My question is: did the Air Force convert F-51Ds in the post-war years to have fixed, nonretracting tail wheels? If so, what was the reason?
I was reading through the F-51 Pilot's Handbook T.O. 1F-51D-1, Pilot Handbook, USAF Series F-51D Aircraft, dated January 20, 1954, and I was struck by this description of the aircraft's landing gear system:
The landing gear system on the airplane is a conventional type, with a steering and locking mechanism provided for the nonretracting tail wheel.
Illustrations throughout the manual--including the one on the cover--support that the tail wheel does not retract. Several action pictures of F-51s in flight show their main gears up but tail wheels down. There is also a cutaway diagram of the aircraft that labels the tailwheel as 'FIXED TAIL WHEEL.'
As we all know, wartime P-51Ds had retracting tail wheels. I quickly confirmed this by looking at AAF Manual 51-127-5, Pilot Training Manual for the Mustang P-51, dated August 15, 1945:
The main gear and tailwheel are fully retractable, and are controlled hydraulically by a single lever on the left pedestal...The tailwheel drops almost instantly when you push the landing gear lever to the DOWN position.
_________________I like Thunderbolts!
(Link to MySpace tribute page)120th Fighter Wing, Montana Air National Guard