Easiest Warbird to Fly?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Ronald-Reagan, Oct 18, 2008.

  1. Ronald-Reagan

    Ronald-Reagan New Member

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    Hey folks, new guy here. Great site!

    What would you kids say was the easiest warbird to fly? Specifically wondering about U.S., non-trainer, fighter/interceptor type aircraft. For example, how would you rank the following aircraft in terms of "user-friendliness?"

    North American P-51D Mustang
    Republic P-47D Thunderbolt
    Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat
    Curtis P-40E Warhawk (or Kittyhawk if you prefer)
    Bell P-39D Airacobra
    Chance-Vought F4U-4 Corsair
    Lockheed P-38J Lightning

    As I understand it, the Mustang is a sports car with a relatively high stall speed (100mph?) and, as such, requires some skill and respect to fly. And the Corsair (my favorite warbird) flies like a dream, I hear, but requires some serious skill for take-offs and landings... and the nerves to calmly ignore the oil slowly coating the windscreen :lol:

    Being a "tricycle" configuration, the P-38 probably has the best site lines for take-offs and landings, but then you have the whole twin-engine thing to worry about (though certainly a welcomed worry for many fighter pilots).

    But for the average, relatively new pilot... coming from T-6 Texan training, let's say, how would you rank the above aircraft in terms of "user-friendliness" or "ease of operation" overall?

    And for comparison's sake, I don't object to throwing in a Spitfire, Zero, and/or Bf-109 or FW-190. Thanks!


    Fred B.
     
  2. <simon>

    <simon> Member

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    Should've made a poll for this Fred!

    Good question though, i'm thinking maybe the P-47 (my fav) just because for learner or new pilots it can be relatively 'docile' and easy to fly, with a nice wide undercarriage for take offs and landings.

    I think your right about the Mustang and i think the P-40 also took a certain degree of skill to fly. The Corsair would probably be a handful on landing, with that long great nose and the twin wasp radial, not sure about the Hellcat.. How do they perform?

    Anyway cheers,
    Simon
     
  3. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    I do not think anyone can actually chime in on this.

    There is not a single member of this forum, who has flown all of these aircraft to make a comparison.

    Bill has flown the P-51D and that is about it.
     
  4. evangilder

    evangilder "Shooter"
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    Any one of the airplanes can kill a novice, and fast. Even experienced warbird operators have been killed in everything on the list. While I haven't flown any of them, I have been around them long enough to see how they take-off, land and handle approached in crosswinds, etc. I would say the P-39 would be the "easiest" of the list because of the tricycle landing gear and single engine. That alone makes take-offs and landings safer because of visibility. I don't know how it would be CG-wise with the engine behind you, but I have spoken with vets that flew P-38s and P-39s and they liked the way the P-39 flew.

    Too much power on a Mustang will torque-roll the aircraft, even at cruise. On landings, it will kill you fast. Mustangs are beautiful warbirds, but like any older airplane, can be tricky.

    I have heard that a Lightning with an engine out on takeoff or landing can be a real handful. One of my P-38 veteran friends stated that if he had had an engine out in his first 20-30 hours of flying the type, it probably would have killed him.

    Any tail dragger is a pain to taxi. The wide track of the P-47 makes it even trickier on narrower taxiways. That is why you often see the crew chief on the wings for taxiing in the old war movies. It's big and it's heavy too.

    I will add that the narrow track of the landing gear on the spitfire and the 109 make landings quite an experience, and ground loops are much easier to get into with the Spitfire and the 109. Add the off-camber angle of the 109 and you have a real handful.
     
  5. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

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    Hi Ronald,

    >For example, how would you rank the following aircraft in terms of "user-friendliness?"

    Just judging non-systematically from comparisons I've read in various pilot accounts, here's an approximate order:

    Easy:

    - Grumman F8F
    - Bell P-39D Airacobra (unless it spins ...)

