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The Bell XP-77 was a lightweight wooden fighter aircraft produced to solve a problem that never materialised. During 1941, as American military production increased, there was a rear fear that the syupply of the light metal alloys used in aircraft might run short. The Army Air Forces responded with an informal requirement for an aircraft weighing 4,000lb, powered by a 400hp engine, capable of 400mph and produced from non-strategic materials.
Bell responded with the Tri-4, named after the figures in the specification. On 16 May 1942 the USAAF ordered twenty five of these aircraft, to be powered by the Ranger XV-770-9 engine with a two-stage supercharger. Bell expected this aircraft to be capable of 410mph at 27,000 feet.
The XP-77 was eventually built around the Ranger SGV-770C-1B engine, which could provide 450hp, but had no super-charger. It was constructed out of plywood constructed from Sitka spruce, a material that would cause significant delays in development.
After disappointing wind-tunnel tests early in 1943 Bell suggested that the order be reduced from twenty-five to six aircraft. The need for the P-77 was also disappearing fast – the feared supply shortages had yet to appear, and the need for a short range interceptor diminished as the prospects of an attack on the United States disappeared. In May 1943 the army reduced the size of the order once again, this time to only two aircraft.
The first XP-77 made its maiden flight on 1 April 1944 at Niagara Falls, NY, with Jack Woolams at the controls, while the second aircraft made its maiden flight on 2 May 1944. Early tests were disappointing. The top speed of the XP-77 was only 330mph, 70mph slower that required. The aircraft was noisy, there was too much vibration, and the aircraft needed a very long take-off run. The first prototype had already been damaged when on 2 October 1944 the second aircraft was lost after going into an inverted spin during an Immelman turn. The pilot escaped, but the aircraft was destroyed. The project was officially cancelled on 2 December 1944. The remaining prototype survived for some time after the war, before eventually being scrapped by Purdue University, where it had been on fixed display.
Gross weight: 3,583lb
Range: 550 miles at 270mph
Span: 27ft 6in
Length: 22ft 10.5in
Armaments: two .50in machine guns firing through propeller hub or one 20mm cannon in same place
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Bell XP-52 (Model 16)
As Europe was being pushed down the path of Total War in the late 1930s, the United States forged ahead with strengthening its various military services. This led to a period of considerable testing and growth in the field of military aviation which benefitted the classic designs of the World War 2 era (1939-1945). Bell, a relative newcomer to the field, was one of the most forward-thinking aviation concerns of the time and, while many of its designs never saw the light of day, the company certainly did its part in attempting to keep America ahead of its potential adversaries.
In November of 1939, the United States Air Corps (USAAC) set about a requirement for a single-seat, single engine fighter with performance specifications to include a speed of 425 miles per hour at 15,000 feet and a rate-of-climb of2,857 feet-per-minute. Armament would center around 4 x autocannons (or machine guns) and there would be provision for six 20lb bombs carried externally. Rough-field operations would also factor into the robust design and a mission endurance window of 1.5 hours was sought - allowing the heavy fighter to reach far-off areas or loiter when needed. All told, the requirements were considerable for the technology of the period and would require much experimentation and engineering prowess to bring such a design to fruition.
The Pratt & Whitney XH-3130 liquid-cooled inline piston engine was at the forefront of USAAC thinking to power its next-generation fighter but this engine remained developmental. Its origins lay in a United States Navy (USN) program of the late-1930s and featured 24-cylinders with and expected power output over 2,500 horsepower. In time, this engine evolved to become the larger XH-3730, though still in a developmental state, and it was thought that the engine could reach an output level of 3,000 horsepower.
The new aircraft design was collectively filed under Pursuit Specification "XC-622" and the USAAC wanted it operational as soon as 1941.
Bell began by working on their "Model 13" and this design was more or less centered on various engine installations to their P-39C "Airacobra" pusher-engined fighter. The rear-mounted arrangement of the engine helped to streamline the airframe and relieve the nose assembly of clutter, allowing a powerful armament battery to be fitted (cannon for example). The propeller was still mounted at the nose and driven by the engine through a shaft running under the cockpit floor. When this phase reached its apex, the company moved on the "Model 16" which involved an all-new airframe design.
In the Model 16 approach, a twin-boom design was selected but the rear placement of the engine was retained. The engine of choice was initially the Continental XI-1430-5 liquid-cooled inline fit set to output at 1,250 horsepower. This powerplant drove a pair of three-bladed propellers set at the rear of the fuselage in a contra-rotating arrangement. The fuselage essentially carried the engine, fuel stores, cockpit, armament and avionics fit. The wings were affixed to the rear section of the fuselage and given slight sweepback with rounded tips. The tailbooms originated from the wing's center and drove through the trailing edges, joined at the extreme aft of the aircraft by a single horizontal plane set between them. Rounded vertical tail fins were affixed to either side of this horizontal plane. Like the P-39 fighter before it, the Model 16 was to have used a tricycle undercarriage during an age when "tail-draggers" still ruled the runway.
