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P-38 Lightning


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In general, the P-38 was a great aircraft.

 

The early models had problems with loss of control due to compressibility effects. The P-38 was not particularly agile. Compared to single-engine fighters, it was more expensive to manufacture and maintain. It was also a very dangerous airplane if it lost engine power on one side on take-off or landing. A well-trained, experienced pilot could handle this emergency, but the mass-produced USAAF pilots of WWII were marginally trained (by modern standards) and inexperienced. The P-38 was a big airplane compared to most fighters which made it a bigger target.

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:huh: Does this mean a single engine plane was safer on take-off when it lost an engine?

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:huh: Does this mean a single engine plane was safer on take-off when it lost an engine?

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Yes. If the engine dies on a single engine plane, you still have control and can try an emergency landing in any available space. If you lose an engine in a normal twin engined plane below minimum control speed, the asymmetric thrust from the good engine will overcome any control input from the pilot and the plane will spin in. The pilot of a twin has to immediately recognize the problem and shut down the good engine to survive, and then he is in the same position as the pilot of a single engine plane...

 

Hojutsuka

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Yes.  If the engine dies on a single engine plane, you still have control and can try an emergency landing in any available space.  If you lose an engine in a normal twin engined plane below minimum control speed, the asymmetric thrust from the good engine will overcome any control input from the pilot and the plane will spin in.  The pilot of a twin has to immediately recognize the problem and shut down the good engine to survive, and then he is in the same position as the pilot of a single engine plane...

 

Hojutsuka

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The pilot had to cut back on the power of the good engine and then he could mantain control in powered flight. Twin engine planes fly with one engine all the time if needed. It is just a matter of training. If you had to shut down the engine on a twin to mantain control with a dead engine there would be no twin engine transports.

 

If you lose an engine in a normal twin engined plane below minimum control speed,

 

If you loose an engine below minimum control speed in a single you still have no control. In a twin flown correctly you mite pick up speed. In a single the only way to pick up speed with no engine is to go down.

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From "Fighter Command"

Any spelling errors are mine

 

Herbert E. Johnson, P-38 pilot, 20th Fighter Group

The P-38 requires a far greater knowledge of it's mechanical and aerodynamic characteristics on the part of the pilot than normally required to fly fighters.

If jumped on the deck the best evasive maneuver is a tight level turn. Due to the beautiful stall characteristics of the '38, you can turn much tighter without the danger of spinning than any German craft.

Hubert "Hub" Zemke, P-38, P-47, and P-51 pilot and fighter group commander
I was fortunate enough to have flown the P-51, P-47, and P-38 in combat and have led fighter groups with all three.

 

P-51 - <snip>

P-47 - <snip>

P-38 - Though this aircraft had virtues, for me it was the poorest of the three US Army fighters in the European Theater. The fact that the extreme cold at altitude affected it's performance hardly endears the machine. The turbosuperchargers were controlled by an oil regulator. At altitude the oil had a tendency to congeal, which caused serious problems. On two occasions I recall, when entering combat with enemy single seaters it was a case of life and death to get away and survive, though I had started with the advantage.

 

On both occasions the engines either cut out completely or overran rpm limitations as throttles were cut or advanced. It was enough just to regulate the engines and control the aircraft without entering combat.

 

The second serious limiting factor that detracted from the P-38's combat capability was its steep diving restriction -- estimated at about 375 mph. A common tactic of the Luftwaffe single seaters was to split-S for the clouds or the deck. Ofentimes their head-on attacks on the bomber formations saw them roll over and dive for the deck to confuse and outdistance the flexible machine gunners. P-38s had little chance to pursue. When on defensive, it can be easily understood that a dive to safety was the best maneuver for longevity.

 

Another factor to degrade the P-38's combat capability was its identification factor. The eyes of a pilot often picked up the specks in the distance that could not be immediately identified as friend or foe. These were reported as "bogies." Appropriate tactical maneuvers were taken to prevent bogies from having an advantage of a subsequent attack. In the case of the P-38, the twin booms and slab elevator gave this aircraft's identity away -- as far as the eye could see.

 

It was also necessary for the P-38 pilot to do much more weaving to look down over the two engines that lay on each side of the cockpit. A better cockpit heating system could have been provided as my feet always froze at altitude.

