P-38 Instrument Panel

Diagram of the P-38 Instrument Panel from Pilot’s Flight Operating Instructions for Army Models P-38H Series, P-38J-5 and F-5B-1, T.O. No. 01-75FF-1, September 1943.

P-38 Lightning Instrument Panel

Labels: 1. Directional gyro; 2. Gyro horizon; 3. Compass indicator; 4. Fuel pressure gages; 5. Altimeter; 6. Airspeed indicator; 7. Turn and bank indicator; 8. Rate of climb indicator; 9. Manifold pressure gages; 10. Suction gage; 11. Hydraulic pressure gage; 12. Turbo overspeed warning lights; 13. Ammeter; 14. Tachometers; 15. Coolant temperature indicator; 16. Fuel quantity gages; 17. Clock; 18. Combination oil pressure and temperature gages (fuel pressure indicator not connected); 19. Flap and landing gear position indicator; 20. Space for BC-608 Contactor; 21. Carburetor air temperature indicator.

“P-38 Lightning at War” by Kagero

New December book release on the P-38 Lightning from Kagero with Cartograf decals: miniTopcolors 33: P-38 Lightning at War, Part 2, by Maciej Góralczyk and Andrzej Sadło (ISBN 978-83-62878-48-2).

P-38 Lightning at War by Kagero and Cartograf

Includes decal sheets with 1/72, 1/48 and 1/32-scale markings for eight P-38 Lightnings:
• P-38G-13-LO, probable s/n 42-2197, “Nulli Secundus” / “X-Virgin”, flown by Lt. Kenneth G. Ladd of 80th FS / 8th FG, Dobodura, New Guinea, winter of 1943/1944,
• P-38J-10-LO, s/n 42-67916, “California Cutie”, coded (KI)- “S”, flown by Lt. Richard O. Loehnert of 55th FS / 20th FG, RAF Kings Cliffe, England, June 1944,
• P-38J-15-LO, s/n 43-28444, “Vivacious Virgin II”, coded “E6-T”, flown by Lt. Ian B. Mackenzie of 402nd FS / 370th FG, Florennes/Juxaine, Belgium, winter of 1944/1945,
• P-38L-5-LO, probable s/n 44-26568, ‘Wicked Woman’, coded ‘W’, flown by Lt. Richard C. Livingston of 36th FS / 8th FG, Ie Shima, August-September 1945.
• Plus four other aircraft.

P-38 Combat

P-38 Lightning combat with Me 109s and subsequent bail out. Source: “P-38 Combat”, Informational Intelligence Summary, No. 44-2, Office of the Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Intelligence, Washington, D.C., Jan. 10, 1944.


In the following interview Major Kelly Mitchim describes a fight with Me 109s, evasive tactics used and bailing out procedure.

We were on a mission against Capua airdrome, just north of Naples, with 24 P-38s escorting a group of B-25s. There were two sections of three flights each, counter-weaving across the top of the bombers, and I was flying top cover for the last section. Two Messerschmitt 109s came in at six o’clock and when I saw them they had already opened fire on my Number Four man. I immediately broke into them without stopping to drop my belly tanks. My Number Two man, who was slightly inexperienced, lost me and left me there by myself. I came around and tried to drop my belly tanks, but evidently I had blown a fuse because they would not release. The two Me 109s dived on me from about nine o’clock and I turned into them and fired a burst at the second one. The first one slid under my tail and hit my left engine, the left belly tank, and the cockpit which set my plane on fire immediately.

I had been told by a P-38 pilot who had been in combat that the best way to get an enemy plane off your tail in a P-38 was to snatch back the left throttle, throw full throttle to the right engine, and do a right stick and right rudder. I don’t know what it does, but it is something like an upward sliding roll. The main thing that I desired was to get him off my tail, and it did that.

Next I began thinking about bailing out. My plane was burning very badly; smoke and flames were in the cockpit. I smashed the escape hatch and tried to roll it to the left but it would not roll over. I stood up to bail out and nearly got my head blown off. I sat back again but the smoke and flames were now so bad that I could not see my airspeed or altimeter, so I pulled back on the stick and pulled her straight up almost into a stall, stood up in the seat, and rolled out backwards. I think as I went out that the nose came down, the tail went up, and I went under it. I am not sure how it was. I pulled my rip cord at about 5,000 feet–I was wearing an English chute and it worked very well.

