Tag Archives: Bell Aircraft Corporation

9 August 1939

Bell XP-39 Airacobra 38-326 in the NACA Full Scale Wind Tunnel at Langley Field, Virginia, 9 August 1939. The man at the base of the supports shows scale. (NASA)

9 August 1939: After General Henry H. Arnold had ordered that the prototype Bell Aircraft Corporation XP-39 Airacobra be evaluated in the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) Full-Scale Tunnel at the Langley Memorial Aeronautics Laboratory, Langley Field, Virginia, it was flown there from Wright Field. It was hoped that aerodynamic improvements would allow the prototype to exceed 400 miles per hour (644 kilometers per hour).

NACA engineers placed the full-size airplane inside the large wind tunnel for testing. A number of specific areas for aerodynamic improvement were found. After those changes were made by Bell, the XP-39’s top speed had improved by 16%.

Bell XP-39 Airacobra 38-326 in the NACA Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory Full-Scale Wind Tunnel, Langley Field, Virginia, 9 August 1939. The fuselage has had all protrusions removed. Right profile. (National Aeronautics and Space Administration NACA 18423)

The Bell XP-39 Airacobra was a single-place, single-engine prototype fighter with a low wing and retractable tricycle landing gears. The airplane was primarily built of aluminum, though control surfaces were fabric covered.

As originally built, the XP-39 was 28 feet, 8 inches (8.738 meters) long with a wingspan of 35 feet, 10 inches (10.922 meters). The prototype had an empty weight of 3,995 pounds (1,812 kilograms) and gross weight of 5,550 pounds (2,517 kilograms). Changes recommended by NACA resulted in a recontoured canopy, lengthened the airplane to 29 feet, 9 inches (9.068 meters) and reduced the wing span to 34 feet, 0 inches (10.362 meters). Its empty weight increased to 4,530 pounds (2,055 kilograms) and gross weight to 5,834 pounds (2,646 kilograms).

Bell XP-39 in the NACA wind tunnel at Langley Field. (NASA)
Bell XP-39 Airacobra 38-326 in the NACA wind tunnel at Langley Field. The man at the base of the supports shows scale. (NASA)

The XP-39 was unarmed, but it had been designed around the American Armament Corporation T9 37 mm autocannon, later designated Gun, Automatic, 37 mm, M4 (Aircraft). The cannon and ammunition were in the forward fuselage, above the engine driveshaft. The gun fired through the reduction gear box and propeller hub.

The XP-39 was originally powered by a liquid-cooled, turbosupercharged and supercharged 1,710.597-cubic-inch-displacement (28.032 liter) Allison Engineering Co. V-1710-E2 (V-1710-17), a single overhead cam (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine with a compression ratio of 6.65:1. The V-1710-17 had a Maximum Continuous Power rating of 1,000 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters), and Takeoff/Military Power rating of 1,150 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. at 25,000 feet, burning 91 octane gasoline. The engine was installed in an unusual configuration behind the cockpit, with a two-piece drive shaft passing under the cockpit and turning the three-bladed Curtiss Electric constant-speed propeller through a remotely-mounted 1.8:1 gear reduction gear box. The V-1710-17 was 16 feet, 1.79 inches (4.922 meters) long, including the drive shaft and remote gear box. It was 2 feet, 11.45 inches (0.900 meters) high, 2 feet, 5.28 inches (0.744 meters) wide and weighed 1,350 pounds (612 kilograms).

Bell XP-39B prototype, s/n 38-326, at Bell Aircraft Co., Buffalo, New York

Army Air Corps strategy changed the role of the P-39 from a high-altitude interceptor to a low-altitude tactical strike fighter. The original turbocharged V-1710-17 was replaced with a V-1710-37 (V-1710-E5) engine. The turbosupercharger had been removed, which reduced the airplane’s power at altitudes above 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). The V-1710-37 had a maximum power of 1,090 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. at 13,300 feet (4,054 meters). With the NACA-recommended aerodynamic changes and the new engine, the prototype Airacobra was redesignated XP-39B.

