Consolidated P-30

The Consolidated P-30 (PB-2) was a 1930s United States two-seat fighter aircraft. An attack version called the A-11 was also built, along with two Y1P-25 prototypes and YP-27, Y1P-28, and XP-33 proposals. The P-30 is significant for being the first fighter in United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) service to have retractable landing gear, an enclosed and heated cockpit for the pilot, and an exhaust-driven turbosupercharger for altitude operation. 


Consolidated P-30
Class Aircraft
Type Fighter
Manufacturer Consolidated Aircraft
Origin United States of America
Country Name Origin Year
United States of America 1932
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Consolidated Aircraft 60 View

The P-30 had its origins in the canceled Detroit-Lockheed YP-24/A-9. The new aircraft differed from the YP-24 in being somewhat larger and having an all-metal wing and a turbosupercharged engine. The Y1P-25 and its sister attack version, the Y1A-11 armed with four forward-firing machine guns and racks for 400 lb (182 kg) of bombs, were ready for testing in December 1932. Although both prototypes were lost in crashes a week apart in January 1933, USAAC was pleased enough to order production of four P-30 fighters and four A-11 attack aircraft. Production versions differed from prototypes in having more powerful engines and revised landing gear and cockpit canopies. 

While generally trouble-free, the PB-2A was slow and heavy, and by 1939 all had been replaced in frontline service by Seversky P-35 and Curtiss P-36 Hawk aircraft. The A-11 attack version failed to win a production order beyond the original four aircraft in spite of good performance because USAAC wanted more durable radial engines for its attack aircraft.

The first P-30 was delivered in January 1934. Testing showed that the gunner's cockpit was uncomfortable and cold at the high altitudes where the P-30 was intended to fight, while the rearward facing gunners were liable to black out when the aircraft was maneuvered. Despite these concerns, on 6 December 1934, the U.S. Air Corps placed an order for a further 50 P-30As, with more powerful V-1570-61 engines driving a three-bladed variable-pitch propeller and with oxygen supplies for the crew.

Three of the four P-30s were delivered to the 94th Pursuit Squadron at Selfridge Field in 1934. The first P-30A, by this time redesignated PB-2A (Pursuit, Biplace), made its maiden flight on 17 December 1935, with deliveries to service units starting on 28 April 1936. The last of the 50 PB-2As were completed by August that year.

While intended as a high altitude fighter, the PB-2 flew relatively few high altitude flights, partly because of the discomfort for the crew. One exception took place in March 1937, when a PB-2A was flown to 39,300 feet (12,000 m) before being forced to return to lower altitudes when the aircraft's controls froze. On 17 October 1936, a PB-2A flown by Lt. John M. Sterling won the Mitchell Trophy air race with a speed of 217.5 miles per hour (350.0 km/h). Since the PB-2A was one of the few aircraft at the time to have retractable landing gear, they were frequently damaged in "wheels-up" landings when the pilots forgot to extend the landing gear.

One PB-2A was modified to a single-seat configuration as the PB-2A Special, to compete in a 1936 Air Corps competition for a new fighter to replace the Boeing P-26 Peashooter. It was larger and heavier than the other competitors and was much more expensive. It crashed during testing, with the Seversky P-35 being ordered into production. One A-11 was converted to the XA-11A testbed with the new 1,000 hp (746 kW) Allison XV-1710-7 engine.

While the PB-2 was sturdy, the two-seat fighter concept was obsolete by the time the aircraft entered service, and by 1939, all had been replaced in frontline service by Seversky P-35 and Curtiss P-36 Hawk aircraft. The survivors remained in use as training aircraft until after the start of World War II, with the last being withdrawn from use on 2 June 1942.

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2
  • Length: 29 ft 10 in (9.1 m)
  • Wingspan: 43 ft 11 in (13.4 m)
  • Height: 8 ft 2 in (2.5 m)
  • Wing area: 297 ft (27.6 m)
  • Empty weight: 4,297 lb (1,949 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 5,632 lb (2,555 kg)

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 274 mph (238 knots, 441 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 215 mph (187 knots, 346 km/h)
  • Range: 510 mi (440 nm, 820 km)
  • Service ceiling 28,000 ft (8,500 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,925 ft/min (9.8 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 19 lb/ft (93 kg/m)

Armament

  • Guns:
    • 2 x 0.30 in (7.62 mm) machine guns firing through the propeller
    • 1 x 0.30 in machine gun in the rear cockpit

End notes