The Info List - Bell Aircraft

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The Bell Aircraft
Corporation was an aircraft manufacturer of the United States, a builder of several types of fighter aircraft for World War II
World War II
but most famous for the Bell X-1, the first supersonic aircraft, and for the development and production of many important civilian and military helicopters. Bell also developed the Reaction Control System for the Mercury Spacecraft, North American X-15, and Bell Rocket Belt. The company was purchased in 1960 by Textron, and lives on today as Bell Helicopter.


1 History

1.1 After World War II

2 Product list

2.1 Fixed-wing aircraft 2.2 VTOL
Aircraft 2.3 Missiles 2.4 Hovercraft

2.4.1 Société d’Étude et de Développement des Aéroglisseurs Marins

3 See also 4 References

4.1 Bibliography

5 External links

History[edit] As a teenager, Larry Bell saw his first plane at an air show, starting a lifelong fascination with aviation. Bell dropped out of high school in 1912 to join his brother in the burgeoning aircraft industry at the Glenn L. Martin Company, where by 1914 he had become shop superintendent. By 1920 Bell was vice president and general manager of Martin, by now based in Cleveland, OH. Feeling that he deserved part ownership, in late 1924 he presented Martin with an ultimatum. Mr. Martin refused, and Bell quit. Bell spent several years out of the aviation industry, but in 1928 was hired by Reuben H. Fleet
Reuben H. Fleet
at Consolidated Aircraft, in Buffalo, New York where he was guaranteed an interest in the company. Before long, Bell became general manager and business was booming, but he still wanted to be able to run his own company. He knew that, although he could raise local capital, he would not be able to compete with either Consolidated or Curtiss-Wright, the two major aircraft builders also based in Buffalo. Serendipitously, in 1935 Fleet decided to move Consolidated Aircraft
to San Diego, and Bell stayed behind to establish his own company, the Bell Aircraft
Company, on 10 July 1935, headquartered in the former Consolidated plant at 2050 Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo. Incidentally, Bell was the third major aircraft builder to occupy the site. The factory complex was originally built in 1916 for the Curtiss Aeroplane & Motor Company,[1] and during World War I had been considered the largest airplane factory in the world. Bell's first military contract followed in 1937 with the development of the ill-fated YFM-1 Airacuda, an unconventional bomber-destroyer powered by two Allison-powered pusher propellers. The YFM-1 incorporated groundbreaking technology for the time, with gyro stabilized weapons sighting and a thermionic fire control system. Including the prototype, just 13 Airacudas were produced, and these saw only limited service with the USAAC before being scrapped in 1942.

Bell Aircraft
Corporation's main factory in Wheatfield, NY (Buffalo / Niagara Falls) during the 1940s. This unit primarily produced the Bell P-39 Airacobra and P-63 Kingcobra.

