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Bell P-59B Airacomet

DAYTON, Ohio -- Bell P-59B Airacomet at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Bell P-59B Airacomet at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Bell P-59B Airacomet at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Bell P-59B Airacomet at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Restoration staff move the Bell P-59B into the new fourth building at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on Oct. 8, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

Restoration staff move the Bell P-59B into the new fourth building at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on Oct. 8, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

Restoration staff move the Bell P-59B into the new fourth building at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on Oct. 8, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

Restoration staff move the Bell P-59B into the new fourth building at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on Oct. 8, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

Bell P-59B Airacomet in the Research & Development Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Bell P-59B Airacomet in the Research & Development Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Bell P-59B Airacomet cockpit view in the Research & Development Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Bell P-59B Airacomet cockpit view in the Research & Development Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Bell P-59B Airacomet cockpit view in the Research & Development Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Bell P-59B Airacomet cockpit view in the Research & Development Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

This is one of three XP-59A prototypes. The first prototype XP-59A flew in the fall of 1942 at Muroc Dry Lake (now Edwards Air Force Base), Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo)

This is one of three XP-59A prototypes. The first prototype XP-59A flew in the fall of 1942 at Muroc Dry Lake (now Edwards Air Force Base), Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo)

To maintain secrecy, prototype Airacomets were towed to and from the flightline with a fake propeller and a cover over the engine exhausts and intakes. (U.S. Air Force photo)

To maintain secrecy, prototype Airacomets were towed to and from the flightline with a fake propeller and a cover over the engine exhausts and intakes. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Designed and built in great secrecy during World War II, the P-59 was America's first jet aircraft. Although it never saw combat, the Airacomet provided training for USAAF personnel and invaluable data for the development of higher performance jet airplanes.

The P-59 was powered by two General Electric turbojets developed from the British Whittle engine. Unfortunately, the relatively low thrust of the XP-59’s engines and its heavy, conventional airframe design resulted in disappointing performance.

Bell built 50 P-59A and P-59B production aircraft, some of which were flown by the 412th Fighter Group, the U.S.’s first jet fighter unit. The P-59B on display was obtained from Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., in February 1956. 

TECHNICAL NOTES:

Weight: 10,532 lbs. loaded
Armament: One 37mm cannon and three .50-cal. machine guns

Engines: Two General Electric J-31s of 1,650 lbs. thrust each

Maximum speed: 450 mph

Range: 440 miles

Service ceiling: 43,400 feet

Click here to return to the Research & Development Gallery.

 

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Dr. S. Mike Pavelec: "Jet Race and the Second World War" (00:55:50)
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