point, the concept artist “Visualists” were thinking about a two-person craft. In my opinion, that would be stupid.

imageimageimage

And now, a comparison:

First, a visual inspection. The most noticeable difference is that the engine intakes are half-circles instead of full circles. This was, as noted above, an unintentional throwback to the original Rlaph McQuarrie sketches. When the wings are closed, the four engines make two full circles, one on each side of the fuselage. Another difference are the proportions. I thought the wings looked shorter and opened narrower than the originals. My personal favorite difference was the inclusion of a spotlight below the cockpit and several running lights elsewhere on the ship. It made them seem more realistic and practical than the original X-wings. Lastly, the body shape was more flowing, with a rounded tail end and a smoother, flatter canopy. The craft was 12.48 meters long. No weight is given but it is probably close to the original X-wing’s 10 tons.

image

The craft is armed with four Taim & Bak KX12 laser cannons over the original’s KX9s. It also has a pair of missile launchers in the fuselage that can fire various types of missiles and torpedoes and a pop-up laser blaster on the underside of the fuselage. I do not know what kind of engines the T-70 has for sure. When I was looking at Wookiepedia for information on the T-65 X-wing, I found the page for the T-70 and it said the T-70 had Incom 5L5 fusial thrust engines similar to the T-65’s 4L4 engines, but it now simply says, “4 ion engines”. I would be inclined to compromise and say that perhaps it uses Incom 5L5 ion engines. Unfortunately, no price is listed. The T-65’s price was listed, but there is no price for the T-70. Maybe that’s because the Resistance got them for free! I want a free X-wing!

image

Consensus: I actually like the new X-wings better. Maybe because they seem more realistic, or maybe because modern special effects can make them do so much more. I mean, the original trilogy dogfights were basically just a pilot lining up behind another pilot and shooting, while the new X-wings are just so much more… Dynamic, I guess.

Next week: back to the real world with Top Gun.

image

Links: (copy, paste, and remove parenthesis)

Cool motorized LEGO X-wing:

(https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zCECgoGWNCc)

LEGO T-65 vs T-70 comparison:

(https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gPRrMJ97hno)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer featuring the new X-wings in action:

(https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=sGbxmsDFVnE)

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
Plane of the Weeks #29 & #30: Incom-FreiTek T-70 Starfighter

Plane of the Weeks #27 & #28: Incom T-65 X-Wing

This week’s plane of the week is the fictional Incom T-65 X-wing starfighter, as seen in Star Wars episodes 4-6. Brought to you absolutely spoiler-free by the Mos Eisley Chamber of Commerce. Visit Mos Eisley! You’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy!

image
The X-wing fighter is a fictional starfighter from the original Star Wars trilogy and the Star Wars expanded universe. They are depicted as the primary interceptor and dogfighter of the Rebel Alliance and the New Republic.

image

Industrial Light & Magic’s (ILM) Joe Johnston sketched and Colin Cantwell built models that eventually became the final X-wing fighter in Star Wars. The X-wings were designed to appear more “traditional” than the Empire’s TIE fighters. ILM built miniatures in various scales, with wing markings indicating which prop represented which pilot. When ILM fell behind on generating X-wing footage, Star Wars producer George Lucas and his editors temporarily used World War II dogfight footage for initial editing cuts. Each X-wing model was built around a hollow core made from surgical tubing, which allowed lighting, cooling, and electrical connectors for the wing motors to be installed and maintained. The cockpit windows were made from faceted glass so that accurate reflections could be filmed. Although the movie’s initial script and novelization describe the X-wings as belonging to “Blue squadron”, limitations in bluescreen photography led to the markings on the filming models, as well as the squadron affiliation being changed to red. Had they stayed blue, the X-wing markings would have showed up black. The same thing happens to Luke’s astromech droid R2-D2 in the flight scenes. His blue marking show up black in the film.

image

 

In addition to miniatures, the production crew made a single, full-size X-wing for scenes in the Rebels’ Yavin IV base hangar; combined with cardboard cutouts and careful editing, the Rebels appear to have dozens of fighters. The production crew also made a full-size X-wing cockpit that was used for all actors; the astromech droid visible behind each actor was changed for each starfighter. Background noise pitch and tone also varied between X-wings to further differentiate the characters piloting them. George Lucas liked taking real sounds and modifying them to use in the Star Wars films. For example, the TIE fighter engines are a mix of an elephant roar and tires on wet pavement. Unfortunately, I could not find any information on the original sound of the T-65 X-wing engine.

image
A life-size LEGO model of the X-wing. NOT the life-size model used in production.

