P-59 Airacomet

Development of America's first jet-propelled airplane, was ordered personally by General H.H. Arnold on September 4, 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 October 1, 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.

The P-59B pictured here was obtained from Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico in February 1956.   (NMUSAF)

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