Tag Archives: Bell AH-1G Cobra

7 September 1965

Bell Model 209 prototype, N209J, in flight with skids retracted. (Bell Helicopter Co.)
Bell Model 209, N209J, prototype of the AH-1G Huey Cobra attack helicopter, in flight with landing skids retracted. (Bell Helicopter Company)

7 September 1965: First flight of the prototype Bell Model 209 attack helicopter. Test pilot William Thomas (“Bill”) Quinlan was in command. The duration of the flight was twelve minutes.

The Model 209 was a private venture, built in just seven months and rolled out at Fort Worth, Texas, 2 September 1965. The prototype aircraft combined the drive system, rotors and tail boom of the production UH-1C gunship with a streamlined fuselage which placed the two pilots in tandem.

The prototype was equipped with retractable landing gear which gave the 209 increased speed, but the expense and complexity were enough that this feature was not included on production aircraft.

This helicopter would be developed into the famous AH-1G Huey Cobra.

N209J,the Bell Model 209 prototype, shown in camouflage colors. (Bell Helicopter Company)
N209J, the Bell Model 209 prototype, shown in camouflage colors. (Bell Helicopter Company)

The second prototype, AH-1G 66-15246, was used by the Army for flight testing at Edwards Air Force Base, California, from 3 April to 21 April 1967.

66-15246 had an overall length of 52 feet, 11.65 inches (16.146 meters) with rotors turning. The fuselage was 44 feet, 5.20 inches (13.433 meters) long, and it was 3 feet, 0 inches (0.914 meters) wide. The HueyCobra had a short “stub wing” with a span of 10 feet, 11.60 inches (3.343 meters). Its angle of incidence was 14°. The wing’s area was 27.8 square feet (2.6 square meters). 66-15426 had an empty weight of 5,516 pounds (2,502 kilograms) and maximum gross weight of 9,500 pounds (4,309 kilograms).

Bell Model 209, N209J, prototype of the AH-1G Cobra, with landing skids extended. (U.S. Army)

The two-bladed Model 540 “door-hinge” main rotor was 44 feet, 0 inches (13.411 meters) in diameter. The blades had a chord of 2 feet, 3 inches (0.686 meters) and 10° negative twist. The main rotor turned counter-clockwise when viewed from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right.) Normal rotor r.p.m. (power on) was 314–324 r.p.m., and power off, 304–339 r.p.m. The minimum transient rotor speed, power off, was 250 r.p.m.

The two blade tail rotor assembly had a diameter of 8 feet, 6 inches (2.591 meters) with a chord of 8.41 inches (0.214 meters). There was no twist. It was mounted on the left side of the pylon in a pusher configuration and turned counter-clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left. (The advancing blade is above the axis of rotation.) The tail rotor pylon was cambered to allow aerodynamic forces in forward flight to “unload” the tail rotor.

Bell AH-1G Cobra three-view drawing. (U.S. Army Aviation Systems Test Activity)

The AH-1G was powered by a Lycoming LTC1K-4 (T53-L-13) turboshaft engine rated at 1,400 shaft horsepower, though it was derated to the helicopter’s transmission limit. The T53-L-13 is a two-shaft free turbine with a 6-stage compressor (5 axial-flow stages, 1 centrifugal-flow stage) and a 4-stage axial-flow turbine (2 high-pressure stages, 2 low-pressure power turbine stages). The T53-L-13 is 3 feet, 11.9 inches (1.217 meters) long, 1 foot, 11.0 inches (0.584 meters) in diameter and weighs 549 pounds (249 kilograms).

The speed of the Cobra was effected by the armament configuration, whether “clean”, light or heavy scout, or “heavy hog.” At 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), the cruise speed in the clean configuration was 138.0 knots (158.8 miles per hour, 255.6 kilometers per hour); light scout, 134.0 knots (154.2 miles per hour, 248.2 kilometers per hour); and heavy hog, 127.0 knots (146.2 miles per hour, 235.2 kilometers per hour). The maximum airspeed in level flight was 149.0 knots (171.5 miles per hour, 276.0 kilometers per hour); 144.0 knots (165.7 miles per hour, 266.7 kilometers per hour); and 136.5 knots (157.1 miles per hour, 252.8 kilometers per hour), respectively.

The limiting airspeed (VL) was 190 knots (KCAS) (219 miles per hour, 352 kilometers per hour) below 3,000 feet (914 meters) density altitude.

In autorotation, the airspeed for the minimum rate of descent was 74.0 knots (85.2 miles per hour, 137.1 kilometers per hour) with the main rotor turning 294 r.p.m., resulting in a rate of descent of 1,750 feet per minute (8.89 meters per second).

Bell AH-1G Cobra. (U.S. Army)

The basic armament for the AH-1G Cobra was an Emerson M28 turret which could be equipped with one or two General Electric M134 Miniguns, or a combination of a Minigun with a Philco Ford M129 automatic grenade launcher, or two grenade launchers. Each Minigun was supplied with 4,000 rounds of 7.62 NATO ammunition, while a grenade launcher had 300 rounds of 40 × 53 millimeter high-velocity explosive ammunition.