The following is canonical information on the X-wing as depicted in the Star Wars films and is here presented as fact.

image

Incom T-65 X-wing starfighters were manufactured by Incom Corporation. They had two pairs of wing-like strike-foils, or S-foils, mounted at the rear of the craft on opposite sides. Each of the four Incom 4L4 fusial thrust engines were attached to the wings next to the fuselage. The foils on each side locked in place flush against each other; during combat, however, the foils were folded out to increase firing accuracy and range. This also gave the craft its distinctive “X”-like appearance when viewed from the front or rear. The craft’s four Taim and Bak KX9 laser cannons were placed at the tip of the wings. The single pilot sat in the cockpit, which was in the center of the fuselage, and the astromech droid had a socket in the rear between the engines. The two proton torpedo launchers were located in grooves near the middle of the underside of the fuselage. In the cockpit, the pilot had access to the flight controls and a targeting computer. The fighters measured 12.5 meters in length, with a mass of 10 metric tons. They were additionally equipped with a long-range hyperdrive system and shields which could be adjusted around the craft. Painted stripes on the rear of the S-foils identified each craft. They cost 149,999 Imperial credits new or 90,000 credits used. As Imperial credits are typically considered to equal about three American dollars, that would value a brand new T-65 at $449,997 in 1977 dollars. You of course can no longer buy a brand new T-65, as they’ve been replaced by the Incom T-70 X-wing, so you’d only have to pay $270,000 for one now. What a steal!

image

Perhaps the most iconic craft in the Star Wars, the X-wing has a long story and many writings on the subject of its development. However, all the comic books and novels have been decanonized with the purchase of Star Wars by Disney so that they could produce more movies without conflicting stories. I have only written information that I have found is not affected by the decanonization. That is, information that I feel would not conflict with the universe as presented by the new films. For example, the Star Wars Wikia has a lot of information on the development of the X-wing that takes a different direction than the T-70 X-wings shown in The Force Awakens. As such, I have chosen not to present it here.

Next week: the second generation of X-wing.

image

Plane of the Weeks #27 & #28: Incom T-65 X-Wing

Plane of the Week Holiday Special #25 & 26: Christmas Bullet

After a brief holiday break from writing we shall return to our regular schedule. But first, the Plane of the Week Holiday Special: the Christmas Bullet.

image

The Christmas Bullet is generally acknowledged to be the worst airplane ever built. Not only was it designed so terribly that both prototypes crashed and killed their pilots, but its designer, Dr. William Whitney Christmas, was, according to one aviation historian, the “greatest charlatan to ever see his name associated with an airplane”.

image

Lets start with Dr. Christmas’s lies. Firstly, he claimed that he had hundreds of aviation patents and that he was swamped by orders for Bullets from Europe and he had a million-dollar offer to rebuild Germany’s air forces. None of this was true, but he did (claim to) get the US Army to pay him handsomely for his wing design, another lie. One of the more fantastical claims made to the US government by Dr. Christmas was that he could design an aircraft capable of flying to Germany on a mission to kidnap Kaiser Wilhelm II. He did receive a patent for the Bullet design in 1914, and later claimed to have sold the rights to his design for moveable ailerons in 1923, for $100,000. However, these were also false and he wasn’t even the first person to use movable ailerons, anyway.

image
Lies.

