Author Topic: The Bell XYP-39AGX Aero Gunner and the Devil's Night of Infamy  (Read 896 times)

Offline Brian da Basher

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The Bell XYP-39AGX Aero Gunner and the Devil's Night of Infamy
« on: October 31, 2019, 09:17:30 AM »


An ignominious aircraft that sits somewhere between the far more famous P-39 Airacobra



and the P-63 Kingcobra



the Bell XYP-39AGX was hastily developed as an aerial tank-buster for the close support role in response to the German Blitzkrieg rolling across Poland.



The new attack plane eliminated the 'car doors' the original P-39 is known for in favor of armor plate and replaced the canopy with a more standard sliding type that had the heaviest armored glass yet seen in the U.S. Army Air Corps. The decking under the rear of the canopy was modified to provide enhanced updraft airflow to the dorsal intake scoop.



The aircraft featured two .50 caliber synchronized machine guns in the nose along with a 20 mm cannon firing through the propeller hub.



The Augmented Gunnery Experimental designation is due the XYP-39AGX's extra heavy armament of two 35 mm Hotchkiss rapid-fire automatic cannon in under-wing pods along with something straight out of the science fiction of the day: two Goddard GAR-10X unguided rockets which were slung on pylons next to the cannon fairings.



A quick-witted crew chief quipped that the AG part of that AGX designation really meant 'Aero Gunner' and the nick-name stuck for the XYP-39AGX's brief time in service. However, this soon changed from the rough-and-tumble sounding 'Aero Gunner' to the less competent 'Error Gunner' when those Hotchkiss cannon suffered misfires due to icing issues at altitude.



The Bell XYP-39AGX successfully completed flight tests and was sent to to the U.S. Army Air Corps. Materiel Div. for additional testing. It was then posted temporarily to Plane Field near Plainfield, New Jersey since one of the best gunnery ranges on the eastern seaboard is in the Pine Barrens and this was an ideal location to put the Aero err Error Gunner's heavy weapons through their paces.



The timing was a quirk of fate as the aircraft had been armed with live ammo, including the Goddard GAR-10X unguided rockets which usually carried inert warheads. This gave New Jersey its only locked-and-loaded air defense as the sun went down on October 30, 1939 - Devil's Night.



The Night Operations Officer had just settled in for his shift when he turned on the radio and heard that an enemy was attacking New Jersey. In a panic, he ordered the prototype Bell XYP-39AGX scrambled to intercept the amorphous foe.



The pilot thought he heard the engines of the enemy squadron and then saw a metallic reflection. He fire-walled the throttle and pushed his plane's top-secret 10 cylinder Allison vanadium sleeve-valved high-compression engine hard under extra, boosted emergency power.



The next thing that poor pilot heard was a muffled explosion as one of those vanadium-encased sleeve-valves blew out. He felt lucky to bring the aircraft to a safe, dead-stick landing in a bean field. Despite his best efforts at defending New Jersey, the unknown enemy would score one success that night, scaring the entire nation.



On the very anniversary of his famous 'War of the Worlds' drama, Orson Welles was part-way through a more faithful version of H.G. Well's story as a sort of contrite apologia when his radio show was suddenly pre-empted by imminent air attack warnings.



The next day, the public demanded immediate action because it seemed clear the axis was behind the attempted sneak night attack on the Garden State. President Roosevelt was quick to seize the moment.



Thus the United States entered what would be a long and grueling war. In which the Bell XYP-39AGX Aero Gunner would play no part at all, being quickly superseded by more capable types.



Despite the serial number 36912, only one 'Error Gunner' was ever built and after its disastrous debut, it finished life being abused to destruction by the Air Corp.'s 2379th Remedial Technicians' School and Reformatory near Roswell, New Mexico.



One could say this is because the Army Air Corps. always gave the CAS mission short-shift, but in reality it's because the large U.S. ARMY text couldn't fit under the wings among all the pylons.



Orson Welles fared little better and his fame declined to the point that when he finally retired, he was making cheap travelogue-type films just to pay the bills.



No one ever figured out who the mystery aerial invaders were that night. The axis denied any responsibility and there was a theory that all this was caused by the off-course Canadian airliner 'City of Lost Souls' but this is impossible as that clipper was in Alberta at the time. Conspiracies abounded and then some old gun-camera footage was discovered when the Bell Aircraft Co. moved to new offices.



This only fueled things and the story was fodder for years on Art Bell's Coast to Coast AM late-night radio show. To this day the government remains tight-lipped and evidence is hard to come by, even if it seems obvious who was probably responsible.



Here is old 36912 built as it appeared after landing, using a mercifully 'one-off' conversion set. The aircraft is shown on the ground, where it spent most of its service life. It wears prototype P markings along with checkerboard test panels used for photographic tracking. Note that this Aero Gunner is accurately depicted, even down to the unique exhaust staining on the port side caused by the sleeve-valve failure.



Unfortunately, despite such commitment to accuracy, the model failed to garner even a mention at the recent Grover's Mill New Jersey Swap Meet, Show and Extraterrestrial UFO Conference. Sadly, the model no longer exists as it briefly became an Unexplained Flying Object when tossed at the wall in disgust.