The Army appreciated the Bell direction and eventually assigned the working designation of "XP-52" to the project. Two engine types were to be considered (Continental XI-1430 and Pratt & Whitney R-2800 "Double Wasp"). The Army began to draw up a contract to cover the two prototypes carrying the aforementioned engine fits.
On the drawing boards, the XP-52 exhibited an overall length of over 34 feet, a wingspan of 35 feet and a height of over 9 feet. It would sit at 6,480lb on empty and 8,200lb when loaded and maximum speed from the single engine coupled to the twin-boom design was around 430 miles per hour (at 20,000 feet). The rate-of-climb was within the requirements and an operating ceiling of 40,000 thought possible. Operational range was out to 960 miles giving the aircraft a good reach.
Proposed armament for the XP-52 was 2 x 20mm cannons mounted to the nose assembly. Each of these guns were afforded 100 projectiles of ammunition for short, controlled bursts capable of bringing down any bomber of the day. Each boom lead was also intended to fit a "triple arrangement" of 0.50 caliber heavy machine guns for a total of six heavy machine guns. All told, the armament offered to the XP-52 was quite considerable by 1940 standards.
The XP-52 marked the first serious attempt by the U.S. Army to pursue a "pusher fighter". However, the service decided against furthering the project even before the end of 1940. Bell continued work on the design as the larger "Model 20" (designated by the USAAC as "XP-59"), detailed elsewhere on this site. This project, too, was shelved due to the ongoing wartime commitments for both Bell and the Army. Pusher fighters never made much headway in the war as pullers continued to dominate the skies.
The XP-52 saw official cancellation on November 25th, 1941 before the American entry into World War 2.
Wooden fighters of World War II – the Bell Model 32 (XP-77)
During World War II, in which the USA became formally involved only in December 1941 but had already started the process of industrial expansion that made it the ‘arsenal of democracy’, the ever-accelerating pace of military production meant that there inevitably appeared some shortages of raw materials. The most important of these were the metals from which strategically vital alloys were made, and in the course of 1941 the Americans followed a lead which had already become evident in other countries and started a programme to find alternative materials and, in the case of aircraft, to create aircraft designs which made minimal requirements on the country’s stocks of strategic materials such as steel and aluminium alloy. A shift from these strategic materials to non-strategic materials was possible without undue difficulty in the case on non-combat aircraft: the Beech AT-10 Wichita advanced trainer, for example, was of wooden construction, and the fact that the higher structure weight meant a degradation of performance was not unduly significant in this and other wooden aircraft.
The US Army Air Forces were also interested in the development of combat aircraft based on a structure of non-strategic materials, and in October 1941 called a conference of interested parties at Wright Field, Ohio. The conference was attended by the representatives of many aircraft manufacturers, of whom the most enthusiastic was Bell. In April 1942 this enthusiasm resulted in the company’s receipt of a contract for the design of a lightweight fighter.
The resulting aeroplane was not altogether new as, under the leadership of Robert J. Woods, the Bell design team working on the programme that would lead to the P-39 Airacobra had as early as 1936 prepared two initial designs. The Model 4 led to the P-39, while the Model 3 was abandoned but not forgotten. Thus it was the Model 3 that was used as the basis for the design, successively designated as the Tri.4, Design D-6 and finally Model 32 within the company, for the new lightweight fighter.
The Model 32 thus evolved as low-wing cantilever monoplane of typical ‘modern’ fighter configuration with an enclosed cockpit, retractable landing gear, trailing-edge flaps and stressed-skin construction. Where the Model 32 differed from the mainstream of fighter design, however, was its small overall size, low-rated powerplant of one inverted V-type engine of the air- rather than liquid-cooled type, and structure of resin-bonded laminated Sitka spruce.
The overall design was as clean as possible in aerodynamic terms since Woods wanted to create a fighter with what he called the ‘magic 4-4-4 combination’ (Tri.4), which translated as a fighter weighing no more than 4,000 lb (1814) yet capable of attaining a speed of 347.5 kt (400 mph 644 km/h) on the power of an engine delivering only 400 hp (298 kW). For the powerplant Woods selected the Ranger XV-770-9 air-cooled inverted V-12 engine, a supercharged unit rated at 500 hp (373 kW) for take-off and driving, by means of a reduction gear that allowed the installation of a 20-mm cannon between the engine’s cylinder banks to fire through the propeller shaft, a two-blade Aeroproducts metal propeller of the constant-speed type with a diameter of 9 ft 6 in (2.90 m).
The core of the Model 32’s airframe was the fuselage, which was of narrow semi-triangular shape with rounded-off corners and the horizontal side at the bottom. From front to rear, this fuselage carried the air-cooled engine in a trim cowling with a coolant air opening at the bottom of the front face and louvred air exits at the sides, the fuel and oil tanks, the pilot’s high-set canopy of the clear-view type above the wing’s trailing-edge root fillets, and the cantilever tail unit. The low-set wing was based on dihedralled panels of laminar-flow aerofoil section, and these extended from the lower longerons, were tapered in thickness and chord, and carried on their trailing edges outboard ailerons and inboard flaps. The airframe proper was completed by the electrically operated landing gear, which was of the tricycle type with the main units retracting inward into the wing roots and the nose wheel unit retracting rearward into the underside of the engine cowling.
