Well, saw one in flight today I’ve never seen before. I’ve actually seen the very aircraft a few times, but never flying.

That’s a Bell P-63 KingCobra. An evolution of the P-39 AirCobra, it wasn’t widely used in the Army Air Forces, but many of them were sent to the USSR, who were quite happy with it.

One variant of the P-63 did see service with the US, and in a rather unusual role at that. The RP-63 was stripped of armament and it’s normal armor. In its place, most of the airframe was covered with over a ton of sheet metal armor. It’s role was to serve as a live target for bomber gunners in training. Fitting with sensors that detected the impact of rounds, the RP-63 had a light on the prop spinner that would flash when the plane was hit. Special frangible ammunition was used.

I’m guessing getting a slot as an RP-63 pilot wasn’t a reward for jobs well done.

2 thoughts on “Planespotting”

  1. Pretty Polly is one of my very favorite aircraft. I love the PS Air Museum. The volunteers there are truly wonderful people. I was working on collecting resources some years back for a project (never actually completed) and I needed good photo references of a P-63 and a Spit, and the PS Air Museum folks let me through the ropes, to crawl around underneath the planes, take pictures, etc. They brought out a chair for me to stand on to get pictures of inside the cockpit, and said that if I’d come on a weekday, the guy with the keys would have opened up the cockpits for me to get even better pictures.

    Sadly, it was a disposable camera, and the pictures came out like utter crap. I’d forgotten to bring my digital with me that day. 🙁

  2. It’s a pity they took the turbocharger off of the P-39, as a small sleek plane, armed to the teeth, with a decent powerplant, who knows what it could have done.

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