There is one point that I think should be stressed to all P-38 pilots which had not been stressed to me. That is, do not smash your escape hatch too quickly. It draws all the flames and all the smoke immediately into the cockpit. The escape hatch should not be pulled off until the moment you are ready to drop out of the plane.

See Also: Bailing Out of a P-38 Lightning

Be Careful Where You Drop Your Tanks

“Be Careful Where You Drop Your Tanks” — good advice for P-38 Lightning pilots from Pilot’s Flight Operating Instructions for the P-38, September 1943.

Be Careful Where You Drop Your Tanks


Give Us More P-38’s

A U.S. Army WWII poster depicting the P-38 Lightning in action against Japanese Zeros in the Pacific.

Give Us More P-38s Poster

P-38 “Georgia Peach II”

A U.S. Air Force black-and-white photograph of a silhouette of the Lockheed P-38 “Georgia Peach II” in flight over Panama during WWII.

Lockheed P-38 Lightning Georgia Peach II over Panama

(U.S. Air Force Photograph)


P-38 “Arkansas Traveler”

U.S. Air Force photograph of Lt. James O. Fincher of the 392nd Fighter Squadron, 367th Fighter Group in his P-38J Lightning “Arkansas Traveler” along with his ground crew. The P-38 was photographed at Clastres Airfield, France in October 1944.

P38 Lightning Nose Art Arkansas Traveler

U.S. Air Force Photo


P-51 Mustang and P-38 Lightning Heritage Flight

A P-51 Mustang and P-38 Lightning lead a heritage flight formation over Langley Air Force Base in May 2004. The four generations of USAF fighters include an A-10 Thunderbolt II, F-86 Sabre, P-38 Lightning and P-51 Mustang. (AF.mil, U.S. Air Force Photographs by T/Sgt. Ben Bloker.)

P-51 Mustang Color Photograph of WW2 Fighters P-51 Mustang WW2 Color Pictures P-38 Lightning Color Photograph - Heritage Flight

P-38 Flight Characteristics

WWII color training film produced by Lockheed describing the P-38 Lightning. The film shows operating characteristics of the P-38, demonstrates techniques for takeoff, landing, and combat flying, and shows operating controls and procedures.


Bailing Out of a P-38 Lightning

From the “Pilot Training Manual for the P-38 Lightning”:

Pilot Parachute


Many stories have been circulated that you can’t successfully bail out of the P-38. Rumor had it that you wouldn’t have a chance of missing the horizontal stabilizer, and twin booms and rudders. Actual experience has disproven these stories. In spite of the hangar talk that crops up from time to time, it is no more difficult to bail out of a P-38 than any present-day fighter.

Before you bail out, if you have the time, make the necessary radio calls as outlined in Emergency Radio Procedures. If you bail out over water or unpopulated territory, your best chance for rescue lies in correct and speedy radio procedure before you abandon your airplane.

The method of leaving the plane is largely dependent on your altitude, attitude, and airspeed. The final decision on how to get out rests with you. Here are three recommended and accepted procedures for bailing out.

Over the trailing edge of the wing

1. Head towards an unpopulated area and disconnect oxygen tube and radio equipment.

2. Slow the plane down as much as possible.

3. Roll down the left window and release the canopy.

4. Release your safety belt and slide out head first off the trailing edge of the wing. Never stand up or jump!


P-38 Lightning Pilot Bail Out
Roll the plane over and drop out

1. Disconnect oxygen tube and radio equipment.

2. Roll elevator trim tab forward while holding plane level. (This will keep the nose of the plane up while you are on your back.)

3. Release the canopy and roll the plane over on its back.

4. Unhook your safety belt and drop out.

Unless you are very low to the ground, keep your hand off the ripcord when leaving the plane. If you hold the ripcord handle as you bail out, the slipstream jerks your arm and the chute opens before you are clear of the plane.

P-38 Lightning Pilot Bailout
Sucked out at high speed

If your P-38 is out of control and traveling at a high airspeed, disconnect the oxygen tube and radio equipment, unhook your safety belt, and then release the canopy.

When the canopy is released, the vacuum created in the cockpit sucks you out of the seat and carries you clear of the plane.

If you feel conditions warrant leaving your plane and you have made up your mind to jump, decide which is the best way to get out, and then go.

P-38 Lightning Pilot Bailout