P-51D/K Mustang canopy variations

Although not obvious at first glance, these early P-51D Mustangs of the 361st Fighter Group are equipped with slightly different canopies.

I’m adding a new category called “Work notes” to the website, comprising of notes I’ve taken while creating my profile templates. I’m hoping this might be of interest to viewers, and you should feel free to comment or make corrections if you believe I am mistaken on any topic.

This first work note is about the different canopies used on the P-51D/K. It is a common misconception that two types of canopies were used on the bubbletop Mustangs: the standard “Inglewood” canopy, and the bulged “Dallas” canopy. The reality is somewhat more complex. The information presented here is in large part taken from the excellent forum Warbird Information Exchange (WIX).

Five variations of the P-51D/K’s canopy were used during the course of production. These canopies were interchangeable and later variations of the canopies often found their way on early-production aircraft. More variations of the bubble canopy can be found on modern-day warbirds, racers, the P-51H and the TF-51D but will not be covered here. Please disregard the varying location of the seat on my illustrations, which are only meant to depict the shape of the canopy.

#1 Early Inglewood type

The first type of canopy, sometimes referred to as the -2 type, can be found on the earliest P-51D Mustangs. Its tallest point was located behind the pilot’s head and its sides were flat and not bulged as with later types. This canopy type was moulded, not blown.

#2 Intermediate Inglewood type

During late P-51D-5-NA and early P-51D-10-NA production, a new blown was introduced, sometimes referred to as the -6 type. The highest point of the canopy was now located above the pilot’s head, and the canopy sides were bulged, allowing for improved visibility. The upper rear part of the canopy had a flatter line than the -2 type.

It would appear that the -6 type was factory-fitted to several late P-51D-5-NAs, P-51D-10-NAs, P-51D-15-NAs and perhaps some early P-51D-20-NAs.

#3 Late Inglewood type

The later Inglewood type of canopy had “not so much height in the upper forward bulge of the canopy, and a bit more bulging at the back of the canopy”.

#4 Dallas type

The well-known early “Dallas” canopy showed far more bulging on the forward and rear parts of the canopy, and was very common on late-war P-51 Mustangs. It was introduced on Mustangs produced at the Dallas plant but is commonly found on Inglewood Mustangs as well as the canopies were interchangeable.

#5 Late Dallas type

A variant of the “Dallas” canopy can also be found, and features a much more bulged rear section.


 

Contrarily to what can often be read, the evolution of the canopy was neither due to sub-contractors being incapable of reproducing the specified shape of the canopy, nor was it designed to give pilots more head space. Instead, the canopy’s shape was progressively refined in order to improve visibility and reduce optical distorsion.

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