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How a P-51 Mustang Works

How a P-51 Mustang Works
I'm Jake O'Neal, creator of Animagraffs.  And this is How a P-51



. I've chosen the definitive P-51D model, which  entered service in late 1943 as a very capable   all around fighter and long-range bomber escort  that helped grant Allied forces air superiority.  Let's start with the frame and outer skin.   Hundreds of panels are riveted to a  supporting structure called the airframe.   These parts are mostly made of aluminum  for strong yet lightweight
how a p 51 mustang works
construction.   Sturdy beams and cross-braces support  the engine. Hardened steel armor plates   in front and behind the cockpit offer some  protection to the pilot from enemy gunfire.  The fuselage has longerons that extend the  length of the frame, and horizontal formers.   Ribs and spars make up the wing structure,  with smaller stringers for additional support.  Aluminum frame components get their yellow  coloring from a special protective coating.   Exterior parts might have
a  range of different finishes   designed to smooth out body work and rivet  bumps for a faster and better handling airplane.  LANDING GEAR & GROUND STEERING  The main landing gear is  controlled by a hydraulic actuator.   A separate actuator manages the clamshell doors.  A moving lock pin secures the mechanism  in place when the gear is down.  There's a shock absorber inside the  support arm and a brake in each wheel.  The pilot can steer the plane while grounded  by
pressing the left or right rudder pedals,   which also engages corresponding wheel brakes. The rear landing gear mechanism is more complex.   The assembly is retractable  just like the main landing gear.  However, the rear wheel can operate in "locked"  mode, which links its rotation to the airplane's   rudder. As the rudder rotates, the cables  tighten in turn, turning the wheel left or right.  Cables pass through a spring loaded tensioner   so they remain taught but
can still  move with the rear shock absorber.  ENGINE The P-51D is powered by a Packard V-1650   Merlin engine. It has 12 cylinders in  a 60 degree V formation, and produces   1,400 hp, with a top speed of 430-plus mph. Air enters through an intake under the   nose section, and is forced through a large  centrifugal (or circular shaped) supercharger.  Engine cooling is handled with a radiator placed  just behind the wings, under the fuselage.   The low-hanging scoop is separate
from  the airplane body to capture cleaner air   that's further from turbulence-causing  exterior features and propeller air.  The placement also allows a longer duct  to take advantage of the Meredith effect,   where hot air from the radiator's normal function   can be used to produce thrust – recovering as much  as 90% of the drag caused by the radiator scoop.  The radiator exhaust port has an  adjustable flap to regulate outflow.  A separate engine oil cooler with its
own  exhaust flap also resides in the scoop.  An engine oil tank is mounted to the firewall.   A front-mounted tank holds  circulating radiator fluid.  Exhaust exits through short, angled nozzles.  Fuel tanks in each wing hold 92  gallons each, with an additional   85 gallon fuselage tank behind the cockpit.  Optional drop tanks can be mounted  to the underside of each wing   at 110 gallons each, pushing the total possible  fuel capacity to a whopping 489 gallons,   with a
resulting range of 1,650 miles. A  fighter aircraft with the range to reach far   into enemy territory proved to be a  major game-changer in the war effort.  PROPELLER The propeller is connected   directly to the engine through a relatively  simple gear set. There is no transmission   or gear shift like you'd find in almost any land  vehicle. Instead, blade pitch can be controlled.   For example, at takeoff the blades  are angled perpendicular to the   airplane for a strong
how a p 51 mustang works
forward pull  in little to zero existing airflow.   While cruising at speed, that same pitch  would create a barrier, causing drag   and slowing forward movement. So the blades are  angled more in line with the direction of travel.  ARMAMENTS  There are six Browning .50 caliber machine  guns mounted in the wings, with three on each   side. They're controlled by a stick mounted  trigger which, when activated, fires all guns   simultaneously. Ammo capacity is 1,880
rounds,  with a fire rate of about 30 rounds per second.   With all six guns firing together, that's  about 30 seconds total firing time.   There's no cockpit indicator for rounds remaining.  A camera mounted in each wing can be set to turn  on when guns are fired to record the result.  A single removable bomb rack can be fitted to  the underside of each wing to cary 100, 250,   or 500 pound bombs. Alternatively, these racks  can carry droppable fuel tanks. Six rockets
can   also be loaded, with three on each wing. Or ten  total rockets, when the bomb rack is not in use.  COCKPIT These planes were designed   for technical war operations, and were not  expected to be comfortable as a first priority.   Some pilots reported having to be  lifted out of the cockpit after deep   range missions in such cramped quarters.  Controls and gauges cover every surface,   leaving space only for the pilot's  body and bulky flight gear.  Starting from the
left side of the cockpit,  there's a flare gun case and a flare gun   mounting tube that extends through the plane to  the exterior. Below that, a wing flap control   lever sets the position of the main wing flaps. A set of dials controls various on the rudder,   ailerons, and elevators. For example, if more fuel   gets used in one wing tank than the other, the  airplane may become unbalanced and "pull" in   unwanted directions. The appropriate trim tab can  be
adjusted to counter the unwanted attitude so   the pilot doesn't have to fight against the  controls to constantly balance the craft.  The radiator and oil cooler switches  control the previously shown   exhaust flap positions for those systems. Also on this panel, a landing light switch   for lights that fold out of the main landing gear  bay, and a switch for the left side cockpit light.  The landing gear lever is down by the pilot's left  leg, as well as the left wing fuel
tank gauge.   The bomb salvo lever mechanically releases bombs   as opposed to the electrically  activated button on the stick.  The fuel to air mixture, propeller RPM, and  engine throttle controls are grouped together.   The propeller RPM lever setting attempts to  maintain constant propeller rotational speed,   automatically altering things like engine  throttle or propeller blade pitch to do so.  The propeller and the air around it functions   something like an automatic
transmission does in  a car. And in the same way, a car's engine RPM's   aren't always directly related to the  actual speed the car may be moving.   So for an airplane, controlling propeller  speed is the best way to control airspeed.  Moving to the pilot's forward  view, we see the flight stick,   with a bomb release button on top,  and the gun trigger at the front.  Generally speaking, flight stick left  or right movement will roll the plane.   Stick forward or
how a p 51 mustang works
back movement alters the pitch.  The left and right rudder pedals manage yaw.  Beyond the stick we see the main fuel  shut-off lever, and a fuel tank selector dial.   The fairing door emergency pull lever releases  landing gear in case of a motorized malfunction.  Once released, gear can be manually  locked by yawing the plane left or right.   A hydraulic pressure gauge is situated nearby.  A warning light above the emergency lever  indicates if landing gear doors are open.  