 

Taken alone, the above statements would conclude that the P-38 had no oustanding features... it did! As a gun platform it was steady as a shooting stand. With two engines, there was no torque. With a little trim for buildup of speed (in a dive), a pilot could ride directly into a target.

 

As to the armament installation, I have seen no better. Four machine guns and one cannon in a tight pocket directly in front of the pilot. This armament being so closely aligned to the sight of plane of the gunsight required no convergence of fire as necessitated in fighters having their guns placed in the wings.

 

Though the P-38 had a wheel instead of the proverbial stick, this was no handicap -- control were light and reponse was excellent.

 

Relative to load carrying capacity, the aircraft could take off with just about anything. I've taken off with a thousand pound bomb under each wing and cruised with ease. On fusel consumption, the P-38 enabled us to cruise out to combat areas deep in Germany without the anguish of not having enough "petrol" to return home.

 

A tricycle landing gear made it much easier for a junior pilot to "spike the kite" on the runway and chalk up another landing. This was also an advantage in taxiing -- a large engine and cowling did not deter from forward vision.

 

Chet A Patterson, P-38 pilot, 55th Fighter Group

Because of the losses in P-38 units someone at Lockheed thought the pilots didn't know how to fly it so they sent over Tony LeVier. As far as I was concerned, he did nothing that I couldn't do or nothing that I hadn't seen around the airfield by our own men. Had it been my choice of what he did, I would have had him fly some two hours at 28,000 feet, then tangle with me at 15,000  feet instantly. Then we would see how well he could fly when he was frozen.

 

As an example, Bushing, who did not like combat, was up leading the 338th Squadron and had to urinate. Well, by the time you got out of your shoulder harness, the parachute straps and through four more layers of clothes (tank suit, pinks, long johns and shorts) you found your peter was about one half inch long at that altitude. Well anyway, Bushing let go in the relief tube and at that moment someone hollared, "Bogies on the right!" Bushing turned to the right and madly looked for the bogies, and though it was a false alarm, by the time his heart stopped pumping and he looked back at the dashboards he could see only frosted instruments.

 

To be sure they were working properly, he had to take off his gloves and with his fingernails scrape off the frost on the important instruments. When he got back to the field the P-38, once it got on the ground, turned into a hot box even in England. So by the time he taxied up to the hard stand and shut down the engines the urine had melted and heated up to probably 110 degrees. By tradition, the crew chief climbed on the aircraft as soon as you killed the engines and opened the canopy. In this case, just as he opened it, he slammed it down when he got a whiff of what was there. Bushing had not noticed it as he had been wearing his oxygen mask.

Edward B. Giller, P-38 pilot, 55th Fighter Group
Returning to England with considerable undercast always presented a severe problem of location. We had only four channels of VHF which were always crowded. Once over England we could only let down straight ahead until you could see the ground. The other P-38 groups were operating with the same problem as the 55th. But one thing we liked about the P-38 was its instrument flying ability.

 

Flying around 30,000 feet resulted in extreme fouling of the plugs in the Allison engine as well as a great number of thrown rods and swallowed valves. Needless to say, a P-38 on a single engine was in an unenviable condition. Our record during this period was very poor, about 1.5 Germans shot down to each American lost to all causes.

 

This was the world's coldest airplane and we tried every combination of suit, glove and heater imaginable, including some that would short out and give you a hot foot. We were so cold sometimes, we did not even want to fight.

 

The twin tails provided positive recognition for the Germans at distances greater than we could see them. Therefore, our initial engagements were always at a disadvantage. We were forced to go to very high altitudes, 30,000 feet to 35,000 feet. Even so, the Germans flew way above us. The Germans would escape by a split-S maneuver from these altitudes and the P-38 could not follow due to compressibility.

 

The maintenance on the P-38 was something to behold. The engines were extremely closely-cowled with much piping and no space. The mechanics did a magnificent job with extremly long hours of trying tediously to fix coolant leaks, rough engines, etc. It was truly a crew chief's nightmare. The plane employed oleo socks on all three landing gear struts. These had a habit of leaking as soon as it got cold and required considerable maintenance to reinflate. The turbo supercharger regulator had a delightful habit of freezing at high altitude, resulting in only two throttle settings... 10 inches of mercury, which would not sustain flight, or 80 inches which would blow up a supercharger. I recall one very cold day over the Ruhr Valley [in Germany] where both the pilots and the regulators were so frozen that, in spite of heavy flak in that vicinity, we let down to 3,000 feet to warm up both us and the airplanes.