Moving on to the airplane, it is very clear that Dr. Christmas knew very little about designing aircraft. The wings had no struts or support beams because he thought that aircraft wings were supposed to flap like a bird, and indeed the wings of the Christmas Bullet did- they flapped right off the plane. The Christmas Bullet was extremely heavy for its small size at 2100 pounds and the unsupported, flimsy wings peeled right off, causing the death of the pilots of both prototypes. And the worst part is, when the first one crashed and Dr. Christmas had to contact Continental to get a new engine so he could rebuild it, he told them he was building an additional prototype. Technically, this was true, so perhaps this statement was the most truthful thing he ever said about the Christmas Bullet.

image

Another issue with the Bullet was that it was built with hardwood and sheet metal. Modern airplanes are built with all metal, so this may not seem strange, but at the time airplanes were built of wood and canvas. This certainly contributed to the aircraft’s excessive weight. The weight of the Christmas Bullet was also too heavy for the size of the tail wing, making the Christmas Bullet very hard to control, for the very short time it was in the air, at least.

image

The Christmas Bullet was completed in the fall of 1918, but World War I ended before it could be flown. One problem was that the doctor couldn’t find a pilot. One by one they looked it over, tried the controls and walked away shaking their heads. Finally, Dr. Christmas was able to lure a victim hire a pilot from among the ranks of the unemployed Army Air Service pilots returning from the war. Ironically, it was just after Christmas in 1918 when Cuthbert Mills took the Christmas Bullet up for her maiden flight. He got it airborne successfully, but within moments the flimsy wings twisted and peeled from the heavy fuselage and the Bullet fell like a lead projectile, taking Mills to his death. Undaunted, Dr. Christmas hardly broke stride. Even though he had flown the Bullet without telling the Army-as he’d promised- and had destroyed their engine, he had no qualms about going back to them to ask for help getting a propeller for his second Bullet. In March 1919, Dr. Christmas put the second Bullet on display at the New York Air Show, where he had the audacity to advertise it as the ‘safest, easiest controlled plane in the world.’ It was the same airplane that would later destroy a barn and take a second test pilot’s life when it was flown for the first time.

It is at this point that, in a movie, Dr. Christmas (he even sounds like a movie villain!) would have been unmasked as a fraud and duly punished. In reality, he went on to make even grander claims, even going so far as to go before the US Congress to tell them that his Bullets were the fastest, safest and most efficient airplanes on Earth, and that he was being swamped by the aforementioned orders from Europe. In actuality, there were no orders – or Bullets. This didn’t bother Dr. Christmas, who in 1923 impudently billed the US Army $100,000 for his ‘revolutionary’ wing design. For some reason, perhaps just to get rid of him, the Army paid the bill.

Or so he claimed.

 

image
Models of the Christmas Bullet proved to be more popular, more numerous and more flightworthy than the real thing was.
Plane of the Week Holiday Special #25 & 26: Christmas Bullet

Plane of the Week #24: Rockwell B-1 Lancer

This week’s plane of the week is the Rockwell B-1 Lancer bomber.

image

First off, last week I promised a North American bomber and I am delivering a Rockwell bomber. Why? North American merged with Rockwell Standard in 1967 following the Apollo 1 fire that North American was blamed for. The company became Rockwell International in 1973 and changed the name of its aircraft division to North American Aircraft Operations. The first succesful contracts for the B-1 were awarded to Rockwell International in 1983 and North American was sold to Boeing at the end of the 1980s, along with the B-1. What was left of Rockwell split in 2001 into Rockwell Collins and Rockwell Automations. So the B-1 was known for a time as the Rockwell B-1 and later as the Boeing B-1, but during its time at Rockwell, it was really being built by North American, as that was Rockwell’s only aircraft department. When NA was sold to Boeing, however, it stopped building aircraft of its own, as Boeing was an aircraft company already.

image
B-1 with a Dodge Grand Caravan for scale.