A Bell P-39 Airacobra fires all of its guns at night. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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23 July 1956

Bell X-2 46-674 airdropped from Boeing EB-50D Superfortress 48-096 near Edwards Air Force Base, California. (U.S. Air Force)
Brigadier General Frank Kendall Everest, United States Air Force
Brigadier General Frank Kendall Everest, United States Air Force

23 July 1956: Lieutenant Colonel Frank Kendall “Pete” Everest, United States Air Force, became “The Fastest Man Alive” when he flew the USAF/NACA/Bell X-2 rocket plane, serial number 46-674, to Mach 2.87 (1,957 miles per hour, 3,150 kilometers per hour) at 87,808 feet (26,764 meters). The X-2 was air-dropped from Boeing EB-50D Superfortress, serial number, 48-096, near Edwards Air Force Base, California.

The X-2 was a joint project of the U.S. Air Force and NACA (the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the predecessor of NASA). The rocketplane was designed and built by Bell Aircraft Corporation of Buffalo, New York, to explore supersonic flight at speeds beyond the capabilities of the earlier Bell X-1 and Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket. In addition to the aerodynamic effects of speeds in the Mach 2.0–Mach 3.0 range, engineers knew that the high temperatures created by aerodynamic friction would be a problem, so the aircraft was built from Stainless Steel and K-Monel, a copper-nickel alloy.

The Bell Aircraft Corporation X-2 was 37 feet, 10 inches (11.532 meters) long with a wingspan of 32 feet, 3 inches (9.830 meters) and height of 11 feet, 10 inches (3.607 meters). Its empty weight was 12,375 pounds (5,613 kilograms) and loaded weight was 24,910 pounds (11,299 kilograms).

The X-2 was powered by a throttleable Curtiss-Wright XLR25-CW-1 rocket engine that produced 2,500–15,000 pounds of thrust (11.12–66.72 kilonewtons) burning alcohol and liquid oxygen. The engine used two rocket chambers and had pneumatic, electrical and mechanical controls. The smaller chamber could produce a maximum 5,000 pounds of thrust, and the larger, 10,000 pounds (22.24 and 44.48 likonewtons, respectively). Professor Robert H. Goddard, “The Father of Modern Rocketry,” authorized Curtiss-Wright to use his patents, and his rocketry team went to work for the Curtiss-Wright Rocket Department. Royalties for use of the patents were paid to the Guggenheim Foundation and Clark university. Professor Goddard died before he could also make the move

Rather than use its limited fuel capacity to take off and climb to altitude, the X-2 was dropped from a modified heavy bomber as had been the earlier rocketplanes. The launch altitude was 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). After the fuel was exhausted, the X-2 glided to a touchdown on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base.

A four-engine Boeing B-50A Superfortress bomber, serial number 46-011, was modified as the ”mothership.” A second Superfortress, B-50D-95-BO 48-096, was also modified to carry the X-2, and was redesignated EB-50D. During the flight test program, the X-2 reached a maximum speed of Mach 3.196 (2,094 miles per hour, 3,370 kilometers per hour) and a maximum altitude of 126,200 feet (38,466 meters).

Frank Kendall Everest was a fighter pilot and flight instructor during World War II. He flew combat missions in both the Mediterranean and China-Burma-India Theaters of Operation. In May 1945 he was shot down. Everest was captured by the Japanese, held as a prisoner and tortured until the end of the war. After the war, Everest flew as a test pilot at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and then at Edwards Air Force Base. On 23 July 1956, he was The Fastest Man Alive. Pete Everest retired as a brigadier general in 1970, and died in 2004.

Lieutenant Colonel Frank Kendall Everest, U.S. Air Force, wearing a David Clark Co. T-1 capstan-type partial-pressure suit for protection at high altitude, with a Bell X-2 rocketplane at Edwards AFB, circa 1956. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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27 June 1952

Jean L. Ziegler in the cockpit of Bell X-2 46-675 after landing on Rogers Dry Lake, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 27 June 1952. (NASA)

27 June 1952: The Bell X-2 research rocketplane, with company test pilot Jean Leroy (“Skip”) Ziegler at the controls, was airdropped from a “mothership,” a Boeing B-50A-5-BO Superfortress, 46-011, over Edwards Air Force Base, California. This was the first flight of the X-2 Program, and was an unpowered glide flight for pilot familiarization.

