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Bell XFL-1 Airabonita

Bell XFL-1 Airabonita



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Bell XFL-1 Airabonita

The Bell XFL-1 Airabonita was a variant of the Airacobra that was produced for the US Navy as a possible replacement for its fleet of aging biplanes. It was designed to satisfy a specification issued on 1 January 1938, and the US Navy ordered a single prototype on 8 November 1938.

Like the Airacobra the Airabonita had its Allison XV-1710-6 engine behind the pilot to make room for a heavy cannon in the nose, although the prototype never received the 37mm cannon suggested by Bell or the 23mm cannon requested by the navy.

To make it suitable for carrier operations the Airabonita had a stronger fuselage than the Airacobra, was fitted with an arrester hook, and abandoned the nose-wheel undercarriage of the P-39 in favour of more traditional tail-wheel landing gear. The Airabonita suffered from serious centre-of-gravity problems, caused by the heavy weight of the engine in the rear of the aircraft. It made its first (unintended) flight on 13 May 1940 when a taxi-test ended with the aircraft airborne, and reached the US Navy on 27 February 1941.

Despite making a number of changes as a result of Navy tests, Bell were unable to solve the problems with the Airabonita, and the prototype remained the only example to be produced. The project was cancelled in February 1941.

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Bell XFL Airabonita

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/16/2016 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The XFL "Airabonita" was a Bell Aircraft Company product developed in parallel with the P-39 Airacobra, a land-based USAAF (United States Army Air Forces) design that eventually achieved operational status. In essence, the Airabonita was a "navalized" version of the Airacobra with some navy-induced modifications for operations aboard carriers. Despite the attempt, the Airabonita was plagued by engine and undercarriage issues throughout its development and proved wholly underpowered to most other fighter aircraft of the time. The United States Navy eventually decided on other pursuits and the single $125,000 XFL prototype was inevitably laid to rest.

With its origins in the P-39 army design, the XFL model retained most of the same exterior shape. Intended for use by the United States Navy as an interceptor aircraft, the Airabonita was designed as such, with a conventional undercarriage system (with two main landing gears and a tail wheel) as opposed to the tricycle type offered in the P-39. The air frame was revised and reinforced for the rigors of carrier operations. An arrestor hook was added under the base of the empennage. The Airabonita still retained the automobile-style doors for entry and exit.

The aircraft was to be powered by a single Allison XV-1710-6 12-cylinder Vee liquid-cooled inline engine of 1,150 horsepower. The engine was, as in the P-39, mounted aft of the cockpit and powered a forward-mounted, three-blade propeller via a 10.38 foot shaft running under the cockpit floor. It should be noted that this particular engine lacked the turbo charger as found on the XP-39, already a detrimental fact that would do the system in. The coolant radiators were moved from the wing center section and placed in underwing fairings. Armament would have still revolved around the 37mm Oldsmobile T9 cannon firing through the propeller hub. This cannon could be replaced by a single 12.7mm Browning M2/AN heavy machine gun if desired, potentially saving on critical weight while providing a weapon with a higher rate of fire. Additionally, firepower was to be provided through 2 x 7.62mm (.303 caliber) machine guns mounted in the cowl. By any measure, this arrangement would have been a notch under most formidable armament arrays at the time for even the land-based P-39 utilized more heavy caliber machine guns alongside its cannon armament.

The Airabonita achieved first flight on May 13th, 1940 but faced an uphill battle from the start as deliveries of the Allison engines were delayed for a time. This delay compounded the Airabonita's difficulties when the engines did eventually arrive for the powerplants exhibited issues all their own. The use of the conventional undercarriage also worked against the XFL as problems began to develop during testing. As a result, the system had to be shipped back to Bell Aircraft for further revisions in late 1941. By this time, however, the United States Navy decided to pursue a different direction and cancelled development of the XFL in whole. The single XFL-1 prototype was then used in a series of armament tests until it was eventually scrapped.

