Lawrence Bell was born in Mentone, IN, April 5, 1894, and died at Buffalo, NY, October 20, 1956 at age 62.
From the National Aviation Hall of Fame, in which Bell was enshrined in 1977, we learn that Bell became an airplane mechanic for his brother, Grover, and Lincoln Beachey in 1912. He was employed by the Glenn L. Martin company in 1913, and he rose to general manager. Then he joined the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation in 1928 and later became its vice president and general manager.
During his tenure at Consolidated, Bell landed as a passenger once at Tucson, between December 16-18, 1931 (his pilot didn't cite an exact date or itinerary). On this occasion, he flew in the Consolidated Model 17 Fleetster, NC700V. Based at Buffalo, NY, his pilot was William B. Wheatley. Passenger Bell was a prolific inventor and entrepreneur.
In 1935, Bell formed the Bell Aircraft Corporation to develop advanced military airplanes. His first, the "Airacuda", was a twin-engine fighter with pusher propellers. This was followed by the advanced P-39 "Airacobra" fighter with a tricycle landing gear, a mid/fuselage-located engine and a cannon firing through the propeller hub. Next came the P-63 "Kingcobra" fighter, the RP-63 "Pinball" target plane and the PT-39 trainer.
Bell built the first U.S. jet airplane, the P-59 "Airacomet", which opened a new era in American aviation. His company also produced B-29 "Superfortress" bombers, aircraft gun mounts, radar-controlled remote flight systems, the XP-77 interceptor and the XP-83 twin-jet fighter. In 1946, the rocket-powered Bell X-1 became the first airplane to break the sound barrier, for which he and pilot Chuck Yeager received the Collier trophy. The modified X-1A exceeded Mach 2.5, the X-2 attained 2,148 m.p.h. and 126,000 feet altitude, and the X-5 was the first aircraft with variable sweepback wings.
Meanwhile, Bell developed, and in 1946 produced, the first commercially-licensed helicopter. This was followed by the widely-used "Sioux" and "Iroquois" series helicopters. Bell Aircraft also developed guided bombs, missiles and rocket engines, as well as the XV-3 "Convertiplane" and the X-14 vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. The Lawrence D. Bell Aircraft Museum offers a good biographical sketch and a list of company firsts.
Bell has a substantial Web presence, with about 5,000 Google hits for "Lawrence Dale Bell" as of the upload date of this page. These sources include biographical sketches, photographs and videos.
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 01/05/12 REVISED: