The beginnings of Bell Helicopters
Arthur Middleton Young was a rare combination of talents. He was an inventor and engineer as well as being a philosopher and an author. Interestingly, he had acquired knowledge of mathematics and engineering to fully develop his philosophies of the nature of reality, a concept that had fascinated him from an early age. He was born on November 3, 1905, in Paris, France, the son of Charles Young and Eliza Coxe, his father being a celebrated Philadelphia landscape painter. The family returned to Jenkintown in Pennsylvania in 1906, settling in a farm near Radnor where Young attended the Haverford School. He became known as an inveterate tinkerer, always making or improving things. He built a crane out of Meccano which would lift his brother, having also made the electric motor that drove the crane. Young also built many model sailing boats, sailing them during family holidays spent on the Maine coast. He wanted to continue his studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but attended Princeton University instead after pressure from his father. Here he began studying astronomy, but soon swapped to mathematics, completing all the available maths courses while still in his junior year. At his request, a new course was set up to teach relativity, led by one of the outstanding mathematicians of the day, Oswald Veblen, with Young as the only student. Graduating in 1927, he decided that his future was in philosophy, and wished to establish a comprehensive theory of the universe. He soon abandoned the traditional
The Bell Aircraft Corporation was founded on July 10, 1935. Only six years later Lawrence Bell was to invite a young engineer called Arthur Middleton Young to bring his flying models to the plant and demonstrate them. The models were helicopters, and a whole new chapter of Bell’s histor y was about to begin.
structure theories to concentrate on process, to which end he decided to develop a new invention and test his theories against the actual process involved. Essentially, he wanted to find a problem against which he could apply his knowledge of mathematics and physics in order to develop a better understanding of how the world worked. In 1928, he visited the Patent Office in Washington DC in order to ascertain which of the many inventions he was interested in had met with any success. His investigation revealed that the helicopter had been a singular example of failure up to this point, so he elected to bring the problems of rotary winged flight to a successful conclusion.
Working in a converted stable on his parent’s farm in Pennsylvania, Young began building and testing model helicopters, the first being rubber powered and flying for 10 seconds in February 1929. He developed a system of ailerons on the rotor blades controlled by a vane on the hub to control direction, some of the electric powered models being remotely controlled through leads from a control box also of his own devising. For 13 years Young struggled to understand the intricacies of rotary winged flight and all the forces at work on a helicopter, learning a great deal about stability and how it could be best achieved. He married in 1933, and moved to a farm near Paoli in
Pennsylvania, the barn there becoming Young’s new workshop. He tried tip powered models, one using a vacuum cleaner motor that drove tip propellers via shafts in the rotor blades, the complex bearings and gears being made by Young himself. This was scaled up to a 10ft diameter rotor model powered by a 20hp outboard boat engine, but proved overly complex and suffered repeated failures so was abandoned after crashing in 1938. Also that year he began attending the Rotating Wing Aircraft Meetings at the Franklin Institute and gained many new insights and ideas from such pioneers as Igor Sikorsky and Haviland Platt. Such was his understanding of the problems of rotary winged flight that he was invited to speak on his findings at the 1939 meeting. Just after this meeting came Young’s biggest breakthrough in the pursuit of stability, the rotor fly bar, also known as the stabiliser bar. This is a bar that rotates with the main rotor and has a small blade or a weight on each end. This serves to create a stable rotating ‘platform’ in the centre of the rotor system that can reduce the effect of external forces such as wind or internal forces such as errant or unintentional control inputs. Essentially, the bar acts as a damper on forces acting on the main rotor and makes the helicopter much easier to fly and control. By 1940, Young had patented a working system that would provide both the stability and control to develop a full size helicopter from, and began to seek support from the aviation industry in building such a machine. Interest in his developments was almost nonexistent until a friend of Young’s, Dr John Sharpe, visited the Bell factory. Young was invited to demonstrate his models and explain his findings and developments to Larry Bell on September 3, 1941. Bell was already aware of helicopter developments in Germany and had been fascinated by the possibilities of rotary winged flight. He was most impressed by Young’s work, and agreed to fund the construction of two prototype full size helicopters to be known as the Bell Model 30.
