Airplanes in My Novels – the Boeing P-26 “Peashooter”

Peashooter.arp.750pixThe US Army Air Corps adopted the Boeing P-26 in 1933 as its first all-metal monoplane pursuit aircraft. It was considered advanced in 1933, with a 600-hp radial engine and a top speed of around 230 mph. By 1938 the type was obsolete, given the introduction of all-metal monoplane pursuits with enclosed cockpits and retractable landing gear, such as the Hawker Hurricane, the Bf-109, and the Seversky P-35.

In the picture of the P-26 above, note the numerous bracing wires, the high antenna mast and the open cockpit, all reminiscent of early biplane aircraft. The P-26 is of roughly the same performance as the RAF’s last service biplane, the Gloster Gladiator. The biplane reached the apex of its development with pursuits like the Gladiator. The monoplane designs promised greater speed and range as more powerful engines became available.

Jack Davis flies the P-26 in an early scene in Everything We Had, encountering the already near-legendary Boyd D. “Buzz” Wagner for a brief practice dogfight. When Wagner led the pilots of the 17th Pursuit Squadron to the Philippines in late 1940, they were initially equipped with the P-26. The 17th kept the P-26 until late spring of 1941 when they received the Seversky P-35A, a more advanced pursuit type than the P-26, but still, at best, an obsolescent aircraft.

A note on names: the word “pursuit” to describe an airplane type was used through World War II for airplanes we would today call “fighters.” The “P” designation, as in P-26 or P-35, still stood for “Pursuit” until 1948, when the newly-independent USAF changed the “P” to “F”, and still-serving P-47 and P-51 fighters became the “F-47” and “F-51,” at least officially.

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