Performance specifications listed a top speed of 307 miles per hour with a ceiling of 30,900 feet. A range of 1,072 miles was achievable with a rate-of-climb topping 2,630 feet per minute. By all accounts, the XFL would have been wholly outclassed when one considers the speedy F4U Corsair coming out of development. Even the standard naval F4F Wildcat operated better at altitude than the Airabonita seemingly would have. This particular Allison engine - with its single-speed supercharger - also had a tendency to underperform at altitude as it did in the P-40 Warhawk, P-39 Airacobra and even in the P-38 Lightning - the latter needing exhaust-driven superchargers to have acceptable altitude performance.


Bell XFL-1 Airabonita

The Bell XFL Airabonita was an experimental carrier-based interceptor aircraft developed for the United States Navy by Bell Aircraft Corporation of Buffalo, New York. It was similar to and a parallel development of the U.S. Army Air Corps’ land-based P-39 Airacobra, differing mainly in the use of a tailwheel undercarriage in place of the P-39’s tricycle gear. Only one prototype was manufactured.

In January 1938, the U.S. Navy issued a specification for a light carrier-based fighter to replace the obsolete biplanes then in use. On 11 April 1938, Bell, Brewster, Curtiss, Grumman, and Vought-Sikorksy submitted proposals but only three received contracts. Two of them were awarded contracts for one prototype each on 30 June 1938 these were for the Grumman XF5F-1 Skyrocket and the Vought XF4U-1 Corsair. The third contract, which was signed on 8 November, went to Bell Aircraft for one XFL-1 Airabonita. All three aircraft made their first flight in 1940: the XF5F-1 on 1 April, the XFL-1 on 13 May, and the XF4U-1 on 29 May.

Subsequent tests were prolonged because of difficulties with the Allison engine and problems with the balance of the aircraft. Official evaluation began in July 1940 but the XFL-1 failed to be certified for carrier operations because of main landing gear problems. The prototype was returned to Bell for modifications in December 1940 and returned to the Navy on 27 February 1941 at Naval Air Station Anacostia, District of Columbia. Based on the test results, the Navy decided not to order production of the aircraft.

In February 1942, the XFL-1 was transferred to the Aircraft Armament Unit at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. It was later grounded, used for armament tests, and later destroyed. For many years its remains were visible at the dump at NAS Patuxent River.

As a possible further reason for the rejection, it is often stated that the Navy’s position during that era was that all its aircraft should use air-cooled engines (while the Allison was liquid-cooled). This appears unfounded speculation. The U.S. Navy “would consider a liquid-cooled engine installation provided a material increase in performance over air-cooled engine can be shown.”

In addition, the Allison engine had only a single-speed supercharger. Consequently, its altitude performance was much inferior to other naval fighters of the period, such as the Grumman F4F Wildcat.

Lastly, the Airabonita had to compete against the faster though not “light” Vought F4U Corsair, which in the initial F4U-1 version was capable of 390 mph at 24,000 ft.

Specifications

Length: 29 ft 9 in (9.07 m)

Wingspan: 35 ft 0 in (10.67 m)

Height: 12 ft 9 in (3.89 m)

Wing area: 232 sq ft (21.6 m2)

Empty weight: 5,161 lb (2,341 kg)

Gross weight: 6,651 lb (3,017 kg)

Max takeoff weight: 7,212 lb (3,271 kg)

Powerplant: 1 × Allison XV-1710-6 V-12 piston engine, 1,150 hp (858 kW)

Performance

Maximum speed: 336 mph (541 km/h, 292 kn)

Range: 1,072 mi (1,725 km, 932 nmi)

Service ceiling: 30,900 ft (9,421 m)

Rate of climb: 2,630 ft/min (13.4 m/s)

Wing loading: 29 lb/sq ft (140 kg/m2)

Power/mass: 0.17 hp/lb (280 W/kg)

Armament

2 × 0.30 cal (7.62 mm) machine guns

1 × 0.50 cal (12.7 mm) machine gun or 37 mm cannon

Credits-

Jane’s Encyclopedia of Aviation- Taylor, Michael J. H.

