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American postwar aircraft


Bell P-59 Airacomet

The P-59 was the first US jet aircraft. Developed in secrecy, its genesis came at the personal direction of Gen. "Hap" Arnold. Bell Aircraft was chosen for the project in part because of its location near the General Electric engine plants in New York and Massachusetts. Aircraft flew almost exactly a year after development began. To ensure secrecy, the XP-59 was fitted with a dummy propeller whenever it was towed on the ground. Col. Laurence C. "Bill" Craigie became the first USAAF pilot to fly a jet when he made the type's "official" first flight on October 2, 1942. First jet flight made by a USN aviator came on April 21, 1943, when Capt. Frederick M. Trapnell flew the XP-59 at Muroc AAF, Calif. The 412th Fighter Group became the first USAAF jet fighter unit when it was formed in 1943 and stationed at Bakersfield, Calif., and then later at March Field, Calif. This unit primarily served as a jet pilot training unit. The P-59 was never a great performer and was quickly overtaken by development of other jet aircraft, mainly the P-80 Shooting Star. Only in operational service for about a year, the type was phased out of service by 1949.
General characteristics
Power plant Two General Electric J31-GE-5 turbojets
Thrust 907 kg 8.89 kN
Max. speed 413 mph 664 km/h
Range normal 240 miles 386 km
ext. tanks 520 miles 836 km
Wingarea 386 sq ft 35.86 sq m
Weight empty 7,940 lb 3,600 kg
max. takeoff 12,700 lb 5,760 kg
Wingspan 45.5 ft 13.88 m
Length 38.85 ft 11.84 m
Height 12.3 ft 3.76 m
Armament One 37 mm cannon, three 12,5 mm machine guns; under wings 2x 450 kg bombs  or 8x 27 kg rockets
Date deployed 1944
Number built 66 (incl. three training XF2L-1 for US Navy)

Jirka Wagner


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