The Rockwell  B-1 Lancer is a four-engine supersonic variable-sweep wing, jet-powered heavy strategic bomber used by the United States Air Force. It was first envisioned in the 1960s as a supersonic bomber with Mach 2 speed, and sufficient range and payload to replace the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress and have similar capabilities to the XB-70. It was developed into the B-1B, primarily a low-level penetrator with long range and Mach 1.25 speed capability at high altitude. Nicknamed “The Bone,” the B-1B Lancer is a long-range, multi-mission conventional bomber, which has served the United States Air Force since 1985. Originally designed for nuclear capabilities, the B-1 switched to an exclusively conventional combat role in the mid 1990’s. In 1999, during Operation Allied Force, six B-1s flew 2 percent of the strike missions, yet dropped 20 percent of the ordnance. The B-1 has been nearly continuously deployed in combat operations over Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001.

image

Development was delayed multiple times over its history due to changes in the perceived need for manned bombers. The initial B-1A version was developed in the early 1970s, but its production was canceled, and only four prototypes were built. This was one of the main points of Jimmy Carter’s campaign, saying “The B-1 bomber is an example of a proposed system which should not be funded and would be wasteful of taxpayers’ dollars.” That sounds suspiciously similar to what they’re saying about the F-35. They thought we didn’t need the B-1, and look where it is now.

image

The need for a new platform once again surfaced in the early 1980s, and the aircraft resurfaced as the B-1B version with the focus on low-level penetration bombing. During the 1980 presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan campaigned heavily on the platform that Carter was weak on defense, citing the cancellation of the B-1 program as an example, a theme he continued using into the 1980s. During this time Carter’s defense secretary, Harold Brown, announced the stealth bomber project, apparently implying that this was the reason for the B-1 cancellation. Production went ahead as the B version would be operational before the “Advanced Technology Bomber” (which became the B-2 Spirit), during a period when the B-52 would be increasingly vulnerable. The B-1B entered service in 1986 with the USAF Strategic Air Command as a nuclear bomber.

image

After a long and involved history, the B-1 finally became one of the world’s best bombers. It’s not even finished yet. In February 2014, work began on a multi-year upgrade of 62 (out of the 90 remaining) B-1Bs, scheduled to be completed by 2019. The vertical situation display upgrade will replace existing flight instruments with multifunction color displays, a second display will aid threat evasion and targeting, and act as a back-up display. Additional memory capacity is to be installed for the diagnostics database. Procurement and installation of the IBS upgrades is expected to cost $918 million, research and engineering costs are estimated at $391 million. Other additions are to replace the two spinning mass gyroscopic inertial navigation system with ring laser gyroscopic systems and a GPS antenna, replacement of the APQ-164 radar with the Scalable Agile Beam Radar – Global Strike active electronically scanned array, and a new attitude indicator. Fancy.

image

Bad to the Bone, as they say.

Awaiting takeoff
A 28th Bomb Wing B-1B Lancer sits on the ramp in the early morning at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Aug. 30, waiting to taxi. The aircraft was taking off to conduct the first test launch of a joint air-to-surface standoff missile. Ellsworth AFB is one of the biggest B-1 bases in America. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Angela Ruiz)

 

Next week: You’ll never guess what aircraft company I’m going to write about.

image

 

Plane of the Week #24: Rockwell B-1 Lancer

Plane of the Week #23: North American T-6 Texan

This week’s plane of the week is the North American T-6 Texan.

image

The North American Aviation T-6 Texan is a single-engined advanced trainer aircraft used to train pilots of the United States Army Air Forces, United States Navy, Royal Air Force and other air forces of the British Commonwealth during World War II and into the 1970s. It remains a popular warbird aircraft used for airshow demonstrations and static displays. It has also been used many times to simulate the Japanese Mitsubishi Zero in movies depicting World War II in the Pacific.

image

The North American T-6 Texan was known as “the pilot maker” because of its important role in preparing pilots for combat. Derived from the 1935 North American NA-16 prototype, a cantilever low-wing two-seat monoplane, the Texan filled the need for a basic combat trainer during WW II and beyond. The original order of 94 AT-6 Texans differed little from subsequent versions such as the AT-6A which revised the fuel tanks or the AT-6D and AT-6F that strengthened and lightened the frame. North American’s rapid production of the T-6 Texan coincided with the wartime expansion of the United States air war commitment. As of 1940, the required flights hours for combat pilots earning their wings had been cut to just 200 during a shortened training period of seven months. Of those hours, 75 were logged in the AT-6.