On touch down, the nose wheel collapsed and the aircraft slid across the dry lake bed, but was not seriously damaged.

Two X-2 rocketplanes, serial numbers 46-674 and 46-675, were built by the Bell Aircraft Corporation, which has also built the X-1 series. The second X-2 was the first one to fly.

Bell Aircraft Corporation standing next to the Bell X-2 rocket plane on Rogers Dry Lake, California, after the first glide flight, 27 June 1952. The nose wheel collapsed on landing. (NASM)

The X-2 was a joint project of the U.S. Air Force and NACA (the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the predecessor of NASA). The rocketplane was designed and built by Bell Aircraft Corporation of Buffalo, New York, to explore supersonic flight at speeds beyond the capabilities of the earlier Bell X-1 and Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket. In addition to the aerodynamic effects of speeds in the Mach 2.0–Mach 3.0 range, engineers knew that the high temperatures created by aerodynamic friction would be a problem, so the aircraft was built from Stainless Steel and K-Monel, a copper-nickel alloy.

The Bell Aircraft Corporation X-2 was 37 feet, 10 inches (11.532 meters) long with a wingspan of 32 feet, 3 inches (9.830 meters) and height of 11 feet, 10 inches (3.607 meters). Its empty weight was 12,375 pounds (5,613 kilograms) and loaded weight was 24,910 pounds (11,299 kilograms).

Bell X-2 46-675 on its transportation dolly at Edwards Air Force Base, california, 1952. (NASA)
Bell X-2 46-675 on its transportation dolly at the NACA High Speed Flight Station, Edwards Air Force Base, California, 1952. (NASA)

The X-2 was powered by a throttleable Curtiss-Wright XLR25-CW-1 rocket engine that produced 2,500–15,000 pounds of thrust burning alcohol and liquid oxygen. Rather than use its limited fuel capacity to take off and climb to altitude, the X-2 was dropped from a modified heavy bomber as had been the earlier rocketplanes. The launch altitude was 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). After the fuel was exhausted, the X-2 glided to a touchdown on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base.

A four-engine Boeing B-50A Superfortress bomber, serial number 46-011, was modified as the ”mothership.” A second Superfortress, B-50D-95-BO 48-096, was also modified to carry the X-2, and was redesignated EB-50D. During the flight test program, the X-2 reached a maximum speed of Mach 3.196 (2,094 miles per hour, 3,370 kilometers per hour) and a maximum altitude of 126,200 feet (38,466 meters).

On 12 May 1953, less than one year after the first glide flight, Skip Ziegler was in the cockpit of 46-675 while it was being carried on a captive test flight aboard the B-50A Superfortress. An internal explosion destroyed the X-2 and killed Ziegler and another crewman aboard the mothership. The rocketplane fell into Lake Ontario and neither it nor Ziegler’s body were ever recovered. The Superfortress was able to land, but was so badly damaged that it never flew again.

Jean L. "Skip" Ziegler, with the Bell X-5 at Edwards Air Force Base, 1952. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas.
Jean Leroy “Skip” Ziegler, with the Bell X-5 at Edwards Air Force Base, 1952. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas.)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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6 June 1955

Massif du Mont-Blanc depuis le sommet du Brévent, 2006. Mont Blanc, north face from Brevant. (Yann via Wikipedia)
Massif du Mont-Blanc depuis le sommet du Brévent, 2006. Mont Blanc, north face from Brevant. (Yann via Wikipedia)

6 June 1955: Mont Blanc (the “White Mountain”), at 4.808,73 mètres (15,776.67 feet), is the highest mountain in the Alps, and second highest in Europe. (Because the summit consists of ice and snow, the actual elevation of the summit varies from year to year, and season to season. This is the 2013 measurement.)

Jean Moine, chief pilot of Fenwick Aviation S.A., flew a new Bell Aircraft Corporation Model 47G-2 helicopter from the company’s base at Issy-les-Moulineaux, southwest of Paris, to Chamonix in southeastern France, and then on to the village of Le Fayet. This village is located northwest of the Mont Blanc massif at an elevation of 584 meters (1,916 feet) above Sea Level.