    Good:

    - North American P-51D Mustang
    - Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat

    Average (or "good but greater workload/higher forces"):

    - Republic P-47D Thunderbolt
    - Curtis P-40E Warhawk (or Kittyhawk if you prefer)

    Tricky:

    - Chance-Vought F4U-4 Corsair
    - Lockheed P-38J Lightning

    You have to be careful with this kind of comparison though as there is usually considerable disagreement on the impact of about any handling flaw you could imagine.

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     
  6. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    I'd go with a P-39. As far as its spin characteristics - the pilot would have to induce the spin. As long as the aircraft is being flown by the numbers especially "low, slow and dirty" there shouldn't be any problems.
     
  7. Timppa

    Timppa Active Member

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    In accident statistics the P-39 stands out like the proverbial sore thumb, in that it was the most dangerous plane to fly.
    From Army Air Forces Statistical Digest (tables 174 and 214), continental US only :

    ACCIDENT RATES, rate/1000 hours
    Plane deaths accidents wrecked planes
    P-38 0.42 1.54 0.83
    P-39 0.61 2.98 1.33
    P-40 0.20 2.04 0.55
    P-47 0.19 1.28 0.47
    P-51 0.18 1.07 0.46
     
  8. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

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    Hi Timppa,

    >In accident statistics the P-39 stands out like the proverbial sore thumb, in that it was the most dangerous plane to fly.

    Hm, I belive when I looked at these figures, I seemed to notice some amount of random variation between statistics for different periods, so I'm not sure how reliable conclusions from these figures are.

    Additionally, there might be other effects ... for example, it appears possible that the P-39 was used for the training of students fresh off the T-6 to a higher degree than the types that were still in first-line operational service, and you'd expect a higher accident rate from such students, regardless of the plane type.

    Not to say the P-39 might not have been dangerous to fly ... perhaps it was a case of "great characteristics except for the flaw that kills you" ;)

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     
  9. evangilder

    evangilder "Shooter"
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    Yep, a lot of pilots used the P-39 in training, which would obviously make for a higher number. What really sticks out is the P-38. As an operational fighter (which the P-39 really was not), the P-38 is a handful for a novice.
     
  10. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    I've actually been told by Warren Peglar- an RCAF pilot that was on 'exhchange' with dad's group - transitioning from Spit IX to Mustang, that the Spit landed much better than a 51 with much less tendency to ground loop, particularly in a cross wind. I was suprised to hear that but it has been confirmed by other guys that flew both. He said it was literally like being on tracks compared to the 51.

    I have also been told by guys that flew the P-47, P-51 and P-38 that the Jug was more forgiving on take off and landing than the other two.

    Dad liked the Fw 190A(8?) better than the D-9 and Me 109K that he flew after the war but the 190 was a two seater and probably pretty light. He never flew a Spit but he did fly the 47, 38, 40, 39 and liked the 51 far better. I know Hoover feels the same way.

    I don't know how 'like' translates to judgement about ease of flying.

    This is definitely a 'charm school' poll.
     
  11. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    I've been told that the P-40 was notorious for over-heating while on the ground...so the rule was, get moving or get seized.
     
  12. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    That's misleading though - when did those accidents happen? If it was during simulated combat training I would agree. You also have to look at the time frame and compare hours and sorties to get a true perspective of how all these aircraft really compare. I think I seen a table that showed normal ops - take off and landings and the P-38 and P-39 were on top.
     
  13. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    :evil4:
     
  14. mkloby

    mkloby Active Member

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    That is actually not an unusual thing - aircraft like ram air cooling!

    I'm surprised about the P-38 being difficult to fly - seems like it would be on relatively easy to operate. Maybe one day I'll get the chance :lol:
     
  15. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    I'm looking at the chart (table 214) that Timppa mentioned and I see that the figures seem to reflect a total loss number for all continental incidents since it doesn't break the categories down into sub-cats (i.e.: training, combat simulation, transport/ferry, etc).