image

The Texan originated from the North American NA-16 prototype (first flown on April 1, 1935) which, modified as the NA-26, was submitted as an entry for a USAAC “Basic Combat” aircraft competition in March, 1937. The first model went in to production and 180 were supplied to the USAAC as the BC-1 and 400 to the RAF as the Harvard I. The US Navy received 16 modified aircraft, designated the SNJ-1, and a further 61 as the SNJ-2 with a different engine.

image

A further 92 BC-1A and three BC-2 aircraft were built before the shift to the “advanced trainer” designation, AT-6, which was equivalent to the BC-1A. The differences between the AT-6 and the BC-1 were new outer wing panels with a swept forward trailing edge, squared-off wingtips and a triangular rudder, producing the definitive Texan appearance. After a change to the rear of the canopy, the AT-6 was designated the Harvard II for RAF/RCAF orders and 1,173 were supplied by purchase or Lend Lease, mostly operating in Canada as part of the Empire Air Training Scheme.

www.richard-seaman.com

In Canada it was known as the Yale and in the UK it was named the Harvard. I find it pretty clever of them to name an American plane after American universities.

image.jpeg

The T-6 was used by 55 air forces around the world as a trainer and is now used as a racer, show plane, and civilian trainer and is easily one of the most popular trainers ever built. It was so popular that Beechcraft later made a trainer and named it the T-6 Texan II.

image

Next Week: Binge-reading on North American Aviation.

image

 

 

Plane of the Week #23: North American T-6 Texan

Plane of the Week #22: North American XB-70 Valkyrie

This week’s plane of the week is the North American XB-70 Valkyrie.

image

The North American XB-70 Valkyrie is the prototype of the never-built B-70 nuclear-armed, deep-penetration strategic bomber for the U.S. Air Force’s Strategic Air Command. North American Aviation designed the Valkyrie bomber as a large, six-engined aircraft capable of reaching Mach 3+ while flying at 70,000 feet. At these speeds, it was expected that the B-70 would be almost immune to interceptor aircraft, the only effective weapon against bomber aircraft at the time. The bomber would spend only a few minutes over a particular radar station, flying out of its range before the controllers could vector their fighters into a suitable location for an interception. Its high speed also made the aircraft difficult to see on the radar displays, and its high altitude flight could not be matched by any Soviet fighter.

image

The introduction of the first Soviet surface-to-air missiles in the late 1950s put the near-invulnerability of the XB-70 in doubt. In response, the US Air Force began flying its missions at low level, where the missile radar’s line of sight was limited by local terrain. In this role, known as penetration, the XB-70 offered little more performance over the B-52 it was meant to replace. It was, however, far more expensive and had shorter range. A number of alternate missions were proposed, but these were of limited scope. As the strategic role passed from bombers to intercontinental ballistic missiles during the late 1950s, manned bombers were increasingly unuseful. The USAF eventually gave up fighting for its production, and the B-70 program was canceled in 1961. Development was then turned over to a research program to study the effects of long-duration high-speed flight. As such, two prototype aircraft were built, and designated XB-70A; these aircraft were used for supersonic test-flights during 1964–69. In 1966, one prototype crashed after colliding in mid-air with a smaller jet aircraft; the remaining Valkyrie bomber is in the National Museum of the United States Air Force near Dayton, Ohio. The crashed Valkyrie was not at fault, by the way.