 

Arthur O. Beimdiek, P-38 pilot, 14th Fighter Group

I had much compassion for my crew chief and the others too. Stop and think about it. If their plane did not make it home, they never knew, for sure, whether it was their fault or the enemy's. After one raid, I was so full of holes I stopped at a base called Ferriana which was south of Constantine [in northern Algeria]. The rest of the flight went on home. When I didn't peel off with the others, they told me my crew chief sat on an an ammunition box and cried like a baby. The others in the flight room told him I sat down for emergency patching and would be along later. When I got back, he was waiting for me with a bottle he had been saving.

 

Arthur L. Thorsen, P-38 pilot, 55th Fighter Group

I was turning tight with the German now and my ship trembled and buffeted slightly. I couldn't pull enough deflection on him, but I had him, he had no place to go. He couldn't dive and if he climbed, he was finished. All he could do now was try to out turn me. We could turn like this forever, I thought and quickly dumped ten percent flaps. My ship reared up and turned on it's wingtip. I was out turning the Jerry. I opened fire and saw strikes around the cockpit and left wing root. The trill of the chase is hypnotic. Your body tingles. You feel you have wings of your own. You make funny noises to yourself. You strain against your shoulder straps as if that will give you more momentum. You begin to tremble with the knowledge that the German ship ahead of you, is yours. You can take him. You don't think of shooting a human being, you just shoot at a machine. Air combat is strictly that impersonal.

 

The German was not done yet and rolled out quickly to starboard, sucking his stick and pulling vapor streamers from his wing tips. I rolled with him, but he had me by a second and I lost my deflection. We were in a vertical turn now and the centrifugal force was pushing me hard into the seat. I was about 150 yards astern of him when his ship filled my gun sight. I pulled through and opened fire. I could see strikes on his engine and pieces flew off. Then a long stream of glycol poured from his engine and I knew he was finished. He suddenly pulled out of the turn, went into a steep climb, popped his canopy and bailed out. We were very low, almost too low for bailing out. I followed him down and his chute must have popped just as his feet hit the ground.

 

I began a series of turns to clear my tail and couldn't see an airplane in the sky. Then I noticed, as I was turning at low level, scores of Parisians dancing around the roof tops and throwing their berets in the air, as if cheering what they had been watching. I chuckled as I turned the nose of my ship toward home.

Norman W. Jackson, P-38 pilot, 14th fighter group
By the time I had 30 hours of combat, I had bailed out, crash landed in the desert, come home on one engine and brought one more home so shot up that it was junked. There was talk of presenting me with the German Iron Cross
Edited by Burncycle360
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Many German pilots discovered, to their demise and dismay, that P-38 indeed could out-turn their planes in low level turning fight. That was quite a surprise for Germans who were used to see unwieldy twin-engine planes like Me-110.

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Many German pilots discovered, to their demise and dismay, that P-38 indeed could out-turn their planes in low level turning fight. That was quite a surprise for Germans who were used to see unwieldy twin-engine planes like Me-110.

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I should know the answer to this, but . . . Why was the Me-110 so bad? Would it have been any better if it had been designed with twin tail booms? Was this another instance where Hitler insisted that the original design be modified to make it into a dive bomber?

Edited by starkweatherr
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I'm thinking the same.  Almost all propeller driven aircraft during that era had gearboxes, so I should think that to have the propeller turn in the opposite direction would merely require a gearbox with one additional gear.  More complicated of course would be to build the entire motor and gearbox as a mirror image of the other.

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The pistons and crankshaft don't care which direction they spin. So long as the cam shaft, magneto, oil, fuel, and water pumps are set up for "reverse rotation", (as well as the starter motor, if any....), all you would need to change in the reduction gears is the lash.

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The pilot had to cut back on the power of the good engine and then he could mantain control in powered flight.  Twin engine planes fly with one engine all the time if needed.  It is just a matter of training.  If you had to shut down the engine on a twin to mantain control with a dead engine there would be no twin engine transports.

That is true if you have sufficient air speed.