Jean Moine, Capitaine, Com
Jean Moine in the cockpit of a Bell Model 47 helicopter. (Hélico-Fascination)

The helicopter, registered F-BHGJ, with manufacturer’s serial number 1342, was the very first Bell Model 47G-2 to be built.

Some items not necessary for the planned flight to the summit were removed from the helicopter to reduce weight: the left fuel tank, battery, generator and seat cushions. The right fuel tank contained just 40 liters (10.6 gallons) of gasoline.

At 5:15 a.m. the following morning, 6 June, Jean Moine and his passenger, André Contamine, an Alpine guide, lifted off from Le Fayet and began a long climb to the Dôme du Goûter, 2 kilometers (1¼ miles) northwest of the summit of Mont Blanc, at 4,304 meters (14,121 feet). After 32 minutes, Moine landed there at 5:43 a.m.

Jean Moine with Bell 47G-2 F-BHGJ
Jean Moine with the first Bell Model 47G-2, F-BHGJ, probably at Dôme du Goûter, 6 June 1955. The helicopter’s left fuel tank and battery have been removed. (Hélico-Fascination)

After remaining at Dôme du Goûter for five minutes, Moine and Contamine again took off, and seven minutes later, landed atop Mont Blanc at 5:55 a.m. Moine estimated the wind speed at 25 knots (13 meters per second). After four minutes at the summit, Moine again lifted off and this time, returned to Chamonix, where the helicopter landed at 6:15 a.m.

Although the Bell 47G-2 has a hover ceiling in ground effect (HIGE) of 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), with winds of 20–25 knots (10.3–12.9 meters per second), the helicopter, while stationary, was actually in translational lift. Combined with very cold temperatures (probably lower than -14.7 °C./5.5 °F.) which reduced the density altitude from ISA standard conditions, the helicopter was easily able to land and takeoff, requiring only 14 inches (0.47 bar) of manifold pressure.

This was the highest landing and takeoff by a helicopter up to that time.

Later that morning, Moine and the Bell 47G-2 made two more flights to Dôme du Goûter, first with Pierre Voisin (?) and again with Contamine.

 Jean Moine and F-BHGJ at the summit of Mont Blanc, just before 6:00 am, 6 June 1955. (André Contamine via Hélico-Fascination)
Jean Moine and F-BHGJ at the summit of Mont Blanc, just before 6:00 am, 6 June 1955. (André Contamine via Hélico-Fascination)

Two short articles in FLIGHT and Aircraft Engineer mention the Mont Blanc landing:

“. . . Lands High . . .

“FLYING a Bell 47G, M. Jean Moine, accompanied by the guide Contamine, took off from Le Fayet airfield (1,905ft) on Monday and landed first on the Dôme du Goûter (14,116ft) and, seven minutes later, on the summit of Mont Blanc (15,782ft). On the same day S.N.C.A.S.E. claimed the world’s helicopter height record when the Alouette II, powered by a Turboméca Artouste, reached 27,100ft. The machine took off from Buc, near Paris, climbed for 42 min and landed at Montesson. The pilot was M. Jean Boulet.”

FLIGHT and AIRCRAFT ENGINEER, No. 2420 Vol. 67. Friday, 10 June 1955, at Page 784

. . . and:

“. . . There followed, on June 6th, a landing by Jean Moine in a Bell 47-G2 on Mont Blanc, altitude 15,781 feet, now the highest landing by a rotating wing aircraft. . .

     “The actual machine which landed on the summit of Mont Blanc , the Bell 47G2, powered by a 260 h.p. Lycoming engine de-rated to 200 h.p. was seen at Le Bourget. The use of a de-rated engine, the makers claim, increases considerably the engine overhaul life and also engine maintenance problems.

“According to the pilot, Jean Moine, the mountain landing was made without difficulty, in spite of no little turbulence caused by a 20 knot wind, and there was a sufficient reserve of power, with a passenger aboard, to enable the machine to hover in the ground cushion in the normal way before touching down.”

FLIGHT and AIRCRAFT ENGINEER, No. 2424 Vol. 68. Friday, 8 July 1955 at Page 54

Logbook entries of Mount Blanc flight
Entries in Jean Moine’s logbook of the Mount Blanc flight, 6 June 1955.

