The P-51 "Mustang" pioneered many technological innovations previously unseen in aviation. One of the things that made the P-51 great was it's speed. This was accomplished by grinding the rivits on the skin of the plane flush with the surface of the skin. This made the surface of the plane smooth, no turbulence causing bumps. The other innovation was the cooling system. As opposed to a large radial air cooled engine (as on the FU-4 Corsair) the Mustang used a sleek V-12 with no vents on the nose. Instead the engine was liquid cooled, like most cars. The radiator was below and behind the pilot. Cold air was pulled in through a low-profile intake, after it passed through the radiator the cold air was held for a moment in a chamber where it was heated to very high tempuratures by the engine heat. As the air expanded it forcfully "jetted" its self out an adustable nozzel. This process allowed the Mustang to convert engine heat into thrust, making up for 95% of the drag caused by cooling the engine. (Cooling drag was the single biggest factor affecting aircraft speed at the time).

The design for the scoop is still used today in jet intakes. It was discovered that there is a thin layer of turbulence just off the skin of the aircraft. Putting an intake within this layer reduces its effectiveness. The Mustang's intake stood off the surface of the aircraft just enough to get an uninterrupted airflow. One can see this idea demonstrated in the F-16 and the F-4 among others.

Finally, the P-51B was the first fighter to have a bubble canopy. Prior to this all canopies were similar to that of the Spitfire. These old designes put a firewall behind the pilot and used many small panes of glass. This limited visibility. The P-51B Mustang put the pilot "on" the aircraft instead of "in" it. Now the pilot had 360 degrees of uninterrupted visibility. This design is used today on every fighter aircraft, most attack aircraft and even some bombers like the B-47.

So effective was the P-51 Mustang's design that it was used in Korea and Vietnam but was finally out classed by new jet aircraft.

Addition: The P-51A, the model prior to the bubble canopy, was similar in profile to the Messerschmitt Me-109. This caused confusion among the allies and many early P-51s were attacked by freindly forces, thinking them to be Luftwaffe fighters. The bubble canopy changed the profile of the aircraft to what we know today and solved the identification problem while improving the aircraft.

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