Texas Warhawk | P-40E
The P-40 was a fighter and ground attack aircraft that was first produced in 1938 at the Curtiss Wright Corporation facility in Buffalo, New York. The P-40 design was an outgrowth of the pre-war Curtiss P-36. The Warhawk eventually saw service with 28 nations and was used by most of the Allied powers in WWII. The Warhawk was sold to Britain, Russia and other Commonwealth nations. Its primary users were the U.S. Army Air Forces, the Royal Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force. The USAAF adopted the name Warhawk while the British named it the Tomahawk (P-40 models B & C) and then changed the name to Kittyhawk for the model P-40D and later variants.
During the war, the allocation of limited raw materials, such as tungsten, prevented the P-40 from receiving the two-stage supercharger which the P-51 Mustang received. This limited its capabilities at high altitudes against the superior Luftwaffe fighters – which restricted it to rare use by the British in Northwest European operations. The P-40 played a significant role with the United States Army Air Forces in North Africa, Italy, the Southwest Pacific and the China-Burma-India theater.
The P-40 became famous for its role with the American Volunteer Group in China – also known as the Flying Tigers – later absorbed by the 14th Air Force. The Flying Tigers made the “shark mouth” famous, however, the Royal Air Force’s Number 112 Squadron was the first to feature this paint scheme.
The P-40 was equipped with the same engine used in the P-38, the P-39 and the early versions of the P-51 (the Allison 12 cylinder V-1710). Designed by Donovan Berlin, it first flew on October 14th, 1938. There were 13,738 produced from 1938 until 1944; produced at a unit cost of $44,892 in 1944. The P-40 tolerated harsh extremes in many climates and offered the advantage of a low cost aircraft which kept it in production long after it ordinarily would have been considered obsolete. The P-40 played a significant role in winning the war.
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This P-40E is a cold weather survivor coming out of Elmendorf Field in Anchorage, Alaska. The plane rolled off of the assembly line on January 13th, 1942 as a Curtiss Model H87-A3. The military accepted her as P-40E s/n 41-5709. America was still recovering from the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Japanese were marauding up and down the Aleutian Island Chain. On June 3rd, 1942 the Japanese attacked Fort Mears and Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians. P-40s scrambled from Fort Randall but were too late to turn the Japanese back. The Japanese attacked Dutch Harbor again the next day, but this time American P-40s disrupted the force, shooting down one bomber. On June 5th, 1942 daily P-40 patrols started up in an effort to prevent surprise attacks.
On September 26th, 1942, P-40E 41-5709 departed Fort Randall with 1st Lt. Dennis Crisp at the controls as part of the two-ship, daily patrol. Upon landing in the formation, his wingman landed long and ran into 5709′s tail. Both planes were write-offs that day and ended up on the scrap heap in Cold Bay after the salvage of all useable parts.
The late Dick Odgers and a team of enthusiasts started excavating the dump at Cold Bay in 1987 and recovered significant chunks of 41-5709 among other wrecks. Odgers sold off his projects over the years, and by 1990 ’5709 was with Don Brooks in Douglas, Georgia. She was ready to fly again by August 25th, 2009, when Eliot Cross, a proven test pilot and air show performer, took 41-5709 to the skies again for the first time in 67 years. After the test flights were done, Ray Fowler, Chief Pilot and Executive Producer of the Liberty Foundation, got a turn at the stick and after several hours of flying the P-40E he convinced the board to purchase the fighter to go on tour with their B-17. They removed the rear fuel tank and installed a seat for passenger rides. Walter Bowe purchased the P-40E in 2013, who in turn sold the fighter to the Texas Flying Legends Museum in 2014, although Bowe remains a regular pilot. The P-40E wears the colors of Colonel Robert L. Scott Jr’s aircraft while he commanded the 23rd Fighter Group in the China-Burma-India Theatre during WWII.