The History of Bell Helicopter: 1960 - 1969

1960

  • Ten Bell HU-1A U.S. Army medical evacuation helicopters are airlifted to Chile for Operation Amigo.
  • Textron Inc., of Providence, RI, purchases the defense activities of Bell Aircraft Corporation and sets up Bell Aerospace Corporation as a wholly-owned subsidiary with three operating divisions: Bell Helicopter Corporation; Bell Aerospace Systems Corporation; and Hydraulic Research and Manufacturing Corporation.
  • An 18-foot Air Cushion Vehicle designed by Bell Aerosystems is turned over to the U.S. Navy for test and evaluation.
  • U.S. Army pilots flying a Bell HU-1 set 7 helicopter world records, including a non-stop flight distance of 441.74 miles, 3 speed records, and 2 speed climbing records. The HU-1 reaches 10,000 ft. in less than 4 minutes and 24,250 ft. in just 12 minutes.
  • Edwin J. Ducayet becomes president of the company, replacing Harvey Gaylord.

1961

  • The first aircraft to be powered by a 250 shp T-63 engine, the U.S. Navy’s Bell HUL-1M, takes its initial flight.
  • Al Averill, flying a Bell 47J-2, sets a helicopter world record in Class E-1.c for 100 kilometer speed in a closed circuit. His speed of 107.081 mph breaks a Russian-held record.
  • Bell Aerosystems develops the “Reaction Control System” successfully used in NASA’s Mercury program, the first program sending man to space.
  • Lou Hartwig, flying a Bell 47G, sets three class E-1.b world records during one flight: non-stop distance of 631.436 miles in a closed circuit; 500 kilometer speed of 73.985 mph in a closed circuit; and 1,000 kilometer speed of 73.351 mph in a closed circuit. All three records are the first to be set in their respective categories and weight classes.
  • Dr. Dora Jean Dougherty Strother, flying a Bell 47G-3, sets two female helicopter world records: altitude without payload of 19,385 feet and non-stop distance of 405.83 miles in a straight line without payload. Both accomplishments break previous Russian-held records.
  • The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) places a $4 million order for eight Bell 204B/HU-1Bs.
  • Bell Aerospace Corporation announces it has built and demonstrated the “Rocket Belt” for mankind’s first free flight.
  • A new range of high-altitude capabilities for helicopter operations is discovered in a Pikes Peak test by the new turbo-supercharged Bell 47G-3B.
  • The Bell OH-4 is announced as one of three Light Observation Helicopter (LOH) design competition winners.
  • An unofficial helicopter endurance world record is set by the Bell HTL-6 for a flight lasting 72 hours and 2 minutes at the U.S. Navy’s Ellyson Field, Pensacola, FL.
  • A $6 million procurement contract is awarded for five Bell YOH-4 LOH (Light Observation Helicopter) prototypes. Bell Helicopter later loses the contract, but uses the prototype as the base for the future Bell 206 JetRanger.
  • Bell Helicopter announces the receipt of $70 million in new government business. This includes the Bell HO-4, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) contracts, and follow-on production of Bell HU-1B and HU-1D U.S. Army helicopters.

1962

  • Mitsui & Co. Ltd. licenses manufacturing rights to the Bell 204 in Japan.
  • The Bell HU-1 designation is changed to the Bell UH-1 as a result of a newly revised military designation system.
  • Bell Aerosystems announces that it will build a 22-ton, 62-foot Hydro-Skimmer for the U.S. Navy under a $2 million contract. This is the largest air cushion vehicle ever constructed in the U.S.
  • The Bell UH-1E wins the competition for the U.S. Marine Corps’ Assault Support Helicopter (ASH) production contract.
  • Capt. Boyce Buckner of the U.S. Army sets a world record in a Bell YHU-1D (Model 533) by climbing to 6,000 meters (19,686 feet) in 5 minutes and 51 seconds.
  • Bell Aerospace Corporation is awarded a contract to design and build the X-22A VTOL for the U.S. Navy’s portion of the Tri-Service Assault Transport Research Program.
  • U.S. Army Lt. Col. Leland Wilhelm sets a world record in a Bell YHU-1D (Model 533) by climbing to 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) in 2 minutes and 17 seconds.
  • Capt. W. F. Gurley of the U.S. Army sets a world record in a Bell YHU-1D (Model 533) by flying 1,000 kilometers in a closed circuit at an average speed of 134.9 mph.
  • The Bell YOH-4 prototype, nicknamed “Ugly Duckling,” makes its first flight.
  • Bell Aerosystems announces the construction of a radiation-cooled, high-performance rocket motor.
  • The Bell D-255 design study leads to a full-scale mock-up of the Iroquois Warrior combat helicopter for the U.S. Army.

