A confused P-38 fanboy...

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by NiceShotAustin, Feb 22, 2012.

  1. NiceShotAustin

    NiceShotAustin New Member

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    Ahem... well I'm a bit new here so forgive me of any ignorance that I post :). Anyways, as you can tell by the title, I'm a big P-38 fanboy. It'll likely always be my favorite aircraft as it simply looks awesome! BUT, with that said, I want to take the following topic as neutrally as possible. I have read threads on this forum regarding the P-38. Some talk as if the P-38 is the solution to all the world's problems (war, poverty, disease, etc), and some talk as if it's as useless as the LWS-6 Zubr. Naturally, with the P-38 being my favorite aircraft in history, I'd like to know how it actually performed and stacked up to other planes. I'm hoping that I can kind-of narrow down the list of contradicting statements I've read. Best regards
     
  2. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Welcome aboard Austin, can't say a tremendious amount about the P-38 beyond it was there when needed and the Top American Ace flew it.
     
  3. Aaron Brooks Wolters

    Aaron Brooks Wolters Well-Known Member

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    I do know it did better in the Pacific Theater than it did in the European Theater. Not sure why.
     
  4. TheMustangRider

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    There has really been such irrational posting in the forums or is it just a little bit of sarcastic humor :?::lol:
    I'm not a P-38 expert (then again, I'm far from being a specific WWII warbird expert :lol:) but my .02 cents regarding the subject is that the Lightning was quite a complex piece of equipment and one that pushed its designers into an unknown field of aeronautics in order to resolve its teething issues, which, delayed the aircraft from having a major impact during the early days of the USAAF in the war (1942,1943).
    The P-38 was not a failure by any means and one can see the success it achieved in the PTO and MTO operating in better conditions than the ones encountered in the ETO.
     
  5. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    The P38 was designed from the beginning as an interceptor, not a fighter in the classic sense. This handicapped it to some degree for when it was pushed'into an escort fighter; a role for which it wasn't intended.

    What made the P38 so good in the Pacific was its extreme range and high speed. It outclassed all of the Japanese fighters pretty much to the end of the war.

    The P38 was used to good effect in the MTO.

    The P38 made an excellent photo recon airplane.

    The failings of the P38 as the premier fighter in the 8th AF are numerous and well documented. But it was simply a matter of its compressibility issues and cold weather engine failures being solved well after the P51 was being introduced in quantity.
     
  6. NiceShotAustin

    NiceShotAustin New Member

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    Take most of what I say with a punch of salt ;)
     
  7. NiceShotAustin

    NiceShotAustin New Member

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    Yeah it does seem as if the major problems with the Lightning weren't solved till late J/L variants. But I do have to ask on a side note: would the P-51 have been just as effective as/better than the P-38 in the lower altitude encounters of the PTO?
     
  8. MikeGazdik

    MikeGazdik Member

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    In a word, yes the P-51 could have performed, but only the Merlin versions and they were not available when the earlier models of the P-38's were already fighting in the Pacific. But, the psychological comfort of having a second engine on the long over-water flights make the P-38 more affective in my opinion. Like you, the Lightning is one of my favorites, but I try to be objective. I still believe that the late J model, and certainly the P-38L can take on any other WWII fighter in a dogfight.
     
  9. Dcazz7606

    Dcazz7606 Member

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    Hi Austin,
    A great book about the P-38 is by Warren Bodie appropriatly called The Lockheed Lightning. It has just about everything you need about all aspects of the plane. I keep it in my bathroom library and always find a new fact.
     
  10. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    The P-38 accelerated quite well, having the best combat acceleration in the US inventory. It had a great rate of climb and could turn VERY well for a big aircraft. It was not a great rolling aircraft until the J model introduced hydraulic ailerons. After that, it could roll with any American fighter. When deployed in Europe, the issues were several.

    It had both superchargers and turbochargers, the only American fighter powered by V-1710 Allisons to be so equipped, and had no trouble getting to high altitude and fighting there. The P-47 also had both a supercharger and a turbocharger, but was powered by the Pratt Whitney R-2800 radial.