The USAAF wanted the new fighter to carry either one depth charge or bomb on an underfuselage hardpoint which could otherwise carry one drop tank, and Bell had therefore to remove the 20-mm cannon from the armament scheme to keep down the weight. This left a fixed armament of two 0.5-in (12.7-mm) fixed forward-firing machines guns in the sides of the engine cowling.
Bell estimated that with the powerplant of one V-770 engine in its XV-770-9 supercharged form, the Model 32 would reach a maximum speed of 356 kt (410 mph 660 km/h) at 27,000 ft (8230 m) and possess an initial climb rate of 3,200 ft (975 m) per minute.
In October 1942 the USAAF placed an order for one full-scale mock-up, six XP-77 flying prototypes and two airframes for static tests, and specified that the first machine was to be delivered within six months. The full-scale mock-up was inspected in September 1942, and the USAAF at this stage demanded 54 changes. Bell was already hard pressed with large-scale production of the P-39, the development of the new P-63 Kingcobra piston-engined fighter, and the design of the P-59 Airacomet turbojet-powered fighter, however, and the schedule inevitably began to slip for this new low-priority warplane. Bell also asked for more money as well as more time, and the USAAF was also losing interest in the concept of the lightweight fighter made of non-strategic materials as the anticipated shortages of strategic materials had been either short-lived or was non-existent. In August 1943, therefore, the USAAF decided to cut back the lightweight fighter programme: on 20 December 1943 the USAAF informed Bell that it was to complete only two prototypes for delivery on 31 January and 1 March of the following year.
Even so, further delay hit the programme as a primary subcontractor, the Vidal Research Corporation, was able to deliver the wing panels only from 3 February 1944, and other problems were encountered in the landing gear.
Thus it was only on 1 April 1944, some eight months later than originally schemed, that the first XP-77 recorded its maiden flight with the XV-770-7 engine, a normally aspirated unit rated at 520 hp (388 kW), as the XV-770-9 supercharged unit was not available. The machine was flown to Wright Field in May for flutter and vibration tests, and in the course of its official trials suffered damage as a result of a nose wheel unit failure. After repairs had been effected, the aeroplane and its partner were transferred to Eglin Field, Florida, in July 1944 for operational trials in late July and early August. The type’s handling characteristics were found satisfactory but performance was far below that specified and was, indeed, inferior to those of the larger and heavier fighters of conventional construction already in service with the USAAF.
The second XP-77 was lost in October 1944 after the pilot bailed out when the aeroplane entered an inverted spin. Thus it was decided that no production would be ordered, and the whole P-77 programme was subsequently terminated in December 1944.
The XP-77 project continued to suffer numerous delays, many related to correction of the excess weight issues. A change in subcontractor for the wing assembly also caused headaches as the first subcontractor refused to release necessary parts. Concerns over structural integrity relating to the glue and its binding properties were also difficult to resolve. With the anticipation that contract costs would soon be exceeded, and no hope that the supercharged engine would become available, the USAAF would only continue the project as an experiment to evaluate the use of wooden construction and materials in combat aircraft.  The first XP-77 flew 1 April 1944 at Wright Field but the flight tests revealed vibration problems due to directly mounting the engine to the airframe, without vibration isolation. The long nose and rear-mounted cockpit also inhibited visibility relative to operational aircraft of the time.
The XP-77 proved to be difficult to fly and despite flying without guns or armor, it did not come up to the expected performance estimates mainly because it was woefully underpowered.  Further trials were conducted at the USAAF Proving Ground at Eglin Field with the second aircraft, which was destroyed when it entered an inverted spin while attempting an Immelmann, and the pilot bailed out. The development was terminated in December 1944.
Durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale l&rsquoune des principales préoccupations des états-majors autant que des industries liées à l&rsquoeffort de guerre était de disposer de métal en quantité suffisante. Dans le secteur aéronautique américain les cadences de production des chasseurs, bombardiers, et avions de transport étaient telles que c&rsquoétait certains alliages qui risquaient de venir à manquer. C&rsquoest ainsi qu&rsquoon eut l&rsquoidée de développer un chasseur léger faisant principalement appel à du bois et du contreplaqué mais qui demeura malheureusement sans suite : le Bell XP-77.
En fait les ingénieurs de Bell Aircraft commencèrent à s&rsquointéresser au concept d&rsquoavion faisant appel à ce que l&rsquoon appelait alors des matériaux non stratégiques. Et en 1941 il n&rsquoy avait rien de moins stratégique aux États-Unis, alors encore en paix, que le bois et le contreplaqué. Les premiers travaux des ingénieurs de ce constructeur furent dénommés Tri 4 et dès l&rsquoattaque nippone contre Pearl Harbor classés top secrets par les autorités fédérales américaines.
Les ingénieurs de Bell Aircraft s&rsquoinspirèrent alors de deux avions conçus en Europe. Le Caudron C.714 Cyclone français construit en petite série pour le compte de l&rsquoArmée de l&rsquoAir et le Miles M.20 britannique malheureusement demeuré sans suite.
