The Boeing P-26 series evolved from a series of three Model XP-936
prototypes built at Boeing's expense during 1931. After flight
testing at Wright Field, the Army ordered 111 Model P-26A's in 1933,
followed by 25 P-26B's, with fuel injected
engines, and 23 P-26C's,
which featured minor changes. All were later equipped with flaps,
which lowered the landing touchdown speed from 82 mph. to 73 mph, a
significant improvement. An improved tail wheel was also retrofitted to
and some aircraft appear in photographs without the telescopic gun sight
commonly associated with the type.The Boeing P-26's bridged the gap
between the World War I style biplane, with fixed landing gear, bracing
wires, and an open cockpit, and the modern all-metal high speed
monoplane, with a cantilever wing, enclosed cockpit, constant speed
propeller, supercharger, and increased armament.
Army P-26A's equipped the 20th Pursuit Group at Barksdale Field,
Shreveport, LA, from late 1933.
Later, the 1st Pursuit Group at Selfridge Field, Michigan, reequipped
with the type, along with the 17th Pursuit group at March Field, CA.
Overseas assignments included the 15th and 18th Pursuit Groups at
Wheeler Field, TH; the 37th Pursuit Group defending the Panama Canal;
and the 3rd Pursuit Squadron of the 4th Composite Group at Nichols
Field in the Philippines. As P-35A's reached the Philippines, 3rd PS
aircraft were passed on to the Philippine Air Force. Other export
models went to Spain (1) and China (10). In the Canal Zone, surplus
P-26A's were passed on to the Guatemalan Air Force, redesignated
PT-26A's for political reasons. Therefore, the modeler has a large
selection of color schemes and markings to choose from in building a
model of this aircraft type.
The Revell P-26A kit in 1/72 scale has been around since at least 1967,
and I have a number of them in stock. They are very basic, with
surface detailing consistent with the time they were produced, so
building a modern, state-of-the-art model requires some work. Cast in
bright yellow plastic, the kit consists of about 22 parts, including a
pilot figure. There is no interior detail except for a very crude
seat, and the radial engine does not include any of the exhaust
system. The decals are extensive, and strangely enough, the old "U.S.
Army" letters were sufficiently well preserved to be used on my model.
The original P-26's were delivered with olive drab fuselages with
yellow wings and tailplanes. In the middle thirties, many were
repainted with light blue fuselages and other individualistic squadron
generated color schemes, which marked one of the most colorful eras of
American military aviation. About 1940, some were repainted silver
overall, and after Pearl Harbor, varying patterns of olive drab and
neutral gray appeared. Tail stripes, common on all Army aircraft,
were deleted after Pearl Harbor, and the last Army P-26's which
survived into 1943, had the standard OD over neutral gray, with the
white star on blue disk adopted during 1942.
The Revell kit decals depict the airplane currently in the National Air
and Space Museum, and carried markings of the 34th Pursuit Squadron..
This aircraft originally was stationed in Panama, and was later passed
on to the Guatemalan Air Force, flying with that service until about
1957. Two were returned to the United States in the late fifties, one
being restored to display condition by the Air Force Museum, later
going to the Smithsonian, while the other was rebuilt by Ed Maloney's
Planes of Fame Museum in California. This one flies occasionally. A
third P-26A exists, a reproduction, currently on display at Wright
Field. I saw it recently, and it is very convincing. The AFM has an
excellent restoration staff. I haven't heard about any flying scale
replicas, but with a 225 hp Jacobs or Continental radial, it would
certainly be a possibility.
I wanted to do something different, so I opted for one of the last
P-26A's in the Army, stationed in Guatemala during 1943, immediately
before the aircraft was transferred to the Guatemalan Air Force.
On page 15 of the Bowers book is a photo of a rather forlorn looking
P-26A, 33-049, taken by Frederick Johnson, in
Guatemala City on
11 May 1943, before the aircraft left Army service. It is a faded OD
over neutral gray, with black tail numbers (3049) and blue and white
insignias. the aircraft has the late type tail wheel but no
telescopic gun sight. Decals were no problem on this one.
I first sanded off nearly all of the rivet detail, as the airplane
WAS flush riveted. I used the seat as a pattern and rebuilt the entire
interior, using photos in the Bowers book as a reference. Kit
instructions say to paint the interior "light green" but Army aircraft
interiors from this time period were bare aluminum, and they were
rarely repainted. A new seat, side details, instrument panel, and
other "goodies" were scratch-built. The cockpit opening is very small on
this aircraft, but at least I know that it looks like the real thing.
There are no wheel wells on a fixed gear airplane, so that makes things
Basic assembly is straightforward, but there are some fit problems,
especially in the wings and the wing-fuselage attachment. Everything
needs to be carefully trimmed and dry-fitted, and a small amount of
putty was required.
After basic assembly, I filled in the seams and made corrections. the
major error is the shape of the rudder, which needs to be more
rounded. This involves a small piece of card plastic and some putty,
no serious problem. The cowling needs to be
smoothed out to the proper
aerodynamic contours, and most parts need careful trimming. The makers
have attempted to help the builder rig the airplane with flying wires,
but all of the holes in the wing and landing gear aren't there, so
they will have to be drilled out. The engine is fairly well detailed,
but needs a lot of trimming. These engines require careful detailing,
and not as well done as the contemporary Monogram F11C-2 and F4B-4
kits. The propeller is useful, but I would rather have replaced it
with a better unit, but I didn't have one in the spares box, so I had
to make do with the one included in the kit.
The major problem was the exhaust system, which is very intricate. I
used the insulation from electronic wire, cut at suitable angles and
glued to the engine cylinders with super-glue. It was a relatively
simple task, and the result was satisfactory. Another problem was the
wire rigging. I used electronic wire rolled out and glued with white
glue, and the result is impressive. The radio antennas were done the
same way. The low frequency transmitter and receiver each had a
separate wire antenna, so there are a lot of wires. It must have had a
serious effect on the airplane's maximum speed.
I used standard Testor's Model Master Olive Drab and Neutral Gray,
with an overcoat of Glosscote and later Dullcote. This was a simple
model to paint.
If you have the time, this model is cheap
entertainment. I probably spent about 6 hours total time in assembly and
painting, as the airplane is VERY small in 1/72 scale. from the tone of
the instructions, it is obvious that the kit was intended for kids, but
to make a really good model, some serious adult level skills are
required. Although decal trim is provided, if I were doing one of the
highly decorated versions, I would mask and paint the trim rather than
use kit decals.
Many publications provide useful information on the P-26 series,
but the best I have found are the Aerofax Minigraph 8 publication on
the Boeing P-26 Variants by the late great aviation historian Peter
Bowers, a former Boeing engineer who had access to as much information
on Boeing aircraft as anyone. This was published in 1964. Another
more recent publication is the Squadron In-Action Mini Series Number 2
on the P-26, by Larry Davis, published in 1994. The Bowers Book has
extensive information, including detailed interior photos, while the
Squadron book has more color information. Both are worth having. Dan
Hagedorn's book, Wings Over The Canal, a history or the 6th Air Force
defending the Panama Canal, has some interesting information on P-26's,
and this is well worth getting.