From the Planes You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of Department of Wingspan, we bring you the Fisher P-75 Eagle.
Fisher Body was an automobile coachbuilder that was founded in 1908 by two of seven Fisher brothers, and they got their start building bodies for Cadillac and Buick. This began long association with General Motors that continued after Fisher became a division of GM in 1926. Even after coming into the GM family, the famous “Body by Fisher” logo continued to be seen on GM cars into the 1990s. During WWI, Fisher aided the war effort with the construction of both airplanes and tanks, but in WWII, they decided to go all the way and design their first—and only—aircraft, the XP-75 Eagle.*
In the fall of 1942, the US Army Air Corps identified the need for a high-speed interceptor, one that would be driven by the most powerful liquid-cooled engine available and have an extremely high rate of climb to defend against high-flying bombers before they could reach their targets. The USAAC asked for a fighter that could climb at 5,600 feet per minute and have a top speed of 440 mph at 20,000 feet. The service ceiling was set at 38,000 feet. Fisher promised that they could deliver such a fighter in just seven months, and to do so, they built the Eagle out of a number of pre-existing aircraft pieces. Based on Fisher’s assurances, the USAAC ordered two prototypes.
By no means an elegant aircraft, the P-75 was originally designed with North American P-51 Mustang outer panels, the landing gear from a Vought F4U Corsair and the empennage from a Douglas A-24 Banshee, the Army variant of the SBD dive bomber. The wing panels were borrowed from the Curtiss P-40. Power was delivered by a 24-cylinder Allison V-3420 engine buried deep in the fuselage behind the cockpit and driving a contra-rotating propeller via a long shaft. When the XP-75 took its maiden flight on November 17, 1943, it was soon clear that the Eagle was not going to live up to its namesake, or Fisher’s optimistic promises. Ironically, the plane was so stable that it was no good as a fighter, with heavy controls and an underpowered engine for an aircraft of its size. Fisher had also badly miscalculated the aircraft’s center of gravity.
By this time, the Army had also decided that it no longer needed a high-speed interceptor. Instead, they wanted a long-range escort fighter. So Fisher went back to the drawing board and redesigned the P-75. The P-75A looked decidedly more modern, with a bubble canopy, redesigned squared-off wings and empennage, and a more powerful Allison engine. In many ways, it resembled a grossly oversized P-51 Mustang, particularly with its ventral radiator intake. But performance problems persisted, and three of the pre-production aircraft were involved in crashes, two of which were fatal. The Air Force finally canceled the project in October 1944. A total of eight XP-75s had been built, along with just six XP-75As. The sole remaining XP-75A was fully restored and is now on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
* The numbers 73 and 74 were not used for experimental aircraft, and it has been suggested that the number 75 was meant to be an homage to the famed French 75mm field gun which had proven so effective against Germany during WWI.
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