Model Airplane News
February, 1960

Model Airplane News Cover for July, 1939 by Jo Kotula Bell XP-39 Airacobra    Model Airplane News Cover for February, 1960 by Jo Kotula Bell P-39 Airacobra

Bell P-39 "Airacobra"
Model Airplane News Cover Art for July, 1939 and February, 1960
by Jo Kotula
Click to Enlarge

The Bell P-39 Airacobra was one of the principal American fighter aircraft in service at the start of World War II. Although its mid-engine placement was innovative, the P-39 design was handicapped by the lack of an efficient turbo-supercharger, limiting it to low-altitude work. The "Airacobra" has much of the same design concept as the Koolhaven F.K. 55

The P-39 was used with great success by the Soviet Air Force, who scored the highest number of individual kills attributed to any U.S. fighter type. Other important users were the Free French and co-belligerent Italian air forces. Together with the derivative P-63 Kingcobra, these aircraft would be the most successful mass-produced, fixed-wing aircraft manufactured by Bell.

Bell P-39 Airacobra    Bell P-39 Airacobra Design patent D-122,564    Bell P-39 Airacobra

The Bell P-39 Airacobra
Design Patent D-122,564
Click to Enlarge

Because the pilot was riding above the shaft he was placed higher in the fuselage than most contemporary fighters, which, in turn, allowed Bell to use a raised cockpit enclosure, giving the pilot a good field of view. The plan had unusual sideways opening "car doors" (actually manufactured by the Hudson Company) with wind-down windows. While this sounds nice, it was very had to get into the plane (or to get out of it...) while wearing a parachute.

Here is a video of the P-39 in action:

The most noticeable feature of the armamment is the T9 50 mm cannon in the nose. The barrel runs inside the hollow driveshaft. There was also a pair of Browning 50 Caliber machine guns mounted in the nose. The plane could also carry a 500 pound bomb or a 500 gallon drop tank. The airplane also had pilot armor, self-sealing fuel tanks and other safety features. Here is a feature from Popular Mechanics that compares the P-39 with the P-41 (Thunderbolt) when both the planes were infants.

Bell P-39 Airacobra in Popular Mechanics August 1938

The Airacobra
Compared with the experimental P-41
in Popular Mechanics August, 1938
Click to Enlarge

Because of the unconventional layout, there was no space in the fuselage to place a fuel tank. Although drop tanks were implemented to extend its range, the standard fuel load was carried in the wings, with the result that the P-39 was limited to short range tactical strikes.

Click here for more information about the Airacobra.

Cleveland made three types of kits for the P-39, including a Master Kit, one in the "T" series and one in the "IT" series. Here is the Master Kit. (This is the most desirable of the three. Do not pay "big bucks" for the "T" or "IT" version)

Cleveland Model of the The Bell P-39 Airacobra      Cleveland Model of the The Bell P-39 Airacobra

Cleveland Model of the The Bell P-39 Airacobra
Look for the Master Kit!
Click to Enlarge

You can buy the plans and patterns that will enable you to make this model right now. Click Here to go to the exact location on the Cleveland Website to get them.

Cleveland Site Location of Bell P-39 Airacobra Plans   

Bell P-39 Airacobra on the Cleveland Site

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