THE MODEL 30
Work began almost immediately on the new helicopter; Young and his long time assistant Bart Kelley moving to the Bell facility in Buffalo on November 24, 1941. The rotary wing team were quickly found their own building, a former Chrysler garage in Gardenville on the outskirts of Buffalo, where Dave Forman, a Bell engineer, was assigned to manage the project for the company. The first helicopter design was a very straightforward machine intended to prove Young’s theories in a man carrying aircraft. Powered by a 165hp Franklin six-cylinder piston engine, the fuselage and undercarriage were welded steel and aluminium tubes to reduce the weight and keep the structure simple. The engine was mounted vertically in the fuselage behind the cockpit, the rotor hub and mast being connected directly to the engine through a universal joint. Below the main two bladed rotor was Young’s stabilising bar, the arms of which were at right angles to the blades of the main rotor. The main blades were rigidly fixed to the central hub and were made of a composite of fir and balsa wood with a steel billet inserted into the leading edge. The twin tail rotor blades were also solid wood, all of the blades being carefully shaped to a symmetrical aerofoil section. The tail rotor was mounted on the port side of a tube that extended from the rear of the fuselage. The first of the two prototypes was rolled out on December 24, 1942, named Genevieve and registered NX41867. The fuselage was left uncovered for the first tethered test flights while pilots Arthur Young, Bob Stanley and Floyd Carlson familiarised themselves with the controls and the reaction of the craft to control inputs. The first tethered flight was made by Arthur Young on December 29, damage from an accident grounding the first Model 30 in early 1943. This was repaired and on June 26, Floyd Carlson took the first Bell helicopter on its first free flight. During the next month, speeds of up to 70mph (113kph) were achieved and the open structure was clad in an aluminium skin. A three wheeled undercarriage replaced the simple tube skids and a windscreen was added to the open cockpit. While the first prototype was beginning to make its first demonstration flights to both military and civilian agencies, the second Model 30, NX41868 was completed in September 1943. This differed greatly from the first prototype, having a revised undercarriage and a semimonocoque construction rear fuselage to save weight. The second prototype featured an enclosed cabin with two seats accessed by car type doors on either side, and was in all respects a modern helicopter as we know them today.
The first Model 30 suffered a crash in September 1943, so the second prototype took over its demonstration flying. A number of notable flights were made, including being flown inside Buffalo armoury on May 10, 1944. The first prototype was repaired and returned to the test flying programme which was proving so successful that a third Model 30 was under construction. While this was being built, Bell helicopters flew their first two rescue missions proving the value of the helicopter in the search and rescue (SAR) role. On January 5, 1945, Bell test pilot Jack Woolams was rescued by Floyd Carlson and Dr Thomas Marriott after being forced to bail out of a P-59 Airacomet. Just over two months later on March 14, Floyd Carlson rescued two ice fishermen trapped on Lake Erie and achieved a great deal of publicity for the project and gaining
the Treasury Department’s Silver Medal for Floyd Carlson. The third Model 30 differed again from the first two. It had a four-wheeled undercarriage and an open frame tailboom, which lightened the structure considerably and made the aircraft, NX41869, the best performer of the trio. However, it retained the open cockpit of the first prototype which made the aircraft uncomfortable for pilots and passengers alike. Young came up with a novel and lightweight idea when he suggested that the cockpit be covered with a large plexiglass bubble to protect the crew from the rotor and slipstream and also to provide an outstanding view. This suggestion was to lead directly to the first production model of Bell helicopter, the highly successful and adaptable Model 47.
