5 Facts You Should Know About The Backward Fighter

5 Facts You Should Know About The Backward Fighter | World War Wings Videos

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The Curtiss XP-55 Ascender was an experimental WWII interceptor and looked as if it was built by someone who had a personal hatred for lateral stability. Here are the facts that you should know about this aircraft: 

1. It had a peculiar nickname

With its engine at the back and the elevator (that’s normally found on the tail) at the front, it earned the infamous nickname, “the ass-ender.”

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Usually, the US government would be careful in naming an aircraft, but it was certainly the intention of Curtiss-Wright engineer Edward Flesh. He somehow snuck the name through, with one theory suggesting that he told them it was pronounced as “a-scend-er.”

2. Its unique design had a deadly characteristic

The XP-55’s unique design was challenging for engineers who worked to overcome its fatal flaw- its stall characteristics.

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Because of how it was built, it didn’t give any warning of the impending stall. Meaning, that if it stalled, the jet would become inverted and control would be lost. 

3. After the development of the prototypes, production was eventually terminated

In the end, the Army considered it to be unacceptable in almost all metrics.

The stall characteristics were far too dangerous even with the artificial warning system. The top speed was also disappointing because of the under-powered engine.

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Meanwhile, the take-off run was an excessive 5,000 ft long in good conditions and the entire airframe was over 1,000 lbs overweight. The benefits of the XP-55’s unusual design far outweighed its deficiencies. 

4. Of the three XP-55s built, two eventually ended up being destroyed

The prototypes eventually fell victim to its stall characteristics. 

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5. Only one model remains to this day

The only aircraft that remains to this day was the XP-55’s second prototype.

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After an extensive restoration program, it can be found on display at the Air Zoo in Michigan. 

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