During the 1950s jet aircraft replaced slower, propeller-driven planes. In the military the change was swift; in civilian aviation it took place more slowly. World War II forced the United States government to accelerate research and development of high-performance jet aircraft in order to counter the German air force's jet fighters. While American pilots never flew jets during the war, the air force tested a number of jet-and rocket-powered planes from 1942 onward.
The jet age arrived on 27 August 1939 when Erich Warsitz flew a turbojet-powered Heinkel 178 aircraft at Marienehe airfield in Nazi Germany. German officials shrugged indifferently. In the United States, Bell Aircraft's XP-59 Airacomet jet made its debut on 1 October 1942 over Muroc, California. Neither plane was substantially faster than its piston-engine counterpart, and while both aircraft served as prototypes and...
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