 

You seem to be thinking of current air transports. Jet engines have no propellers, so can be mounted closer to the aircraft center line, reducing the asymmetric thrust and hence the minimum control speed. The tail fin and rudder are sized to handle the engine out case, so are much larger than necessary in normal flight. And liftoff speeds are calculated so that the airliner is not off the runway until it has enough speed to survive an engine failure, even though this means more runway is needed.

 

None of the above apply to a WWII twin engine propeller fighter like the P-38.

 

If you loose an engine below minimum control speed in a single you still have no control.  In a twin flown correctly you mite pick up speed. In a single the only way to pick up speed with no engine is to go down.

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A properly designed single engine aircraft is controllable down to stall, so if you are below minimum control speed, you are not flying.

 

A twin engine propeller aircraft with engines on the wing will have asymmetric thrust when one engine fails, so the aircraft must be flying fast enough so that you can counter this using the flight controls. The more powerful the engines, the greater the asymmetric thrust, so a fighter like the P-38 or the Mosquito is more liable to have problems, especially when taking off at high weights.

 

http://www.flexi.net.au/~bfillery/mossie10.htm

 

See above for annotated pilot's notes for Mosquito FB VI. Note that the liftoff speed at 17000 lbs and 15 degrees flap is about 100 knots, but the safety speed above which you can fly on a single engine is 155 knots at +9lb boost and 170 knots at +18lb boost. After takeoff, you climb slowly so that you can accelerate to safety speed as soon as possible. If you lose an engine before you reach the safety speed, you are in a tough spot. To maintain control, you have to reduce power on the good engine, but that means you cannot maintain speed/altitude. Maintaining speed at expense of altitude soon results in flying into the ground. If airspeed is allowed to decay, your control power also is reduced so you have to reduce power yet more to retain control. It is a vicious cycle, and the only thing to do is look for some place to set your plane down ASAP.

 

Hojutsuka

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That is true if you have sufficient air speed.

 

The tail fin and rudder are sized to handle the engine out case, so are much larger than necessary in normal flight. 

 

You know, designers of prop twins do that too...

 

 

None of the above apply to a WWII twin engine propeller fighter like the P-38.

A properly designed single engine aircraft is controllable down to stall, so if you are below minimum control speed, you are not flying.

A properly designed single engine craft has its primary flight controls directly in the propellor blast, increasing their effectiveness at slow airspeeds. How does this apply to the P-38? Hang on for a minute...

 

A twin engine propeller aircraft with engines on the wing will have asymmetric thrust when one engine fails, so the aircraft must be flying fast enough so that you can counter this using the flight controls.  The more powerful the engines, the greater the asymmetric thrust, so a fighter like the P-38 or the Mosquito is more liable to have problems, especially when taking off at high weights.

 

 

Mosquito yes...P-38? Not so much. Look at how a Mosquito is designed - notice it has one large fin, and that its NOT directly behind the propellors? Now take a look at the -38. It has TWO rudders/vertical stabilizers - and they are located right behind the propellors, on the ends of hte same booms the engines reside in. Further, the slab elevator runs right up to the rudder. In a Lightning, the rotating slipstream from the propellor acts against the wing, boom, rudder and elevator to partially couter-act torque, and the addtional airflow makes the controls more effective than a conventional layout, aiding in the engine-out case. Also, further note the Mosquito's engines both rotated in the same direction - "anticlockwise" when viewed from the fornt. Since the engine tries to turn in the opposite direction, and gravity being the cruel beast that it is, the "engine out" case for a Mossie, should the live engine be the starboard one, is quite worse than if it is the port one - in the first case, gravity is working with engine torque to drop the wing with the dead engine, along with the lack of slipstream, whereas in the later, the torque counter-acts it to a degree.

See above for annotated pilot's notes for Mosquito FB VI. ....

Hojutsuka

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...a Lightning is NOT a Mosquito. Different design, counter-rotating props, etc.

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...a Lightning is NOT a Mosquito.  Different design, counter-rotating props, etc.

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An obvious statement, but how is it relevant?

 

I was replying to Skip, who appeared to have problems understanding that an engine failure on takeoff or landing is safer in a single-engine plane than in a normal twin-engine propeller plane. I chose to illustrate the problem using the Mosquito since that plane is fairly well known to have a high minimum single-engine control speed. But all high-powered twin-engine aircraft with the engines and propellers on the wings have this problem (a few twins with unusual configurations that put both propellers on the center line do not suffer from this problem, two examples being the Do 335 and the old Cessna Skymaster). Some are less dangerous than others, but even your P-38 has the problem. See

 

http://home.worldonline.dk/winthrop/ethel1.html

 

which is an NTSB report on the crash of a restored P-38L on June 6, 1997.