En fait si les travaux de Caudron avaient démontré qu&rsquoun avion léger en matière non stratégique pouvait parfaitement s&rsquoadapter aux arsenaux aériens de l&rsquoépoque c&rsquoest véritablement le De Havilland Mosquito qui termina de démontrer la viabilité du principe.
Au printemps 1942 l&rsquoUS Army Air Force passa commande pour six prototypes désignés Bell XP-77 ainsi qu&rsquoune option non finalisée pour dix-neuf avions de présérie YP-77. Si l&rsquoavion n&rsquoétait pas directement destiné à concurrencer les principaux chasseurs terrestres américains de l&rsquoépoque comme le Curtiss P-40C Warhawk ou encore le North American P-51B Mustang il était en fait destiné à la défense rapprochée de sites sensibles ou bien en mission loin de toutes menaces allemandes et japonaises.
Dès le départ les designers et ingénieurs américains avaient pris un pari osé. Celui d&rsquoun avion à train d&rsquoatterrissage tricycle escamotable à une époque où 90% des chasseurs disposaient de trains classiques. Après bien des atermoiements, dont l&rsquooption de canons de 20 mm voire de 37mm l&rsquoarmement retenue était deux mitrailleuses de calibre 12.7mm ainsi qu&rsquoune charge légère composée de deux bombes de 65kg ou bien de quatre roquettes HVAR.
Mais les travaux étaient longs et les retards occasionnaient des surcouts de développement. Si bien que très vite l&rsquoUS Department of War décida de revoir sa commande initiale à seulement deux prototypes XP-77.
Le premier vol du premier prototype intervint le 1er avril 1944.
Extérieurement le Bell XP-77 se présentait sous la forme d&rsquoun monomoteur monoplan à aile basse cantilever. Son fameux train d&rsquoatterrissage tricycle et son cockpit placé très en arrière lui donnait un air indéniablement original. Sa propulsion était assurée par un moteur en ligne Ranger XV-770-7 d&rsquoune puissance de 520 chevaux entraînant une hélice bipale en métal et bois. Le bois et le contreplaqué représentaient d&rsquoailleurs plus de 60% de la structure de l&rsquoavion.
Les essais en vol furent menés activement jusqu&rsquoen septembre 1944, moment où le second prototype du Bell XP-77 s&rsquoécrasa à Eglin Field en Floride, causant la mort de son pilote d&rsquoessais. Dès lors l&rsquoUS Army Air Force commença à se désintéresser de ce petit monomoteur jusqu&rsquoà ce que quelques jours avant Noël 1944 le programme soit tout bonnement annulé et les essais abandonnés. Ainsi se terminait l&rsquoaventure d&rsquoun étonnant petit chasseur expérimental américain.
L&rsquoavion vola encore quelques mois cependant pour le compte de Bell Aircraft comme plastron volant avant d&rsquoêtre détruit une fois la paix revenue.
Atamjeet | Paper Models, Art, Creative Thoughts
The &rsquoBell&rsquos XP-77&rsquo development was initiated by the United States Army Air Corps during World War II to produce a simplified &lsquolightweight&rsquo fighter aircraft using so-called &ldquonon-strategic&rdquo materials. Despite being innovative, the diminutive prototype proved tricky to handle and the project was canceled when the XP-77 did not deliver its projected performance.
I am so proud of this model since this is my first Scale Paper Model. The specifications were gifted to me by my Kentucky friend Mr. DeWayne Barnett (I consider him my 'Guru&rsquo) and he was so glad to see me complete this model in my first attempt and he posted some very precious comments on his web page. It took me quite a while to finish this model since it is a very small model and therefore, it was very challenging for me to handle all the tiny parts of paper. I remember I used to get aid from a magnifying lens to pick up tiny little parts with the tip of a needle and placing the same at its designated place. It was great fun to make this model and took me two weeks to complete @ 9 hrs/day.
Projekt XP-77 pstavoval malý letoun, který svou koncepci připomínal spíᘞ závodní letadla z třicáth let. Byl vyroben pvším ze dᖞva a pᖞkližky. Letoun měl dolnoplošnou koncepci a podobně jako jiný typ firmy Bell, typ P-39 Airacobra, byl vybaven příďovým podvozkem. Pní noha se sklápěla směrem dozadu a hlavní podvozkové nohy se sklápěly směrem k trupu. Podvozek byl poháněn elektricky.  Křໝlo (stejně jako trup) bylo dᖞvěné s pᖞkližkovým potahem, klapky byly ovlฝány elektricky. 
V dlouhé přໝi se nacházel vzduchem chlazený invertní dvanผtiválec do V typu Ranger V-770, který roztáპl dvoulistou stavitelnou vrtuli. Pro letoun byla zvolena verze Ranger XV-770-9 vybavená kompresorem, proto se ale jeho vývoj opozdil, poháněla prototyp slabší verze motoru Ranger XV-770-7 bez kompresoru.
