7 P-47 Thun­der­bolt – 15,660

Flight Journal - - THE MOST PRODUCED -

Rus­sian-born Alexander Kartveli, Sev­er­sky’s chief de­signer in the mid-1930s, con­tin­ued in that role when Repub­lic Avi­a­tion took over the com­pany. He had de­signed an out­stand­ing mono­plane fighter in the lim­ited-pro­duc­tion Sev­er­sky P-35, and when the Euro­pean war ex­ploded, he de­signed the highly suc­cess­ful P-47, orig­i­nally as an in­ter­cep­tor. The Thun­der­bolt’s size and sturdy struc­ture that worked for it in com­bat worked against it in terms of pro­duc­tion. Its empty weight of ap­prox­i­mately 10,000 pounds— ver­sus the Mus­tang’s 7,600—meant that a lot more parts, some of them pretty hefty, had to be built. Still, the air­plane filled a niche and was still do­ing its job on the last day of the war in the Pa­cific.

The Pratt & Whit­ney R2800, prob­a­bly the most used Amer­i­can en­gine of the war, was a large pow­er­house not given to the de­sign of tiny air­planes, and Kartveli’s in­ge­nu­ity was re­quired to pro­duce an aero­dy­nam­i­cally clean air­frame around it. Com­pli­cat­ing the de­sign and pro­duc­tion was the ne­ces­sity of lo­cat­ing the tur­bocharger be­hind the pi­lot in the bot­tom of the fuse­lage. This was pre­sum­ably done for cen­ter-of-grav­ity rea­sons, but it needed very long ex­haust and in­take duct­ing that ran nearly the length of the air­plane. That gave the air­plane its ro­tund shape and gave pro­duc­tion de­sign­ers headaches.

The Thun­der­bolt was not a small air­plane, and get­ting it into the com­bat the­aters pre­sented some dif­fi­cult ship­ping prob­lems. (Photo cour­tesy of Stan Piet)

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