1963

  • In Morocco, the Bell UH-1B carries 32 flood refugees and a crew of four in one flight.
  • The high-performance Bell UH-1B flies more than 170 mph.
  • A Federal Aviation Administration certificate is received by the Bell 204B.
  • The U.S. Army accepts its first Bell UH-1D.
  • Bell Helicopter wins a competition to build the Bell UH-1F for the U.S. Air Force.
  • A $108,320,407 U.S. Army contract is announced by Texas Congressman Jim Wright for Bell UH-1B and UH-1D ships.
  • The modified Bell 47G-2A-1, nicknamed “Wing Ding,” flies for the first time.
  • First flight occurs for the Bell 205A.
  • Bell Aerosystems announces an $11.2 million subcontract from Grumman to develop ascent rocket engines for NASA’s Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) of Project Apollo.
  • Bell Aerosystems acquires the rights to manufacture and sell hovercraft in the U.S. from Westland Aircraft Ltd. and Hovercraft Development Limited of England.


1964

  • Bell Helicopter receives a $7,662,257 production contract from the U.S. Marine Corps for Bell UH-1Es.
  • A new Engineering and Research facility opens at Bell Helicopter’s Hurst, TX, plant.
  • The 850th Bell UH-1 is delivered; first flight of Bell UH-1F series occurs; and the first delivery of Bell UH-1E is made to an operational U.S. Marine Corps unit.
  • An order for 150 Bell 47G-3B-1s is placed by the British Army.
  • The modified Bell YUH-1B flies 222 mph in an unofficial new world speed record.
  • A $5,762,850 contract is awarded for 103 Bell 47G-3B-1s, modified to trainer configuration, for the U.S. Army.
  • The first operational Bell UH-1F is delivered to the U.S. Air Force.
  • Bell Aerospace is praised by NASA for its accelerometer package aboard the Ranger 6 moon shot. NASA states that the package “contributed greatly to the complete guidance success” of the moon mission.
  • Flown by U.S. Army pilots, the YUH-1D establishes 20 Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records, all for turbine-powered helicopters without payload.
  • Bell Aerosystems began ground testing the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle (LLRV) at NASA’s Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA.
  • The Bell Rocket Belt performs 396 flights throughout the year before an estimated 1.8 million spectators, including flights at the New York World’s Fair.
  • Bell Helicopter receives an order for 720 Bell UH-1s. This $100 million order is the largest Bell UH-1 order to date.

1965

  • The U.S. Army takes delivery of its first Bell TH-13T instrument trainers.
  • Bell Aerosystems’ Agena engine is used to send NASA’s Ranger 9 on moon photo missions.
  • The U.S. Air Force elevates Bell Aerosystems to prime contract status, calling for the delivery of all Agena engines directly to the Air Force.
  • Bell Helicopter sets a production record believed to be unprecedented in the aerospace industry, with 100 consecutive months of on-schedule deliveries to U.S. Government entities.
  • A new vertical and/or short take-off and landing (V/STOL) trailing rotor convertiplane design is unveiled.
  • Selection of the Bell UH-1D is approved by the West German Parliamentary Committee in Bonn, which places an order for 406 helicopters, valued at approximately $125 million.
  • The twin-turbine powered Bell UH-1D is developed and takes first flight.
  • Bell Helicopter receives additional U.S. Army orders for 720 helicopters (225 Bell UH-1Bs and 465 Bell UH-1Ds).
  • Bell Helicopter announces the development of the Bell AH-1 Cobra, a highly modified Bell UH-1B derivative featuring a streamlined fuselage, armament package, and dedicated crew for flying and weapon system control.
  • Known also as the HueyCobra or Snake, the Bell AH-1 Cobra makes its first flight. The aircraft later became the backbone of the U.S. Army’s attack helicopter fleet.
  • Bell Aerosystems announces a Federal Government transportation project using two SK-5 Air Cushioned Vehicles to shuttle passengers between the Oakland and San Francisco airports.
  • As an addition to its 1966 commercial line, Bell unveils the new five-seat, turbine-powered Bell 206 JetRanger. It will fly at speeds in excess of 140 mph and will carry a 1,500-lb useful load.
  • he new Bell AH-1 Cobra records a sustained level flight cruise speed of 200 mph. Until this time, the official world speed record for its weight class was 180.1 mph.
  • A $297,000 contract is awarded for a preliminary design study for a new research VTOL rotary-wing composite aircraft.
  • The third and final SK-5 Air Cushioned Vehicle is produced for the U.S. Navy and shipped to Coronado, CA.
  • The Bell X-22A V/STOL aircraft number 2 is rolled out.

