The U.S. Navy's first jet aircraft, Ryan's FR-1 Fireball, was unusual in that it was powered by a jet and a piston engine. It was anticipated that the piston engine would be used for long-range cruise, the jet for combat.
The FR-1 flew for the first time on 25 June 1944, but difficulties soon arose. All three Fireball prototypes were lost due to wing failure. The number of rivets on the wings was doubled and the problem was solved.
The Navy ordered 700 Fireballs, but World War II ended before the FR-1 saw combat and the contract was slashed to 66 aircraft. Only one squadron, VF-66, was equipped with FR-1s. Pure jet aircraft like the F2H Banshee and F9F Panther offered superior performance and the FR-1 was withdrawn from service in 1947. A turboprop version, the F2R Dark Shark, was not put into production.
The Museum's FR-1 was manufactured in San Diego, California in March 1945. Of the sixty-six production FR-1 “Fireball” aircraft built, the Museum’s aircraft (11th FR-1 built) is the only surviving example. In 1945, it was one of six FR-1 aircraft sent to the Ames Research Center of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). Tests on those aircraft included perfecting wing dihedral and aileron shape, as well as exploring jet engine tilt options – all designed to help Ryan improve the FR-1. In 1947, after the US Navy took the FR-1s out of service, this aircraft was donated to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for instructional purposes. It was acquired by the Museum in 1967. This black and white USN photograph of the Museum's FR-1 (BuNo 39657) was taken at Naval Air Station Anacostia, Washington, D.C. on September 26, 1945.
Status: Static Display
Manufacturer: Ryan Aeronautical Company
Model: FR-1 Fireball
Serial Number: 39657
Max T/O Weight: 10,595 lb.
Span: 40 ft. 0 in.
Length: 32 ft. 4 in.
Height: 13 ft. 7 in.
Maximum Speed: 426 mph
Cruise Speed: 153 mph
Rate of Climb: 29.7 ft/min (piston engine only)
Power Plant: 1 x GE J-31 turbojet with 1,600 lbs. thrust and 1 x Wright R-1820-72W radial engine of 1,425 hp.
Range: 1,030 miles
Service Ceiling: 43,100 ft.
Armament: Four 0.50 caliber machine guns and provisions for bombs and missiles