Air & Space Airshow Spotter's Guide
You know how to tell a Viper from a Hornet, but does your airshow-newbie friend? Here are recognition tips, bite-size histories, specs and info links for the airplanes most likely to appear at airshows this year.
- By airspacemag.com
- AirSpaceMag.com, April 01, 2012
Illustrations by Harry Whitver
How to recognize: Long nose, low wing, and big air scoop faired under the fuselage, just aft of the wings.
Claim to fame at airshows: Frequently featured in U.S. Air Force Heritage Flights, the Mustang also stars in a three-ship aerobatic act known as the Horsemen.
Claim to fame in service: The P-51 became known as the “little friend” to long-range bomber crews on daylight strikes into hostile territory in World War II, with its quick, nimble response to enemy intercepts.
Mission: Bomber escort fighter, as well as low-level close ground support, earning some 4,590 air kills and 4,131 ground kills in World War II.
Performance and specifications: Initial models ran 32.35 feet long and weighed 6,280 pounds empty, cruising at 300 to 325 mph with the later and most powerful variants reaching 487 mph at full gallop 487 mph, and a service ceiling that peaked at 41,600 ft to maneuver atop enemy bombers.
Main variants: More than 15,000 units were built from 1940 through 1945. Model P-51D/K was the most numerous, with its iconic bubble canopy and brutally powerful Rolls-Royce Merlin V-12 engine which replaced the Allison beginning with the Model B/C. Incremental enhancements to powerplant, armament and avionics were made to successive models, before its hull was substantially lightened and 90 percent of the original parts updated or replaced to form the model H. A prototype model P-51G was tested and soon after the models L and M, but the war wound to a close and the variants were not built.