Kabina pilota se nacházela až za odtokovou hranou křໝla. Pilota kryl dvoudílný kapkovitý pᖞkryt, který mu poskytoval dobrý výhled směrem do stran a dozadu, díky umístění kabiny vᘚk měl pilot špatný výhled směrem vp. To bylo problematické pvším při přistání.
Plánovaná výzbroj byla z původně uvažovanh dvou 20mm kanónů a dvou 12,7mm kulometů postupně redukována až na dvojici synchronizovanh kulometů M2 Browning rá 12,7 mm, umístěnh v krytu motoru.  Uvažovalo se také o zavěᘞní pumy do hmotnosti 136 kg či hlubinné nálo o hmotnosti 148 kg.
7. Bell connected Helen Keller with Annie Sullivan.
Helen Keller and Alexander Graham Bell.
In spite of gaining fame as the inventor of the telephone, Bell continued his lifelong work to help the hearing impaired. In 1887, Captain Arthur Keller traveled from Alabama to meet with Bell in order to seek help for his 6-year-old daughter, Helen, who had become blind and mute at the age of 19 months, possibly from scarlet fever. Bell directed them to Boston’s Perkins School for the Blind, where they met recent graduate Anne Sullivan, the miracle-working tutor who would teach Helen to write, speak and read Braille. Keller dedicated her autobiography to Bell, whom she credited with opening the 𠇍oor through which I should pass from darkness into light,” and the two remained lifelong friends.
Bell Aircraft History Flashcard
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During the early nineteen hundreds, the industrial revolution and technological boom was in full effect every engineer, inventor, and large company wanted to produce the next world changing piece of technology. On December 17, 1903 when the Wright brothers made the first successful airplane, it opened up a new industry where the small manufacturers had just as much a chance to succeed as the large corporations. Companies like Boeing, Glenn Martin, Thomas Brothers, Consolidated Aircraft, Burgess, Lockheed, and several others were established and began competing to either find or create a consumer base for their product (13).
With the skills learned at Glenn Martin and Consolidated Aircraft, a young man named Lawrence Bell decided to take a risk and create his own aircraft company that would be able to compete with the companies that had already found success in the newly created aircraft market. Throughout history, Bell Aircraft has successfully adapted to the changing market and succeeded in the aircraft industry not just by “reinventing the wheel” but by creating completely original aircrafts. Lawrence “Larry” Dale Bell was born on April 5th, 1894 in Mentone, Indiana, a town of less than one square mile that today contains less than a thousand people (14).
Life in Mentone was particularly uneventful and in 1907 the family moved to Santa Monica, California so his father could find work (10). In January, 1910, and his older brother, Grover, attended the first major U. S. Air Show at Dominguez Field near Los Angeles. Inspired, they built a model plane of their own which actually flew. Larry was still in school but Grover went off and learned to fly and eventually teamed up with stunt pilot Lincoln Beachey. In 1912 the two asked Larry if he would like to be their mechanic, an offer that he accepted.
Unfortunately in 1913 Grover was killed in a stunt accident and Larry quit the stunt aviation business (10). Unable to stay away from the aviation industry completely, he was employed by the Glenn Martin Company that same year. By age twenty-two, three years after being hired, Larry became Vice President of the company. Working with the company until 1928, he became an expert in aviation by watching Glenn Martin compete in pioneering the aviation industry (9). In 1928 he moved to Buffalo New York to work for Consolidated Aircraft, where he shortly became Vice President and general manager.
Unable to test the planes during Buffalo’s harsh winters, Consolidated Aircraft relocated to San Diego in 1935, but Larry decided to quit the company and stay in Buffalo. On July 10th 1935, Larry created Bell Aircraft Corporation and opened up a factory on Elmwood Avenue (9). Luckily for Bell Aircraft tensions were growing between Hitler’s allied countries and the opposing countries, which forced the U. S military to start building a war industry to prepare for possible war. Without the high demand for military aircrafts the company may never have excelled.
In 1937 Bell Aircraft signed their first military contract by developing the YFM-1 Airacuda. Bell Aircraft created a unique fighter plane advertised to be a mobile anti-aircraft platform as well as a convoy fighter. It was created to destroy enemy bombers at distances beyond the range of single-seat fighter interceptors, and incorporated several features never before seen in a military aircraft (9). Utilizing a efficient yet futuristic design, the Airacuda appeared to be “unlike any other fighters up to that time. “(12).
Publishing a book in 1942 on aircrafts, major Alexander De Seversky wrote, “[The Airacuda] represents a great engineering achievement” (6). One year later the P-39 Airacobra was produced which had several original features that made it desired by the military. Its innovative features included a tricycle undercarriage, an engine that sat in the center fuselage behind the pilot, and a machine gun that extended right out the center of the propeller. Many were given to the Soviet Union because of the Lend Lease Act, where they proved to be successful for ground-attack planes by scoring the highest number of individual kills out of all the U. S. fighter planes (9).
As the year 1939 rolled around, World War II broke out and the aircraft industry exploded. During WWII Bell Aircraft adapted to the market and used the war to expand the company by aiming to produce the aircrafts that would bring in the most revenue. They used two different methods for success, they continued creating and improving their aircrafts while producing and selling other companies’ aircrafts as well. In 1940 the government financed a new plant in Niagra Falls, increasing the total employees to 32,022.