With the outright success of Young’s theories and the test flight programme, the team at the Chrysler building in Gardenville was moved to the Bell factory at Niagara Falls Airport. Here they began work on a developed version of the third Model 30 prototype, providing more power in the shape of a 175hp Franklin and lightening the airframe as much as possible. The skin on the rear fuselage was deleted as unnecessary, the welded tubes of the structure being left open. The undercarriage was simplified to four short legs with a castoring wheel on the front legs and a fixed wheel on the rears. A two seat design, it was the first Bell helicopter to be fitted with dual controls for use as a trainer. The first flight took place on the same day the new model was rolled out of the factory, December 8, 1945, and would be followed by 10 more of the type for demonstration and test flying. The techniques of autorotation to safely land a helicopter in the event of an engine or other failure had been explored and understood in the Model 30s test flying programme. With this ability clearly demonstrated, Bell began the process of achieving type certification for the Model 47 with the Civil Aeronautics Administration. From this test and evaluation process, Bell was to gain two major firsts, the first commercial helicopter licence on March 8, 1946, and the first Helicopter Type Certificate two months later in May. Sales were slow to begin with, the first civil Bell 47, a B version with a different cabin, was sold on December 31, 1946. The civil market began to pick up, single aircraft being ordered by organisations all over the US involved in all kinds of industry, the first examples being purchased by a crop spraying company and a geophysical research company. The early demonstrations to the US armed forces and the loan of a Bell 47 to the Army in 1946 finally began to bear fruit when the US Air Force ordered 28 Bell 47As for evaluation. Three of these aircraft were modified for cold weather trials and sent to Alaska in January 1947. Known as YR-13S, later YH-13S, 10 of these helicopters were later transferred to the US Navy as HTL-1S for sea trials, with two more going to the US Coast Guard for their evaluation. In September 1947, an Argentinean crop spraying company ordered 10 Bell 47s to help fight the annual locust population explosion, which they did successfully. Suddenly, the little Bell helicopter was in demand everywhere. British European Airways set up an experimental helicopter division using the aircraft, and the French Navy conducted deck trials aboard its ships among many others. In October 1947, with this level of success achieved in not only developing but in selling the concept of the helicopter, Arthur Young decided he had reached his goal, and left, assigning all his patents on his inventions to Bell.
He was to pursue a career developing his philosophical theories, particularly process theory, and founded the Foundation for the Study of Consciousness. An astounding, focused and disciplined man, Arthur Young can be considered the architect of Bell’s rotary winged success.
The civil Bell 47 and military H-13 Sioux were to be a startling success for Bell. Suffice to say here that 5600 civil and more than 2400 military versions of the Model 47 were built between 1946 and 1974, becoming the first iconic helicopter design. They were to become synonymous with the Korean War in their role of transporting wounded soldiers back to the Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals or MASH units, over 18,000 wounded soldiers being carried by H-13s of the US Army and UN forces. The late 1950s television series Whirlybirds and the later film and television series MASH were to make the Model 47 a household icon, instantly recognisable as a modern example of American technology. The armed forces of 36 nations were to use the H-13 or Sioux as it was later named, and the aircraft was also produced under licence by Agusta in Italy, Kawasaki in Japan and Westland in the UK. The success of the Model 47 meant that a new division of Bell Aircraft was formed just to produce helicopters. It was considered that a new factory was required to keep up with the demand, so a site was selected near Hurst just outside Fort Worth in Texas in January 1951. While this factory was being built, production continued in a leased factory in Saginaw until the new plant was ready at the end of the year. By 1956, this new factory and its undertakings had become so large that on January 1, 1957, the division became a separate company in its own right, the Bell Helicopter Corporation. Three more helicopter models were produced during this period, none of which were to reach the success of the H-13. The first was the five seat Model 42 utility and transport helicopter of 1946 and the military version, the Model 48 or H-12, but only three prototypes of the former were built and 13 evaluation versions of the later. The Model 54 four-seat liaison and utility helicopter of 1948 was intended for the USAF but again, only three prototypes were built. More successful was the Bell Model 61 or HSL-1, 53 of which were built for the US Navy in response to an urgent requirement for an anti-submarine helicopter. This was the only tandem rotor helicopter design produced by Bell, the twin rotors powered by a 2400hp Pratt and Whitney R-2800 radial engine mounted in the rear fuselage. The prototype XHSL-1 first flew on March 4, 1953, but suffered from severe vibration and other technical problems which were to delay production. The fuselage was built to accommodate two sonar operators and two pilots, but it was never really a success in its intended role, a few being used by the US Navy to develop techniques for aerial mine sweeping.