1966

  • Rollout of the first Bell 206 JetRanger takes place at the Hurst, TX, facility. The flight test program is initiated with the first flight occurring on the same day. Successfully derived from the prior YOH-4 “Ugly Duckling,” with a stylistic redesign accredited to Dwayne Jose, Vice President of Marketing, the Bell 206 becomes the most successful commercial helicopter in history.
  • The U.S. Army awards Bell Helicopter a contract for 110 production Bell AH-1s.
  • Testing takes place for a three-blade spacecraft rotor recovery system that would allow astronauts to reduce landing speeds and control choice of landing sites.
  • A $249,457,443 contract is received for 2,115 Bell UH-1 Iroquois, the largest contract in Bell history and largest ever awarded by the U.S. Army Aviation Materiel Command.
  • The Federal government’s transportation project, using two Bell SK-5’s Air Cushioned Vehicles, successfully concludes in San Francisco, logging 179,700 passenger miles and carrying 13,600 passengers.
  • Altitude testing of the modified multiple restart Gemini/Agena rocket engine is carried out in preparation of Gemini VIII.
  • Halvorson-Lent’s Trans-Canyon Pipeline Project nears completion at the Grand Canyon. It is one of the greatest construction challenges in history, using helicopters exclusively to lay water pipe in the floor of the canyon.
  • The U.S. Army awards Bell Helicopter a $44,377,858 contract for 708 Bell UH-1Ds.
  • A unique radar antenna that is built into the blade of a helicopter is successfully tested.
  • Two new “flying devices” – the Flying Chair and Pogo Stick – are developed and announced.
  • The delivery of three Bell UH-1Ds completes an order for 11 helicopters, constituting New Zealand’s first armed forces rotary-wing fleet.
  • First flight occurs for the X-22A V/STOL research airplane, featuring four ducted fans that can rotate together between vertical and horizontal positions for various flight modes.
  • The U.S. Army continues to expand its fleet by placing a $21,795,000 order for 210 additional Bell AH-1s.
  • Three Bell SK-5 Air Cushioned Vehicles (ACVs) arrive for the U.S. Navy operation near Moc Hoa, South Vietnam. The three craft are able to access areas that were previously inaccessible, successfully destroying and capturing Viet Cong supplies and soldiers.
  • The Bell Aerosystems Lunar Landing Research Vehicle (LLRV) sets a new flight record by staying aloft for 9.5 minutes.

1967

  • The first two Bell 206A JetRanger deliveries take place during the Helicopter Association of America (HAA) convention. The first is purchased by Harry Holly of Hollymatic Corp. in Park Forest, IL, and the second by the National Helicopter Service & Engineering Co. of Van Nuys, CA.
  • Canadian operators Dominion Helicopters Ltd. and Pegasus Airlifts establish a joint air taxi service using four Bell 206 JetRangers and four Bell 47J-2s at the Canadian International Exposition of 1967.
  • The Brazilian Air Force purchases its first Bell UH-1Ds, acquiring six aircraft to supplement its Bell 47G and Bell 47J fleets.
  • Helicopter Sales Pty. Ltd., a Bell Helicopter dealer in Australia, receives first export delivery of a production Bell 206A.
  • The Los Angeles County Fire Department becomes the first municipality to purchase a Bell 204B.
  • “Cobra” is officially adopted by the U.S. Army as its name for the Bell AH-1.
  • The first production Bell AH-1G is delivered to the U.S. Army.
  • A U.S. Army contract is awarded for 141 Bell TH-13T instrument trainers.
  • The West Germany Federal Defense Force accepts the first of 380 Bell UH-1Ds assembled in West Germany under a co-production contract between Bell Helicopter and Dornier, GmbH.
  • Ten Bell UH-1Ds are ordered following the aircraft’s selection as the first helicopter to be used in the all-around ground support operations of the Canadian Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force).
  • Bell Helicopter announces a new 15-seat commercial model, the Bell 205A, to be available during 1968. It is the largest helicopter ever manufactured by the company at that time.
  • The U.S. Army announces it has deployed the Bell AH-1 Cobra in Vietnam. The first combat kill is credited to Maj. Gen. George Seneff, commander of the First Aviation Brigade, who destroyed a sampan (river boat) with four Viet Cong onboard.
  • U.S. Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey rides in a SK-5 ACV down Niagara River from Buffalo to Bell Aerosystems’ Wheatfield, NY, plant. He also witnesses a ducted fan transition on the X-22A aircraft, a double “rocket belt” flight, and tours the facility. Neil Armstrong, who is also visiting, gives a detailed explanation of Bell’s Lunar Landing Training Vehicle to the Vice President.
  • A double Rocket Belt flight by Bob Courter and Bill Suitor is aired on national television during the first Super Bowl football game in Los Angeles.
  • Over 4,000 employees and officials witness the X-22A’s first successful public flight.