The P-39 was produced all throughout the war, and later on in the war they produced the P-63 Kingcobra, which fixed many of the problems that the P-39 had. They redesigned the wing to alter the airfoil, which increased in internal volume. Also, they switched to a different engine, which included an improved supercharger for faster speed. Finally, they added a machine gun on each wing to improve the firing radius (9). Both aircrafts were used throughout WWII and were used by several countries other than the U. S.
In addition to the P-39 and P-63, Bell Aircraft was involved with a multitude of other projects during the war. Bell’s Ordnance Division, located in Burlington, Vermont, built gun mounts for the Navy. The Bell Modification Center, at Niagara Falls, was a completely separate factory. Aircraft of all types would be delivered to the plant, and more than 7,000 would go through the center before the end of the war. Bell felt this experience would be extremely useful when the war ended, because the aviation industry would then need to modify military equipment for civilian needs (8).
Production wise Bell Aircraft mainly acted as an additional producer of heavy bombers designed by other larger aircraft companies. The government built and provided Bell aircraft with an airplane factory in Marietta, Georgia, which was completed in mid-1943, and Bell Aircraft won contracts to build hundreds of Consolidated B-24 Liberators and Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers at this factory. “I believe, and other people agree with me, that the B-29 plant in Georgia was probably the biggest and most successful single manufacturing enterprise in the country during the war,” Bell said. My friends down there have repeatedly told me that Bell Aircraft probably had more influence on the rebirth of the South than anything that’s ever been done” (8).
These planes were the most used during the war and were produced by multiple companies there were over 18,400 B-24 Liberators produced and almost 4,000 B-29 Superfortresses made throughout the country during the war (8). At a cost of $297,627 for the B-24 and $639,188 for the B-29 (8), building one hundred of each would mean almost one hundred million dollars made which in today’s dollars would be over a billion dollars made.
Bell Aircraft produced hundreds of each plane, so during WWII they made an immense amount of profit by producing aircrafts from other companies. In addition, in 1944 the production of the B-24 was combined into only the Ford Motor Company and the Consolidated Aircraft Company so Bell Aircraft finished out the war designating all of its 36,000 workers to building the more expensive B-29s, which meant they were metaphorically making Ferraris that were being bought at the rate of a Honda Civic.
By the end of the war, Bell Aircraft had reached its peak number of employees at 36,000, it had several factories located around the country, and had begun experimenting with two different types of aircrafts that would make history and lead Bell Aircraft to where it is today: the jet and the helicopter. Before Bell Aircraft would find success they went through a time period of struggle in the field of jet fighters. After the war the Marietta factory was sold to the Lockheed Corporation. The company began laying off employees to balance their budget.
Without the military in need of a large supply of aircrafts and with companies like Boeing and Consolidated Aircraft producing way more efficient planes, Larry and his company needed to find something that would put the company ahead of all others while producing sufficient revenue. Air Force officer Major General Henry Arnold became aware of the United Kingdom’s jet program after attending a demonstration in April 1941. He requested, and was given, the plans for the aircraft’s jet engine, which he took back to the U. S. On September 4th, he offered General Electric a contract to produce an American version of the engine.
On the following day, he approached Lawrence Dale Bell, head of Bell Aircraft Corporation, to build a fighter to utilize it. Bell agreed and set to work on producing three prototypes. Bell produced America’s first jet in absolute privacy. First flown on Sept. 30, 1942, two General Electric engines supplied the power for the P-59 Airacomet, the design based on the European plans. An innovative modification was an observer’s seat, built forward of the cockpit (8).
Fifty P-59s were built and although performance never reached expectations, the P-59 was a successful test platform and helped the U. S. begin the jet age. Bell Aircraft continued to attempt building a successful jet plane to no avail. They first tried innovating a lightweight aircraft in 1944. The XP-77 was a small jet fighter using mainly wood materials and a lightweight engine, but the performance was lacking and the project was cancelled. Next they tried to build a jet with good fuel mileage in 1945. The XP-83 was the prototype Bell Aircraft produced, a jet fighter similar to the P-59, but it lacked power and was cancelled after a second was built.
Finally, after a decade of failure they took a page straight from Hollywood’s book and tried to produce the most futuristic plane possible. The XF-109 was an eight-engine, Mach two capable, vertical takeoff and landing jet that was more original than anything ever designed. They made a life size model of the jet when the military, which was funding the project, decided it was a project not worth the cost and cancelled it (11). Out of the numerous unsuccessful tries, Bell Aircraft created a jet that not only worked efficiently but also made history.
In 1944 an experimental idea was constructed for a supersonic aircraft that could break the sound barrier. When Larry Bell was approached with the idea he said, “I personally believe in the need for this research. But when we try to sell the idea, someone’s going to say, ‘What good is this airplane? ‘ Being ‘just good for research’ isn’t good enough. Not in the middle of a war” (8). After much persuasion, Larry gave in and the project went under way. In 1945 Bell Aircraft received the contract to build the “Supersonic-1” or X-1.