Jean Moine was born at Paris, France at 1915. He studied at Lycée Condorcet, a high school in Paris. In 1935, he learned to fly in a Potez 36 two-place trainer at l’aéro-club at Orly. In 1937 joined the Armée de l’air (the French Air Force). With the fall of France in 1939, Capitaine Moine continued to serve with the Forces Aériennes Françaises Libres (the Free French Air Force.) Assigned to Groupe Bretagne (GB II/20) he flew 46 combat missions with the Glenn L. Martin Co. B-26 Marauder, a twin-engine medium bomber.

Glenn L. Martic Co. B-26 Marauder.
Forces Aériennes Françaises Libres (Free French Air Force) Glenn L. Martin Company B-26G-11-MA Marauder 43-34594, nº 29, Groupe Bretagne. (Collection J. Moulin)

Captain Moine was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Médaille de la Résistance (Medal of the Resistance). He was appointed Commandeur Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur.

Following World War II, Jean Moine served as chief pilot for a small regional airline, Lignes Aériennes du Sud-Ouest. In 1950, Moine joined Fenwick Aviation S.A., Paris, France, as chief pilot and general manager. The company sold and operated aircraft produced by several American manufacturers, including the Bell Aircraft Corporation. He learned to fly helicopters at the Bell plant at Buffalo, New York. While there, he also studied Bell’s flight school operation. Returning to France, he organized Fenwick Aviation’s flight school at Issy-les-Moulineaux.

Moine rose to vice president and chief executive officer. He served as Fenwick’s president from 1966 to 1976.

Bell Model 47 helicopters at Fenwick Avaition,
Bell Model 47 helicopters at Fenwick Aviation, a major distributor for Bell Aircraft Corporation in Europe. (Hélico-Fascination)

Leaving Fenwinck, he joined Transair Helicopters Group. One of the missions this company performed was transporting marine pilots by helicopter to ships at sea, flying an Aérospatiale Alouette III based at Cherbourg.

In December 1975, HRH Prince Charles awarded the Berguet Trophy of the Royal Aero Club and the Aero Club of France to Moine for his outstanding contributions to rotary wing flight.

Moine served as president of l’Aéro-Club de France from 1982–1986.

When Jean Moine retired, he had accumulated a total of 7,000 flight hours, about equally divided between fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft.

Jean Moine, Commandeur Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur, died 7 March 2002 at the age of 86 years.

This advertisement for the Bell 47G-2 shows an early production aircraft painted yellow. This may be c/n 1342. (Bell Helicopter Company)
This advertisement for the Bell Model 47G-2 shows an early production aircraft painted yellow and black, the standard paint scheme. (Bell Helicopter Company)

The Bell Model 47, designed by Arthur M. Young, of the Bell Aircraft Corporation, Buffalo, New York, was the first helicopter to receive civil certification from the Civil Aviation Administration, predecessor of the Federal Aviation Administration. On 8 March 1946, the aircraft received CAA Type Certificate H-1.

The Bell 47G was the first helicopter manufactured by the Bell Aircraft Corporation at the company’s new plant at Fort Worth, Texas. It was also produced under license by Agusta, Kawasaki and Westland.

The Bell Model 47G and 47G-2 Trooper are nearly identical, essentially differing only in the engine used. It is a 3-place, single-engine light helicopter, operated by a single pilot. The helicopter has dual flight controls and can be flown from either the left or right. The airframe is constructed of a welded tubular steel framework with a sheet metal cockpit. The landing gear consists of two lateral, horizontal tubular cross tubes, and two longitudinal “skids,” curved upward at the front. Ground handling wheels are attached to the skids. The most distinctive feature of the Bell 47 is the large plexiglass “bubble” windshield. The main rotor flight controls use a system of bell cranks and push-pull tubes. The cyclic is hydraulically boosted. The tail rotor is controlled by pedals and stainless steel cables.

With rotors turning, the Bell 47G-2 has an overall length of 41 feet, 4.75 inches (12.618 meters). From the forward tip of the skids to the aft end of the tail rotor guard, the fuselage is 31 feet, 5.40 inches long (9.586 meters). The main rotor has a diameter of 35 feet, 1.50 inches (10.706 meters). The tail rotor diameter is 5 feet, 8.125 inches (1.730 meters). Height to top of main rotor mast is 9 feet, 3.613 inches (2.835 meters).

