The 1930’s were a decade that saw great transitions in aviation. At the beginning of the decade most aircraft were biplanes with external wire bracing and open cockpits. By the end of the “Golden Age of Aviation” aircraft had enclosed cockpits, retracting landing gear and cantilever wings, with no external bracing required. An aircraft that was in the forefront of these transitions was the Boeing P-26, affectionately known as the Peashooter.

       In the early 30’s Boeing was looking for a successor to their successful P-12/F-4B series of military biplanes. After going through several design changes and Model numbers Boeing engineers arrived at a design that was a mix of the old and the new. The XP-936 was an all-metal monoplane that featured wire braced wings, fixed landing gear and an open cockpit. The XP-936’s design structure relied on very modern all-metal construction of the earlier Boeing Monomail. Rather than copy the retractable gear and cantilever wings of the Monomail's postal cargo design Boeing engineers opted for a lighter design with fixed gear and wire bracing to give the little fighter’s wings their strength.

       During the Army Air Corps trials of the P-936 there was a landing accident where the P-26 flipped on its back. The headrest collapsed killing the pilot. Production was halted at the 20th airframe and the design changed by increasing the height of the headrest. The structure supporting the headrest was also strengthen to reform as a roll bar to prevent any further deaths in this type of accident. Aircraft still coming down the assembly line incorporated the new design and it was retrofitted to aircraft already delivered. The aircraft’s high landing speed of 84 mph led to a further modification with the addition of landing flaps to all P-26s.

       Boeing manufactured 111 P-26As, 2 P-26Bs, 23 P-26Cs.10 Model 281 versions were exported to National China in 1934. On August 15, 1937 8 P-26s attacked 6 Mitsubishi G3M bombers and shot them all down over Nanking. Another Model 281 served with the Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War.

       By the time of Pearl Harbor the P-26 had been supplanted from frontline Air Corps use. The aircraft in the Philippine’s were relegated to the Philippine Army Air Corps. These aircraft were the only P-26s to see action during Word War II. Although another G3M and a Zero where shot down by this unit, the P-26 was far outclassed by the Japanese opposition.

       11 P-26s assigned to the Panama Canal Zone were sold to the Guatemalan Air force in 1943 after having served with the Panamanian Government since 1941. They served until 1950. Two of these Guatemalan P-26s are preserved in the USA, one at the National Air & Space Museum , Udvar-Hazy Center(Middle Picture Below)and one at the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, CA (Right Picture Below). There is also a replica at the National Museum of the United States Air Force(Left Picture Below). Pictures are from our Photo Gallery.

       The subject of the article is a Boeing P-26C assigned to Selfridge Field, Michigan between 1935-36. It is painted in the factory paint scheme of Chrome Yellow (FS13538) wings and tail surfaces and Blue (FS135109) fuselage. It carries the diagonal fuselage band of the 1st Pursuit Group. The bands are painted in the colors of the 94th Pursuit Squadron. This airplane carries the Sioux Indian Head emblem that is indicative of its roots in the Lafayette Escadrille.

       I was given Academy Kit # 2179 for my birthday. When I opened the box I was surprised at how small this airplane was. Put it next to a 1/48 Phantom or a Corsair and it looks like a 1/72 scale kit. In the box were 5 light gray 1 clear plastic trees in the box. The Pratt & Whitney R1340 Wasp engine assembly has almost enough parts to be considered a separate kit. Putting it together and then painting it was difficult but worth it. After the engine was assembled the NACA cowl was glued in place, puttied, polished. I used wet paper towels laid in between the cylinders and painted the cowling. The engine assembly was then put aside.

       The wings, tail surfaces and fuselage were assembled. Thinking ahead, I left part # C8 off so that I could have access to the inside of the fuselage to anchor the bracing wires. The fit on this kit was good and very little puttying was required. The next step was to polish the assembly using Blue Magic polishing compound.

       The wheels were painted and when dry they were trapped between the two wheel pant halves. Any seams were made to disappear and then these were painted with a couple of coats of Blue just to make sure that areas that would be hard to get after assembly were the right color. When dry they were glued to the fuselage/wing assembly. The sponsons for the bracing wires were then glued to the wheel pants.

       I then applied Testor’s Chrome Yellow (FS13538) to the wings and tail surfaces. Once dry these areas were masked off and Testor’s Blue (FS135109) was applied. When dry the masking was removed.

       The directions recommend using .3 MM (.0118 in) stretched sprue for the bracing wires. Instead I used .011” monofilament fishing line. I first opened up the holes in both the fuselage and wings with a .016 diameter drill and then drilled the same size holes in the sponsons on the wheel pants. I cut a length of fishing line passed one end through the .016 hole in the fuselage and glued it securely. This was repeated 6 times. 24 hours later the loose end of the fishing line was passed through the appropriate hole in the wing and, while being held taut, cyanoacrylate glue was applied to both the top and bottom holes in the wing with a toothpick. Again this was done with all 6 lines. The same procedure was used with the fishing line between the wing bottoms and the wheel pants and then the excess line was trimmed.

       The bracing wires between the wheel pants had to be handled differently as there was no way to drill holes and then pull the lines tight. I found something called “stem wire” at a local craft store. Stem wire comes in several diameters I used .017”. Stem is stiff enough that I could cut it to the right length and glue it in place.

       The remainder of the fuselage was now assembled and painted. Unfortunately a week later it was obvious that the method I chose for the bracing wires was not holding up. The tautness of the wires especially from the wing bottoms to the wheel pants had slackened.

       I cut the fishing line off and replaced all of them with the stem wire. The result was what you see in the pictures.

       The model was given a couple of coats of “Pledge, with Future Shine” acrylic floor finish and then the decals were applied. A week or so later the model several more coats of Pledge were sprayed on to give it a high-gloss finish.

Bibliography:

       Aeroplane Monthly Magazine, April 2006 Issue, Database - Boeing P-26 Peashooter

       U.S. Fighters by Lloyd S. Jones Aero Publishers Inc.

       National Air & Space Museum - P-26 Long Description

       National Museum of the United States Air Force - P-26 Factsheet

       All Experts Encyclopedia - P-26 Peashooter

       Wikipedia Article on the P-26 Peashooter

       Dave's Warbirds - P-26 Peashooter

       Aviation Central - P-26 Peashooter

       History Net - P-26 Peashooter

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