Bell XP-59A Airacomet

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

    View Manifest

    View in Mirador Viewer

    Bell XP-59A Airacomet

    The XP-59A is the first American jet aircraft. It did not see combat, but it did give the U. S. Army Air Forces and the U. S. Navy valuable experience with jet aircraft technology and helped pave the way to more advanced designs. The United States was slow to enter the field of jet propulsion. Political and military leaders wisely chose to forego rushing jet airplanes into service and concentrated instead on mass-producing and fielding more conventional designs that could contribute more quickly to the war effort.

    1 of 23

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

    View Manifest

    View in Mirador Viewer

    Bell XP-59A Airacomet

    The XP-59A is the first American jet aircraft. It did not see combat, but it did give the U. S. Army Air Forces and the U. S. Navy valuable experience with jet aircraft technology and helped pave the way to more advanced designs. The United States was slow to enter the field of jet propulsion. Political and military leaders wisely chose to forego rushing jet airplanes into service and concentrated instead on mass-producing and fielding more conventional designs that could contribute more quickly to the war effort.

    2 of 23

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

    View Manifest

    View in Mirador Viewer

    Bell XP-59A Airacomet Cockpit

    The XP-59A is the first American jet aircraft. It did not see combat, but it did give the U. S. Army Air Forces and the U. S. Navy valuable experience with jet aircraft technology and helped pave the way to more advanced designs. The United States was slow to enter the field of jet propulsion. Political and military leaders wisely chose to forego rushing jet airplanes into service and concentrated instead on mass-producing and fielding more conventional designs that could contribute more quickly to the war effort. Highlighted in this image is the cockpit of the Bell XP-59A Airacomet.

    3 of 23

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

    View Manifest

    View in Mirador Viewer

    Bell XP-59A Airacomet Intake

    The XP-59A is the first American jet aircraft. It did not see combat, but it did give the U. S. Army Air Forces and the U. S. Navy valuable experience with jet aircraft technology and helped pave the way to more advanced designs. The United States was slow to enter the field of jet propulsion. Political and military leaders wisely chose to forego rushing jet airplanes into service and concentrated instead on mass-producing and fielding more conventional designs that could contribute more quickly to the war effort. Highlighted in this image is the jet intake of the Bell XP-59A Airacomet.

    4 of 23

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

    View Manifest

    View in Mirador Viewer

    Bell XP-59A Airacomet Cockpit and Jet Intake

    The XP-59A is the first American jet aircraft. It did not see combat, but it did give the U. S. Army Air Forces and the U. S. Navy valuable experience with jet aircraft technology and helped pave the way to more advanced designs. The United States was slow to enter the field of jet propulsion. Political and military leaders wisely chose to forego rushing jet airplanes into service and concentrated instead on mass-producing and fielding more conventional designs that could contribute more quickly to the war effort. Highlighted in this image are the jet intake and cockpit of the Bell XP-59A Airacomet.

    5 of 23

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

    View Manifest

    View in Mirador Viewer

    Bell XP-59A Airacomet Nose

    The XP-59A is the first American jet aircraft. It did not see combat, but it did give the U. S. Army Air Forces and the U. S. Navy valuable experience with jet aircraft technology and helped pave the way to more advanced designs. The United States was slow to enter the field of jet propulsion. Political and military leaders wisely chose to forego rushing jet airplanes into service and concentrated instead on mass-producing and fielding more conventional designs that could contribute more quickly to the war effort. Highlighted in this image is the nose of the Bell XP-59A Airacomet.

    6 of 23

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

    View Manifest

    View in Mirador Viewer

    Bell XP-59A Airacomet

    All-metal, single-seat, two engine monoplane with shoulder-mounted wing. Wing Span 1,490 cm (586 in.), Length 1,180 cm (465 in.), Height 380 cm ( 150 in. ), Weight 3,320 kg (7,319 lb)

    7 of 23

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

    View Manifest

    View in Mirador Viewer

    Bell XP-59A Airacomet

    All-metal, single-seat, two engine monoplane with shoulder-mounted wing. Wing Span 1,490 cm (586 in.), Length 1,180 cm (465 in.), Height 380 cm ( 150 in. ), Weight 3,320 kg (7,319 lb)

    8 of 23

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

    View Manifest

    View in Mirador Viewer

    Bell XP-59A Airacomet

    All-metal, single-seat, two engine monoplane with shoulder-mounted wing. Wing Span 1,490 cm (586 in.), Length 1,180 cm (465 in.), Height 380 cm ( 150 in. ), Weight 3,320 kg (7,319 lb)

    9 of 23

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

    View Manifest

    View in Mirador Viewer

    Bell XP-59A Airacomet

    All-metal, single-seat, two engine monoplane with shoulder-mounted wing. Wing Span 1,490 cm (586 in.), Length 1,180 cm (465 in.), Height 380 cm ( 150 in. ), Weight 3,320 kg (7,319 lb)

    10 of 23

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

    View Manifest

    View in Mirador Viewer

    Bell XP-59A Airacomet

    All-metal, single-seat, two engine monoplane with shoulder-mounted wing. Wing Span 1,490 cm (586 in.), Length 1,180 cm (465 in.), Height 380 cm ( 150 in. ), Weight 3,320 kg (7,319 lb)

