Note: This aircraft is located in the Research & Development Gallery on a controlled-access portion of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The gallery will close until further notice beginning May 1, 2013, as part of budget reduction requirements due to sequestration.
Development of the P-59, America's first jet-propelled airplane, was ordered personally by Gen. H.H. "Hap" 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 USAAF personnel and invaluable data for subsequent development of higher performance jet airplanes.
The P-59B on display was obtained from Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., in February 1956.
Span: 45 ft. 6 in. Length: 38 ft. 10 in. Height: 11 ft. 11 3/4 in. Weight: 10,532 lbs. loaded Armament: One 37mm cannon and three .50-cal machine guns Engines: Two General Electric I-16s of 1,650 lbs. thrust each Serial number: 44-22650
PERFORMANCE: Maximum speed: 450 mph Cruising speed: 320 mph Range: 440 miles Service ceiling: 43,400 ft.