The Gray Eagles - A great story of the P-51 and those who flew them

The Gray Eagles - A great story of the P-51 and those who flew them
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The P51 was the most versatile fighter plane of WW2. It excelled at both
ground level support of the troops and high altitude long range fighter
cover for the heavy bombers. It was the equal of the best fighter planes
dog fights. It was also an accident of fate or timing rather than planning
that it existed.

In late 1940 or early '41 Britain was desperately short of fighter planes of
any sort and had sent some RAF people to the US to see what they could buy.
Hoping for some P-40's, they talked with Curtis Wright and found them booked
up for the duration by the US government. They got a tip from Curtis Wright
that North American Aviation had no contracts yet and was looking for
business and that Curtis Wright would license North American to build P-40's
if they worked out an agreement. When the RAF asked the North American
small management crew if they would be interested their answer was " Why do
you want to buy an expensive high priced obsolete plane that would take well
over a year to start any production when we have a new design worked out and
can have a prototype ready for RAF test flights in 9 months if you can get
us an engine for it from Allison". They were, they could, and they did a
deal and were very happy with the performance of the prototype and placed a
production order.

When this news worked its way through to the Army Air Force, they decided to
look into the possibilities and eventually ordered a production run that
wound up as the A-36 low level fighter. The Allison V 12 was the only
non-radial combat aircraft engine built in the USA and, unlike the Rolls
Royce Merlin engine and the German ME bf109, it did not have a supercharge
which was essential for combat above 15,000 ft altitude as well as top
performance at lower altitudes. After the RAF had a few months experience
with the new plane the RAF did the obvious thing and grafted a Rolls Royce
Merlin engine from a Spitfire onto one of their "P-51's" (don't remember
what the RAF called their version of the planes). At this time the RAF got
the North American crew on board the update and they soon found out that
Packard Motor Company in the US was building Rolls Royce engines for the PT
Boats of the Navy. Packard was happy to add Merlin engines for North
American to their production runs and the P-51 was officially launched.

One of the benefits of NA being small and nearly broke was that the design
engineers had to do double duty as production engineers so they designed the
plane for simple and fast as well as low cost production.

At that time the conventional practice was to build the airframe and then
have people crawl inside to string all the wires and cables and this more
than doubled the assembly time and cost. North American designed the
fuselage in two half shells and had the electrical, hydraulic and control
cables etc installed in each half prior to sewing the halves together. The
P-51 cost about one third the cost of the P-38 and about half the cost of
the P-47 or F6F Navy planes.

*This is really a great story . . . about an airplane and the man who flew

*The video has great resolution and should be watched in "Full Screen", to
do so, click on the box with the arrow coming out of it in the lower right
corner of the video presentation*

It is not necessary to sign in or have an account to view this video. Run
time is 28 minutes so don't be in a hurry!

This video is well worth watching. Lots of WWII history. Enjoy........

More From samD


7 years 4 weeks ago, 5:00 PM


Schuyler's picture

Join Date:
Nov 2008
Bainbridge Island, Washington, United States

on the Military Channel. Chuck Yeager was one of the pilots. They even took on the German jets and clobbered them.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke
7 years 4 weeks ago, 7:33 AM


HampsterW's picture

Secretary of State
Join Date:
Jan 2010
Cottonwood Heights, Utah, United States
Excellent post sam,

that video really was "most excellent".

Change you can truly believe in comes from the barrel of a gun---------------------------------------------------------------------------------Ron Paul 2012----Vote the bastards out!---------------------------------
samD's picture
Posted by: samD
7 years 4 weeks ago

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