    The P-38's engines were happy on American gasoline, but not very happy on European gasoline. American gasoline had less than 4% aromatics in it and the European fuels had 12 – 18% or more aromatics. So the P-38 mixture controls were not quite right for the fuel used in it. As a result, it had high-altitude engine issues in European use until the problem was figured out. This was corrected, but only after the P-51 made an appearance in numbers, and proved longer-ranged to boot. Unsurprisingly, European fighters that were sent to the USA had reliability issues using American gasoline, too.

    A much bigger issue in Europe was the poor cabin heater, which caused P-38 pilots no end of discomfort. Try being COLD for hours and then have to fight when attacked! To check it out, walk outside when it is zero degrees in a long sleeve shirt, walk around for two hours, and then try to play ping pong.

    Anyway, the P-38 did well in the MTO and excellently in the PTO, being the mount for the two top American aces (Richard Bong, 40 kills, and Tommy McGuire, 38 kills). The P-38 was used in all theaters and was in use by the USA during the entire war, like the Spitfire for Great Britain, the Me 109 for Germany, and the Mitsubishi A6M Zero for Japan.

    Currently there are seven airworthy P-38’s in the world. We have two of them based at Chino, California, U.S.A., and recently had five flying together for a formation picture. It was the largest gathering of P-38’s since the 1950’s. The shop where I work is currently overhauling the left engine for Glacier Girl, Rod Lewis’ Lockheed P-38F, rescued from under 298 feet of ice in Greenland by Bob Cardin, and currently flying quite well and frequently for Mr. Lewis, with Bob Cardin being the “crew chief.”
     
  11. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    #11 tomo pauk, Feb 23, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2012
    Some things were up to the training experience. US fighter pilots (not only them) were trained to fly single engined planes, and they had no problems flying them at max of 360 mph. The twin engined plane that can fly almost circa 400 mph was something completely different. The P-38, unlike the P-40, could go fast high enough to encounter compressibility very easy.
    Another thing, related to training, was that novice pilots were cruising at low manifold pressure and high RPM. That, when flying at 25000+ ft, was leading to overcooling*, so the fuel was puddling and engines were easily damaged/destroyed. Allison, Lockheed Charles Lindbergh were advising pilots to fly with low rpm and high manifold pressure, the easy cure for the problem.

    Main issues for P-38 were lousy cabin heater, only one generator in earlier models, low roll rate, esp at low speed, before the boosted ailerons were installed. The twin boom configuration had many blind spots for pilot's eyes.
    The non-availability of the second source of P-38s was banning, in practice, any major upgrade to be carried on, but that was not something to blame the designers.

    The pluses were the great performance early on, great combat range, god punch ammo count, better climber than most of the US planes.

    * addition: the air/fuel mixture was overcooled, not that engine itself was overcooled
     
  12. Thorlifter

    Thorlifter Well-Known Member

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    Question regarding the P-38 range.

    To maximize it's range, did it perform better with a feathered engine or just running both on "cruise control"?
     
  13. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    When flying on one engine you need to trim both rudder/s and ailerons to get level and straight flight. The increased drag usually trumps any fuel savings from shutting down the second engine ( two engines giving 500hp or one engine giving 1000hp?).

    The next problem is can you start the second engine when you want to? A lot of people tried towed or carried (over or below) fighter schemes to overcome short range and one of the big stumbling blocks was getting the fighter engines to start after several hours of non-running flight, essentially a cold soak at several dozen degrees below 0.
    Granted a lot of P-38s made it back from combat missions one one engine over hundreds of miles but heading towards the combat zone (or trying to fly the Atlantic) with engine running and even a 10-20% chance of the 2nd one not starting when needed doesn't sound good. ;)
     
  14. NiceShotAustin

    NiceShotAustin New Member

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    Thanks for all the good points guys. And tomo, this part of your response really caught my eye. I do recall reading a few things about the P-38-K. The thing sounded like a real winner, but the govt/USAAF was unwilling to delay the production of P-38s
     
  15. marshall

    marshall Member

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    Hey don't make fun of Zubr, it wasn't useless just PZL 37 was much better. ;)

    Regarding the P-38 I think it's one of the best looking ww2 fighter planes, and it was a great fighter, especially good as interceptor (as was said above it was designed as an interceptor) the problem is that USAAF didn't have much enemy aircrafts to intercept, so P-38 couldn't be used for what it was the best.
     