The X-1 was designed to resemble the shape of a fifty-caliber bullet that was known to be stable through supersonic flight. Since the P-59 proved that jet engines would not be powerful enough, Larry went to the Navy to persuade them to let him use a rocket engine they were developing. The Navy agreed and the rocket engine, built by Reaction Motors Inc. , was put into the X-1 and became the first ever liquid-propellant rocket engine used. On January 25th, 1946 Chuck Yeager flew the X-1 to reach speeds greater than Mach 1, breaking the sound barrier and history simultaneously.
During Larry Bell’s acceptance speech for the Collier Trophy awarded by President Truman, Bell said, “Perhaps the most significant thing about the X-1 is the fact that the airplane has been flown many times in the subsonic, transonic and supersonic ranges of speed in its original configuration, just as it came off the drawing boards”, he said. “Not a single change has ever been made or deemed necessary. That’s a real tribute to the engineers responsible” (11). After the success of the X-1 flight the Army took over the project producing several variants to test different aspects of Mach speed.
The X-1A was designed to test aerodynamic occurrences and speeds above Mach 2 and altitudes greater than 90,000 feet. Flown by Yeager, the X-1A reached the desired speed and altitude, but shortly after spun out of control dropping 65,000 feet and putting Yeager under accelerations eight times the force of gravity, before he miraculously pulled out of it. This was due to inertia coupling, where the inertia of the heavier fuselage overpowers the aerodynamic stabilizing forces of the wing and empennage (5). The X-1B was equipped with heating instrumentation for thermal research, doing tests on 27 flights.
A significant accomplishment was the installation of a system of small reaction rockets used for additional control, making the X-1B the first aircraft to fly with a complex control system (5). The X-1C was planned to test munitions at high speeds but was cancelled in the mock up stage, and the X-1D and X-1E both were aimed for heat transfer research but the X-1D crashed and the X-1E was permanently grounded because of cracks in the fuel tank (5). After the military took over the X-1 project, Bell continued creating innovative aircraft designs.
The X-5 was the world’s first “swing-wing” aircraft, which means its wings could move laterally forwards and backwards during flight. This created a jet that could fly efficiently at both low and high speeds when the wings were forward the aircraft could efficiently fly slowly and transport heavy cargo, but when the wings were back the jet could fly at Mach speeds at high altitudes (11). Overall, Bell Aircraft overcame recession by innovation and adaption in the aircraft industry. Bell Aircraft, sticking to their methods of thinking outside the box, wanted to expand their products to include the brand new helicopter industry.
During WWII, Igor Sikorsky and Lawrence LePage were two Americans who were competing to produce the first U. S Military helicopter. Sikorsky won the battle in the end creating the only mass-produced helicopter used in the war, the R-4. Seeing as the war was already under way, Larry Bell did not have the knowledge or time to attempt to produce a military helicopter. Instead he aimed at created a civilian helicopter that would be cheap and probable in society. In his attempt to win over the board of directors he stated, “The only way we can sell the helicopter is to have the courage to build some” (8).
In 1941 Arthur M. Young was employed by Bell Aircraft to provide expertise for helicopter development. Before being hired Young spent twelve years designing model helicopters, and used these models to help Bell Aircraft build prototypes (3). Through his models he developed several modifications to improve flight stability and efficiency. First, he proved that independently hinged blades would follow the movement of the mast. By December of 1939, Young developed a mast-mounted stabilizing bar that sufficiently improved the hover performance of the models.
He then replaced the bar with a flywheel, which allowed the model to fly in any direction (3). On December 29th, 1942, a year after Young was hired, the Model 30 had its first flight-testing. In May of 1943 testing found that as the helicopter reached speeds of twenty miles an hour it began to violently shake. They discovered that at higher speeds the rotor blades weren’t rigid enough to maintain a smooth ride. A device was then designed to keep the blades rigid and the increased speed caused them to comb upward (3). This proved successful and the helicopter easily surpassed the twenty mile per hour limit.
The next modification was the addition of a tricycle wheel arrangement for landing. Once landing proved successful, Larry Bell and Arthur Young began showcasing the original Model 30 and a second model to as many audiences as possible. He advertised the helicopter by describing their versatility: “People realize that the helicopter is the only vehicle of transportation in the world that’s self-contained,” he said. “If you buy a helicopter, you don’t need to build a road, a harbor, a right of way or an airport. You don’t need anything.
You don’t have to follow a road or go to an airport you just go where you want to go” (8). At this point Bell and Young disagreed on what the next course of action would be. Bell was in favor of doing more testing to get a better understanding for the flight characteristics, while Young wanted to continue radically modifying the Model 30. Bell won the argument but Young created a helicopter in secret, creating a third model. The secret eventually reached Bell, and after testing it he approved of Young’s decision. Ship three was so successful in fact that it became the basis for the Model 47, of which 10,000 were produced.
