Bell XFL-1 Airabonita

The Bell XFL-1 Airabonita was a variant of the Airacobra that was produced for the US Navy as a possible replacement for its fleet of aging biplanes. It was designed to satisfy a specification issued on 1 January 1938, and the US Navy ordered a single prototype on 8 November 1938.

Like the Airacobra the Airabonita had its Allison XV-1710-6 engine behind the pilot to make room for a heavy cannon in the nose, although the prototype never received the 37mm cannon suggested by Bell or the 23mm cannon requested by the navy.

To make it suitable for carrier operations the Airabonita had a stronger fuselage than the Airacobra, was fitted with an arrester hook, and abandoned the nose-wheel undercarriage of the P-39 in favour of more traditional tail-wheel landing gear. The Airabonita suffered from serious centre-of-gravity problems, caused by the heavy weight of the engine in the rear of the aircraft. It made its first (unintended) flight on 13 May 1940 when a taxi-test ended with the aircraft airborne, and reached the US Navy on 27 February 1941.

Despite making a number of changes as a result of Navy tests, Bell were unable to solve the problems with the Airabonita, and the prototype remained the only example to be produced. The project was cancelled in February 1941.

Bell P-39 Airacobra, Robert F. Dorr with Jerry C. Scutts (Crowood Aviation). A detailed looked at the development and service history of this controversial American fighter aircraft. The P-39 had a poor reputation amongst British and American pilots, and Dorr examines the reasons why, as well as looking at why the same aircraft was so much more popular in Soviet Service. Scutts provides a chapter on the P-63 Kingcobra, and the book also covers the numerous Bell fighter projects that failed to enter production.
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (8 July 2008), XFL-1 Airabonita , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_XFL-1_Airabonita.html

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