Bell P-39Q Airacobra 42-19993
Allison V-1710-85, 1710.6 cu in, liquid-cooled V-12
Another former member of The Fighter Collection, this very rare Bell fighter was acquired as a project by TFC in 1994. After a 10 year restoration with Fighter Rebuilders at Chino, California, the P-39 made it's first post-restoration flight with Steve Hinton on 17th June 2004. On 18th June 2004, the P-39 was disassembled and loaded into a shipping container for transport to Duxford, arriving just in time to make it's debut at Flying Legends 2004. It was operated by TFC from Duxford for 5 years before being moved on to Lewis Air Legends in Texas in 2010. One of just two airworthy P-39s in the world at the time, it was a privilege to witness this unique combat veteran fly in the UK. Sadly, I seem to have very few decent photographs of the P-39 in the air, which probably reflects the fact it was little flown outside of Flying Legends each July.
Originally built at the Bell Factory in Buffalo, NY, after a long transit across the Pacific this aircraft was eventually assigned to 82nd Tactical Reconnaissance Group operating from Dobodura, Papua New Guinea in late 1943. It was assigned to pilot Lt Peter McDermott who choose the 'Brooklyn BUM 2nd' moniker along with the shamrock, boxing glove and horse shoe motifs. McDermott eventually flew 139 combat missions, almost all in this aircraft, strafing, dive-bombing and photographing Japanese transports, troops and supplies.
When the unit swapped it's Airacobras for P-40s in September 1944, the veteran P-39s were towed off into the grass where they were cannibalised for parts. 42-19993 was struck off charge from the USAAF in May 1945. It remained sat in the grass at Tadji, Papua New Guinea until it was recovered as a shell to New Zealand in 1974. Roughly bodged up and painted for static display, the P-39 moved around New Zealand and Australia until it was purchased by American collector Don Whittington and shipped back to Florida in 1989. In 1992 it was sold again to the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica, California before it's eventual acquisition by The Fighter Collection in 1994.
© Dave Brenchley Photography