The Model 47 was the first helicopter to be commercially certified, and was additionally used in the military (3). After the success of the Model 47, Bell Aircraft produced several other successful helicopters, one of the more impacting being the UH-1 Iroquois. The UH-1 was a military helicopter used during the Vietnam War during the early 1960’s. It became the most noted helicopter of the War in Vietnam The helicopter was developed by Bell Helicopter to meet the United States Army’s requirement for a medical evacuation and utility helicopter in 1952, and first flew on October 20th, 1956.
Ordered into production in March 1960, the UH-1 was the first turbine-powered helicopter to enter production for the United States military, powered with a single turbo shaft engine, with a two-bladed main rotor and tail rotor. Throughout the war more than 16,000 were produced worldwide. During service in the Vietnam War, the UH-1 was used for various purposes and was not only versatile but also efficient. UH-1s tasked with a ground attack or armed escort role were outfitted with rocket launchers, grenade launchers, and machine guns.
As early as 1962, UH-1s were modified locally by army themself, who fabricated their own mounting systems. UH-1s also flew hunter-killer teams with surveillance helicopters, seeking out enemy bases and attacking. Towards the end of the conflict, the UH-1 was tested with TOW missiles, and two UH-1B helicopters equipped with the XM26 Armament Subsystem were deployed to help counter the 1972 Easter Invasion. The UH-1 was a history-changing helicopter that is still in service today.
Bell D-188 (XF3L / XF-109)
In January of 1954, Bell engineers finally saw the fruits of their labor concerning the Model 65 aircraft - a Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) research system combining the fuselage of a Schweizer glider with the wings of a Cessna 170. The undercarriage skids were borrowed from a Bell 47 helicopter. To this was added a pair of Fairchild J44 turbojets delivering 1,000lb thrust each and installed under the shoulder-mounted mainplanes. The engines were given the capability to be tilted along an axis - from vertical (for landing / take-off actions) to horizontal (for level flight). The Model 65 was used up until 1955 by which point the focus of Bell engineers fell to other, more pressing, projects.
Despite the end of the Model 65, the completed work proved valuable in another company initiative - the Bell "D-118". This design was born to fulfill a request by the United States Navy (USN) and United States Air Force (USAF) for a shared supersonic multirole aircraft design with inherent VTOL capabilities. It was intended to offer the performance seen in the Lockheed F-104 "Starfighter" (Mach 2+ straight line speeds) with a broader mission set built-in. The VTOL quality allowed the aircraft to be stationed nearly anywhere in the world and not require the use of a full-length, prepared runway from which to operate from. This could potentially provide American warplanners with a distinct tactical advantage over anything the Soviet Union held in service at the time. The branches envisioned a singular platform able to carry out such combat sorties as air defense, fleet defense, interception of high-level bombers, general fighter duties, and fighter-bomber runs.
The design had an overall conventional configuration for the most part - the sole pilot was seated in a cockpit at the nose of the fuselage behind a sharply-pointed nosecone, straight wing appendages were shoulder-mounted at the fuselage sides, and the tail unit relied on a traditional single-finned arrangement with the horizontal planes set low along the aft fuselage sides. The tail planes were all swept rearwards for aerodynamic efficiency while the mainplanes tapered from the wingroots to the wingtips to which pivoting "pods" were mounted. These gave the aircraft the necessary lifting / hovering capability as well as added thrust in forward flight. Dimensions of the aircraft included a span of 23.8 feet, a length of 62 feet, and a height of 12.8 feet.
Proposed armament was 2 or 4 x 20mm internal cannons with support for 108 x 2.75" (70mm) aerial rockets (held in an internal, retractable weapons bay) and up to 4,000lb of ordnance in the form of early-generation Air-to-Air Missiles (AAMs) or conventional drop stores carried across eight total underwing hardpoints.
Internally, the aircraft was to have a rather complex arrangement due to its VTOL nature - carrying no fewer than eight turbojets. Six were General Electric J85-GE-5 series engines (2,600lb thrust each) and two were General Electric J-85-GE-19 types. Two turbojets were fitted to each swiveling wing pod with the remaining units installed within the fuselage two mounted aft of the cockpit (to help balance vertical lift thrust) and two arranged horizontally (for forward thrust) and exhausting through a basic set of exhaust ports at the rear of the fuselage.
The original product designation became "Model 2000" and Bell marked the USN model as the D-188 and the USAF model as the D-188A (there would be slight differences between each service model to fulfill special naval requirements). In formal service, the models were set to carry the respective designations of "XF3L-1" and "XF-109" though these were never officially assigned.
Between 1959 and 1960, USN authorities had moved away from the Bell venture as mounting delays with the engine sets continued and the project budget grew as a result. This left the USAF as the sole interested service so a mockup was completed and finally unveiled for the first time in early December of 1960. However, the USAF followed the USN lead in early-1961 by terminating their interest in the complex and expensive Model 2000. Thus ended the D-188 VTOL supersonic fighter initiative for Bell and true VTOL fighter flight was not realized until the introduction of the British "Harrier" fighter-bomber during the late-1960s.
Some performance figures were estimated for the unique Bell D-188: a maximum speed of Mach 2.3, an operational range out to 2,300 miles, and a combat radius of 1,350 miles. Its service ceiling was 60,000 feet. Empty weight was listed at 13,800lb against a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 24,000lb.