North American P-51B Mustang

Malcolm Hood

One minor complaint with the early Mustangs was poor visibility to the rear.  This was not an uncommon problem with fighters of the era.


After the jump, a look at one attempt to fix this problem.

Many aircraft designs of the late 1930s and early 1940s featured a more or less straight line from the top of the pilot’s armored headrest back to the tail section.  This made for good aerodynamics but poor visibility.  Early in the production of the Supermarine Spitfire R. Malcolm & Co introduced a blown plexi-glass piece that would allow the pilot some ability to look back down the spine of the aircraft.


For the Spitfire, this type canopy was used from very early in production (only a few early Spitfires were built with flat canopies) until very late in World War II.  The Malcolm Hood became a part of the Spitfire’s distinctive look.  But a few other types also got the treatment.  Most significantly, the vast majority of early Mustangs with the RAF and many England based Mustangs serving with the USAAF did too.  I’ve also seen this on a small number of Thunderbolts.


But prior to the introduction of the Bubble Canopy on the P-51D the Malcolm Hood was a very popular field modification.  It was even more aerodynamic than that later bubble.  The P-51D added the bubble and about 200 HP, yet it was about 5 knots slower than a P-51B with the Malcolm.


This particular aircraft is from the Tamiya kit with Aviation USK decals.  As always the Tamiya kit was a joy to build, but I’m no fan of these decals.  They are limited run and are printed on a solid clear sheet. A very thick clear sheet that did not disappear under the decal treatment I usually use.


The P-51B at left has the manufacturer’s original framed canopy. The plane at right has the blown Malcolm hood for better rear visibility. Also note the antennae mast has been removed. The Malcolm Hood slid back along the spine while the earlier canopy was hinged at the top and side. So the antennae mast was removed and the antennae wire was simply run right through the opening.


The early Spitfire on the left has a barely blown plexi-glass canopy while the later one on the right has a much more pronounced blown out shape.

This plane is from the 357th Fighter Group.  This group ranked third for total kills in the 8th Air Force, but it ranked number one for the number of pilots who made ace.  That includes such well known pilots as the group’s top ace Leonard K. Carson (18.5 kills); Clarence E. Anderson (16.25 kills); and Charles E. Yeager (11.5 kills, including five on one mission).  “U’ve Had It” was flown the group’s number two ace, John B. England with 17.5 kills.


The Corsair got the same treatment.  The early Corsair at left has a framed canopy, while the later Corsair at right has a blown shape.  I don’t believe the R, Malcolm Co was involved with the Corsair at all!

Capt England’s plane between missions. (from

About atcDave

I'm 5o-something years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I was an air traffic controller for 33 years and recently retired; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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14 Responses to North American P-51B Mustang

  1. Pierre Lagacé says:

    One of my 354 favourite planes…

  2. Pierre Lagacé says:

    Reblogged this on Souvenirs de guerre.

  3. Pierre Lagacé says:

    I reblogged it on the wrong blog.
    Watch the traffic Dave!

  4. jfwknifton says:

    Some wonderful aircraft, and a really interesting account of the different canopies. Very vague memories say that there was a Mr Malcolm. He must have been a very clever man.

  5. I just love the look of the P-51 with the Malcolm hood. Terrific paint scheme Dave, invasion stripes always look the business, and you have done a great job of them. Great write-up, great looking kit.

  6. Superb finish to the models, the blown hood certainly does improve visibility and I think, enhances a beautiful aircraft.

  7. Nice looking Mustang.
    The one Mustang I have built (so far!) I opted for the Malcom hood. To me, these are the best looking Mustangs. Better than the bubble top… to me anyways. I really like the bare metal/camo scheme too.

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