Art Heiden in the cockpit of his P-38
Cockpit size: P-38, Adequate for a 6-footer. About the same as P-40/P-39. I was 6' 2" at 155#. tended to make me stooped shouldered sitting on dingy, using a backpack chute. There were many 6' er's in the outfit, some like Fiebelkorn and Wetzel were 6' 5" or even taller. Feib weighed 225#. They didn't seem to be bothered. We all wanted to fly the 38 so bad we would have let them cut us off at the knees if necessary. P-51 had a larger/better cockpit and heat, with advanced systems--a real pleasure to fly. Seemed like a vacation after a 38. P-47 was bigger yet, and a sweet old Cadillac to fly for sheer pleasure.
Transition: P-38-Starting in advanced Flying School, Willie Air Patch, the only P-38 school, after training in AT-9's and gunnery in AT-6's we received 20hrs in the RP-322 with the last flight before graduation was a rat-race up and way down in Grand Canyon. Before first flight we received extensive ground school, a piggyback ride, and a blindfold check. On the big day, 120-degrees, sweating like a drowned dog, we cranked up, with our legs shaking uncontrollably from trying to hold that thing back with brakes, we rushed out to the runway before engine temps went out of sight past the red, shoved the throttles up to what ever the 91 octane fuel would allow, got the boot in the ass, and with great relief found ourselves in the air. Succeeding flights were formation flying and practicing engine shut downs and prop feathering. After graduation, at Murock Dry Lake, Salinas, and North Island by San Diego in RTU we were given extensive ground school, Work on the line and in maintenance hanger learning all we could about systems in the hands-on mode, and flight training the other half of the day--about 100hrs. In England, another month of ground school and several orientation flights at Goxhill. We always, made nuisances of our selves badgering maintenance for all the test-hops, slowtimes for all the flying time we could beg, borrow or steal.
P-51 Transition: We got the TO's and especially the Flight 01, tried to memorize it, sat in the airplane till able to give each other blindfold checks and cranked up and went flying. We were to get 5hr's flying time before combat. The P-51 was a new airplane and we were eager to fly it and were happy with it. It was so easy and comfortable to fly. The P-38 had kept us on our toes and constantly busy--far more critical to fly. You never could relax with it. We were disappointed with the 51's rate of climb and concerned with the reverse stick, if fuel was in the fuselage tank, the rash of rough engines from fouled plugs, and cracked heads which dumped the coolant. With the 38 you could be at altitude before landfall over the continent, but with the 51 you still had a lot of climbing yet to do. The 38 was an interceptor and if both engines, you always knew you could outclimb any other airplane, and that's what wins dog fights. When you are in a dogfight below treetops, It is way more comfortable in a 38 with its power and stall characteristics and, for that matter at any altitude.
Yes, we had the freedom to just go out and check ourselves out in most any available A/C. My worst time was checking myself out in a C-47. Took the TO out to the A/C, did my walk-around, got in, put the TO on the right seat, cranked up, took off, and found myself the busiest Idiot there ever was. Couldn't turn pages fast enough. The C-47 is a very busy A/C with all its ancient systems.
Art Heiden in front of his P-38
Thanks to Art Heiden for sharing his experiances with us!