In the Wikipedia article on the F-82 Twin Mustang it says:

After a month of work North American engineers finally discovered that rotating the propellers to meet in the center on their upward turn created sufficient drag to cancel out all lift from the center wing section, one quarter of the aircraft's total wing surface area. The engines and propellers were then exchanged, with their rotation meeting on the downward turn, and the problem was fully solved"

Why did this direction of propeller turn cause this problem?

enter image description here

Image source: http://www.au.af.mil/au/afhra/wwwroot/photo_galleries/aaf_wwii_vol_vi/Captions/078_Experimental.htm (This image or file is a work of a U.S. Air Force Airman or employee, taken or made as part of that person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image or file is in the public domain.)

  • $\begingroup$ according to that article, an outward-spinning engine configuration is better in theory. i don't see how this would be. in a single-engine scenario, wouldn't the working engine torque push the non-working engine side down? or am i thinking about that wrong? $\endgroup$
    – Erich
    Mar 2, 2015 at 5:23
  • $\begingroup$ @erich, I see your point, to get an answer you should probably make this a question with a proper quote. $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2015 at 6:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ back in post-WWII they weren't that concerned with engine out scenarios or FAA's regulations about them $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2015 at 12:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Maverick283 the more i research this, the more i see the same comments. i'm beginning to think someone got history wrong, and everyone else is just copying it. $\endgroup$
    – Erich
    Mar 3, 2015 at 1:19
  • $\begingroup$ Does anyone have any data on a possible redesign on the center wing part? Or did they simple mirror a part of the root wing? Perhaps the result of the two propellors combined generated in increases of $c_l$ that was too far away from the value of $c_l$ design for that region. $\endgroup$
    – ROIMaison
    Mar 3, 2015 at 13:56

2 Answers 2


I'm not sure the history provided in the Wikipedia article is entirely accurate, for the fact that both engines in an outward spinning, two-prop counter-rotating configuration are critical. This is confirmed in the introduction of this book, though it seems to be written well after the fact and without reference to the oft-quoted story of not getting enough lift on its maiden run:

Turning the propellers toward the fuselage meant much better control during single-engine operation.

Likewise, the republished F-82 Operator's Manual boasts, "Single-engine control characteristics of this airplane are exceptionally good." Again (but also as expected), no mention of any trial and error in the design phase.

And the more I researched the F-82's design, I found various and unsourced information. Many sites repeated the initial flight test story, while another said the first attempt's failure was attributed to weight.

My guess is that initial designs of the F-82 simply borrowed from the slightly earlier P-38's final configuration, where the outward-spinning counter-rotating propellers reduced downwash on the horizontal stabilizer and made for a more stable gunnery platform.

As for figuring out the lift cancellation in the F-82's center wing section, it is probably helpful to explain first what effect a single propeller has on the wing behind it.

Generally speaking, a spinning propeller creates a downstream vortex in the same direction as the propeller is rotating. The area of wing behind the upswing of a propeller blade experiences a higher angle of attack to the resultant airflow, resulting in increased lift and drag across that section of the wing.
propeller slipstream

Image source: Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand

Likewise, the opposite occurs on the downswing side, resulting in a net increase in lift and net decrease in drag behind the engine as a whole. This single-engine airflow model is generally true for multiple-engine models with all propellers spinning in the same direction:

The interaction of the slipstream with the wing produces an increase in overall lift coefficient. This net increase is the result of a local increase in local lift coefficient $C_L$ for the part of the wing located in the slipstream with up-rotation while the downrotation induces a local decrease in $C_L$. The local drag coefficient $C_d$ is locally increased in the uprotation part and decreased over the down-rotation section. The net result is generally a reduction of drag on the wing.

So the F-82 seems to be an enigma in this regard. Theoretically, an outward rotation should have increased lift on the center section, not reduced it. So why didn't it? Perhaps there was too much interaction between the two propeller wakes. Again, consider the P-38 Lightning. Though they both have twin counter-rotating engines and two tail booms connected by a shared horizontal stabilizer, the P-38 has a big center fuselage for the pilot sitting right between the two engines, effectively isolating the individual propeller slipstreams.

A study on the "Down Between Engines" (DBE) configuration of the Airbus A400M noted "[strong] interact[ion]" of its counter-rotating engines' slipstreams

especially [in] the part of the wing located between both engines and results in a local decrease in lift coefficient that is not entirely offset by the local increase on those parts of the wings that experience upward motion (emphasis mine)

resulting in both decreased lift and increased drag in the wing section between the engines.

Note that DBE (i.e. inward-spinning propellers) was the fix for the F-82's lift woes; that the inter-engine wing region still experiences decreased lift and increased drag in the more preferable counter-rotating configuration underscores the notion that interaction of propeller slipstreams is not desirable. My guess is that this switch removed just enough of the adverse lift conditions so as to enable the aircraft to get airborne. It would be interesting to find out if anyone modified an F-82 to remove the counter-rotating aspect.

UPDATE: At long last, I have found what appears to be the most credible source for the Wikipedia article, a 2013 issue of Warbirds magazine.

  1. The first flight was (at least somewhat) attributed to being overweight. A second attempt on 16 June 1945 went unexpectedly airborne for over an hour after taking off with a limited fuel load.
  2. The interaction between the propellers created an early stall condition forward of the wing when combined with the normal upward flow, causing the lift over the center wing to predictably suffer. According to NAA aerodynamicist Ed Horkey:

"What was happening was that we had propellers rotating in different directions on the left and right engines. For some reason, which I can't remember, we started with the blades moving upward in front of the center section. What this does, particularly at high angles of attack, is to create upward flow approaching the leading edge of the center section of the wing. You also have normal upflow ahead of the wing. The two upflows would add together to create an early stall. The center section represented a large portion of the wing's area. What was happening was that we were stalling out early and just not getting enough lift. ... We changed the rotations to go down the middle and we had the problem solved."

  • $\begingroup$ So to recap-- in P-38 originally both props spun inwards at the top, but this made a buffet on the horizontal tail, so they reversed it to both props spinning outwards at the the top-- essentially making EACH engine a "critical engine". With the P-82 they started with both props spinning inwards at the top, and ran into a stall issue with the wing center section, so they reversed them, making NEITHER engine a "critical engine". I wonder why they started with it the other way-- just based on the P-38 experience? Or to try to maximize upwash and lift at the center section? (Too well it seems) $\endgroup$ Jul 28, 2019 at 23:54

The example given of the Cessna's propwash doesn't include the resultant left wing drop during stall because of the angle of attack along the width of the span being its highest at the left wing root, therefore that is where the stall starts.

The P-38 and XP-82 had outboard turning props to make sure the stalls, particularly power-on stalls, started inboard minimizing lateral control issues.

The idea was to maximize controllability during combat maneuvering. Inboard turning props improve engine out performance but at the cost of reduced lateral stability at high power settings and high angles of attack due to outboard stall initiation.

What does that have to do with the XP-82 having trouble taking off? Well, it flew like that, actually, and there are quite a few photos of it flying with those outboard turning props.

The problem was that in a three point attitude on the ground (the wing's stall angle) the wing center section was blanking the airflow to the stabilizer/elevator. In order to take off one had to tap the brakes at speed to lift the stab up into clear airflow for elevator control and to let the aircraft accelerate slightly beyond max AoA stall speed before going airborne. A tail wheel 262 prototype sort of thing. Not a tough technique for test pilots but not something you want the regular pilots to have to do.

The ideal fix is to raise the stabilizer, the quick and easy fix is to reverse the props improving the three point attitude airflow to the stab.


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