World Encyclopedia of Aircraft Manufacturers- Gunston, Bill

“XFL-1 Airabonita”. P-39 Airacobra – in detail.- Kinzey, Bert


Bell XFL Airabonita

The Bell XFL Airabonita was an experimental carrier-based interceptor aircraft developed for the United States Navy by Bell Aircraft Corporation of Buffalo, New York. It was similar to and a parallel development of the U.S. Army Air Corps’ land-based P-39 Airacobra, differing mainly in the use of a tailwheel undercarriage in place of the P-39s tricycle gear. Only one prototype was manufactured.

1. Design and development. (Проектирование и разработка)
In football League 1 bell model 5 was powered by a single 1.150 HP 858 kW Allison XV-1710-6 the twelve cylinders, two banks, V-type, liquid-cooled engine installed amidships behind the pilot and driving a three blade Curtis electric propeller in the nose through a 10.38 m 3.16 m shaft. The aircraft had provisions for a single 37 mm 1.46 in the Oldsmobile T9 cannon which could be replaced.50 12.7 mm Browning M2 machine guns firing through the propeller shaft and two.30 7.62-mm machine guns in forward fuselage. He first took to the air on may 13, 1940.
Although based on the P-39 in the football League-1 is a conventional tail-wheel undercarriage and the coolant radiators were mounted externally in fairings under the wing and not inside the wing center section. The Allison engine was the first of its type to be tried out in the Navy, and lacked a turbosupercharger installed on the XP-39.

2. Operational history. (Оперативный истории)
In January 1938 the US Navy issued a technical specification for a light carrier-based fighter to replace the obsolete biplanes, and then to use. 11 APR 1938, bell, Brewster, Curtiss, Grumman and hi-Sikorksy submitted proposals but only three were awarded contracts. Two of them were awarded contracts for one prototype each of June 30, 1938, they were Grumman XF5F-1 Skyrocket and the Vought XF4U-1 "Corsair". The third contract, which was signed on 8 November, went to bell aircraft in the football League-1 Airabonita. All three aircraft made its first flight in 1940: on the XF5F-1 on April 1, the football League-1 on may 13 the XF4U-1 on may 29.
Further tests were extended due to difficulties with the Allison engine and balance issues of the aircraft. Formal evaluation began in July 1940, but the football League-1 is not certified for the carrier because the main problem of the chassis. The prototype was returned to the bell changes in December 1940 and returned to the Navy on 27 February 1941 naval air station Anacostia, DC. Based on the test results, the Navy decided not to order production of the aircraft.
In February 1942 football League 1 was transferred to the Department of armament of the aircraft of the naval aviation following the River station, Maryland. He was later grounded, used to test weapons and later destroyed. For many years its remains were visible at the dump at NAS Patuxent river.
As a possible additional reasons for refusal, it is often said that the unit is equipped Navy in that era was the fact that all its aircraft should use air-cooled engines while the Allison was liquid-cooled. It looks like unfounded speculation. U.S. Navy "will be treated with a liquid cooled engine installation provided a significant performance increase compared to an air-cooled engine can be shown".
In addition, the Allison engine was only one-speed supercharger. Therefore, its performance height was much inferior to other naval fighter of the period, such as the number of Grumman F4F Wildcat.
Lastly, the Airabonita had to compete with the faster, though not "easy" Hello F4U Corsair, which in the initial picture of the F4U-1 was capable of 390 km / h at 24.000 feet.

3. Specifications XFL-1 Airabonita. (Спецификации футбольной Лиги-1 Airabonita)
Data
General characteristics
Powerplant: 1 × Allison XV-1710-6 V-12 piston engine, 1.150 hp 858 kW.
Loaded weight: 6.651 lb 3.017 kg.
Wing area: 232 ft 2 21.6 m 2.
Max. takeoff weight: 7.212 lb 3.271 kg.
Height: 12 ft 9 in 3.89 m.
Length: 29 ft 9 in 9.07 m.
Empty weight: 5.161 lb 2.341 kg.
Crew: One. (Экипаж: Один)
Wingspan: 35 ft 0 in 10.67 m.
Performance
Power / mass: 0.17 hp / lb 280 W / kg.
Wing loading: 29 lb / ft 2 140 kg / m 2.
Range: 1.072 mi 1.725 km.
Rate of climb: 2.630 ft / min 13.4 m / s.
Service ceiling: 30.900 ft 9.421 m.
Maximum speed: 336 mph 541 km / h.
Weapons
2 × 0.30 cal 7.62 mm machine guns.
1 × 0.50 cal 12.7 mm machine gun or 37 mm cannon.
Guns. (Оружие)