Bell enjoyed much success the following year with the development of the single engine P-39, of which 9,588 were built. Putting their previous experience with Allison engines to good use, the P-39 placed the engine in the center of the aircraft, with the propeller driven by a long shaft through which a 37mm cannon was also mounted, firing through the propeller's spinner. Due to persistent development and production problems, the original turbosupercharger was deleted from production models, instead using a single-stage, single-speed supercharger, as was standard on all other Allison-powered products, with the exception of the P-38. The P-39 performed poorly at high altitudes compared to newer, late-war designs. Most Allied forces thought the Airacobra effective only for ground attack roles, as demonstrated by a few U.S. Army Air Forces units that flew P-39s, such as the so-called Cactus Air Force on Guadalcanal
in 1942–43. However, the Soviet Air Force
Soviet Air Force
used their Lend-Lease P-39s primarily in the air-to-air role, where they found it to excel as a front-line fighter against some of the best pilots and aircraft of the Luftwaffe.[2] Indeed, the Soviet-flown P-39s were the main reason that the aircraft is credited with highest number of individual kills attributed to any U.S. fighter type.[3] A somewhat larger and more powerful version of the P-39 was produced shortly before the end of World War II. Called the P-63 Kingcobra, this warplane addressed many of the shortcomings of the P-39, though it was produced too late in the war to make any significant contribution. 2,971 P-63's were built between 1943 and 1945, many delivered to the Soviet Union. Also, by that time, the Army Air Forces already had the superior P-47 Thunderbolt
P-47 Thunderbolt
and P-38 Lightning fighter-bombers. In October 1942, The Bell-built twin-jet P-59 Airacomet
P-59 Airacomet
was the first American jet aircraft to fly. Unfortunately, performance was below expectations, roughly on par with contemporaneous propeller-driven aircraft, an outcome generally attributed to the extremely short development timeframe required by the USAAF, as well as the intense secrecy imposed on the project. Design had begun in September 1941, during which time the Bell team was guided mostly by theory, as General Electric
General Electric
would not finish and begin testing the first engine until March 1942. Also, General Henry "Hap" Arnold had forbidden use of wind tunnels to test and optimize the design, but later relented somewhat, only allowing the group to use the low-speed tunnel at Wright Field, Ohio. Bell engineers could only guess at the performance characteristics. Originally intended initially as a production aircraft, the P-59 nevertheless became an important experimental testbed for jet technology, providing invaluable data for development of later jet airplanes.[4] During World War II, Bell also built heavy bombers under license from other aircraft companies at a factory near Marietta, Georgia, just northwest of Atlanta. Online by mid-1943, the new plant produced hundreds of Consolidated B-24 Liberators and Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers. In mid-1944, the production of the B-24 was consolidated from several different companies (including some in Texas) to two large factories: the Consolidated Aircraft
Company in San Diego and the Ford Motor Company's spawling factory in Willow Run, near Detroit, Michigan, which had been specially designed to produce B-24s. For the rest of the war, Bell's Marietta plant concentrated on producing B-29s, producing 668 of them by the time contract expired in the fall of 1945. Bell ranked 25th among United States
United States
corporations in the value of wartime production contracts.[5] After World War II[edit] As the postwar defense industry downsized, Bell consolidated its operations at the Wheatfield plant, near Buffalo. The aircraft factory in Marietta later became the property of the Lockheed Corporation, which has used it for producing C-130 Hercules, C-141 Starlifter, and C-5 Galaxy
C-5 Galaxy
transport planes. Although Bell designed several more fighter plane designs during and after WW II, none of these ever entered mass-production. The XP-77 was a small fighter using non-strategic materials; it was not successful. The XP-83 was a jet escort fighter similar in layout to the P-59 that was cancelled. The Bell XF-109
Bell XF-109
was a supersonic vertical takeoff fighter that was cancelled in 1961. Perhaps Bell Aircraft's most important contribution to the history of fixed-wing aircraft development would be the design and building of the experimental Bell X-1
Bell X-1
rocket plane, the world's first airplane to break the sound barrier, and its follow-on, the Bell X-2. Note that in a twist on the usual way of designating American aircraft, the following were not different models of the X-1, but rather they were the successive (mostly identical) units of the X-1 program: the X-1, X-1A, X-1B, X-1C, X-1D, and X-1E. Bell went on to design and produce several different experimental aircraft during the 1950s. These helped the U.S. Air Force
U.S. Air Force
and the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics
National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics
(NACA) explore the boundaries of aircraft design, and paving the way for the founding of NASA
and the exploration of outer space. The X-2 Starbuster achieved Mach 3 (2,100 mph) and a height of 126,000 ft in 1955, blazing a technological trail for the development of spacecraft. Bell played a crucial role in the development of rocket propulsion after WWII, spearheaded by the likes of some of the most brilliant minds in rocket science like Walter Dornberger
Walter Dornberger
(ex-commander of the Nazi Germany Peenemünde Army Research Center) and Wendell Moore. Bell developed and fielded the world's first nuclear tipped Air-to-Surface cruise missile, the GAM-63 RASCAL
in 1957. Wendell Moore developed the Bell Rocket belt, utilizing peroxide monopropellant rocket engines. While the rocket belt failed to be commercially developed, the rocket technology proved invaluable in future Bell programs. Bells crowning achievement in the realm of rocketry was the Agena rocket engine. The Agena was a 12,000 lbf bi-propellant rocket that is considered to this day to be one of the most reliable rockets ever built. 360 units were produced starting in the late 1950s and it was responsible for inserting into orbit most of the satellites launched by the United States in the 1960s. Helicopter
development began at Bell Aircraft
in 1941 with the company's first one, the Bell Model 30
Bell Model 30
first flying in 1943. Bell Helicopter
became the only part of Bell Aircraft
still producing aircraft when Bell was purchased by the Textron
Corporation. That part of Textron
is now known today as Bell Helicopter. After a series of successful helicopter designs, the UH-1 Iroquois
UH-1 Iroquois
became the most noted helicopter of the War in Vietnam, and Bell Helicopter
Bell Helicopter
still designs and manufactures helicopters today. Lawrence Bell died in 1956, and for several years afterwards the company was in financial difficulty. Textron
purchased the Bell Aerospace division on 5 July 1960. Bell Aerospace was composed of three divisions of Bell Aircraft, including its helicopter division, which had become its only aircraft-producing division. Bell Aerospace Textron
continued to play a significant role in NASA's mission to land men on the moon in the 1960s. Bell designed and built the Reaction Control system for Project Mercury's Redstone command module and a similar system was incorporated into the North American X-15 space plane. NASA
selected Bell to develop and built the LLRV Lunar Landing Research Vehicle, three of which were built in the early 1960s to train the Apollo astronauts to land on the moon. Bell also designed the rocket engine used in the Apollo LEM Ascent Propulsion System, which was responsible for getting NASA's astronauts off the moon. Product list[edit] Fixed-wing aircraft[edit]

