Northrop P-61 Black Widow

The Northrop P-61 Black Widow has always been one of my favorite fighters of World War 2.

Conceived as a night fighter that served in, European, Mediterranean, China-Burma-India, and Pacific theaters of war, the P-61 and a comparatively short service career with the US Army Air Corps and later the USAF, and US Government serving from 1943 to 1954.

There are a few preserved non flying examples located the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum:

The National Museum of the USAF:

My photo of the P-61 on display at the National Museum of the USAF.

There’s another at the Beijing Aviation Museum:

The P-61 at the Beijing Aviation Museum (at left)

Now you’ve read a little about the Black Widow it’s time to fly. Grab your P-61 POH (you know I have one…). Also, review the film below:

Then head to the Mid Atlantic Air Museum. They are restoring one to flyable condition (that’s the only one I know of). The site is updated regularly so periodically check in and take a look at their progress (maybe throw then a few bucks to help out).


Filed under Airplanes, Flying, History, Plane Pr0n, USAF

13 responses to “Northrop P-61 Black Widow

  1. xbradtc

    Big and sexy. And Jack Northrop had an eye for streamlining, didn’t he?

  2. Bit about night fighting in the early days, I knew one Capt. Earl Bennett.
    He made the first night kill of the pacific war over Guadalcanal. They were
    equipped with the P-70 the nightfighter version of the A-20 Havoc.
    Good below 15,000 it fell off rapidly above that.
    Well they arrived on the ‘Canal Isle just after it was secure. Pappy and his
    Blacksheep were still there. It seems the Japanese would send “Bedcheck”
    Charlies over to harass the Americans at night. Usually a single plane usually a Mitsubishi “Sally” light bomber. Now the AA crews had not hit one in several weeks. As Earl’s outfit arrived they thought this would be the perfect time try to get a “Sally” so off Earl and his Radarman go.
    they struggled to get above the Sally’s altitude. which was 18,000 ft.
    usually. Problem: no one alerted the AA folks that there was going to
    be one of ours after the Sally. as they cautiously approached the unsuspecting Japanese Bomber. The whole world lit up AA, Searchlights,
    and they were in the cross beams of the lights! the black P-70 stood out rather well in th glare of the lights. Earl thought:”They couldn’t hit
    the Hindenberg , even if it was on fire, and here I’m about to get shot
    down.” His radar operator yelled “we got it!! about 800 yards!” by that time he saw the Sally also lit up by the glare of the lights, and AA.
    he closed close to the Sally he could see the exhaust flame…
    Then he unloaded the 20mms in to the Sally…It blew up and fell on the
    side of the runway.. They landed and counted about 20 holes in the P-70
    no the Japanese didn’t lay a finger on them.
    Then he went state side and the P-60 one shy of ace they made him
    an instructor. He loved the the P-60…

  3. Bill Brandt

    Aw I am watching this the checklist was so long you’d wonder how they would scramble – Guess they didn’t –

    There’s an equally interesting old AAF video of the Mustang – check out procedures – how much rudder trim to give on take off – I’ll try and find it

    • virgil xenophon

      I had an ex-B-47 driver tell me once: “You can laugh, but there’s an art all of its own to ‘checklist-flying’ large aircraft..”

  4. Bill Brandt

    Virgil – I can believe that!

  5. Paul L. Quandt

    I know that most of you don’t care, but it’s a real sore point with me. The Army Air Corps became the Army Air Force in the summer of 1941. During the entire period of the United States involvement in the Second World War, there was no United States Army Air Corps.


  6. Paul L. Quandt

    “the entire period of the United States involvement in the Second World War”
    Sorry, I intended to say the official U. S. involvement.

  7. Bill Brandt

    Paul – it is interesting to me. Another data bit to file away. A bit of Army Air Force trivia you might not know – I was assigned to Army Air Defense – didn’t even know what it was when the Drill Sgt is calling out names and assignments;/destinations. Turns out it is the last vestige of the Army Air Corps/Army Air Force – Ground to Air Defense. When the Air Force became its own entity (1947-1948?) The Army held on to this, a function every other military gives to their Air Force.

    But, unless things have radically changed, every Army Air Defense unit serves under an Air Force unit. The Air Force wants, ugh, good communication before an Army unit launches a missile at some plane 😉

    I would suspect today – given more integration with the services that the Army Air Defense is also in close contact with the Navy in the ME.

    During most of my time in Germany I was in a NATO radar bunker – 30 of us Army – serving with 100 or so USAF and 100 or so German Luftwaffe.

    My nickname was “Bratwurst” for my preference to the German mess hall, but then I am probably giving you too much information 😉

  8. Paul L. Quandt

    Bill Brandt:

    Thanks for the info. The USAF came into being in 1947. What year(s) were you in Germany?


  9. P.E. Croad

    i just received a Hobby Boss 1/32 scale model of the “widow” and it is a beast, can’t wait to get started on the build. i have one question for anyone out there that can help. what color do i use on the interior? i have seen zinc chromate, olive drab, and yellow sometimes even a combination of two colors. any help would be great—thanks—Phil

  10. Pingback: MAAM P-61B Black Widow Restoration Update | The Lexicans

  11. Pingback: MAAM P-61B Black Widow Restoration Update | Bring the heat, Bring the Stupid

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