  • XFL may refer to: Bell XFL Airabonita an experimental 1940 U.S. Navy interceptor aircraft Loening XFL an experimental 1933 U.S. Navy fighter aircraft
  • Moon. Bell model 1 Bell XFM - 1 Airacuda Bell model 3 fighter project Bell model 4 fighter project Bell model 5 Bell XFL Airabonita Bell model 7
  • wartime autobiography, Nanette. Aviation portal Related development Bell XFL Airabonita Bell P - 63 Kingcobra Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
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  • AJ - Press, 1999. ISBN 83 - 7237 - 032 - X. Tomalik, Jacek. Bell P - 63 Kingcobra, XFL - 1 Airabonita P - 39 Airacobra Cz.2, Monografie Lotnicze 59 in Polish Gdansk, Poland:
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  • injection. This variant, however, was never built. Bell FM - 1 Airacuda Bell FL Airabonita Bell P - 39 Airacobra Bell P - 63 Kingcobra Boeing XB - 38 Flying Fortress
  • LaGG - 3 Potez 230 April 1 Grumman XF5F - 1 Skyrocket May 13 - Bell XFL - 1 Airabonita May 18 - SAAB B17 May 29 - Vought XF4U - 1, prototype of the F4U Corsair
  • bomber Project 0 Bell AH - 1 SuperCobra US Helicopter 1969 1, 271 Bell Boeing V - 22 Osprey US Rotorcraft 1989 160 Bell XFL Airabonita US Propeller Interceptor
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Bell XFL-1 Airabonita - History

Location
City / Seaplane Base:Philadelphia - Henry C Mustin Naval Air Facility Airfield / Seaplane (closed) Map
Region / Country:Pennsylvania, United States
Airport Codes:None
Photo Date:1 April 1942
Photo from:AirHistory.net Photo Archive
Photo ID: 222070

The taildragger Airabonita was a naval carrier version of the P-39 Airacobra fighter. First flown in 1940, only this example was built. Photo from: US Navy

This photo was added on 9 March 2020, and has since been viewed 121 times.


Bell XFL-1 Airabonita

Bell XFL -1 oli Yhdysvaltain laivastolle valmistettu hävittäjän prototyyppi ja kokeilukone. Vuonna 1938 laivasto teki aloitteen uudesta tukialushävittäjästä. Bell-yhtiö sai tilauksen prototyypistä 8. marraskuuta 1938 ja se lensi ensilentonsa 13. toukokuuta 1940. [1] Bell nimesi tyypin Airabonitaksi.

Kone pohjautui yhtiön P-39-koneeseen. Tukialuskäyttöä varten tehtiin huomattavia muutoksia. Alkuperäinen nokkapyörällinen laskuteline muutettiin kannuspyörälliseksi, mikä oli tuohon aikaan tavanomainen. Päälaskuteline siirrettiin siiven etuosaan. Tästä seurasi, että jäähdyttimet siirrettiin siipien tyven tunneleista koteloihin siiven takareunaan. Tukialukselle laskeutumisen helpottamiseksi siiven etuopuolelle rungon alle rakennettiin ikkuna. Pysäyttämistä varten rungon alle asennettiin ylösvedettävä jarrukoukku. [1]

Viralliset koelennot alkoivat heinäkuussa 1940. Pituusvakavuus havaittiin heikoksi. Tuulitunnelikokeiden jälkeen sivuperäsintä suurennettiin.