In 1943, Larry Bell was considering that attaching the vertical take off abilities of a helicopter to the speed and performance of a fixed wing aircraft, to make what was then termed a ‘converti-plane’, would achieve the best of all possible worlds. Arthur Young and Bart Kelley had begun some preliminary drawings and built some flying models, but it wasn’t until August 1950 when the US Army announced a design competition for an aircraft that a serious design study was begun. Mcdonnell, Sikorsky and Bell all responded, Bell with the Model 200, also known as the XH-33 and later designated the XV-3, designed by Bob Lichten and Kenneth Wernicke. A single 450hp Pratt and Whitney R-985 radial engine was mounted in a conventional fuselage, driving a pair of three-bladed rotors at the tips of the wings via shafts. These rotors could be tilted through just over 90°, providing lift when angled vertically, then angling forwards to increase the speed of the XV-3 to allow the wings to produce lift, the rotors now acting as propellers, only producing thrust.
Bell won a contract to produce two test aircraft based on this design in October 1953, the first flying on August 11, 1955 with chief test pilot Floyd Carlson at the controls. Several test flights ended in hard landings or crashes due to instability in the rotors, so the second aircraft had its three bladed rotors replaced by two bladed units and testing resumed in January 1958 after considerable wind tunnel examination of the instability phenomenon. On December 18, Bell test pilot Bill Quinlan made the first successful transition from rotor borne to wing borne flight, an amazing achievement for the technology of the day. Flight testing by the USAF and NASA continued until June 14, 1966, with the XV-3 amassing 250 flights and 110 rotor to wing borne conversions. The last XV-3 is today on display in the National Museum of the US Air Force, having been restored after suffering damage in a wind tunnel test in 1966.
PASSING OF A LEGEND
As can be imagined, with all of the developments in rotary and fixed wing aircraft, particularly the X-plane series, Larry Bell was an extremely busy man in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He had also begun work on a design concept for a hypersonic aircraft in 1951 which later gained the backing of the US Air Force and was to eventually emerge as the Dyna-soar programme, as well as which the company had developed the Automatic Carrier Landing System (ACLS) for the US Navy which entered service in 1955. The overwork of the prewar years as he struggled to build up his company had taken their toll, and in 1953, after a tour of the Korean War theatre to report on the use of the H-13 Sioux in that conflict, he complained of chest pains and was diagnosed with severe heart disease. He resigned as Bell’s general manager on October 2, 1954, but continued to work hard on various projects and as a proponent of aviation, organising talks to various interested groups. However, on May 24, 1956, Larry Bell suffered a severe stroke, recovering slowly from the effects and resigning as president of Bell Aircraft in September. On October 10 he suffered a heart attack that put him back in hospital, where, on October 20, 1956, Lawrence Dale Bell died. The contribution that Larry Bell and his company made to the development of aviation cannot be overstated. They always led the field, never following the trends in aircraft design. They built the first aircraft to fly supersonically in level flight, the first successful tilt-rotor and the world’s first commercially successful helicopter. These are just a few of the major milestones in Larry Bell’s aerospace legacy. There is one sad coincidence regarding his death. On the same day, at the Bell Helicopter plant at Fort Worth, Bell’s test pilot the redoubtable Floyd Carlson was making the maiden flight of the Bell Model 204 or XH-40 as it was initially designated. This was the prototype that would become the Bell UH-1, the most successful aircraft of its type in terms of sales and the world’s first turbine powered helicopter, better known as the immortal Huey. Larry Bell was never to see it fly nor know of the success it would become, but his career could have no more fitting epitaph. Words: Tim Callaway
The first Bell Model 30 with the long four skid undercarriage fitted during early test flights.
