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Airacomet - Bell Model 27

Steve Pace

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Here's an XP-59A and a YP-59A in color. Note shape of wingtips. (777 is being restored in Chino, CA)

Here's the original XP-59A
 

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Justo Miranda

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Justo Miranda

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Justo Miranda

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Tailspin Turtle

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Navy P-59s

The first Naval Aviator to fly the P-59, in April 1943 at Edwards AFB, was Captain Frederic M. Trapnell of the Navy’s flight test branch at Naval Air Station Anacostia. The Navy subsequently acquired five P-59s from the US Army Air Force and assigned them to the Naval Air Test Center at Patuxent River for evaluation of the concept and pilot training in jet aircraft. The first of two YP-59As arrived at Patuxent in November 1943 and the second shortly after. The first of three P-59Bs arrived in October 1945 and the next two in early 1946. Of the Navy’s first 100 jet pilots, all but three had their first jet propelled flight in a P-59. The last of the P-59s was still being used for jet familiarization at Patuxent in January 1948, indoctrinating a Navy Ensign by the name of Ralph H. Beatle who was the 231st known Navy jet pilot.

YP-59As 42-108778/108779 accepted by US Navy as BuNo 63960/63961

P-59Bs 44-22651, 44- 22657, and 44- 22658 accepted by the Navy as BuNo 64100, 64109, and 64108

According to my notes, BuNo 63960 originally had the rounded wing tips and no ventral fin. The cannons were removed and the blast tubes faired over. The gun sight and gun camera were removed.
 

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Stargazer2006

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Thanks guys for the awesome material here. Didn't even know there had been a British paint job on one of them!

According to my notes, the US Navy Airacomet were designated as XF2L-1 and XF2L-1K, the latter probably indicating some later use as target drones. Could someone confirm that?
 

Tailspin Turtle

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Stargazer2006 said:
Thanks guys for the awesome material here. Didn't even know there had been a British paint job on one of them!

According to my notes, the US Navy Airacomet were designated as XF2L-1 and XF2L-1K, the latter probably indicating some later use as target drones. Could someone confirm that?

According to Baugher, the F2Ls were P-39s but rightly or wrongly, the designation has been associated with other Bell models as well:

The Navy later did operate a couple of Airacobras, but they acquired them directly from the Army and never used them from carriers. Towards the end of the war, the US Navy acquired a pair of P-39Qs from the Army (Ser No 42-20807 and 19976) for use as target drones. They were delivered to NAS Cape May, New Jersey in February of 1946 and used for test work fitted with smoke generators. They were initially designated XTDL-1, but their designations were later changed to F2L-1K. Their BuAer numbers were 91102 and 91103.
 

Stargazer2006

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Funny that there were also target drone variants of the Airacomet, but for the Air Force only, apparently. Seems unlikely that the F2L designation could have been used twice for two aircraft of the same timespan or about. Either someone goofed at BuAer or some historian got it wrong at some point and the error stuck. Either way, I'd love to know what Andreas has to say about this and then I'll go by his version of the story, most likely the correct one.
 

Steve Pace

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I don't believe it was redesignated for US Navy purposes (see attached pdf).
 

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Steve Pace

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More proof.
 

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Stargazer2006

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I think you're right. I actually have that book too, which is somehow definitive when it comes to the Navy, isn't it? Yes, okay, there was no designation for the P-59 then. And you'll also notice that they don't list any for the P-63 and L-39 either. Logically, these ought to have been F3L and the Airacomet the F4L... But the absence of proper designation might have been a way to conceal their existence better at a time of early testing.
 

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Moreover, wasn't the YF-109/F3L designations for the D-188A turned down?
 

Steve Pace

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So I think we're both right in that the XP-59A and YP-59A airplanes were TOP SECRET at the time and they were most likely not redesignated F2L for US Navy purposes.
 

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Didn't even know there had been a British paint job on one of them!

RJ362/G was the third YP-59A, which was shipped to Britain and re-assembled by Gloster at Moreton Valence. First flown in the U.K by a Bell test pilot on 28/09/1943, then transferred to RAE Farnborough for evaluation and testing on 05/11/1943 (quite appropriate for Guy Fawkes night). Was also considered as a possible aircraft for performing the first jet landing on a British aircraft carrier. In the end a de Havilland Vampire was used.

The /G in the serial number, meant "Keep under armed guard at all times" Top secret !

Regards Bailey.
 

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XB-70 Guy said:
So I think we're both right in that the XP-59A and YP-59A airplanes were TOP SECRET at the time and they were most likely not redesignated F3L for US Navy purposes.
That may be, but the Navy also seems to have been inconsistent about giving Navy designations to airplanes that they got directly from the Army Air Forces or Air Force. It also operated P-51s, at least one of which got a Bureau Number like the P-59s; its first P-80s, which also got BuNos (later ones that it may have procured from Lockheed were TOs); and at least one F-86 without bothering to redesignate the aircraft. None of these were top secret. One possibility is that it didn't bother redesignating airplanes if only a few were acquired for evaluation purposes only and there was no intention of modifying them as was done with the P-39Qs and the P-63. However, it assigned the designation P2B to four ex-Air Force B-29s, although there may have initially been a expectation of using these operationally as long-range patrol bombers.
 

Steve Pace

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From my P-59 book published by Ginter Books. -SP
 

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Steve Pace

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I've often wondered what the full name of E. Rhodes (aka E. P. Rhodes) was. He was the chief engineer on the Model 27 (P-59) program. His son Robert Nelson Rhodes sent me an email today (2/6/2013) telling me that his father E. Rhodes is Edgar Peter Rhodes. -SP
 

Steve Pace

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Found this patent application showing a trijet-powered P-59. -SP
 

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