Larry Bell

Larry Bell

Lawrence Bell was born in Mentone on 5th April, 1894. When he was a child the family moved to California.

Bell became interested in aircraft and in 1910 he made his first model plane with his older brother Grover Bell. They both became pilots but Grover was killed in an air crash in 1913.

Bell went to work for Glenn L. Martin. In 1928 he left and took a senior position at Consolidated Aircraft in Buffalo, New York.

In 1935 Bell moved to California and established the Bell Aircraft Corporation. During the Second World War the Bell Aircraft Corporation produced the Bell P-39 Airacobra. Its engine proved totally inadequate at high altitudes. However, it was excellent for ground attack. Over 9,500 were produced with over half going to the Red Army Air Force.

The P-39D appeared in 1941. The Royal Air Force ordered 675 but were disappointed by its performance and a large number of them were transferred to the Soviet Union as part of British aid to Russia.

Bell employed a young inventor called Arthur Young and in 1942 the company produced its first vertical takeoff aircraft. The following year the Bell 30 Helicopter went into production. This was followed by the Bell 47.

In 1944 the Bell Aircraft Corporation began producing the P-59 Airacomet, America's first jet-powered airplane. Only 50 were built and most were used for training and testing and none of them became operational during the war.

After the war the company concentrated on helicopters and in Bell had the great idea of making a 47-B available for Lyndon B. Johnson during his 1948 election campaign. As Robert Bryce has pointed out: "With a helicopter, Johnson could land right in the center of town and give a speech right on the landing spot, eliminating the need for time-wasting car trips and from the airstrip."

Bell decided to move his company from New York State to Fort Worth, Texas. Johnson, who became a member of the Naval affairs Committee, was able to help his friend sell helicopters to the United States Military.

Others helicopters produced by the company included the Bell 54 (1949) and the Bell 61 (1953), the first helicopter designed for anti-submarine warfare. The Bell Aircraft Corporation began work on the Bell 200. It went into production tin 1955. The aircraft converted from takeoff in helicopter mode to straight and level flight like an airplane.

The Bell Aircraft Corporation began producing the UH-1 (Huey) in 1956. It was the first mass-produced helicopter powered by a jet turbine.

Lawrence Bell died on 20th October, 1956.

The UH-1 was used extensively in the Vietnam War. It could climb 2,000 feet per minute and could fly at 125 miles per hour for about three hours. It could carry nine fully equipped soldiers and a crew of four. By 1969 Bell Helicopter Corporation was selling nearly $600 million worth of helicopters to the United States Military. According to Robert Bryce: "Vietnam made Bell Helicopters".