 

If you look at the synopsis, under "Probable Cause" it says:

 

failure of the pilot to maintain minimum control speed (VMC), after loss of power in one engine, which resulted in a loss of aircraft control and collision with terrain.

In the full narrative, under "Aircraft Information", it says:

 

Additionally, the Pilot's Manual (PM) states under "ENGINE FAILURE DURING TAKEOFF" that:

 

"If one engine fails after the airplane leaves the ground, but before the safe single-engine airspeed (120 mph) has been reached, close both throttles and LAND STRAIGHT AHEAD."

 

So the P-38 does have a minimum single-engine control speed, though it is much lower than for the Mosquito. It is possible for a P-38L to lose an engine while flying slower than the minimum single-engine control speed, and in such cases, the pilot should shut down the working engine and land straight ahead per the Pilot's Manual.

 

Hojutsuka

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Some random thoughts...

 

One of the big early problems with the P-38 was that it was not designed for mass production. The early proposal (pre-war) was for 50 a/c. They were to have been essentially hand-made. Redesigning for mass production while the Army was screaming for planes and modifications were being ordered was a tremendous headache. For example, the supercharger intercooler on the early models was a complex, delicate system that had ducting running out to the wingtips and back, along the leading edges.

 

As for engine-out performance, the counter-rotating props gave the Lightning a safety advantage, especially on takeoff. Because of this feature, the P-38 lacked a "critical engine". Most twins have both props turning the same direction (for American a/c, they appear to turn clockwise from behind). This means that one propeller (the right one for US planes) will produce more thrust than the other. If the non-critical engine (left in US) fails in a takeoff configuration, the tendency to roll/yaw into the dead engine can be much more violent than if the other engine dies. This tendency is what makes twins a killer in the hands of an unprepared pilot. The P-38 or other counter-rotating twin does not have a critical engine, so yaw/roll will be the same (relatively gentle) in either direction, if either engine quits.

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Most of the P-38 problems have been discussed, now let's check the cost of each fighter:

 

P-51 -55109.75

 

P-47 -98335.40

 

P-38 – 114351.30

 

The P-51 was half the price! and it certainly did the job.

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An obvious statement, but how is it relevant?

 

I was replying to Skip, who appeared to have problems understanding that an engine failure on takeoff or landing is safer in a single-engine plane than in a normal twin-engine propeller plane.  I chose to illustrate the problem using the Mosquito since that plane is fairly well known to have a high minimum single-engine control speed. But all high-powered twin-engine aircraft with the engines and propellers on the wings have this problem (a few twins with unusual configurations that put both propellers on the center line do not suffer from this problem, two examples being the Do 335 and the old Cessna Skymaster).  Some are less dangerous than others, but even your P-38 has the problem.  See

 

http://home.worldonline.dk/winthrop/ethel1.html

 

which is an NTSB report on the crash of a restored P-38L on June 6, 1997.

 

If you look at the synopsis, under "Probable Cause" it says:

In the full narrative, under "Aircraft Information", it says:

So the P-38 does have a minimum single-engine control speed, though it is much lower than for the Mosquito.  It is possible for a P-38L to lose an engine while flying slower than the minimum single-engine control speed, and in such cases, the pilot should shut down the working engine and land straight ahead per the Pilot's Manual.

 

Hojutsuka

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You Have now argued both sides of a argument to prove I have problems understanding. When you understand how you did this I may respond. Untill then we are both allowed opinons. You have yours and I have mine.

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I should know the answer to this, but . . . Why was the Me-110 so bad? Would it have been any better if it had been designed with twin tail booms? Was this another instance where Hitler insisted that the original design be modified to make it into a dive bomber?

