The First US Jet Flight

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

Exactly seventy years ago the first U.S. jet flight took place. Designed and built by the Bell Aircraft Corporation, the XP-59A was first flown at Muroc Dry Lake, California, on October 1, 1942, by Bell’s chief test pilot Robert M. Stanley. The next day Col. Laurence C. Craigie became the first U.S. military pilot to fly a turbojet aircraft. In October 1943, Ann Baumgartener Carl of the Women Airforce Service Pilots flew a YP-59A and became the first American woman to fly a jet airplane.

The XP-59A was powered by the first American jet engine, the General Electric I-A, which was based on the W2B design of Sir Frank Whittle. The clip below shows the very first flight of Frank Whittle’s jet turbine at Cranwell, England, courtesy of Shelter Island Films.

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