Bell Aircraft Corp. formed October 1935 by former leaders of Consolidated on that company’s move from Buffalo to San Diego, notably Lawrence D. Bell, Ray P. Whitman and chief engineer Robert J. Woods. Took over giant Buffalo plant, but won enough subcontract business to stay solvent. Woods built up design team and produced FM-1 Airacuda fighter (2 pusher Allison engines) in 1937 and P-39 Airacobra fighter (Allison engine behind pilot, with long shaft drive) flown April 1938. By 1944 P-39 deliveries reached 9,558, plus 3,302 improved P-63 Kingcobras. XP-59A Airacomet was first US jet, flown 1 October 1942, followed by later versions. Following XP-77 lightweight fighter and XP-83 heavy twin-jet came XS-1 (later X-1), world’s first supersonic aircraft, exceeded Mach 1 14 October 1947. Other X-1 and X-2 versions followed, and X-5 was variable-sweep aircraft. Pioneer vectored-thrust VTOL was ATV of 1953, followed by X-14 twin-jet VTOL 1957 and X-22A VTOL of 1966 with 4 swivelling ducted propulsors. Bell operated giant government plant at Marietta, Georgia (today Lockheed), building B-29. Mid-1943 flew Model 30 light helicopter; from this stemmed Model 47, over 6,000 made in several countries. XH-40 of October 1956 won US Army contract, and as UH-1 'Huey' family reached production total exceeding 13,000 including Model 209 Cobra versions. HO-4 observation helicopter of 1960 led to Model 206 JetRanger and OH-58 Kiowa, total with licensees over 8,000. Grand total worldwide over 32,000 helicopters including later Models 212, 214, 222 and 230. On 5 July 1960 Textron Inc. began operating Bell’s defence business via Bell Aerosystems at Buffalo and Bell Helicopter Co. at Fort Worth. In 1970 Textron was appended to names, and Bell Helicopter Textron became wholly-owned subsidiary 3 January 1982, Bell Aerospace ceasing to make aircraft. Partner with Boeing on V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor. To provide space at Fort Worth for this (at present haltingly funded) programme, major product lines transferred to Bell Helicopter Canada. Chief licensees Agusta and Fuji; KBHC is joint partnership. Marketing/support companies in Singapore and Venezuela.


Kenneth Wernicke

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