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Bell XP-77




Initially, the idea of a small, cheap, all-wood fighter built with few strategic materials had held high appeal. In early 1941, Larry Bell's upstate New York fighter team had begun work on a plane at first called the 'Tri-4', shorthand for an informal USAAF requirement for '400hp, 4,000lbs, 400mph'. On 16 May 1942, the USAAF ordered 25 'Tri-4' aircraft. Delays, technical problems with subcontracting on plywood construction, and disappointing wind-tunnel tests caused the manufacturer to suggest by early 1943 that the number of machines on order be reduced to six. In May 1943, the USAAF reduced this to two, seeing the XP-77 as having no operational utility but as useful in lightweight fighter research.



The all-wood Bell XP-77, using a Ranger inverted V-12 inline piston engine, was of Sitka spruce and intended to operate from grass and the first of two XP-77s flew on 1 April 1944 at Niagara Falls, New York, test pilot Jack Woolams at the controls.

Beginning in July 1944, the second XP-77 was tested at Eglin Field, Florida. Spin problems led to a crash of this aircraft on 2 October 1944, which the pilot survived.

Plagued by noise and vibration, an unexpectedly long take-off run, and general performance 'inferior to the present fighter aircraft employed by the USAAF', the XP-77 programme was stopped on 2 December 1944. The prototype went to Wright Field, then back to Eglin, then to Wright again. It was seen at post-war displays wearing spurious markings and its final disposition is unknown.




Engine: 1 x Ranger XV-770-7, 388kW
Prop: 2 blade
Wingspan: 8.38 m / 27 ft 6 in
Length: 6.97 m / 22 ft 10 in
Height: 2.50 m / 8 ft 2 in
Wing area: 9.29 sq.m / 100.00 sq ft
Max take-off weight: 1827 kg / 4028 lb
Empty weight: 1295 kg / 2855 lb
Max. speed: 531 km/h / 330 mph / 285 kt
Ceiling: 9175 m / 30100 ft
Range: 885 km / 550 miles
Crew: 1
Armament: 2 x 12.7mm machine-guns
Bombload: 136kg / 300 lb





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