Bell model 1 – Bell YFM-1 Airacuda Bell model 5 – Bell XFL Airabonita Bell model 12 – Bell YP-39 Airacobra[6] Bell model 13 – Bell P-39C/P-45/Airacobra I/P-39D-BE[6] Bell model 14 – Bell Airacobra IA[6] Bell model 14A – Bell P-39D Airacobra[6] Bell model 15B – Bell P-39F/P-39J Airacobra[6] Bell model 16 – Bell XP-52
Bell XP-52
& XP-59 (pusher fighter projects) Bell model 23 – Bell XP-39E Airacobra/Bell XP-76[6] Bell model 25 – Bell P-63 Kingcobra Bell model 26 – Bell P-39G Airacobra[6] Bell model 26A – Bell P-39K Airacobra[6] Bell model 26C – Bell P-39L Airacobra[6] Bell model 26D – Bell P-39M Airacobra[6] Bell model 26N – Bell P-39N Airacobra[6] Bell model 26Q – Bell P-39Q Airacobra[6] Bell model 27 – Bell P-59 Airacomet Bell model 35 – Bell XP-77 Bell model 39 – Bell L-39 (swept wing P-63) Bell model 40 – Bell XP-83 Bell model 44 – Bell X-1[7] Bell model 52 – Bell X-2[7] Bell model 60 – Bell X-5[7] Bell model 67 – Bell X-16[7] Bell model 68 – Bell X-14[7] Bell model 188 – Bell D-188A
Bell D-188A
(mockup only) Bell model 2127/2424 – Bell X-22[7] Consolidated B-24 Liberator
Consolidated B-24 Liberator
(under subcontract) Boeing B-29 Superfortress
Boeing B-29 Superfortress
(under subcontract)


Bell Model 65
Bell Model 65
Air Test Vehicle Bell Pogo Bell Rocket Belt Lunar Escape Systems Lunar Landing Research Vehicle


AAM-N-5 Meteor ASM-A-1 Tarzon GAM-63 RASCAL Nord CT.41/Bell PQM-56 aerial target Bell X-9 Shrike


military hovercraft

Société d’Étude et de Développement des Aéroglisseurs Marins[edit] Société d’Étude et de Développement des Aéroglisseurs Marins (SEDAM) was a French-based unit of Bell founded in 1965 and builder of N500 Naviplane
N500 Naviplane
hovercraft,[8] as well as N.300 Naviplane and Naviplane N102. See also[edit]

Harvey Gaylord


^ John Percy, "Aviation History on the Niagara Frontier" pub. in Summer 2000 edition of "Western New York Heritage" magazine ^ Airacobra or Iron Dog? The Obscure Career of Bell's P-39 in the Soviet Union, by Patrick Masell at chuckhawks.com, Accessed 8 March 2018 ^ The P-39 has the highest total number of individual victories attributed to any U.S. fighter type, not kill ratio; Finnish modified Brewster Buffalos had the highest kill ratio. ^ Bell XP-59A Airacomet, at airandspace.si.edu Archived August 21, 2012, at the Wayback Machine., Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, retrieved June 6, 2012 ^ Peck, Merton J. & Scherer, Frederic M. The Weapons Acquisition Process: An Economic Analysis (1962) Harvard Business School
Harvard Business School
p.619 ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l P-39 AIRACOBRA Variants at U.S.A.A.F. RESOURCE CENTER (warbirdsresourcegroup.org), accessdate:16 April 2014 ^ a b c d e f The X-Planes, at ais.org accessdate:16 April 2014 ^ technologie La SEDAM (Société d'Etude et de Développement des Aéroglisseurs Marins) (est une filiale de la Société BERTIN au même titre que la Société de l'Aérotrain. elle était basée à Marignane.../ SEDAM ...is a subsidiary of BERTIN as also was Société de l'Aérotrain. It was based in Marignane...) (see Aérotrain, Jean Bertin) at gil-sun.skyrock.com, accessed 8 March 2018


Pelletier, Alan J. (1992). Bell Aircraft
Since 1935. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1557500564.  August A. Cenkner Jr.: Aerospace Technologies of Bell Aircraft Company : A Pictorial History (1935–1985)

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bell aircraft.

Bell Aircraft
Georgia Division (Marietta) Collection, 1942–1945 from Kennesaw State University

v t e

produced by Bell Aircraft
and Bell Helicopter

Manufacturer designations

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 32 33 34 35 36 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 47/47J 48 49 50 52 54 58 59 60 61 65 66 67 68 200 201 204 205 206 207 208 210 211 209 212 214/214ST 222 230 249 301 309 400 407 409 412 417 427 429 430 440 445 449 505 525 533 D-188 D-292

Fighter aircraft

YFM-1 Airacuda P-39 Airacobra XFL Airabonita P-59 Airacomet P-63 Kingcobra XP-77 XP-83

Target drones


Attack helicopters

207 AH-1 (singles) AH-1 (twins) 309 YAH-63

Observation and utility helicopters

H-13/H-13J Sioux UH-1 Iroquois UH-1N UH-1Y TH-57 OH-58 Kiowa TH-67 Creek ARH-70 Arapaho

Commercial helicopters

47/47J 204 205 206 210 212 214 214ST 222 230 407 412 427 429 430 505 525


V-22 Osprey V-247 V-280 BA609 TR918 QTR



Non-production helicopters

400 417 440

Experimental aircraft

ATV 201 533 D-188 D-255 D-292 FCX-001 L-39 LLRV/LLTV X-1 X-2 X-5 X-14 X-22 XF-10