During last year’s 12 Planes of Christmas campaign, donors had the opportunity to contribute to an exciting and unusual project, returning a rare P-63F to flying condition.
Only two F model P-63s were ever built and only one survived the war. The F model P-63s were used to test the airframe with a more powerful engine, the Allison V-1710-135. Because the airplane had more power, the designers also changed the shape of the vertical stabilizer, and enlarged the horizontal stabilizer.
Even though the P-63 was a capable aircraft, its use during the war was somewhat limited. P-63s were supplied to the Soviet Union via Lend-Lease, but in the United States they were used as part of a little-known program to train aerial gunners.
Specially modified aircraft, known as RP-63s, featuring armored windshields and armor plated surfaces, were flown through live fire exercises as a target. Trainee gunners on board their B-17s would shoot at the Kingcobras with “frangible” bullets designed to break apart on impact. When hit, the Kingcobra’s specially designed system of lights would flash, indicating to the trainee that they had successfully hit the target. Because of this system of flashing lights the airplanes became known as the “Flying Pinball Machines.”
When we last saw the P-63, she had been badly damaged in a belly landing and was being repaired by the dedicated volunteers of the P-63 Sponsor Group. Thanks, in part to the generous support of donors from across the country – this unique airplane is back in the air. She has successfully inspired, entertained and educated thousands at airshows this past summer.
While we are still looking forward to the possibility of telling the "Pinball" story with this plane, we simply do not have the financial means to undertake the Pinball mission at this time. Our sole source of income for the plane, is the appearance fees obtained from the air shows and donations to the plane from our supporters. The P-63 is truly a "single seat" fighter. As such, we do not have the opportunity to raise operating revenue in the Ride program.
Please help the P-63 Sponsor Group continue to spread the word throughout our country in 2017 by considering a donation to this unique airplane!