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Bell P-59 Airacomet

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The P-59 Airacomet was one of the new generation of jet fighters beginning to emerge. Its performance in comparison to not only other jet aircraft but piston engined aircraft of the time was disappointing. With less than 70 built the Bell P-59 Airacomet would not enter combat.

Quick Facts
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First flight
1st October 1942
Entered service
Total built

Front view
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Side view
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Rear view
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During the Second World War an agreement existed between the United Kingdom and United States of American to swap technology to assist in ending the war quicker. This lead to UK turbojet data from development work conducted by Sir Frank Whittle to be sent across the Atlantic. The General Electric company were tasked with building the engine whilst Bell Aircraft Corporation was to design the aircraft.

The design would be a twin-engined mid-wing monoplane with the power supplied by a pair of 1,250-lb thrust General Electric type - I-A turbojets and would take to the skies for the first time on the 1st October 1942 from Muroc Dry Lake, designated XP-59A. An order for a further 15 aircraft was placed, a further two more XP-59As, whilst the rest were YP-59As. Most of the YP-59As delivered were powered by a pair of 1,650-lb thrust General Electric I-16, re-designated later on as J31, turbojets.

To test the new aircraft the United States Army Air Force set up a special trials unit, the 412th Fighter Group. However, in part, due to the planes performance, in comparison to the maximum speed of 450mph for the P-59 the Messerschmitt Me 262A could reach 540mph and the North American P-51 Mustang could reach 490 mph and no further examples were built and the type would never enter combat service.

Only 50 production aircraft were produced and these comprised 20 P-59As powered by a pair of J31-GE3 engines and 30 P-59Bs powered by a pair of J31-GE5 engines.


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Top Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
P-59A 413 mph 240 miles 46,200 ft one 37mm cannon
three 0.50-in machine-guns
P-59B 450 mph 440 miles 43,400 ft one 37mm cannon
three 0.50-in machine-guns


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On Display

(C) = Cockpit only exhibit. (F) = Fuselage only exhibit. (R) = Remains of an aircraft.

Variant Location
No known examples currently on public display in the UK.

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