The Bell 47G-2 has an empty weight of approximately 1,564 pounds (709 kilograms), depending on installed equipment. Its maximum gross weight is 2,450 pounds (1,111 kilograms), a 100 pound (45 kilogram) increase over the Franklin-powered Model 47G.

The main rotor, in common to all American-designed helicopters, rotates counter-clockwise as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right.) The anti-torque (tail) rotor is mounted to the right side of an angled tail boom extension, in a tractor configuration, and rotates counter-clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left. (The advancing blade is above the axis of rotation.)

This photograph of a Bell 47 presents a good view of the stabilizer bar, pitch links and hydraulic dampers.
This photograph of a Lycoming-powered Bell 47G-2 hovering in ground effect presents a good view of the stabilizer bar, pitch links and hydraulic dampers. (Wikipedia)

The main rotor is a two-bladed, under-slung, semi-rigid assembly that would be a characteristic of helicopters built by Bell for decades. The main rotor system incorporates a stabilizer bar, positioned below and at right angles to the main rotor blades. Teardrop-shaped weights are placed at each end of the bar, on 100-inch (2.540 meters) centers. The outside diameter of the stabilizer bar is 8 feet, 6.781 inches (2.611 meters). The pilot’s inputs to the cyclic stick are damped through a series of mechanical linkages and hydraulic dampers before arriving at the pitch horns on the rotor hub. The result is smoother flight, especially while at a hover. The stabilizer bar action is commonly explained as being “gyroscopic,” but this is incorrect. (A similar system is used on the larger Bell 204/205/212 helicopters.)

The Bell 47G and 47G-2 used laminated-wood main rotor blades, with a metal spar, covered with fabric. The blades’ trailing edge tapers slightly from root to tip. The airfoil is symmetrical, transitioning from NACA 0015 at the root to NACA 0011 at the tip. The normal operating range of the main rotor is 322–360 r.p.m. (294–360 r.p.m. for autorotation). A longitudinal hole in the blade tip for a recessed tension-adjusting nut produces a distinctive whistling sound.

The 47G-2 used a more powerful AVCO Lycoming VO-435-A1A, -A1B, -A1D, -A1E or -A1F engine in place of the Franklin 6V4-200-C32AB. The VO-435 is an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 433.972-cubic-inch-displacement (7.112 liter) vertically-opposed six-cylinder direct-drive engine. The engine has a compression ratio of 7.30:1 and requires a minimum of 80/87 octane aviation gasoline. The VO-435A series engine has a Maximum Continuous Power rating of 250 horsepower at 3,200 r.p.m., and 260 h.p. @ 3,400 r.p.m. for takeoff. Installed in the Bell 47G-2, the engine’s maximum power limit is 28.8 inches of mercury (0.975 bar) manifold pressure at 3,100 r.p.m. (200 horsepower) to increase time-between-overhaul (TBO) limits. The VO-435 is 34.73 Inches (0.882 meters) high, 33.58 inches (0.878 meters) wide and 24.13 inches (0.613 meters) deep, and weighs 393.00 pounds (178.26 kilograms) to 401.00 pounds (182.89 kilograms), depending of the specific engine variant.

Bell Model 47G, 47G-2 diagram
Bell Model 47G/47G-2 left profile.

Engine torque is sent through a centrifugal clutch to a gear-reduction transmission, which drives the main rotor through a two-stage planetary gear system. The transmission also drives the tail rotor drive shaft, and through a vee-belt/pulley system, a large fan on the forward face of the engine to provide cooling air.

The Bell 47G/G-2 has a maximum speed (Vne) of 100 miles per hour (161 kilometers per hour) from Sea Level to 1,400 feet (427 meters). Above that altitude, Vne is reduced 3.5 miles per hour (5.6 kilometers per hour) for every 1,000 foot (305 meters) increase in altitude. On a Standard Day, the hover ceiling in ground effect (HIGE) of the Bell 47G-2, at maximum gross weight, is 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) above Sea Level, and out of ground effect (HOGE), 3,200 feet (975 meters).