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Me 110 was not a bad aircraft per se. From Warbirds page:

 

During the War the Bf 110 Zerstörer had it's moments of great victory, and moments of terrible losses. The first version to see action was the Bf 110C-1 in the Polish campaign that started World War 2. The Zerstörer had such advantage in firepower and performance that it had not much opposition from the slow but agile Polish fighters. Nevertheless, in fighter vs Fighter engagements it didn't live up to expectations fully. As a bomber-interceptor, however, the heavy armament and good performance, and it's agility that was better than it's opponents, the Zerstörer excelled. During one mission in December 1939 a couple of Zerstörers were responsible for the destruction of 12 out of 24 Vickers Wellingtons over Heligoland. These bombers were unescorted, and no match for the powerfull Zerstörer.

During the Battle of Britain the flaws of the 'Heavy Fighter' concept showed in fighter vs fighter engagements. During the Battle the Bf 110's were easy meat for the Hurricanes and Spitfires. It must be noted however that when the Zerstörer would perform a "Freie Jagd" or Fighter Sweep, it outperformed the Hurricanes and Spitfires. It was not until Hermann Göring ordered the escorting fighters to stay close to the bombers that the Bf 110 suffered it's severest losses. The Zerstörer was an aircraft that needed speed to work with, and a close escort robbed it of this advantage.

Later in the War it was often effectively used as a night-fighter. The layout of the aircraft, and the fact that multiple seats were available meant it could easily be fitted with radar equipment and operators, while still maintaining a reasonable good performance. De Havilland Mosquitoes where it's most dangerous adversaries at that time.

Although it might sometimes sound as iff the Bf 110 was a bad aircraft please be aware that it was in fact not so. Of the twin-engined aircraft it was one with the longest history (1939-1945), and in the beginning it had decisive advantages over enemy single-engine fighters. In the JaBo role it was also put to good use by the Luftwaffe, and as night-fighter it filled a desperate gap quite well.

 

Strengths:

 

* Good performance

* Excellent armament

* Good agility for a twin-engined aircraft

 

Weaknesses:

 

* Inadequate maneuverability to escape from single-engined enemy fighters.

* Handling characteristics

* Inadequate performance later in the war

* Marginal defensive armament

 

One I put in bold was the key factor. While fast for it's time,weight, wing-load etc made it unwieldy versus single-engined fighter.

Edited by Sardaukar
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You Have now argued both sides of a argument to prove I have problems understanding.  When you understand how you did this I may respond.

I have looked over my posts, and I cannot see that I have been arguing both sides of an argument.

 

To summarize, I believe that the following are true:

 

1. A conventional twin engine propeller aircraft (one with an engine-propeller combination on right wing and left wing) has an asymmetric thrust when one engine fails.

 

2. To keep the aircraft under control, the pilot must be able to overcome the effects of asymmetric thrust using his flight controls.

 

3. Since the force exerted by the flight control surfaces increases as the air speed increases, this means that the air speed must be above a minimum, which is known as single engine minimum control speed, or safety speed, or minimum control speed, or VMC, et cetera. Below this speed, the asymmetric thrust will rapidly pull you into a yaw/roll towards the dead engine, then into a spin, no matter what you do with your controls. The only way to avoid this is to eliminate the asymmetric thrust.

 

4. If a conventional twin engine propeller aircraft suffers an engine failure while below single engine minimum control speed, the pilot should immediately shut down the good engine. If he succeeds in doing this, the pilot will have no power but will be able to retain control of the aircraft (he is in an equivalent position to a pilot of a single engine aircraft which has an engine failure). He can now try to land straight ahead.

 

5. In the stress of the emergency, it is not always easy for the pilot to understand that he must shut down the good engine*. Failure to shut down the good engine typically results in loss of control and more destructive crash. See for example the loss of N7973, a restored P-38L, on June 6, 1997, that I referred to in my post #86. Since not all pilots respond appropriately and rapidly to every emergency, an engine failure in a twin below single engine minimum control speed is actually more dangerous than an engine failure in a single engine plane.

 

If you understood all this from the beginning, my apologies. Your post #78 sounded as if you did not believe that an engine failure in a twin below single engine minimum control speed is more dangerous than an engine failure at the same air speed in a single engine plane.

 

The rest of my postings, about Mosquitos and P-38s, were supporting evidence.

 

Note that everything I have posted is something of a simplification. The single engine minimum control speed varies for each plane because it depends on engine power, how far out on the wing the propeller is located, size of fin and flight controls, et cetera (and if you want to be very picky, with aircraft weight and drag, throttle settings, and wing configuration i.e. flaps). The Mosquito had a high single engine minimum control speed, so was more dangerous than the P-38L which had a much lower VMC. But basically all conventional twin propeller planes have minimum control speeds below which an engine failure is dangerous and needs to be addressed by shutting down the good engine to eliminate asymmetric thrust.

