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.
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).
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.
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).
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. Swopesby