Model Airplane News|
McDonnell XP-67 "Moonbat"
Model Airplane News Cover Art for June, 1945
by Jo Kotula
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The McDonnell XP-67 was a prototype for a twin-engine, long range, single-seat interceptor aircraft for the United States Army Air Corps. Although the design was conceptually advanced, it was beset by numerous problems and never approached its anticipated level of performance. The project was cancelled after the sole completed prototype was destroyed by an engine fire
Photos of the McDonnell XP-67 "Moonbat"
The plane really was just as dramatic as the MAN cover...
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In 1940, the U.S. Army Air Corps requested designs for a high-speed, long-range, high-altitude interceptor intended to destroy enemy bombers. The specifications were very bold, encouraging manufacturers to produce radical aircraft that would outperform any existing fighter in the world at the time. Upstart aerospace parts manufacturer McDonnell Aircraft, eager to begin manufacturing its own aircraft, responded to the proposal with drawings and specifications of the proposed Model I, which would be powered by an unusual geared drivetrain with a single engine buried in the fuselage powering twin wing-mounted pusher propellers in the wings. Air Corps leaders were impressed, and granted McDonnell a $3,000 contract to re-engineer the airplane.
The new design was powered by a more traditional layout, a pair of engines in wing-mounted nacelles with 4-bladed propellers in a tractor configuration. However, the design was still quite ambitious; the design team tried to maintain a true airfoil section through the center fuselage, merge the rear portions of the engine nacelles with the wing, and radically fillet all edges of the fuselage and nacelles into the wings in an effort to reduce drag. The design used laminar airfoil sections throughout. McDonnell designers promised that the design would deliver a top speed of 472 mph with a gross weight of 18,600 lb although the anticipated gross weight was soon increased to a somewhat more realistic 20,000 lb.
The USAAC granted McDonnell a contract, for two prototypes, a wind tunnel model, and associated engineering data. The plane was designated as the XP-67. The production aircraft was intended to have a pressurized cockpit, a novel innovation at the time. A number of armament configurations were considered including six 5o Caliber machine guns, four 20 mm (.79 in) cannon, and even a 75 mm cannon before the configuration of six 37 mm cannon was chosen.
In a test flight, the starboard engine of the XP-67 caught fire and gutted the fuselage, engine, nacelle and starboard wing; the aircraft was a total loss. Army leaders decided that the it offered no significant advantages over existing fighters already in service. The project was cancelled, the remains of the first prototype were scrapped.
Here is an Army film (now on video) of the McDonnell XP-67 "Moonbat":
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