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> P-39 Airacobra in F. A. Portugal
Iamandi
Posted: January 17, 2005 08:08 am
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Some P-39 were intended in Portugal, after they force landed in this country. Sources say 17/19 at total nomber. Portugal neutrality come in a negociation with USA and in the end was an agreement for spare parts (or more planes?) against US pilots. P-400, and P39 L.
Off course, what is on the net is not 100 % right.
Ruy, you can give some information from your sources? Maybe images with portuguese markings P-39?

Thanks,

Iama
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Ruy Aballe
Posted: January 17, 2005 05:34 pm
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During and after Operation Torch, more than 20 P-38 and Airacobras landed in Portugal and Spain, between December 1942 and March 1943.
In what pertains to the Portuguese case, the "Airacobra affaire" started when several stray aircraft flown by young, unexperienced USAAF pilots, landed at Lisbon's airport, although other places are known: one aircraft landed at Granja do Marquês (a military airfield) and another made it at S. Jacinto, a naval base.
According to a Portuguese author, Maj. Gen. Mimoso e Carvalho, the landings at Portela de Sacavém (Lisbon) took place by the following order: on 27 December 1942 (5 planes from the 81st Fighter Group), on 15 January 1943 (2 aircraft from the 81st Fighter Group and 9 from the 350th Fighter Group), and finally, on 8 February 1943 (a single aircraft, from the 350th Fighter Group). The total: 19 planes.
The Portuguese air arm (still part of the Army back then - the Air Force, or Força Aérea Portuguesa was created only in 1952), the Arma de Aeronáutica, got actually 19 Airacobras, which were all taken into the inventory.

The version distribution was as follows:
- 15 Bell P-400 (export designation of the P-39D, or simply Bell Model 14), with four .30 wing-mounted Browing M-2 mgs and a 20mm cannon firing through the propeller's hub. Note: the P-400 didn't have the pair of .50 M-4 mgs fitted in underwing gondolas, as in the P-39D.
- 4 of the P-39L-1BE version, armed with the big 37mm M-4.

The aircraft were first looked upon with a certain degree of suspicion because the Portuguese pilots weren't familiarized with the operation of aircraft with a trycicle undercarriage. There were several accidents, and the aircraft didn't get the same favour among the pilots, as, say, the Hurricane or the Spitfire.

The Airacobras flew little, mostly because it was decided to reserve the best ground crews and technicians to work on the Spitfires and Hurricanes. The serviceability was quite low. The lack of spares also played its part.
The last mention to the Airacobras can be found in an official document, the Ordem de Serviço from B.A. 2 (Base Aérea 2), from 8 February 1948, whereupon components from the P-400 "305" were written off-charge.

Ruy

P.S.: The best reference on the history of the Portuguese Airacobras (an obscure episode, even to the Portuguese themselves!) is an article by José Manuel Correia, published in the Portuguese A.F. official periodical, "Mais Alto" - "Bell Airacobra: um presente dos céus aterrado em Portugal" (Bell Airacobra: a gift from the skies landed in Portugal), July/August 2003, issue no. 344.

This post has been edited by Ruy Aballe on January 17, 2005 05:39 pm
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Ruy Aballe
Posted: January 17, 2005 06:17 pm
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Just a small note about Portuguese P-39/P-400 pictures: the aircraft weren't very popular and perhaps as a consequence of that fact, photos are very rare nowadays. I know only a few, often re-published in sucessive sources.

By the way, Maj. Gen. Mimoso e Carvalho also lists the following accidents:

Airacobra "304" - Accident in August 16, 1943, near Ota causing the death of pilot, 1st Sergeant Augusto Alves Ferreira.

Airacobra "309" - August 26, 1943.

Airacobra "301" - September 15, 1943.

Airacobra "312" - Accident in February 8, 1944 during a training flight.

Airacobra "317" - April 25, 1946.

Forget to add that the 20mm cannon used on the P-400's was a British-made, drum-fed (60 rounds, just as in the case of the French guns) Hispano-Suiza. According to Portuguese archival sources, the firing system differed - Airacobras "300" to "310" had an hydraulic system, but from "311" to "314", the system was of a simpler, mechanical conception.

My good friend and co-author José Miguel Sales Lluch wrote about the other Iberian Airacobras, the ones that landed in Spanish soil. According to his entry on the huge work "Enciclopedia de la Aviación Militar Española", Tome IV, pp. 1117-1120 (Valladolid, Quirón, 2000 to present; Vol. IV ISBN: 84-96016-09-9):

27 December 1942 - Serial BX339; P-400 flown by Lt. Giannini, from the 81st Fighter Group, 12th Air Force. The pilot was forced to land in the Spanish Protectorate of Morocco, in Tánger, because of a sudden fuel shortage. The aircraft was intact and it was immediately interned (as the pilot). On 23 January 1943, the aircraft was still in Tánger but it soon ferried by the Spanish pilot F. Tordesillas to the Tablada airfield and from there to Barajas, in Madrid. It was still there in March 1945, in full flying condition.

5 February 1943 - Serial BX219; P-400/Airacobra I flown by Lt. Clyde H. Williams, from the 350th Fighter Group (347th Fighter Squadron, 12th Air Force). Landed in the vicinity of Navia (Asturias). The aircraft was seriously damaged - almost beyond repair... - and was transferred to Cuatro Vientos.

27 April 1943 - P-39D, flown by a certain William A. Watkins. Landed at the beach of Punta Umbría (Huelva province). This aircraft was seriously damaged due to the rough landing. After its removal from the beach, it was stored at the Cuatro Vientos airfield.

The three aircraft were destroyed because the Allied Control Commision ordered so. The remains - gosh, it seems as if I'm speaking about a corpse! :ph34r: - were offered (!!!) by the U.S. government to the Ejército del Aire on February 1949. End of the story...

Ruy

This post has been edited by Ruy Aballe on January 17, 2005 06:18 pm
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Robert
Posted: February 16, 2005 02:08 am
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Another difference between a P-39 and a P-400, was that the P-400 lacked a super-charger in its engine and was therefor not as fast. Hence the joke from the Pacific theater:

What's a P-400?

It's a P-40 with a Zero on its tail.
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Iamandi
Posted: February 16, 2005 06:33 am
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Yes, i know it... It was a morbid joke. Or, a good one, in the war time when black humor was "en vogue".
But, ignoring Zero, was a good straffing plane.

Iama
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