Four hardpoints on the stub wing could be loaded with M18 7.62 NATO Minigun pods; XM35 pods, containing a short-barreled General Electric XM195 20 millimeter Gatling gun (a variant of the M61 Vulcan); rocket pods with seven or nineteen 2.75-inch unguided rockets.

The prototype Cobra, Bell Model 209 N209J, is in the collection of the U.S. Army Aviation Museum, Fort Rucker, Alabama, as is the second prototype, 66-15246.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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28 May 1938–24 November 2011: Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jerome Maitland Boyle, U.S. Army

CW2 Jerry Boyle, Apache Troop, First of the Ninth, Air Cav, "hot refueling" (engine running, rotors turning) his Bell AH-1G Cobra attack helicopter, somewhere along the Cambodian border, circa 1971. Jerry is the aircraft commander; his seat in the rear cockpit is empty. 1st Lt. Jeff Cromar, Jerry's co-pilot and gunner, is in the forward cockpit.
CW2 Jerry Boyle, Apache Troop, First of the Ninth, Air Cav, “hot refueling” (engine running, rotors turning) his Bell AH-1G Cobra attack helicopter, somewhere along the Cambodian border circa 1971. Jerry is the aircraft commander; his seat in the rear cockpit is empty. 1st Lt. Jeff Cromar, Jerry’s co-pilot and gunner, is in the forward cockpit. (Alpha Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry via facebook)
Jerry Boyle
Jerry Boyle

In February 1984, I first met Jerome Maitland (“Jerry”) Boyle. I was a newly-hired commercial helicopter pilot for a Southern California-based Part 135 Air Taxi Commercial Operator. The company specialized in supporting range operations in the offshore Pacific Missile Test Center, headquartered at NAS Point Mugu (NTD). After an initial checkout in one of the company’s helicopters, the chief pilot told me, “Just follow Jerry. He’ll show you what to do.”

Jerry was a big man with reddish hair and a moustache. He was sort of hunched over from years of sitting at the controls of a helicopter. He often wore a black, U.S. Army-issued, V-neck wool sweater over a white shirt. I never saw him without a cup of coffee and a smoldering cigarette, even when flying. This had left him with a raspy voice and a chronic cough. Jerry was always cheerful, and had a great sense of humor, and he told great stories. He wore an Omega Speedmaster Professional watch and drove a well-used white 1976 Corvette Stingray.

I did as instructed and followed Jerry’s Bell 206L LongRanger everywhere with my own helicopter as he showed me the ropes of dealing with Range Operations (“Plead Control”), transporting personnel and equipment to the numerous sites throughout the Range and California’s offshore Channel Islands. Most of our time was spent supporting the Surface Targets Directorate with their remotely-controlled World War II-era destroyers which were used as targets for anti-ship missiles. Jerry also taught me how to locate and recover the Northrop BQM-74 Chukar target drones that were used for aerial targets. After plucking them from the ocean, we returned the drones to NTD for servicing.

This photograph was taken from my helicopter while a talk a new pilot through a drone recovery in the Pacific Missile Test Range. During an actual recovery, we rarely found the ocean so calm. (U.S. Navy)
This photograph was taken from my helicopter while I talked a new pilot through a drone recovery out on the Pacific Missile Test Range. During an actual recovery operation, we rarely found the ocean so calm. (Author’s collection)
After recovering a BQM-74 drone from teh Pacific Ocean, it is dropped off at NTD to be readied for its next flight. Jerry Boyle flew this helicopter, Bell 206B-3 JetRanger N5006Y, on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, Arizona. (U.S. Navy)
After recovering a BQM-74 drone from the Pacific Ocean, it is dropped off at NTD to be readied for its next flight. Jerry Boyle flew this helicopter, Bell 206B-3 JetRanger III N5006Y, with a “hot shot” helitack crew on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, Arizona. (Author’s collection)

We flew other government contracts as well. We carried National Park Service employees and their guests out to the Channel Islands, and Federal government inspectors to oil drilling and production platforms on the outer continental shelf. We flew construction crews and materials to new radar and telemetry sites being built out on the range. We flew surveyors and fought fires all over the Western states and Alaska, the occasional medevac from remote locations, flew government SWAT teams on patrols of nuclear sites, carried sling loads and long-line, and all of the other things that are part of the life of a commercial helicopter pilot.

As the years passed, I gained more experience and became the company’s chief flight instructor, FAA-designated check airman and eventually, chief pilot. Jerry began looking to me for information and advice, and we always “crammed” together before a required check flight. Our relative positions within the company changed but our friendship didn’t. Even after he had retired and I worked elsewhere, we stayed in touch and spoke by telephone often.

Jerome Maitland Boyle was born in Los Angeles, California, 28 May 1938, the second son of Walter David Boyle, a civil engineer, and his wife, Marguerite E. Boyle. The family lived in a small rented home on N. Kenmore Avenue in the East Hollywood area of L.A. When Jerry was just three years old his father died and his mother moved the family moved to the San Fernando Valley, a few miles to the north.

