34294 FLIGHT CHARACTERISTICS OF THE LOCKHEED P-38 LIGHTNING FIGHTER

Made by Lockheed during WWII to promote the P-38 Lightning and introduce it to Army Air Force pilots, P-38 FLIGHT CHARACTERISTICS gives an overview of this vaunted aircraft. Interestingly, the film begins with an animated discussion of how to bail out of the aircraft, owing to “hangar talk” that suggested it would be a widow maker. The film features a number of Lockheed test pilots including chief engineering test pilot Lionel Burgess, giving insights into how to handle the P-38. It also contains a number of cartoons, possibly created by the Disney Studios, to illustrate its points.

The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was a World War II American piston-engined fighter aircraft. Developed to a United States Army Air Corps requirement, the P-38 had distinctive twin booms and a central nacelle containing the cockpit and armament. Allied propaganda claimed it had been nicknamed the fork-tailed devil by the Luftwaffe and “two planes, one pilot” by the Japanese, the P-38 was used for interception, dive bombing, level bombing, ground attack, night fighting, photo reconnaissance, radar and visual pathfinding for bombers and evacuation missions and extensively as a long-range escort fighter when equipped with drop tanks under its wings.

The P-38 was used most successfully in the Pacific Theater of Operations and the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations as the aircraft of America’s top aces, Richard Bong (40 victories), Thomas McGuire (38 victories) and Charles H. MacDonald (36 victories). In the South West Pacific theater, the P-38 was the primary long-range fighter of United States Army Air Forces until the appearance of large numbers of P-51D Mustangs, toward the end of the war.

The P-38 was unusually quiet for a fighter, the exhaust muffled by the turbo-superchargers. It was extremely forgiving and could be mishandled in many ways but the rate of roll in the early versions was too slow for it to excel as a dogfighter. The P-38 was the only American fighter aircraft in production throughout American involvement in the war, from Pearl Harbor to Victory over Japan Day. At the end of the war, orders for 1,887 more were cancelled.

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