The cockpit was laid out like a Cadillac, and it had a control wheel instead of a stick. It was a favorite especially over the Very Large Pacific Ocean, where it’s two engines were a life saving "insurance policy." All of the above means that this thing was fast, agile, wonderful to fly and fight in. Besides the graceful design, perhaps the other most memorial thing about a P-38 was it was almost silent when it flew, making a kind of 'whooshing' noise. Most people today have never heard that elegant silence because almost all P-38 restorations flying have only retained the loud superchargers, but not the turbos.
The P-38M in the drawing has a cute little blonde ‘devil’ painted on it’s nose (“Why We Fight”) and the black and white “invasion stripes” that Northern Europe P-38’s had since D-Day. The Lightning was so unique and recognizable that it was chosen for actual escort service for the D-Day armada. One old soldier told me a story about seeing his first silver P-38 fly by overhead while he was in the jungles of New Guinea in 1943. He wept with joy at the sight of the incredible fighter because he knew at that moment that the US would win the war.
This design took over 130 hours to draw, has over a million dots and is available in full color on an ash gray Beefy Tee.
This shirt and this web site is dedicated to Bill and Alex Noel, a father and son who always found time to spend a week together at Oshkosh. They passed when their aircraft had a catastrophic engine failure just minutes from their home in Texas. They died doing what they loved and were together at the end. They are missed. I was honored beyond words when I learned that they were laid to rest wearing shirts I had drawn. Their photo is on one of the pages on this web site.
In 1937 the US Army Air Corps issued a requirement for an experimental pursuit plane having the tactical mission of interception and attack of hostile aircraft at high altitudes. Their ‘wish list’ included a 360 mph fighter that could reach 20,000 feet in six minutes. Lockheed’s top designers, Hall Hibbard and “Kelly” Johnson went to work and came up with a design that surpassed the Army’s dreams: The famous P-38 Lightning.
The P-38 Lightning was one of the most distinctive and unique fighter planes in history. It basically had two fuselages, each with it’s own engine, carrying the tail, it had tricycle landing gear, (a novelty in 1939), it’s liquid-cooled Allison engines had special gears that allowed the engines to run in opposite directions, canceling out it’s torque and making takeoffs and landings easier than driving a car. It had electrically driven flaps to overcome the compressibility (high Mach number) problems it encountered in high speed dives.
It’s engines were turbo-supercharged, (which I think means that the white-hot exhaust gases were piped back to drive the General Electric turbo-supercharger, which gave the aircraft amazing performance even at high altitudes. Compressed air from the supercharger was ducted to the turbocharger intercooler under the engine and thence to the gear-driven supercharger at the back of the engine. On each side of the intercooler was an oil radiator, and the engine coolant was piped to 4 radiators halfway back on each side of the tail booms. Air intakes on top of the engine cooled the turbine disc and provided air which could then be heated by the exhaust and piped to the cockpit. OK, now from here it starts to get complicated!)
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