1968

  • The U.S. Navy selects the Bell 206 JetRanger as its light turbine trainer and orders 40 for delivery by end of year.
  • Bell Aerosystems’ Lunar Module ascent engine is fired into orbit during the Apollo 5 flight.
  • Bell Helicopter announces it will open an Overhaul & Modification Center in Amarillo, TX, occupying buildings being phased out by the U.S. Air Force. William Humphrey is named general manager of the facility, which will repair and refurbish battle-damaged U.S. Army helicopters.
  • Seven Bell 206 JetRangers and six more Bell UH-1Ds are ordered by the Brazilian Air Force to update and expand its helicopter forces.
  • Bell Aerosystems’ first production line Air Cushioned Vehicle (ACV), an SK-5 for the U.S. Army, rolls off the assembly line.
  • The Bell 206 JetRanger is named a winner of the U.S. Army’s re-opened light observation helicopter (LOH) competition. Bell Helicopter is awarded a $123 million contract for 2,200 aircraft with deliveries scheduled between 1969 and 1972.
  • Development of a twin-engine Bell UH-1, powered by United Aircraft of Canada Pratt & Whitney PT6T-3 turbines, is approved by the Canadian Government. The contract is expected to lead to Canada equipping its armed forces with the new aircraft.
  • The 10,000th helicopter, a Bell JetRanger, delivers to Petroleum Helicopters, Inc. (PHI), the world’s largest helicopter operator.
  • Selected for use as its advanced helicopter trainers, the U.S. Navy orders 45 Bell TH-1Ls and Bell UH-1Ls.
  • The U.S. Marine Corps orders 49 Bell AH-1s, becoming the second branch of the U.S. military to buy the high-speed gunship.
  • A contract for 900 Bell UH-1Hs is awarded by the U.S. Army, making it the second largest order ever of the UH-1.
  • The New York City Police Department, a pioneer in the use of helicopters by law enforcement agencies, marks the 20th anniversary of its first Bell helicopter purchase. NYPD has an all-Bell helicopter fleet.
  • An announcement is made that the Bell 212, the first twin-engine, medium-sized, commercial helicopter, will be ready for delivery in 1970.
  • Bell Aerospace’s body-controlled pogo vehicle, which the operator maneuvers simply by leaning in the direction he wishes to go, registers a successful first flight.
  • The upgraded Bell UH-1, nicknamed “Huey Tug” in light of its upgraded drive train and power plant, larger rotor, and increased lifting capacity, flies as the Bell 211.
  • Apollo 7, the first manned flight in the U.S. lunar landing program, launches into Earth’s orbit for an 11-day mission. A total of 24 Bell Aerosystems propellant positive expulsion tanks will supply fuel and oxidizer to the spacecraft’s reaction control systems and to the S-IVB third stage’s auxiliary propulsion system.

1969

  • Bell Helicopter’s compound research helicopter, a highly modified Bell UH-1, attains a speed of 316 mph in level flight. This is an unofficial speed record and has remained unchallenged.
  • The U.S. Air Force awards Bell Helicopter a contract to define the design characteristics of a folding prop-rotor aircraft.
  • Bell Helicopter announces that its twin-engine Bell 212 flight test program is well underway.
  • The U.S. Army accepts the first Bell OH-58A light observation helicopter. The Bell OH-58 is officially named the Kiowa.
  • A licensing agreement for co-production of the Bell 205 is signed by the People’s Republic of China and Bell Helicopter.
  • The U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps place orders for the new twin-engine Bell HU-1N. The total includes 79 for the Air Force, 40 for the Navy and 22 for the Marines.
  • Fifty twin-engine Bell CUH-1Ns are ordered by the Canadian government for its armed forces.
  • The U.S. Marine Corps’ Bell AH-1J Sea Cobra, a twin-engine version of the U.S. Army Cobra, is unveiled by Bell Helicopter before a gathering of armed forces representatives. The U.S. Marine Corps orders 49.
  • The U.S. Navy accepts its first Bell UH-1L utility helicopter from Bell Helicopter for deployment to the Pacific Fleet.
  • A U.S. Army announcement is made that the first deployment of the Bell OH-58A Kiowa to battle units in Vietnam has occurred.