Wooden wheels on P-51

OldGeezer

Airman 1st Class
161
286
Dec 11, 2020
A wartime edition of "Aero Digest" showed something I'd never seen or heard of, the use of wooden wheels on P-51s in production to save on rubber usage. It puts me in mind of WW1 wood-wheeled German aircraft.

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GrauGeist

Generalfeldmarschall zur Luftschiff Abteilung
A great thread covering the wood wheels from 2009:

 

ColFord

Airman 1st Class
140
433
Feb 18, 2010
Canberra
Aren't they A-36 Mustangs?
No. The aircraft in the majority of the photographs shown in the thread above - those with the two large fairings for the 20mm cannon armament in the wing leading edge - are North American NA-91 P-51 Mustang, or Mustang IA in RAF service. They precede the NA-97 A-36A Mustang in the family of the early Allison engine Mustangs.

Sequence of the early Allison engine Mustangs is:
NA-73 Mustang I - 320 built for RAF, plus 2 under terms of contract for USAAC testing as XP-51.
NA-83 Mustang I - 300 built for RAF.
NA-91 P-51 Mustang/Mustang IA - 150 built under Lend Lease for RAF, 98 delivered to RAF, remainder retained for USAAF after Pearl Harbor.
NA-97 A-36A Mustang - 500 built to meet USAAF order. 1 supplied to RAF for trials in UK. 6 loaned to RAF in MTO by USAAF.
NA-99 P-51A Mustang - 1200 ordered for USAAF, 310 delivered, balance of order transferred to first of Merlin engine P-51B production. 50 delivered to RAF as Mustang II in replacement for earlier P-51/Mustang IA not received.

The aircraft in the final assembly line photo look more like NA-99 P-51A aircraft as they do not have the cut outs in the lower nose cowling for the 0.50s fitted to the A-36A and they don't have the cannon fairings of the P-51. Altho could be P-51 before the fairings were fitted to the wing leading edges - hard to tell from the photo but on table in background could be a number of the cannon fairings standing upright on the table ready for installation.

In relation to the wooden wheels, as the various photos show, whilst on the assembly line inside the buildings, the aircraft were fitted with wheels and tyres, this in part to facilitate systems checks and check clearances during construction. When the aircraft had completed major assembly and was then moving to the surface preparation areas and paint bays for painting, so it was going to be outside the buildings and there was the risk of solvents and other chemicals getting on the tyres and wheels, then they were temporarily swapped out for the wooden wheels. Once the external painting and application of markings was completed and the aircraft was being prepared for its first test flight, then the temporary wooden wheels would be removed and the wheels and tyres the aircraft would carry through its test flights and into final acceptance and delivery would be fitted.
 
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herman1rg

Tech Sergeant
1,953
666
Dec 3, 2008
No. The aircraft in the majority of the photographs shown in the thread above - those with the two large fairings for the 20mm cannon armament in the wing leading edge - are North American NA-91 P-51 Mustang, or Mustang IA in RAF service. They precede the NA-97 A-36A Mustang in the family of the early Allison engine Mustangs.

Sequence of the early Allison engine Mustangs is:
NA-73 Mustang I - 320 built for RAF, plus 2 under terms of contract for USAAC testing as XP-51.
NA-83 Mustang I - 300 built for RAF.
NA-91 P-51 Mustang/Mustang IA - 150 built under Lend Lease for RAF, 98 delivered to RAF, remainder retained for USAAF after Pearl Harbor.
NA-97 A-36A Mustang - 500 built to meet USAAF order. 1 supplied to RAF for trials in UK. 6 loaned to RAF in MTO by USAAF.
NA-99 P-51A Mustang - 1200 ordered for USAAF, 310 delivered, balance of order transferred to first of Merlin engine P-51B production. 50 delivered to RAF as Mustang II in replacement for earlier P-51/Mustang IA not received.

The aircraft in the final assembly line photo look more like NA-99 P-51A aircraft as they do not have the cut outs in the lower nose cowling for the 0.50s fitted to the A-36A and they don't have the cannon fairings of the P-51. Altho could be P-51 before the fairings were fitted to the wing leading edges - hard to tell from the photo but on table in background could be a number of the cannon fairings standing upright on the table ready for installation.

In relation to the wooden wheels, as the various photos show, whilst on the assembly line inside the buildings, the aircraft were fitted with wheels and tyres, this in part to facilitate systems checks and check clearances during construction. When the aircraft had completed major assembly and was then moving to the surface preparation areas and paint bays for painting, so it was going to be outside the buildings and there was the risk of solvents and other chemicals getting on the tyres and wheels, then they were temporarily swapped out for the wooden wheels. Once the external painting and application of markings was completed and the aircraft was being prepared for its first test flight, then the temporary wooden wheels would be removed and the wheels and tyres the aircraft would carry through its test flights and into final acceptance and delivery would be fitted.
Ah thanks
 

ColFord

Airman 1st Class
140
433
Feb 18, 2010
Canberra
To put the wooden wheels on the P-51/Mustang IA at the NAA factory into context, included in the photographs taken by Alfred T Palmer when he visited the NAA factory, he took a number of photos showing ways in which the staff at NAA were conserving the use of war critical materials. This included photos of signage around the factory promoting the conservation of rubber and metals, collection bins used to recover scrap metals from the construction processes, and examples of new or different production methods factory workers were using to conserve materials.

When Palmer visited a couple of other aircraft plants and a number of munitions plants, he also took similar photos of how the factories were conserving war critical materials - so there was a secondary and underlying theme to his work and the photographs he took.

In another aviation forum I am a member of, a similar photo of the P-51 Mustang with wooden wheels was recently posted and it was jokingly suggested by one of the members there that the Mustangs with the wooden wheels were part of a secret Mustang order for the Netherlands/Dutch.
 

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