This painting is featured in the February 2021, issue of Air Classics magazine accompanying Tim Weinschenker's story: The Tale of Two Lightnings.
The beginning of the 1947 Bendix Trophy Cross Country Race was a near disaster for pilot Jim Ruble. Flying a heavily modified P-38F Lightning named "Flying Shamrock," owned by hotel magnate Glenn McCarthy, Ruble accidentally released the right-wing tip tank just after liftoff resulting in a spectacular fireball on the Van Nuys, California runway. Ruble was able to retain control of the aircraft and pressed on to Cleveland, but their troubles were far from over. With help from the jet stream he was able to attain a cruise speed of 550 mph at 35,000 ft altitude, but a turbo super charger fire forced him to bail out over Winslow, Arizona ending the short but glamorous life of this beautiful air racer.
This was a challenging project. I had shied away from painting this airplane despite its compelling history because of a lack of available information and images. That all changed when writer Tim Weinschenker sent me an excellent portfolio of photos and data. Then, after a thorough review of all the fascinating images and information I realized I now had more questions than answers. As is often the case, we artists just have to bite the bullet take our inspiration and do the work. There are a lot of conflicting facts and opinions about the event's details. Even with large things such as the main aircraft color, the trim colors, and differing accounts of the Flying Shamrock's airframe. So, I decided to use Pete Bower's takeoff photograph as my baseline for its configuration, position and lighting. My choice of the painting's perspective allows me to show most of the paint and airframe details in a view with a lot of dynamic energy. With this viewpoint, I was able to create some background details that stayed with the look and feel of Pete's photo, while it gave me space for artistic choices. I really enjoyed creating this piece and I hope it adds something to the short and fascinating history of this aircraft and the colorful group of people involved with it.
*This original work is available for purchase. Painting size in inches: 18 x 24. Contact Steve Cox by the phone number listed on this website for more information. Please reference "The Flying Shamrock."
Signed prints may be ordered through this website by clicking on the "add to cart" button. Print size in inches: image 16 x 20 on18 x 22 paper.
The Flying Shamrock
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