Arthur Middleton Young, the architect of Bell’s rotary winged success.
Arthur Young flying one of his remotely controlled models on his farm. The first two Bell Model 30s in flight together showing the different cockpit and undercarriage arrangements. A remarkable colour photograph of the second Bell Model 30 as Arthur Young, outside the aircraft, talks to Larry Bell in the left hand seat and pilot Bob Stanley. Arthur Young in the cockpit of the first Bell Model 30. Note the stabiliser or fly bar the Young invented, immediately below the main rotor. Floyd Carlson, later Bell’s chief test pilot, flying the prototype Bell Model 30 while Arthur Young checks the undercarriage.
Larry Bell, second from left, with Arthur Young on his right, demonstrating the Model 30 to the USAAF. The first production Bell Model 47s were dual control and used by Bell as trainers.
Joe Mashman flies the first Model 47 with members of the Bell Helicopter team on the outside, Arthur young is standing on the far side of the aircraft. A line up of Bell H-13DS at the factory. Large scale production of the type caused the Helicopter Division to move to the new plant at Fort Worth. The first Bell Model 30 as it appears today in the Steven Udvar-hazy Centre of the National Air and Space Museum at Chantilly,virginia, just outside Washington DC.
The second Bell Model 30 was flown inside the Buffalo armoury on May 10, 1944.
The first Model 30 was fitted with crop spraying equipment as an agricultural demonstrator.
The Bell Model 47A was given the initial designation of YR-13, later YH-13, 28 of which were evaluated by the US Air Force. The new Bell Helicopter Division plant near Hurst, just outside Fort Worth,texas. The most familiar guise of the Bell 47, an H-13D medical evacuation helicopter in the Korean War theatre. The Bell 47B had a completely revised cockpit with car type doors. The Bell 47J or H-13J was the firsthelicopter to carry a US president, President Eisenhower flyingfrom the White House lawn as part of a civil defence exercise in 1957.
The Bell 47 was also built under licence in Italy, Japan and the Uk.this is a Westland built Sioux of the British Army Air Corps. The final model of the Bell 47 family was the 47K for the US Navy, designated HTL-7, 18 of which were built as trainers, redesignated TH-13N in 1962. The Bell Model 47 was refined into the 47H, also known as the Bellarius.
The five seat Bell Model 42, only three of which were built in 1946. Larry Bell in one of the passenger seats of the Model 42 with Floyd Carlson and Joe Mashman at the controls. The Bell Model 54 four seat liaison and utility helicopter of 1948 was intended for the USAF but again, only three prototypes were built. The first Bell Model 48, a military development of the Model 42, was designated XR-12 and evaluated by the US Air Force. The development of the Bell Model 48 resulted in a very different shape to the cockpit and cabin. Designated YH-12B, 13 of these utility helicopters were evaluated by the US Air Force.
Arthur Young was a man of extraordinary discipline. His work on developing the helicopter done, he returned to his philosophical theories.
The Bell Model 61 was produced for the US Navy to fill the anti-submarine role, 53 were built designated HSL-1. Larry Bell with Charles ‘Chuck’yeager after one of his supersonic flights in the Bell X-1a.yeager described Bell as a great salesman of aviation. The Bell XV-3 tilt rotor demonstrator in its early form with the three bladed main rotors. The Bell XV-3 after modification to two bladed rotors. Lawrence Dale Bell, an aviation pioneer and visionary who had an astounding impact on the history of aviation.
On December 18, 1958, Bell test pilot Bill Quinlan made the first successful transition from rotor borne to wing borne flight in the XV-3. The XV-3 in the NASA wind tunnel, where a rotor failure caused significant damage to the aircraft in 1966.
The Bell Model 61 was a twin rotor helicopter, seen here with the blades folded.