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Posted 11/2/2009 Printable Fact Sheet
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Bell P-59B
Bell P-59B Airacomet in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Development of the P-59 Airacomet, America's first jet-propelled airplane, was ordered personally by Gen. H.H. Arnold on Sept. 4, 1941. The project was conducted under the utmost secrecy, with Bell building the airplane and General Electric the engine. The first P-59 was completed in mid-1942 and on Oct. 1, 1942, it made its initial flight at Muroc Dry Lake (now Edwards Air Force Base), Calif. One year later, the airplane was ordered into production, to be powered by I-14 and I-16 engines, improved versions of the original I-A.

Bell produced 66 P-59s. Although the airplane's performance was not spectacular and it never made it into combat, the P-59 provided training for AAF personnel and invaluable data for subsequent development of higher performance jet airplanes.

The National Museum of the United States Air Force has a P-59B on display in its Research & Development/Flight Test Gallery.

Type Number built/
XP-59 0 Pusher-prop design from XP-52
XP-59A 3 First AAF jet aircraft
YP-59A 13 Service test aircraft
P-59A 20 First production AAF jet
P-59B 30 Improved P-59A; 50 aircraft canceled

Armament: One 37mm cannon and three .50-cal machine guns
Engines: Two General Electric I-16s of 1,650 lbs. thrust each
Maximum speed: 450 mph
Cruising speed: 320 mph
Range: 440 miles
Service ceiling: 43,400 ft.
Span: 45 ft. 6 in.
Length: 38 ft. 10 in.
Height: 11 ft. 11 3/4 in.
Weight: 10,532 lbs. loaded

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