  16. evangilder

    evangilder "Shooter"
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    The P-38 had early teething problems, but many of them were worked out by the wars end. It is quite a site to see one fly. Chino in 2007 had three of them up.

    DSC_0143.jpg

    DSC_0461.jpg

    DSC_0463.jpg
     
  17. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    #17 tomo pauk, Feb 23, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2012
    Out the top of my head there are 2 significant books about the P-38, one by W. Bodie, and another by Cristy and Ethell. Bodie's book cover the backgound of the P-38s in a voluminous way, and another book is aimed more about 'real stuff'. You might also want to check out the 'America's Hundred thousands' book, specially the section about P-38.

    BTW, do not believe Bodie when he says that early Allisons had epicyclic reduction gear, nor that Allison was incapable to build more engines prior 1941. His comments about the supposed ugliness of Gloster's twin engined fighter are also to be skipped. The statement about MS.406 and D.520 (French fighters) being lightly armed (despite 20mm cannon aboard) and of light protection (in the time when almost nobody was flying well protected planes) is also best if left aside.
     
  18. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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  19. Dcazz7606

    Dcazz7606 Member

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    The biggest problem (gov'ts view) was another delay because the HS hi activity propeller hub would require a 1 1/2 inch larger dia. spinner and the enlargement of the dia. around the engine and air intakes. The gov't wouldn't accept another delay like the one with the H model which was an unintended model. The slow developement of the J style engine egg forced the H model which used the J engines but kept the early intercoolers which were inadequate from the F,G models.
    The K would have been a tough opponent. Too bad! If Lockheed had a second production facility early on the K could very well have been produced. P-80 may have been ready earlier as well.
     
  20. Elmas

    Elmas Active Member

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    #20 Elmas, Feb 23, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2012
    Don't mind, propably less confused than the Pilot of this P38, that landed at the wrong side of the front line, 1943......

    The airfield ( now farmland) is only a few miles from my house.

    Lockheed_p38j_catturato (1).jpg

    The 12 of June, 1943 a lonely P-38 landed at Capoterra airfield on southern Sardinia. The Italians on the airfield cannot believe what was happening. A soldier, quickly, move a car just on the front of the aircraft to prevent a restart. The P-38's pilot was opening the canopy when he realize that he had landed on the wrong place. He tried to take off but it was too late to do it and he was captured. The pilot - his identity is unknown - was flyng from Malta to Gibraltar ( other sources says he was flyng from Tunis to Pantelleria ) to deliver a bag containing documents and mail. He landed at Capoterra almost out of fuel after a long trip above the Mediterranean Sea . Later was found a compass failure resulting in 30 degrees error on the route . The P-38 was probably an E model upgraded to G models. Voices says that last four digits of the serial number were 2278. The US insignia was covered with Italian Dark Green paint who was a bit darker respect the US Olive Drab. Then were applied white bands on the booms, Sabaudian crosses on the tails and spinners was painted in white. The Lightning was tested at Guidonia Experimental Center near Rome and later was used against US bombers. The Col. Angelo Tondi - a skilled Italian pilot - flyng with the P-38 shoot down a US B-24 Liberator off Anzio coast at 11am of August 11, 1943, six of B-24's crew bailed out from the aircraft . The Italian Lightning had a no long flyng career because the German synthetic fuel used by Italians corroded P-38's fuel tanks and the aircraft was forced to stay on the ground, but US reports says that B-17s bombers were attacked by two P-38s on early September 1943. During another mission a damaged US P-38 was flyng close to US bombers needing protection. The bomber's gunners, thinking he was the " enemy " P-38, shoot down the aircraft.

    More photos here
    http://forum.1cpublishing.eu/showthread.php?t=18940
     
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