    11 of 23

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

    View Manifest

    View in Mirador Viewer

    Bell XP-59A Airacomet

    All-metal, single-seat, two engine monoplane with shoulder-mounted wing. Wing Span 1,490 cm (586 in.), Length 1,180 cm (465 in.), Height 380 cm ( 150 in. ), Weight 3,320 kg (7,319 lb)

    12 of 23

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

    View Manifest

    View in Mirador Viewer

    Bell XP-59A Airacomet

    All-metal, single-seat, two engine monoplane with shoulder-mounted wing. Wing Span 1,490 cm (586 in.), Length 1,180 cm (465 in.), Height 380 cm ( 150 in. ), Weight 3,320 kg (7,319 lb)

    13 of 23

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

    View Manifest

    View in Mirador Viewer

    Bell XP-59A Airacomet

    All-metal, single-seat, two engine monoplane with shoulder-mounted wing. Wing Span 1,490 cm (586 in.), Length 1,180 cm (465 in.), Height 380 cm ( 150 in. ), Weight 3,320 kg (7,319 lb)

    14 of 23

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

    View Manifest

    View in Mirador Viewer

    Bell XP-59A Airacomet

    All-metal, single-seat, two engine monoplane with shoulder-mounted wing. Wing Span 1,490 cm (586 in.), Length 1,180 cm (465 in.), Height 380 cm ( 150 in. ), Weight 3,320 kg (7,319 lb)

    15 of 23

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

    View Manifest

    View in Mirador Viewer

    Bell XP-59A Airacomet

    All-metal, single-seat, two engine monoplane with shoulder-mounted wing. Wing Span 1,490 cm (586 in.), Length 1,180 cm (465 in.), Height 380 cm ( 150 in. ), Weight 3,320 kg (7,319 lb)

    16 of 23

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

    View Manifest

    View in Mirador Viewer

    Bell XP-59A Airacomet

    The XP-59A is the first American jet aircraft. It did not see combat, but it did give the U. S. Army Air Forces and the U. S. Navy valuable experience with jet aircraft technology and helped pave the way to more advanced designs. The United States was slow to enter the field of jet propulsion. Political and military leaders wisely chose to forego rushing jet airplanes into service and concentrated instead on mass-producing and fielding more conventional designs that could contribute more quickly to the war effort.

    17 of 23

    Disguising the Airacomet

    To confuse enemy spies from seeing America’s first jet aircraft, U.S. Army Air Forces’ personnel added a fake propeller to the Bell XP-59A Airacomet.

    18 of 23

    YP-59A Intake

    Clean-up, Nacelle Test and Stability; general views of the YP-59; January 20, 1944

    19 of 23

    Army Air Forces Recruitment Poster

     This Army Air Forces recruitment poster envisioned the jet-powered P-59 as the future of combat aircraft.

    20 of 23

    Ann G. Baumgartner Carl

    Ann G. Baumgartner Carl, a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), became the first American woman to fly a jet-powered aircraft when she piloted a variant of the XP-59A Airacomet . 

    21 of 23

    Bell XP-59A Airacomet and test pilot Robert M. Stanley

    Bell company test pilot Robert M. Stanley flew this XP-59A, America’s first jet-powered aircraft, for the first time, on October 1, 1942.

    22 of 23

    Bell XP-59A Airacomet on Runway

    The XP-59 served as an advanced trainer and gave the U. S. Army Air Forces and the U. S. Navy valuable experience with jet aircraft technology. The XP-59A helped pave the way for future generations of American jet-powered aircraft.

    23 of 23

Display Status:

This object is on display in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

The XP-59A is the first American jet aircraft. It did not see combat but it did give the U. S. Army Air Forces (AAF) and the U. S. Navy valuable experience with jet aircraft technology and helped pave the way to more advanced designs. The United States was slow to enter the field of jet propulsion. Political and military leaders wisely chose to forego rushing jet airplanes into service and concentrated instead on mass-producing and fielding more conventional designs that could contribute more quickly to the war effort. Britain's Gloster Meteor fighter served briefly at war's end and the Japanese flew the Nakajima Kikka twice (see NASM collection).

The Germans lead the world in jet-propelled airplanes and the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter and the Arado Ar 234 jet bomber (see NASM collection for these aircraft) both reached operational status. Other types also flew but the technology was so new that it had no measurable effect on the war.

America's first XP-59A, AAF serial number 42-108784, is preserved at the National Air and Space Museum. Shortly the jet's first flight, the Army recognized the need to have an observer on board to record flight test data. They converted the gun bays forward of the pilot to accommodate the observer, cutting a 20-inch hole in the upper skin and mounting a seat, small windscreen, and instrument panel in this rather cramped, open cavity. Flight tests resumed on October 30, 1942, and for the remainder of its AAF career, the aircraft flew in that configuration.

In February 1944, an AAF engineer assigned to the Airacomet project originated the idea of saving America's first jet aircraft for museum display. In August, the Army Air Forces notified Bell that they planned to store the airframe at Muroc and the original engines at Wright Field, Ohio, until they could determine final disposition. The airplane had amassed only 59 hours and 55 minutes of flying time. On April 18, 1945, the Smithsonian asked for the aircraft. Before opening the new National Air and Space Museum in 1976, the staff restored the plane to its original configuration and removed the observer's open cockpit. Befitting its history, the first Airacomet now hangs in the Milestones of Flight gallery.