    Also looks like the biggest killer of pilots was the P-47 while the least goes to the P-51 for the years of 1942 through 1945.

    The chart is here: http://www.usaaf.net/digest/t214.htm

    By the way, check out the numbers of the "Advanced Trainers" category found on the lower half of the chart...
     
  16. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    It's interesting to note that the two fighter a/c with lowest fatality/accident ratio's were the A-36 and P-40 at nearly 1:10 compared to 1:4 for P-38 - implying a lot more ground accidents (ground loops, taxi collisions, etc) for the A-36 and P-40
     
  17. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    No comprehensive twin engine aircraft training early in the war - engine out and you're toast!

    I'd have to say though in looking at a P-38 it seems no more difficualt to fly than any other twin I've seen or flown.
     
  18. Ronald-Reagan

    Ronald-Reagan New Member

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    Wow, you guys are impressive. I realize it was a potentially arguable, perhaps even unanswerable, topic. But I was curious is all. I also understand that any plane can kill you.

    I guess what I was getting at is this: Most fans like the bada$$ fighters like the P-51D, F4U-4, FW-190 and Mark XIV. And if money were no object, one of those is the warbird most would be likely to try and purchase. But maybe that same fan has only ever flown Cessna's and Mooney's.

    So I assume his (or her) first step would be to begin "fighter training" at one of the modern schools specializing in Warbird training... perhaps in a AT-6, right? And then I guess you'd advance to oral training by a current pilot of the type you purchased?

    Since the TF-51 is pretty much the only dual-control fighter in this case, most of your advanced training wouldn't be "hands on," so to speak, would it? Do they use simulators for advanced (F4) Corsair training, for example?

    With thorough and proper training, how much more dangerous would it be to land and fly out of your own private airstrip in, say, a F4 Corsair than in a Cessna 185? Like everything else, I imagine it would get easier with repetition, right? I mean, by the end of his tour the ('43-'44) VMF-214 vet probably thought the Corsair was the easiest plane in the world to fly, eh?

    Anyway, thanks for the comments thus far! It's been very interesting and educational. Btw, didn't the P-39 rely on a long shaft that was known to malfunction on occassion? Could that account for some of the accidents in the data?


    Fred B.
     
  19. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    As I look back in it - one of the more novel things "instructor dad" did with me is teach a hotter landing techniques early with more airspeed over the fence, and keep the tail high for about 1/2 the roll. We did that in the Cessna 140, then the AT-6. At first, I usually landed 'several times' in a 51 with a three point technique but was steadier in the two wheel/tail high landing until I had enough landings to manage both techniques to his satisfaction.

    I suspect the two main differences is that ground effect is less noticable and visibility much better in a 110+ mph tail high landing than a three point at 100-105.

    A decent pilot with good judgement can fly these things - stupidity kiiled more than lack of talent.
     
  20. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    By the way, welcome to the forum, Ronald-Reagan...that's a great name, too!

    I've flown a number of piston powered aircraft in the past without any trouble, but even with a measure of experience, there'll be situations that can cause an incident (such as weather, equipment, and so on) for any pilot regardless of thier skill level.

    I would be willing to bet that a number of those accidents listed would have been from equipment malfunction or tower oversight, etc. But even "clipping" a wing on a roll-out had the possability of making it to an accident report.

    I can honestly say though, that the vast majority of warplanes take a certain set of skills to manage them, as they are rarely like a trainer, and this may have lead to a good number of accidents by thier new pilots through inattention, mishandling, etc.

    As far as I know, the P-39 was pretty dependable and didn't have trouble with the mainshaft. I would figure that if the mainshaft failed, it would injure the pilot due to it's passing under thier seat (it ran through the cockpit much like a rear-wheel drive car's driveshaft does). The one thing I would think that would be a challenge to a new pilot of the P-39, would be the difference in the center of gravity, but beyond that, I'd have to rely on one of the experts here who have far better info than I do :)
     
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