WW II History
A Push For Performance
When war broke out in Europe in 1939, the Army Air Corps was substantially behind German and Great Britain in fighter aircraft development. It began an informal competition among aircraft designers and received a variety of fighter design proposals. Some never existed except on paper, but prototypes of other concepts were flight tested.
Among the most unusual designs were those single seat pusher-type fighters, in which the propeller was mounted behind the pilot. They appeared to offer better visibility, lower drag (air resistance), and the opportunity to carry more guns in the nose. Three such pusher designs actually were flight tested, the Vultee XP-54, Curtiss XP-55, and Northrop XP-56. None went into production, however. Performance generally was disappointing and due to the success of conventional fighters, the need for further testing of such unusual designs vanished.
Vultee XP-54 Swoose Goose
Curtiss-Wright XP-55 Ascender
Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet
The first XP-56 made its maiden flight on September 6, 1943. It was destroyed later when a tire blew out. The second aircraft first flew on March 23, 1944, with a much larger dorsal vertical stabilizer to improve directional stability. The design still needed improvement and the program was canceled. By then the Army Air Forces was looking toward the introduction of jet propelled fighters.