Lentäjät huomauttivat erityisesti ohjaamon hätäpoistumisluukusta pitäen kokonaan irrotettavaa kuomua parempana. Voimansiirtoakselin pelättiin värisevän ja heikentävän runkoa ja lyhentävän käyttöikää. Luvattu palvelulakikorkeus oli vaikea saavuttaa ja onnistui harvoin. Laivasto myös suosi tähtimoottoria nestejäähdytteisen moottorin sijasta. Havaitut puutteet sekä Vought-yhtiön onnistunut prototyyppi, josta kehittyi F4U Corsair, johtivat päätökseen lopettaa projekti. [1]


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RS Models 1/72 Bell XFL-1 Airabonita

Manufacturer: RS Models
Product Number: 92074
Scale: 1/72
Make: RS Models
Type: Injection moulded
Status Re-issue of 2010 kit.
Panel Lines: Recessed
Parts: 39 Plastic 2 Clear
Decal Options:
1 – XFL-1, in its original configuration at Buffalo, NY, May 1940
2 – FL-1, British Royal Navy, 1942 (What if? markings).
3 – FL-1, USS Saratoga, 1942 (What if? markings).

The Bell XFL-1 Airabonita was a parallel development of the P-39 Airacobra, responding to a 1938 US Navy requirement for a lightweight fighter, intended to replace their obsolete biplane air wings. Bell, Brewster, Curtiss, Grumman, and Vought-Sikorksy submitted proposals and of these, only Bell, Grumman and Vought-Sikorsky received contracts to develop their ideas further. The prototype Airabonita, Skyrocket and Corsair resulted from this.
(The Skyrocket fell foul of concerns about parts availability, being a twin-engined aircraft, in spite of its performance being exemplary. The Corsair was deemed too heavy, for the ‘light fighter’ requirement, although this was then later developed to become the superb Vought Corsair. In the end up, Grumman won the contract with their Wildcat fighter).
The Airabonita differed from the P-39, besides having a tailwheel undercarriage, with the prominent intake behind the pilot moving to two large intakes under the wings. Removal of the nose gear also facilitated the placement of a camera bay.
The Airabonita was plagued with issues relating to its Allison engine and difficulties relating to the balance of the aircraft. (Bell designed both Airabonita and the Airacobra with the engine close to the centre of gravity, hoping to benefit from perceived advantages relating to handling and manoeuvrability). Further problems with the undercarriage delayed carrier testing and, once these had been resolved, the Navy had decided not to proceed with the aircraft. Only one aircraft was ever made and this ended its days, having been used for ‘armament tests’, decaying in the dump at NAS Patuxent River.
With the benefit of hindsight and the learned advantages of landing a nose-wheel configured aircraft, on a moving carrier deck, one can wonder why Bell went for the tailwheel configuration of the Airabonita, as opposed to tricycle arrangement of their Airacobra?

Aug 06, 2019 #2 2019-08-06T15:08

RS Models, from the Czech Republic, produce short-run plastic kits and I would place them mid-way in the quality spectrum. Their parts are generally nicely produced, with suitably fine surface textures and increasingly sharp edges to the smaller details. Transparencies can occasionally be less than crystal clear and the fit of parts is often an issue, especially for the more novice modeller. Instructions are usually basic, to say the least and each kit seems to contain the parts necessary for all versions of the subject range, requiring care in assembly and some research on the subject by the modeller.
That said, they do tend to focus on subjects not covered by other manufacturers and, for me at least, their range of trainer aircraft is much welcomed.

When I received this kit for review, a niggle at the back of my skull had me rummaging through my stash and, sure enough, I found another RS Models Airabonita, acquired at a bargain price, from a Model Show, long, long ago. This was a resin kit from the 1990s, with white metal details and I recalled stashing it until I felt my modelling skills were up to the task. Looking at the parts breakdown, there are many similarities between this and the later injection-moulded kit, although there are, obviously, only a few configurations available for a basic airframe.
So, the injection-moulded kit in my hands was first tooled in 2010 and this is a re-issue, with a new box, new decals and a new sheet of very basic CAD instructions, now so beloved of kit manufacturers these days.