By 1961, Jerry was a licensed private pilot and skydiver. He had moved to the beautiful Ojai Valley and was employed as a police officer for the City of San Buenaventura, California (or, more commonly, simply Ventura). He enjoyed the work and was a member of the California State Police Pistol Association. He won both the state and national championships. In 1965, he married Cathie L. Birch. They had two sons.

Jerry seems to have found an alternate weapon, a .30-caliber M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle, the BAR. (Bullwhip Squadron Newsletter, May 2012, Page 24)
Jerry seems to have found an alternate weapon, a .30-caliber M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle, the BAR. (Bullwhip Squadron Newsletter, May 2012, Page 24)

From 1961 to 1968, Jerry Boyle served in the U.S. Army Reserve, where he was trained as a combat medic. In 1969, Boyle was sworn into the United States Army as a warrant officer candidate and was sent for primary helicopter flight training at Fort Wolters, Texas, and then Fort Rucker, Alabama, where he underwent advanced training in the TH-13 Sioux (Bell Model 47) and learned to fly the legendary UH-1 Iroquois. (One of Jerry’s instructors at Fort Rucker, CW2 Barrie Turner, would later be a co-worker of ours.) After graduating, Warrant Officer Boyle was next assigned to Hunter Army Airfield, Savannah, Georgia, to be trained on the new Bell AH-1G Cobra attack helicopter.

By 1970, Jerry was in Vietnam where he was assigned to Troop A (“Apache troop”), 1st Squadron, 9th Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. For the next few months he flew as the co-pilot/gunner in the Cobra’s forward cockpit. He learned to fly combat missions under the more experienced Cobra pilots. After six months Boyle was qualified as an aircraft commander. He named his personal Cobra Cathie’s Clown, after a popular ’60s song by the Everly Brothers, but in “honor” of his estranged and soon-to-be ex-wife, Cathie. He flew with the radio call-sign, “Apache Two-Four.” Jerry also flew with Troop B, with the call sign, “Sabre Two four.”

Jerry and Cathie divorced in 1973. He then met his “soul mate,” Andrea J. Balch. They were married in 1974. They continued to live in the Ojai Valley until Jerry retired from aviation.

Jerry Boyle told his own story of his first months of combat in Vietnam and Cambodia in a Random House book, Apache Sunrise, which was published in 1994. He had intended to follow with Apache Noon and Apache Sunset. But that was not to be.

Jerry Boyle (back row, center with cap, sunglasses and black v-neck sweater) and I (slighty taller, to Jerry's right) with Gerneral Dynamics and Surface Targets technicians waiting for our next flight atop San Nicolas Island, offshore Southern California. (Autor's collection)
Jerry Boyle (back row, center, with cap, sunglasses, white shirt and black V-neck sweater) and I (slighty taller, no hat, mustache, just to Jerry’s right) with General Dynamics and Surface Targets technicians waiting for our next flight, on the summit of San Nicolas Island, offshore Southern California, some time in the last century. . . The helicopter is a Bell 206B-3 JetRanger III, N39049. (Author’s collection)

Jerry retired to a cabin north of Kalispell, Montana, located on the bank of a stream, with a small dock and a black Labrador Retriever, where he could fish whenever he wanted. One of his closest friends from the Vietnam War flew a medical helicopter from the nearby regional hospital. But Jerry became ill, and he died at Whitefish, Montana, 24 November 2011.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jerome Maitland Boyle, United States Army, was awarded the Silver Star, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, five Bronze Stars, two Army Commendation Medals (Valor) and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Combat pilot and aircraft commander, Bell AH-1G Cobra; commercial pilot, Bell Model 206B-3 JetRanger, Bell 206L and L-1 LongRanger, Hughes Model 369 (“500”) helicopters; California state and National police pistol champion; fisherman, story teller, author, Apache Sunrise. My friend.

My well-worn copy of Jerry Boyle's 1994 book, APACHE SUNRISE (Ballantine Books). Jerry had planned to follow this with two sequels, "Apache Noon" and "Apache Sunset". This 259-page book is no longer in print, but Amazon.com, this morning, lists "1 New" for $131.02. "Apache" refers to Troop A, 1/9 Air Cav, a unit in which Jerry served. Later, as a civilian pilot, Jerry flew helitack missions with a "hot shot" crew of Apache firefighters from the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona. Jerry wrote that they "taught me the true meaning of 'Apache'."
My well-worn copy of Jerry Boyle’s 1994 book, APACHE SUNRISE (Random House/Ballantine Books). This 259-page book is no longer in print, but Amazon.com, this morning, lists “1 New” for $163.05. “Apache” refers to Troop A, 1/9 Air Cav, a unit in which Jerry served. Later, as a civilian pilot, Jerry flew helitack missions with a “hot shot” crew of Apache firefighters from the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona. Jerry wrote that they “taught me the true meaning of ‘Apache’.”

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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