Fuel is carried in two gravity-feed tanks, mounted above and on each side of the engine. The total fuel capacity is 43.0 gallons (162.8 liters), however, usable fuel is 41.0 gallons (155.2 liters). The helicopter has a maximum range of 238 miles (383 kilometers).

In production from 1946 until 1974, more than 7,000 Model 47 helicopters were built, worldwide. It is estimated that about 10% of these aircraft remain in service.

In 2010, the type certificates for all Bell 47 models were transferred to Scott’s Helicopter Service, Le Sueur, Minnesota, which continues to manufacture parts and complete helicopters.

Bell 47G-2 F-BHGJ was delivered to Fenwick Aviation SA, along with the second production G-2, 3 February 1955. It was acquired by France Aviation SA, Aéroport de Toussus le Noble, Chateaufort, south of Versailles, on 13 June 1955. It was next registered to SA Gyrafrique, Algeria, 8 November 1955. On 5 August 1960, the helicopter was once again reregistered, this time to SA Gyrasahara. Gyrafrance SA (Gyrafrance Hélicoptères), Aéroport de Frejorgues, Mauguio, became the registered owner, 23 July 1964. On 9 August 1991, the registered owner was Societe Nouvelle Gyrafrance SA, Aéroport de Montpellier–Méditerranée, Mauguio. F-BHGJ was registered to SA Aero 34, also located at the Aéroport Montpellier–Méditerranée, Mauguio, 23 March 1995, and then Aeromecanic 34 SARL, Marignane, 1 August 2001. From 12 October 2004 until 18 February 2015, the helicopter was owned by Heli System, Frontignan, on the Mediterranean coast. The first Bell 47G-2, F-BHGJ, is currently owned by Conseil Aménagement Foncier, Frontignan.

Recommended: The Bell 47 Helicopter Story, by Robert S. Petite and Jeffrey C. Evans, Graphic Publishers, Santa Ana, California, November 2013.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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4 June 1954

Major Arthur Warren "Kit" Murray, U.S. Air Force, with the Bell X-1A at Edwards AFB, 20 July 1954. Major Murray is wearing a David Clark Co. T-1 capstan-type partial-pressure suit with a K-1 helmet. (NASA)
Major Arthur Warren “Kit” Murray, U.S. Air Force, with the Bell X-1A at Edwards AFB, 20 July 1954. Major Murray is wearing a David Clark Co. T-1 capstan-type partial-pressure suit with a K-1 helmet. (NASA)

4 June 1954: at Edwards Air Force Base, California, Major Arthur W. “Kit” Murray flew the experimental Bell X-1A research rocketplane to an altitude of 89,810 feet (27,374 meters). He flew high enough that the sky darkened and he was able to see the curvature of the Earth. Newspapers called him “America’s first space pilot.”

The X-1A reached Mach 1.97. Encountering the same inertial coupling instability as had Chuck Yeager, 20 November 1953, though at a lower speed, the X-1A tumbled out of control. The rocket plane lost over 20,000 feet (6,100 meters) altitude before Murray could regain control. For this accomplishment, Major Murray was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

One week earlier, 28 May 1954, Murray had flown the X-1A to an unofficial world record altitude of 90,440 feet (27,566 meters).

Arthur Murray, 1936. (The Argus)

Arthur Warren Murray was born at Cresson, Cambria County, Pennsylvania, 26 December 1918. He was the first of two children of Charles Chester Murray, a clerk, and Elsie Espy Murray.

Arthur Murray attended Huntingdon High School, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, graduating 4 June 1936, and then studied Juniata College, also in Huntingdon, 1937–1938.

Arthur Murray, 1938. (The Nineteen Thirty-Seven Alfarata)

Kit Murray enlisted in the Field Artillery, Pennsylvania National Guard, 17 November 1939. (Some sources state that he served in the U.S. Cavalry.) Murray had brown hair and blue eyes, was 5 feet, 10 inches (1.78 meters) tall and weighed 150 pounds (68 kilograms). Following the United States’ entry into World War II, Sergeant Murray requested to be trained as a pilot. He was appointed a flight officer (a warrant officer rank), Army of the United States, on 5 December 1942. On 15 October 1943 Flight Officer Murray received a battlefield promotion to the commissioned rank of second lieutenant, A.U.S.