Separate warning lights indicate left  and right landing gear lock status.  The various switches and knobs  nearby control armaments settings.   Bombs can be released all together or in a  train. Guns can be set as single fire, burst,   or fully automatic. The amount of rounds per  burst can also be set with the corresponding dial.  On the left of this panel, there's the engine  ignition switch. In the center, the parking brake.  The left switch bank has supercharger
boost  control and other engine specific settings.  On the right, the oxygen blinker moves with the  pilot's breathing to very accurately indicate   oxygen consumption with each breath. Pilots need  specific oxygen indicators due to the dangers   of consuming too much or too little oxygen,  which can cause confusion and pilot error.  A pressure gauge to the right  indicates oxygen system pressure.  The oxygen regulator controls flow to the pilot.  There are left and
right  positionable lights for illumination.  The yellow line across the  dashboard separates flight   control related gauges into their own section. From the left, we have the altimeter for altitude,   the airspeed indicator, the directional gyro  and compass which are used together to maintain   a specific course of travel. The bank and turn  indicator shows the plane's current attitude.   The artificial horizon indicates  ground angle relative to the plane.  Outside the
white line there's the clock, a  suction gauge to monitor vacuum pressure since   many of these gauges and instruments use  vacuum pressure differences to function.   The manifold pressure gauge tracks internal  engine pressure. The propeller might be turning   at the same speed but requiring lots of engine  force, so manifold pressure must be monitored.   There's a coolant temperature gauge, a  tachometer for engine RPMs, a carburetor air   temperature indicator to make
sure the engine  air intake stays within a reasonable range,   and an oil and fuel pressure gauge.  Turning to the pilot's right side we see  electrical and radio equipment controls.   Including an ammeter to monitor electrical  current from the plane's generator. There   are switches for generator and battery disconnect,  left and right gun heaters, and position lights.  Red, green, and amber position lights  on the underside of the right wingtip   can display codes to
indicate  friendly aircraft approach at night.  Late model P-51D's had a tail radar system  to warn of aircraft behind the plane.   A radio frequency tuner and  headphone hook-in sits beneath that.  The last couple modules are radio control units,   and an IFF system used to signal a friendly  aircraft to external radar systems.  The right wing fuel tank gauge  is on the floor by the seat pan.  The canopy crank is also on this  side, with an emergency release lever.  Just
behind the pilot's left ear there's the  fuselage fuel tank guage, various electronic   devices inducing radio and radar modules,  and behind that, the oxygen tank storage bay.  Coming back to the pilot's  view, we see the gunsight.   A standard straight-ahead sight, marked with  the "plus" sign, and a compensating sight are   projected from horizontal lenses  onto a thin pane of angled glass.  The pilot sets the wingspan dial at the front  to correspond to
the target's wingspan, measured   in feet. A twist grip on the throttle brings  the compensating sight's diamond ring into an   imaginary circle around the target's wings. This,  combined with the center dot over the target's   cockpit, automatically calculates bullet range and  arc as both planes move through the air at speed.  PILOT During the era of the P-51,   regulations for pilot's gear were a bit more  open to individual preference, so I've put  
together a generalized equipment set. The pilot  wears a leather helmet with earphones built in.   Also a set of goggles, and an oxygen mask with a  built-in microphone just above the breathing tube.  The pilot wears a vest  style yellow life preserver.   Parachute rigging straps encircle the  pilot's torso and legs, and extend to a   parachute back pad that was often packed with  first aid items and a one-person life raft.   The pilot's parachute is packaged beneath
the  seat cushion. All of these things are attached   to the parachute rigging and follow  the pilot in the event of a bailout.  The jacket and coveralls are either wool or  cotton, paired with warm leather gloves and boots.