Aug 06, 2019 #3 2019-08-06T15:10

Looking at the plastic, the panel lines are very sharp and fine and there are suitable differences to distinguish the differing materials used in the construction of the aircraft. The detail pieces are nicely rendered, with a special mention for the instrument panel and the seat, which comes with a harness moulded in place.

Unfortunately, the sprue gates are somewhat heavy in places and, with the wingtip pitot tubes already moulded onto the wings and secured with two heavy gates each, I suspect these will offer a small challenge in clean removal…and another in surviving the building process to completion.

Aug 06, 2019 #4 2019-08-06T15:11

On the plus side, my kit was wholly free of flash or seam lines. On the negative, the transparencies were not particularly clear, although I can console myself with the observation that real vintage aircraft also seem to lack crystal clear canopies.

That fact that only one example of the Airabonita was ever built could present an issue, when considering our need for interesting schemes with which to bedeck our models. RS Models have responded to this challenge by offering a pair of basic What-if? schemes, for both USN and Fleet Air Arm aircraft, alongside the scheme for the prototype, produced by Bell at Buffalo, NY.

Aug 06, 2019 #5 2019-08-06T15:15

So on with the build.
The cockpit is adequately, (for my simple tastes at least), detailed, with some boxes moulded onto the cockpit floor and the housing for the prop shaft, passing between Johnny Pilots legs. There is a large frame rising over the rear of the seat, with engraved weight-saving holes that I chose to drill out. As mentioned previously, the seat is very nicely moulded and I’ll need my detail brush for the harness.

Speaking of paint, the only guidance given was for a zinc chromate interior, with a black instrument panel. Humbrol H81 provided my yellow and I used a Revell 9 Anthracite for the boxes.
I drilled out the dials on the instrument panel and, having painted it with the dark grey, I flooded the resulting holes from behind, with black paint. This and an attempt at painting the harness a pale buff colour completed my internal work, knowing full well that very little would remain visible, once the canopy was in place.

Note that whilst some modellers enjoy spending hours detailing their cockpit and interiors, secure in the knowledge that they know it’s there, I look to my stash and know of the many, many more kits I have to play with, knowing that they are there and demanding my attention! I’m also certain that the aftermarket will provide some etch for extra detail, should anyone wish to indulge.


Obsah

  • Osádka: 1 muž (pilot)
  • Rozpětí: 10,67 m
  • Délka: 9,07 m
  • Výška: 3,89 m
  • Nosná plocha: 21,55 m²
  • Hmotnost prázdného letounu: 2341 kg
  • Vzletová hmotnost: 3017 kg
  • Max. vzletová hmotnost: 3271 kg
  • Maximální rychlost: 541 km/h ve výšce 3048 m
  • Dostup (operační): 9421 m
  • Dolet: 1725 km
  • Stoupavost: 13,4 m/s
  • Plošné zatížení: 140 kg/m²

Pohonná jednotka [ editovat | editovat zdroj ]

Výzbroj [ editovat | editovat zdroj ]

  • 2× 7,62mm synchronizovaný kulomet v trupu
  • 1× 12,7mm nesynchronizovaný kulomet, nebo 37 mm nesynchronizovaný letecký kanón v ose vrtule

Tailhook Topics

It looks like it would be a colorful and straightforward conversion of the P-39, kits of which are available in every popular scale from 1/144 to 1/32. In fact, several have been done and documented in articles in modeling magazines. However, most—if not all—fall short of representing the actual XFL-1 configuration. Unfortunately, most of the structure, particularly the canopy, was different in detail from the P-39. Not even the 1/72 XFL-1 kits that are available are accurate, since they have the P-39 wing planform, which was somewhat different in taper and span.

(Note that the XFL-1 wing root is also closer to the fuselage centerline than the P-39's.)

For example, this is what it takes to convert a P-39 wing to an XFL-1 wing:

All this and more is contained in my XFL-1 monograph, available from Steve Ginter:


Watch the video: Bell XFL-1 Airabonita (August 2022).