North American XB-70A Valkyrie
North American XB-70A Valkyrie in flight with wingtips in 65 percent (full) drooped position. (U.S. Air Force photo)

North American engineers pored through every aerodynamic study they could find, looking for anything that could be applied to a large, triplesonic bomber. They came across a forgotten NASA research paper about “compression lift.” This paper described how a conical shape underneath the center of a wing would push the air to the side, increasing pressure under the wing section (thereby increasing lift!) with far less drag than simply increasing the size of the wing itself. To illustrate the concept, imagine a cone (like an ice cream cone). Then cut it in half lengthwise, so now you have a half cone that has a flat surface from tip to tail. Now imagine that half cone travelling through the air, flat side up, with the “belly” of the cone on the bottom. As it travels through the air, the “belly” will push the shape upwards. I don’t get it, either. In flight, the XB-70 could lower the outer wing sections either 25 degrees for flying from 300 knots to Mach 1.4, or a severe 65 degrees for speeds from Mach 1.4 to Mach 3+. Measuring just a bit over 20 feet at the trailing edge, these wingtips represent the largest movable aerodynamic device ever used.

image

Lowering the wingtips had three distinct effects on the XB-70:
-Total vertical area was increased, allowing shorter vertical stabilizers than would otherwise be needed.
-The reduction in rearward wing area countered the delta wing’s inherent rearward shift of the center of lift as speed increased, keeping drag-inducing trim corrections to a minimum.
-Compression lift was 30 percent more effective because the pressure under the wing was better managed.
-Along with the wingtips, the six J93 engines, bomb bay, and landing gear were all contained in a conical shape designed to enhance shockwave management.

image

Overall, the XB-70 has the best lift-to-drag ratio of any manned airplane ever built, being bettered only on the unmanned D-21 drone, an airframe designed to be air-launched, fly at one speed and altitude, and then self-destruct.

image

The XB-70 had too many problems throughout its very short operational life too be used in combat or be mass-produced, however. Many flights had had bad hydraulic problems or worse. On its twelfth flight, a piece of the air intake broke off and destroyed engines 3, 4, and 6 and severely damaged the rest. None of the engines were repairable and all had to be replaced.

image

Later, on its thirty-seventh flight, the landing gear failed to extend fully and it had to land on a dry lakebed so it could coast to a stop. The weight of the machine forced the landing gear into the correct positions.

image

The last straw was when one plane was flying in a photo shoot with an F-104 Starfighter and several other aircraft. The F-104 drifted into the XB-70, which destroyed the smaller plane and severely damaged the Valkyrie. One vertical stabilizer was knocked off, leading to severe and technically complex steering issues that I am not going to even attempt to explain. It proved impossible to fly and one pilot ejected, but the other could not escape.

image

This came the end of one of the most complex aircraft ever built. It’s kind of a shame, really, but the research paved the way for several high-speed planes that came after it.

I guess it must have been too far outside the box

image

Next week: the best trainer ever built. Guaranteed.

Plane of the Week #22: North American XB-70 Valkyrie

Plane of the Week #21: Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star

This week’s plane of the week is the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star.

image

The Lockheed P-80 was an all-metal straight low-wing aircraft of conventional design and had a tricycle landng gear. The cockpit was unpressurized and had an aft-sliding bubble top canopy. It had an internal fuel capacity of 200 to 285 gallons in two wing tanks and one self-sealing fuselage tank. Armament consisted of six .50 caliber machine guns in the nose with 200 rounds per gun.

image

The P-80 was the first operational jet fighter used by the U.S. Air Force. Designed and built by Lockheed in 1943 and delivered just 143 days from the start of the design process, production models were flying but not ready for service by the end of World War II.

image

It got the name “Shooting Star” for its speed. It was the first aircraft ever to pass 500 miles per hour. While it was the fastest plane the Air Force had, it was also one of the least safe. There were a large number of P-80s that just simply exploded. One common problem was in the gas cap. It would fill with jet fuel and combust when the plane reached 200 miles per hour. The plane would then explode. This May have been the cause of the crash that killed the USAF test pilot Richard “Ira” Bong. He ejected from the cockpit, but his parachute wires snagged on the tail.

image

That is not to say it was not succesful. It was flown on many missions in the Korean War and was developed into three models- the P-80A, B, and C-, the F-94 Starfighter, and the T-33 trainer.

It was built in a circus tent.

image

Plane of the Week #21: Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star