 

Now, I have reviewed my posts on this thread and cannot see where I am arguing "both sides of a argument". If you still think this, please explain. I am willing to be enlightened.

 

Hojutsuka

 

* As an example of how pilots can make mistakes under stress, look at the crash of the C-5B at Dover AFB on April 3rd of this year. It started when the warning light came on for the No. 2 engine, showing that the thrust reverser was not locked. As inadvertant deployment of the thrust reverser in flight would be dangerous, the crew appropriately declared an emergency, shut down No. 2 engine to minimize consequences if the thrust reverser did deploy, and turned back for an emergency landing on runway 32. When advancing the throttles in preparation for the landing, the pilot in command advanced throttles for engines 1, 2, and 4, leaving No. 3 engine (which was functioning normally) at flight idle. The mistake went undetected, even though the pilot in the right seat who was flying the aircraft was a certified C-5 flight instructor, the pilot in the left seat was a C-5 flight examiner, there was yet another pilot on the jump seat, and there was in addition a flight engineer, ALL of whom should have caught the error...

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As for engine-out performance, the counter-rotating props gave the Lightning a safety advantage, especially on takeoff.  Because of this feature, the P-38 lacked a "critical engine".  Most twins have both props turning the same direction (for American a/c, they appear to turn clockwise from behind).  This means that one propeller (the right one for US planes) will produce more thrust than the other.

Isn't the "critical engine" a matter of torque rather than thrust? I do not see a propeller+engine combination changing the amount of thrust it produces just because you moved it from one wing to the other.

 

On the other hand, torque from an engine turning clockwise on the right wing will tend to roll the plane left, so reinforcing the yaw/roll from asymmetric thrust if the left engine dies.

 

If the non-critical engine (left in US) fails in a takeoff configuration, the tendency to roll/yaw into the dead engine can be much more violent than if the other engine dies.  This tendency is what makes twins a killer in the hands of an unprepared pilot.  The P-38 or other counter-rotating twin does not have a critical engine, so yaw/roll will be the same (relatively gentle) in either direction, if either engine quits.

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This only works if the engine on the right wing turns counterclockwise and the one on the left wing turns clockwise. If you have them the other way round, you still have counter-rotating propellers and hence torque cancellation while both engines are running, but if the left engine dies, you have only the clockwise engine on the right wing working, i.e. the same situation as if both engines were clockwise and you lost the non-critical (left) engine.

 

Hojutsuka

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During one mission in December 1939 a couple of Zerstörers were responsible for the destruction of 12 out of 24 Vickers Wellingtons over Heligoland.

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This must be the "Battle of Heligoland Bight", December 18, 1939. But there were more than a couple of Zerstoerers involved on the German side. Aside from the Me 110's of I/ZG 76, there were the Bf 109's of II/JG 77 and 10/JG 26 plus two Bf 109 from Jagdgruppe 101. "The Luftwaffe War Diaries" by "Cajus Bekker" mentions 8 Me 110 pilots in the battle, so at least that many Me 110's took part. Initial German claims were 15 for the Me 110's of I/ZG 76 and 17 for the Bf 109's of the other units for a total of 32. Obviously there was many duplicate claims (to put it charitably), but if the Me 110 pilots and the Bf 109 pilots overclaimed to the same extent, the 8 or more Me 110's shot down 6 or less Wellingtons.

 

Otherwise, I agree with your overall assessment of the Me 110. A very useful aircraft, even though it was not able to match the best single engined fighters in air combat.

 

Hojutsuka

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This only works if the engine on the right wing turns counterclockwise and the one on the left wing turns clockwise.  If you have them the other way round, you still have counter-rotating propellers and hence torque cancellation while both engines are running, but if the left engine dies, you have only the clockwise engine on the right wing working, i.e. the same situation as if both engines were clockwise and you lost the non-critical (left) engine.

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Right, production P-38's had a righthand (clockwise viewed from behind) engine on the right wing and a lefthand engine on the left wing, so essentially had two critical engines, relative to the one critical engine on twins with two righthand or two lefthand engines, and no critical engine with lefthand engine on the right wing and righthand on the left. The plane was designed the latter way but adverse flow interactions caused the change.

