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Bell P-59 Airacomet

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Bell P-59 Airacomet

   It was June of 1941 that the US Government was told of the British development of the turbojet engine. Three months later, Bell Aircraft was requested to build a jet fighter and also a turbojet based on the British Whittle. British engineers from Power Jets Ltd came accross the Atlantic to hasten the procedeings, and with this aid the YP-59A flew in less than a year from the start of work. The powerplant used were two General Electric 1,110lb-thrust turbojets, which was essentially an American version of the Whittle. One jet was found insufficient to propel the aircraft at reasonable speed.  After the flight testing, two 2,000-lb thrust General Electric turbojets replaced the 1,100lb engines previously used, and with these engines the maximum speed was increased to 413 miles per hour. This figure was not impresive, as piston-powered aircraft of the same time performed similarly, and only 66 P-59s were produced. However, it was a truely incredible achievement, and the P-59 became America's first jet fighter. An amusing note about the P-59 was that it was top secret for the time, and dummy propellers were fitted to the aircraft to fool the half-hearted spy.


    Type: Single seat fighter
    Engine: two General Electric J31 GE-3 2,000-lb/thrust turbojets
    Weights: empty 7900lbs
    Performance: Max Speed 413mph; Service Ceiling 46000 feet; range on internal fuel 520 miles.
    Armament: Usually none, when fitted one 37mm cannon and three .5-inch machine guns
    First Flight: October 1st 1942
    Nations: United States, one test model to Great Britain

On to the P-63 Kingcobra