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P-38 Lightning

smoke in the skies

In order to make the Lockheed P-38 Lightning’s spectacular maneuvers better visible to spectators on the ground, the Flying Bulls have decided to install a smoke system last year.

As specially fitted smoke system for the P-38 don’t exist, all components had to be developed and produced by the Flying Bulls mechanics themselves, including the smoke oil tank, the brackets for the pump, the cables and even the electrical controls. As with any alteration and installation, the resulting increase in overall weight posed a challenge; the installation of the smoke system could not interfere withthe plane’s center of gravity and flight characteristics.

The P-38’s limited space turned the smoke system installation into a rather complex job. To ensure consistent air drag, all parts were installed inside the aircraft.

Mechanical elements like the oil tank, pumps, pipes and injection nozzles were installed on the booms behind the engine, while the electrical features were fitted into the cockpit and connected to the pumps via cables. Specially fitted “quick-disconnect“ connections were built into the wheel well, which allows you to refill the system by hand-pump without having to open any lids. The refill capacity on each side produces approximately 20 minutes of smoke.

The system operation is fairly straightforward: With a simple tap of a switch, the pilot can alternate between the smoke coming out of one or both sides. He can put the system on standby and activate it with a switch on the control wheel. Oil is injected into the hot exhaust gas, which creates the characteristic white smoke. The pilot can leave his hands on the control wheel throughout the maneuver and concentrate on the flight, which is also a relevant safety feature.

The same oil-injecting principle is used with the Edge, but the Cobra uses a different system. The outcome however is the same: white smoke traces the aircrafts’ maneuversand flight paths - amazing spectators every time.