USA: Warplanes of the Second World War preserved: Bell P-59 Airacomet

Bell P-59 Airacomet

The aim of this website is to locate, identify and document Warplanes from the Second World War preserved in the USA.  Many contributors have assisted in the hunt for these aircraft to provide and update the data on this website.  Photos are as credited.  Any errors found here are by the author, and any additions, corrections or amendments to this list of Warplane Survivors of the Second World War in the United States of America would be most welcome and may be e-mailed to the author at hskaarup@rogers.com.

(Greg Goebel Photo)

Bell XP-59A Airacomet (Serial No. 42-108784), National Air & Space Museum, Washington, D.C.

The Bell P-59 Airacomet is a single-seat, twin jet-engine fighter aircraft that was designed and built by Bell Aircraft during World War II. It was the first jet produced in the United States. As the British were further along in jet engine development, they donated an engine for the United States to copy in 1941 that became the basis for the General Electric J31 jet engine used by the P-59 a year later. Because the plane was underpowered, the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) was not impressed by its performance and canceled half of the original order for 100 fighters, using the completed aircraft as trainers. The USAAF would instead go on to select the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star as its first operational jet fighter. Although no P-59s entered combat, the aircraft paved the way for later generations of U.S. turbojet-powered aircraft.

(USAF Photo)

Bell YP-59A Airacomet (Serial No. 42-108777).

(Tomas Del Coro Photo)

Bell YP-59A Airacomet (Serial No. 42-108777), being restored to flying condition with General Electric J31 engines by Planes of Fame Museum, Chino, California.

(Alan Wilson Photos)

Bell P-59A Airacomet (Serial No. 44-22614), c/n 27-22, March Field Air Museum, Riverside, California.

(kitmasterbloke Photo)

Bell P-59A Airacomet (Serial No. 44-22614), c/n 27-22, March Field Air Museum, Riverside, California.

(NMUSAF Photo)

Bell P-59B Airacomet (Serial No. 44-74936), painted as (Serial No. 44-22650), C/N 27-58.  National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, Ohio.

(Judson McCranie Photo)

Bell P-59B Airacomet (Serial No. 44-74936), painted as (Serial No. 44-22650), C/N 27-58.  National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, Ohio.

(ZLEA Photo)

Bell P-59B-1-BE Airacomet at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

(USAF Photo)

Bell P-59B Airacomet (Serial No. 44-22633), Edwards AFB, California.

(USAF Photo)

Bell P-59B Airacomet (Serial No. 44-22656), Pioneer Village, Minden, Nebraska.

(USAF Photo)

Development of the P-59 "Airacomet", America's first jet-propelled airplane, was ordered personally by General H. H. Arnold on 4 September 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 1 October 1942, it made its initial flight at Muroc Dry Lake (now Edwards Air Force Base), California. 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 got into combat, the P-59 provided training for AAF personnel and invaluable data for subsequent development of higher performance jet airplanes.

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