 

Joe

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Most of the P-38 problems have been discussed, now let's check the cost of each fighter:

 

P-51 -55109.75

 

P-47 -98335.40

 

P-38 – 114351.30

 

The P-51 was half the price! and it certainly did the job.

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I can understand the Mustang and Lightning cost differential, but why is the Thunderbolt so expensive ? I realise that shear weight comes into it, but that is still quite a premium over the Mustang.

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The pistons and crankshaft don't care which direction they spin.  So long as the cam shaft, magneto, oil, fuel,  and water pumps are set up for "reverse rotation", (as well as the starter motor, if any....), all you would need to change in the reduction gears is the lash.

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No argument. But for mass production a layshaft in the reduction gear seems to have been the easier solution - at least RR thought so for the Hornet.

 

shane

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On 10 June 1944 1st and 82nd lost 22 P-38's on disastrous fighter bomber missions in Ploesti area mainly to fighters with few claims.

 

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Joe, funny you should mention that. I just picked up a Purple Heart to a 71st FS pilot who was killed on that mission. The story I got was the 71st FS was flying escort for other P-38's to Ploesti, when they spotted a formation of Romanian Dorniers (?). When they bounced the Romanian bombers, they in turn were bounced by Romanian IAR-80 fighters. I haven't had the chance to order the MACR, so I don't know if there is any truth to that or not.

 

Do you have any suggestions on sources to check out that story?

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  • 2 weeks later...
Joe, funny you should mention that.  I just picked up a Purple Heart to a 71st FS pilot who was killed on that mission.  The story I got was  the 71st FS was flying escort for other P-38's to Ploesti, when they spotted a formation of Romanian Dorniers (?).  When they bounced the Romanian bombers, they in turn were bounced by Romanian IAR-80 fighters.  I haven't had the chance to order the MACR, so I don't know if there is any truth to that or not.

 

Do you have any suggestions on sources to check out that story?

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I was quoting Rust "Fifteenth AF Story" pg 28. According to this the 1st FG, 39 a/c, was providing escort (82nd FG carrying bombs). The 71st FS came across and shot down 6 "German bombers" over an airfield but were then jumped from two sides by waves of Fw190's. Lt. Herbert B. Hatch claimed 5 but was the only 71st pilot to return. The group lost 14 P-38's and claimed 20 a/c.

 

The 82nd lost 8 claiming 3 in the air and 3 on the ground.

 

Osprey Aces No. 54 "Rumanian Aces of WWII" by Bernad has an account from the Axis side (starting p. 48): The low flying formation (of P-38's) was still detected in time by radar and lost surprise. He concludes the 1st FG elements were intercepted by IAR 80/81's (indigenous Romanian radial, could be mistaken for Fw190) of Grupul 6 Vanatoare. They claimed 23 P-38's, 3 Romanian pilots were killed and one wounded.

 

He concludes the 82nd was engaged by Grupul 7 Vanatoare Bf109G's and 64 Bf 109G's and 2 Fw 190's of I./JG 53 and III./JG 77. He gives the Romanian and German claims as 5 and 15 P-38's respectively. The Germans lost 1 Bf109. A total of 14 Romanian a/c were destroyed including Grupul 6's losses, and "non combatant types" surprised by the P-38's in the air (perhaps the "bombers") and on the ground. He says later claims were downgraded to 18 P-38's by a/c and 7 by flak, not clear if that's Romanian claims only.

 

Another source is the OKL claims list which gives 13 + 5 supplementary P-38 claims by JG 53 and 77, plus another by JG 301 (presumably the couple of Fw190's) and two by an a/c (presumably Bf110) of NJG 6, one by the pilot, one by the gunner, over Romania on June 10, '44.

 

Joe

Edited by JOE BRENNAN
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Many German pilots discovered, to their demise and dismay, that P-38 indeed could out-turn their planes in low level turning fight. That was quite a surprise for Germans who were used to see unwieldy twin-engine planes like Me-110.

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The 110 actually had a remarkably small turning circle, it was smaller than the mosquito and according to stories i've heard but have no data for, smaller than hurricanes and spits circa 1940. It was its piss-poor roll rate that did it in.

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