The History of Bell Helicopter: 1950 - 1959

1950

  • The Bell Model 47D becomes the first helicopter to fly over the Alps; the pilot’s name is unknown.
  • Eight Bell Model H-13Ds, the first of a new U.S. Army order, are sent to South Korea for the Korean War.

1951

  • A 55-acre site in Hurst, TX, is selected for Bell Aircraft Corporation’s helicopter division, to be called Bell Helicopter.
  • The Bell Model XHSL-1, designed to meet the U.S. Navy’s requirement for an anti-submarine warfare helicopter, is announced.
  • Bell Aircraft Corporation leases the former Globe Aircraft Company plant, north of Fort Worth, TX, from the U.S. Army for use as an assembly plant and flightline for Bell helicopters.
  • The first flight of the “jet-propelled, variable-sweep-wing” Bell X-5 is announced.
  • Harvey Gaylord becomes the first president of the company, following the retirement of Larry Bell.

1952

  • Bell Aircraft Corporation test pilot, Elton Smith, sets a world record for helicopter distance in a straight line without payload; Smith flies a Model 47D-1 nonstop from Hurst, TX, to Buffalo, NY, a total of 1,217.137 miles. This record still stands today.
  • The first Bell Aircraft Corporation-built engine nacelle for the Boeing B-47 Stratojet leaves the assembly line.

1953

  • Bell Aircraft Corporation’s Twin Rotor XHSL-1 makes first flight at the Hurst, TX, plant.
  • The 1,000th Bell Model 47 rolls off the assembly line.
  • Twenty-one Bell Model H-13Hs are ordered by the U.S. Army.
  • Exceeding 1,600 mph, the Bell X-1A accomplishes the fastest flight recorded by a piloted aircraft.

1954

  • First delivery of the Bell Model HSL-1 to the U.S. Navy occurs.
  • Bell Aircraft announces work on remote controls to land guided missiles.
  • Preliminary designs are completed for the first tiltrotor aircraft, the XV-3 Convertiplane.
  • The Bell Model HSL-1 completes a 1,465-mile flight from Fort Worth, TX, to a naval air station in Patuxent River, MD.
  • At 90,000 feet, the Bell X-1A sets an altitude record.
  • The Bell Model XH-13F turbine helicopter makes its first flight.

1955

  • The first of two Bell Model XV-3 (aka H-33) convertiplanes rolls out.
  • Delivery of the first set of B-52 engine nacelles occurs.
  • Bell Aircraft Corporation wins an industry competition for the U.S. Army’s first production turbine-powered utility helicopter (Bell Model 204/Army HU-1) contract, the first all-Texas designed and built helicopter.
  • With Floyd Carlson at the controls, the first hover flight of Bell Model XV-3 convertiplane occurs.
  • The first order for 10 U.S. Navy Bell Model HUL-1s is placed.
  • The first flight of turbine-powered Bell Model XH-13F (Model 201) occurs.

1956

  • U.S. Army pilots at a National Air Show in Oklahoma City, OK, set an unofficial record for a helicopter endurance flight, keeping a Bell Model H-13H aloft for 57 hours and 50 minutes.
  • The Bell X-2 sets new speed and altitude records. The record speed was 2,094 mph and the record altitude was 126,200 feet.
  • Bell Aircraft Corporation pilot, Joe Mashman, and service representative, Joe Beebe, leave Hurst, TX, in a new Bell Model 47J on an 83-day introductory tour through Central and South America.
  • Lawrence “Larry” Bell, founder of Bell Aircraft Corporation and Bell Helicopter, passes away at the age of 62 in Buffalo, NY.
  • The U.S. Navy announces that the Bell Automatic Carrier Landing System successfully completed all land trials.
  • With Floyd Carlson at the controls, the first Bell Model XH-40 makes first flight. The XH-40 becomes known as the iconic “Huey.”
  • In an unfortunate event, the first Bell Model XV-3 crashes, injuring pilot Dick Stansbury.

1957

  • Bell Helicopter Corporation is founded as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bell Aircraft Corporation.
  • The U.S. Navy announces an order for Bell Model HTL-7s.
  • Bell Aircraft successfully completes the initial flight test phase of the X-14 vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) airplane.
  • Two Bell Model H-13Js are delivered to the U.S. Air Force for presidential use.
  • U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower rides in a Bell Model H-13J from the White House lawn to a command post as part of a civil defense exercise.
  • The 12,000th Bell Model 47 rolls off Bell Helicopter Corporation’s Hurst, TX, production line. U.S. Senator Lyndon B. Johnson speaks at the ceremony.
  • First flight of the Bell Model 47J Ranger occurs. Priced at $63,750, the Ranger has a widened cabin, a new tailrotor system and is powered by a 220 hp Lycoming VO-435-A1B engine.

1958

  • The president of Brazil receives one of four Bell Model 47J Rangers bought by the Brazilian government.
  • Bell Aircraft’s jet-powered X-14 VTOL makes its first complete transitional flight at Niagara Falls Airport.
  • The first successful large-scale thrust chamber firings, utilizing elemental liquid fluorine as the rocket propellant, are announced.
  • History is made as the Bell XV-3 convertiplane completes the first 100% conversion of a tilting prop-rotor aircraft.

1959

  • The U.S. Army places its first order of Bell Model HU-1As, later known as Bell UH-1 Iroquois.
  • A Bell Aircraft-built engine serves as the second-stage rocket engine to boost the early “Agena” satellites into polar orbit for reconnaissance missions. The engines are successfully used on three Agena satellites, A, B and D.
  • The Bell XV-3 convertiplane becomes the first VTOL aircraft capable of shifting gears in flight.
  • A contract is announced by the U.S. Navy for the turbine-powered Bell Model HUL-1M.
  • Bell Helicopter Corporation is selected to provide reaction controls for Project Mercury, the first manned-satellite program in the U.S.