Boeing P-26

History of the P-26

The "peashooter" as it was known, was America's first all-metal fighter to be produced in quantity. Also of interest on this fighter is that the "peashooter" was the last fighter to have fixed undercarriage and an open cockpit.

Boeing first proposed the P-26 to the US Army in 1931 having designed it around the Pratt and Whitney R-1340 radial engine. The first prototype was built and flown in only nine weeks, taking to the air for the first time in March 1932 at Wright Air Field. The P-26's top speed of 227 mph / 365 kph represented an increase of over 20 percent compared the the performance of the P-12 it replaced. The order placed by the US Army Air Corps (USAAC) in January 1933 was the biggest ever placed at the time for US military aircraft.

By the time the P-26 joined the USAAC in early 1934, a number of refinements and improvements had been incorporated including strengthening of the pilot's headrest fairing. An early version of the aircraft had overturned during a landing on soft ground, killing the pilot as the headrest fairing collapsed. The P-26 was popular with pilots as it was light and responsive, and was the fastest USAAC fighter until 1938. It remained in service until 1942.

Boeing widely exported the P-26, but the aircraft had a high landing speed for the time, 73 mph / 117 kph, was rather high for rough airfields of most foreign air forces. Split landing flaps were fitted to reducing landing airspeed, thus improving landing conditions.

In September 1934 ten P-26's arrived in China at Canton. Over the next year the P-26 saw combat against the Japanese on almost daily missions and succeeded in destroying some of the Japanese aircraft in air combat. P-26's were also supplied to Guatemala where they were used to create the first squadron of the Guatemalan Air Force and remained in service until 1955.

Boeing P-26A

First Flight: March 20, 1932

Powerplant: One Pratt and Whitney 500hp nine cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine

Armament: Two synchronized foward firing 7.62 mm / .3 in machineguns on the sides of the nose

  • Wingspan - 27 ft 11.5 in / 8.52 m
  • Length - 23ft 10 in / 7.26 m
  • Height - 10 ft 6 in / 3.17 m
  • Wing area - 149.5 sq ft / 13.89 sq m
  • Empty - 2271 lb / 1032 kg
  • Maximum takeoff - 3012 lb / 1366 kg
  • Maximum speed - 227 mph / 365 kph
  • Ceiling - 27,400 ft / 8350 m
  • Range - 360 miles / 579 km
  • Climb - 2360 ft per minute / 719 m per minute

A Handbook of Fighter Aircraft, Francis Crosby

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