Skip to content

Lockheed P-38 Lightning — a pair a continent apart

22 January 2014

Lockheed P-38 Lightning — a pair a continent apart

The Lockheed P-38 Lightning at the National Air & Space Museum Steven F Udvar-Hazy Center:

Lockheed P-38 Lightning — photo by Joseph May

Lockheed P-38 Lightning at the NASM Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center — photo by Joseph May

Famed aircraft designer Lawrence “Kelly” Johnson designed the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, beginning a fantastic career of innovation and creation. The Lightning had its start in 1936 and was leagues ahead of other fighter aircraft of the day with its long range, high speed and heavy armament. Thoroughly modern looking by today’s standards it is hard to imagine the impact felt within the aviation community back in the day of the P-38 Lightning’s debut.

Lockheed P-38 Lightning — photo by Joseph May

Lockheed P-38 Lightning’s fuselage pod and left engine — photo by Joseph May

Lockheed P-38 Lightning — photo by Joseph May

Lockheed P-38 Lightning under the wing of the “Enola Gay” — photo by Joseph May

P-38 pilots were among the first to experience what was initially the phenomena termed compressibility as they were the first to experience transonic speeds (during steep dives) with the effect of rendering the elevator almost entirely useless. Compressibility was, in fact, air no longer smoothly flowing over the wing and creating an area of turbulence downstream which enveloped the rear control surfaces. Since air was not smoothly flowing over these surfaces they became ineffective. Other aerodynamic effects also occurred (e.g., shift in the center of pressure) but were mostly resolved with the addition of dive flaps which restored control by reshifting the center of pressure.

Lockheed P-38 Lightning — photo by Joseph May

Lockheed P-38 Lightning’s aerodynamically clean design absent of the struts and open bay cockpits which were common in the late 1930s when the Lightning debuted — photo by Joseph May

The Lightning excelled in the Pacific Theater of Operations (PTO) but less so in Europe where the high altitude arctic cold adversely affected engine performance and lack of adequate cockpit heating made for pilot unresponsiveness. The lower combat altitudes and incredibly long over-water distances of the PTO played to the P-38’s strong suit as well as in the Mediterranean area. The nose mounted guns (4 x 0.50″ machine guns and 1 x 20mm cannon) also made for increased effective range since convergence (as is required on wing mounted machine guns and cannon) was not a factor.

The Lockheed P-38 Lightning at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum:

Lockheed P-38 Lightning — photo by Joseph May

Lockheed P-38 Lightning in the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in livery of the PTO — photo by Joseph May

Lockheed P-38 Lightning — photo by Joseph May

Lockheed P-38 Lightning’s right engine — photo by Joseph May

Advertisements
5 Comments leave one →
  1. 22 January 2014 12:42

    Great minds think alike!

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      22 January 2014 14:25

      Agreed 🙂 I must see the Scarlet Scourge, as well 🙂

  2. william bryant permalink
    22 January 2014 14:33

    the Tillamook air museum in Tillamook, or also has a P38 on display named “Tangerine”

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      23 January 2014 01:07

      Yes, and it is in great flying condition, as well!

  3. emilymainzer permalink
    23 January 2014 01:40

    Nice step by Lockheed to re-modify those antique aircraft’s, more interesting space, military projects are in the hands of Lockheed at present like http://www.airforce-technology.com/features/feature-lockheed-martin-unveils-sr-72-successor-sr-71-spy-plane/.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: