Thursday, January 3, 2008

P-39 Airacobra Discovered in Russian Lake

The P-39 Airacobra rises from the Russian lake after 55 years.

My pilot friend Jay from Colorado sent me the following fascinating email and attachment. I quote:

A friend forwarded this story to me. It has a rather remarkable set of pictures that accompany the story and history of the plane.

Bib Hawkins, a friend of mine that lived in Craig (Colorado)was a ferry pilot for the P-39's from the Great Falls, Montana to Nome, Alaska. As I remember him telling me, 55 plus years ago, the WASP's would deliver the planes from the factory to Great Falls. This is probably correct as this plane was released for delivery in 1943. There was a shortage of male combat pilots so the WASP's filled in many roles including ferrying planes (up to Nome). He told me about the Russian pilots partying all night before they took off from Nome for Siberia. He often wondered how many made the completed flights."

Jay then added this linked story:

"Bell P-39 Airacobra recovered in Russia…These are some good pictures and history of the aircraft - very unusual for an aircraft lost for so long. This is a Bell P-39 that was recently recovered from a lake in Russia. The aircraft went down in WWII and the pilot's remains were still in the cockpit. Also in the cockpit was a can of lend lease cooked pork lard, onions, salt and spices - the lend lease version of SPAM? Note the U.S. insignias underlying the Russian Star painted over them. Interesting that the engine was behind the cockpit and the drive shaft to the propeller gearbox ran directly under the pilot and between his legs then through a collar on the bottom of the control stick. YIKES!

Here is a link to the recovery and history of the P-39: Click on each of the small photos to bring them up to size.

To get the entired article and see all the photos, click on the above link. You will not be disappointed by this article and the photos accompanying it.

Thanks for another great story, Jay!

When I was writing Untold Valor, I interviewed a pilot by the name of Mozart Kaufman because he had been a Jewish airman who became a POW in Germany. Incidentally, he'd begun his flying career as a P-39 Airacobra pilot in the Aleutian Islands, fighting the Japanese, and later transfered to Europe. He loved the P-39 because of its raw power, but he said the plane scared him to death. It was unpredicable, and especially early on, it killed a lot of pilots before its glitches were ironed out. Read his account in Untold Valor. The plane nearly killed Mozart on occasion.

A well-preserved can of Lend-Lease pork rests on a piece of the aircraft.

The standard P39 cockpit with the very vertical instrument set out.
Not visible is the charging handles for the machine guns. At the bottom is the propeller extension shaft which goes under the pilots seat!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What an excellent find! That P-39 is in surprisingly great shape considering being submerged all those years.