7 Things You Didn’t Know About Bell Aircraft
The Bell Aircraft Corporation was founded in a small town outside of New York City called Elbridge. It began as the Standard Aircraft Company and was renamed when Lawrence Bell became its majority shareholder.
The company produced aircraft for the military and civilian market from 1925 to 1946, but you probably don’t know much about them. While it wasn’t quite as big as some of the other aircraft manufacturers of the time, Bell had an outsized impact on the industry.
This is because they introduced some very important innovations that continue to be used today. They also produced a few different aircraft that have gone on to have a cult following and are eagerly collected by aviation aficionados today. Here are seven facts you might not have known about Bell Aircraft.
Their most famous aircraft was the P-39 Airacobra.
The Airacobra was designed as a replacement for the Bell Airacuda dive bomber. It was a low-altitude fighter aircraft that was designed to be able to operate from poorly equipped fields and rough terrain.
The Airacobra was not a high-performance aircraft, but it did have several innovations that are still in use today. It was the first military aircraft to use a tricycle landing gear and the first to use a bubble canopy.
The Airacobra was a bit of a troubled aircraft, though. It was not very reliable, it was difficult to fly, and it was difficult for maintenance crews to work on. It was, however, very agile and was a formidable dogfighter. The Airacobra got its name from the fact that it was designed around the same engine as the Airacuda.
They produced the first jet fighter with a tricycle landing gear, the XP-77.
The XP-77 was a jet-powered fighter that was designed to use a tricycle landing gear. It was actually the first jet fighter with a tricycle landing gear, but it did not achieve very much.
While Bell was working on the design, they were also trying to produce a jet-powered version of the Airacobra. The Airacobra took precedence and the XP-77 was eventually cancelled. The XP-77 was designed to be used as a long-range escort fighter and was designed to be able to take off and land on short runways.
Its engines were rather unreliable and it did not see any operational service.
They also produced the first jet to have iced wings, the P-59 Airacomet.
The Airacomet was an early jet fighter that was notorious for its poor performance. It was plagued with problems and the engine’s tendency to ice up and shut down was the most serious issue.
Once the Airacomet was cleared for service, Bell corrected this issue by installing a large paddle behind the engine exhaust. The Airacomet is also famous for being the first American jet aircraft to be used in combat.
It performed poorly, though, and was withdrawn from service after only a short time.
You can find elements of their V-107 in many modern aircraft.
The V-107 was a tandem-rotor helicopter that was designed to be used as a personnel transport aircraft and cargo helicopter. It was a significant milestone in helicopter history and was the first helicopter to use the cyclic-controlled, variable pitch rotors that are still used today.
It was also the first helicopter to use an all-hydrofoil landing gear. The V-107 was a very innovative aircraft, but it never saw operational service. After the war, the helicopter industry focused on smaller, more agile helicopters and the V-107 fell into obscurity.
You can still find parts of the V-107 in modern helicopters and it is one of the most collected helicopters by aviation enthusiasts.
The XFM-1 and its role in WWII.
The XFM-1 was a twin-engine, forward-swept wing fighter that was designed to be able to be operated from aircraft carriers. It was a promising design and was flown extensively.
However, the end of the war brought an end to the development of the XFM-1. When the war ended, the aircraft industry was looking for new markets and the XFM-1 was marketed as a commercial airliner. It never achieved great success and only two were built. It was, however, an important precursor to the industry’s next big push.
The aviation industry wanted to develop commercial turbine powered aircraft and the XFM-1 was used as a test bed aircraft to help further that goal.
The XSM-2 and its place in history.
The XSM-2 was a large, high-altitude, long-range bomber that was developed in the late 1940s. It was the first aircraft to be built with a full-scale autopilot and was capable of autonomously navigating from the US to the USSR.
The XSM-2 was capable of cruising at an altitude of over 30,000 feet and had a range of 11,000 nautical miles. The XSM-2 was designed to be used as a nuclear-capable bomber and would have been used to drop atomic bombs on the Soviet Union.
The war ended before the aircraft could be used in combat, though, and the XSM-2 never made it into service. It was used as a test bed aircraft and helped to develop several modern technologies used in aviation to this day. It was also the first aircraft used to test the artificial horizon, a now-essential piece of aircraft equipment.
Bell’s longest-running production program was for the P-59.
The P-59 was Bell’s first jet aircraft. It was designed to be used as a long-range, high-altitude interceptor aircraft. It was an ambitious aircraft, but Bell made some significant mistakes.
First, they used an engine that proved to be unreliable. Second, the aircraft was very large and heavy, which put it at a disadvantage when compared to similar aircraft being developed by other companies.
The P-59 performed poorly in testing, but there were a few innovations that made it stand out. First, it was the first aircraft to use a nose-wheel, instead of a tail wheel. Second, it was the first aircraft to use a fuel-injected engine. Unfortunately, the P-59 never saw service and was never used in combat.
These are just a few of the innovations that the Bell Aircraft Corporation introduced to the aviation world. They also produced some very important aircraft that have gone on to have a cult following and are eagerly collected by aviation aficionados today.
If you have any interest in aviation, you owe it to yourself to take a look at these planes. They are a fascinating piece of aviation history.