Brian da Basher
« Last Edit: October 31, 2019, 11:29:03 AM by Brian da Basher »

Offline Brian da Basher

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Re: The Bell XYP-39AGX Aero Gunner and the Devil's Night of Infamy
« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2019, 09:49:15 AM »
The base kit for this build was a true classic, the 1/72 Aoshima Bell P-36 Kingcobra that a good friend sent me a while back. (thanks a million, hamsterman!)
You've got to admit, that's some top-flight box art.



What's inside may not be as pretty, but it's perfectly acceptable for the kit's 1969 vintage.



Of course, I just can't leave well enough alone. I started with the prop. The kit prop doesn't have that prominent cannon, so since I was going to have to add one anyway, I decided to just replace the whole thing with one from an N1K2 'Geroge' with a bit of a strut stuck on for the gun.



Since I was doing the main P-39 weapons, I noticed a lack of nose guns, so I added some which were originally intended for an Academy P-40.



Then it was on to the cherry on top, the canopy. The kit part is awful, there's not even any windows for those Chrysler car doors, but once again some of that N1K2 'George' came to the rescue.



Once the glue and putty were dry, it all proceeded quickly. The Acrylic Paint Gods and Old Hairy Stick Spirits were with me and I got a primer coat and top coat of Polly Scale Silver on in no time.



The landing gear was painted Model Masters Steel and given a sludge wash with a gloss medium. The exhaust staining was dry-brushed. A Monogram P-36 provided the national markings, prototype 'Ps' and small placards. The rest were all spares, including the wing-walks.



Those Goddard GAR-10X unguided rockets are really missiles from a 1/100 Tamiya E.E. Lightning and the pitot tube was another bit of spare strut.



It took me five days to put this together but it's been in the planning stages for a while. Before I forget, here's the 'money shots', U.S. penny for scale.



I'd like to thank Bill for his kindness in sending me the kit, Acree for moderating this GB and the rest of you playing along or just stopping by to look. I couldn't do it without you!



I hope you enjoyed the Bell XYP-39AGX Aero Gunner and New Jersey's Devil's Night of Infamy as well as reading more forgotten airplane history even if the so-called "experts" deny the whole thing and think it all must come from some warped, unidentified alien mind.



Brian da Basher
« Last Edit: October 31, 2019, 10:31:53 AM by Brian da Basher »

Offline finsrin

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Re: The Bell XYP-39AGX Aero Gunner and the Devil's Night of Infamy
« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2019, 10:05:49 AM »
Good old 36912 certainly looked daunting in 1939 even without spats.  All those guns, Goddard rockets and pointy prop hub set it apart.
Unfortunate about valve failure.  Apparently was not under warranty.
Another fine fighter and background story.  :smiley:

Offline apophenia

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Re: The Bell XYP-39AGX Aero Gunner and the Devil's Night of Infamy
« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2019, 10:42:39 AM »
Great stuff BdB  :smiley:

Still, I think the Bell XYP-39AGX Aero Gunner got an unfair rap. Imagine the development potential! Re-engine with the non-sleeve-valved V-14 Allison. Beef up the armament a bit (why trust three cannons when you could have five?) ...
"And loot some for the old folks, Can't loot for themselves"

Offline jcf

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Re: The Bell XYP-39AGX Aero Gunner and the Devil's Night of Infamy
« Reply #4 on: October 31, 2019, 11:58:10 AM »
 ;D ;D ;D ;D

Although I'm not sure how you blow-out a sleeve valve.  ??? :icon_fsm:








No edit, clicked wrong button. Apologies - BdaBa
« Last Edit: November 01, 2019, 05:17:12 AM by Brian da Basher »
“Conspiracy theory’s got to be simple.
Sense doesn’t come into it. People are
more scared of how complicated shit
actually is than they ever are about
whatever’s supposed to be behind the
conspiracy.”
-The Peripheral, William Gibson 2014

Offline Robomog

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Re: The Bell XYP-39AGX Aero Gunner and the Devil's Night of Infamy
« Reply #5 on: October 31, 2019, 04:20:21 PM »
Another nice one Brian,  the paint gods were indeed smiling that silver finish  has come out a treat . :smiley: 8) 8)

Mog
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Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: The Bell XYP-39AGX Aero Gunner and the Devil's Night of Infamy
« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2019, 03:04:33 AM »
 :smiley:
All hail the God of Frustration!!!

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But you can make the Bastard work for it.

Offline Brian da Basher

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Re: The Bell XYP-39AGX Aero Gunner and the Devil's Night of Infamy
« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2019, 05:11:20 AM »
;D ;D ;D ;D

Although I'm not sure how you blow-out a sleeve valve.  ??? :icon_fsm:

Well I had that line from the Kip Addotta song Wet Dream in my head  "So I pulled into a Shell station. They said I'd blown a seal and I said just fix the damn thing and leave my private life out of it!"

I'm glad you guys enjoyed my annual Halloween build  and my poking a little fun at Orson Welles.

Brian da Basher
« Last Edit: November 01, 2019, 05:18:42 AM by Brian da Basher »

Offline elmayerle

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Re: The Bell XYP-39AGX Aero Gunner and the Devil's Night of Infamy
« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2019, 07:15:20 AM »
A beautiful build and a most enjoyable back story.  Bravo!!