Model Airplane News|
Model Airplane News Cover Art for August, 1945
by Jo Kotula
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Given the resource constraints imposed by World War II, the Army was interested in a simplified 'lightweight' fighter aircraft using "non-strategic" materials. The Bel-XP77 was, like the deHaviland Mosquito, largely made of non-strategic wood. However, unlike the Mosquito, the diminutive XP-77 proved tricky to handle and slow. The project was canceled after only one prototype was made.
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The Bell Aircraft Corporation initiated the XP-77 project in October 1941. The aircraft was intended to be a small, light fighter much in the mold of the 1930s air racers, similar to the Folkerts "Juupiter". The XP-77 was a single-engine, low-wing monoplane with mainly wood construction, equipped with tricycle landing gear. A sleek bubble canopy also provided great visibility in all directions except forward due to the long nose and rear-mounted cockpit (alas, a key requirement for a fighter). The planned armament was one Hispano 20 mm cannon and two 50 caliber Browning machine guns, with the option of either a 300 lb bomb or 325 lb depth charge. Problems in obtaining engines (a very strategic material) led to compromises that reduced the aircraft's performance. The XP-77 proved to be difficult to fly and even without without guns or armor, it did not come up to the expected performance estimates mainly because it was woefully underpowered. Further trials were conducted at the A.A.F. Proving Ground at Eglin Field with the second aircraft, which was destroyed when it entered an inverted spin while attempting an Immelmann, and the pilot bailed out. The development was terminated in December 1944
Here is a video of the Bell XP-77 in action:
Click Here for more information about the Bell XP-77.
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