Between 6 January  and 22 October 1943, Murray flew over 50 combat missions in the Curtiss-Wright P-40 Warhawk across North Africa. After about ten months in the Mediterranean Theater, he returned to the United States, assigned as an instructor flying the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter bomber, stationed at Bradley Field, Hartford, Connecticut.

Republic P-47 Thunderbolts at Bradley Field, Connecticut, 9 September 1944. (U.S. Air Force)

Lieutenant Murray married Miss Elizabeth Anne Strelic, who had immigrated from Czechoslovakia with her family as an infant, at Atlantic City, New Jersey, 29 December 1943. They would have six children, and foster a seventh. They later divorced. (Mrs. Murray died in 1980.)

Lieutenant and Mrs. Arthur W. Murray, 1943. (Murray Family Collection)

Murray was promoted to 1st lieutenant, A.U.S., 8 August 1944. His next assignment was as a maintenance officer. He was sent to Maintenance Engineering School at Chanute Field, Rantoul, Illinois, and from there to the Flight Test School at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio.

Murray was the first test pilot to be permanently assigned to Muroc Army Air Field (later, Edwards Air Force Base). Other test pilots, such as Captain Chuck Yeager, were assigned to Wright Field and traveled to Muroc as necessary.

Murray’s A.U.S. commission was converted to first lieutenant, Air Corps, United States Army, on 19 June 1947, with date of rank retroactive to 15 October 1946. The U.S. Air Force became a separate military service in 1947, and Lieutenant Murray became an officer in the new service.

Major Arthur Warren (“Kit”) Murray, United States Air Force, with a Northrop F-89 Scorpion interceptor, 1954. (The New York Times)

Murray was involved in testing new Air Force fighters such as the Bell P-59 Airacomet, Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star, Republic P-84 Thunderjet, McDonnell XF-88 Voodoo; and the Douglas XB-43 Jetmaster and North American Aviation B-45 Tornado jet bombers. He also flew the experimental aircraft such as the X-1A, X-1B, X-4 and X-5. Murray spent six years at Edwards before going on to other assignments.

Colonel Arthur Warren (“Kit”) Murray, U.S. Air Force.

Later, 1958–1960, Major Murray was the U.S. Air Force project officer for the North American Aviation X-15 hypersonic research rocketplane at Wright Field.

Colonel Murray retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1961. He next worked for Boeing in Seattle, Washington, from 1961 to 1969, and then Bell Helicopter in Texas.

On 4 April 1975, Kit Murray married his second wife, Ms. Ann Tackitt Humphreys, an interior decorator, in Tarrant County, Texas.

Colonel Arthur Warren Murray, United States Air Force (Retired), died at West, Texas, 25 July 2011, at the age of 92 years.

NASA 800, a highly modified Boeing B-29 Superfortress, carries the Bell X-1A to altitude over Edwards AFB. (NASA)
A highly modified Boeing B-29 Superfortress carries the Bell X-1A to altitude over Edwards AFB. (U.S. Air Force)

The Bell X-1A was a follow-on project to the earlier X-1. It was designed and built by the Bell Aircraft Corporation at Buffalo, New York, to investigate speeds above Mach 2 and altitudes above 90,000 feet (27,432 meters). It was carried to altitude by a modified Boeing B-29 Superfortress, then dropped for the research flight.

The rocketplane was 35 feet, 7 inches (10.846 meters) long with a wingspan of 28 feet (8.534 meters) and overall height of 10 feet, 8 inches (3.251 meters). It had an empty weight of 6,880 pounds (3,120.7 kilograms) and gross weight of 16,487 pounds (7,478.3 kilograms).

The X-1A was powered by a Reaction Motors XLR-11-RM-5 four-chamber rocket engine which produced 6,000 pounds of thrust. It had a maximum speed of Mach 2.44 (Yeager) and reached an altitude of 90,440 feet (27,566.1 meters) (Murray).

Bell X-1A 48-1384. (U.S. Air Force)
Bell X-1A 48-1384. (U.S. Air Force)

The X-1A was destroyed by an internal explosion, 20 July 1955.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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