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Bell 30/Model 30 one of the first Bell helicopters

First Bell 30 prototype

The helicopter Bell 30, or Model 30 as it was known inside the company, was a rather crude structure made of welded tubes with a wide four-legged undercarriage made of 3in aluminium tubing. It was one of the first Bell helicopters. The engine, a 160hp Franklin six-cylinder horizontally opposed air-cooled unit was mounted vertically behind the cockpit within a steel-tube framework. The main two-blade rotor hub was mounted on a transmission mast by universal joint and was provided with a stabilizing bar below and at right angles to the blades which were rigidly connected to the hub. This bar acted as a flywheel on a hinge. It kept the rotor blades level and independent from the movements of the fuselage, solving the problem of stability. The main rotor drive of Bell 30 was done through a centrifugal clutch and a two-stage planetary transmis­sion with a 9:1 reduction ratio. The blades, of symmetrical aerofoil section, were made of solid wood with a steel insert in the leading edge. The two-blade tail rotor (also made of solid wood) was mounted on a thin tube at the end of the fuselage.

The roll-out of the first Bell 30 took place on 24 December, 1942; a secretary broke a bottle of champagne on the fuselage and the aircraft was named Genevieve.

On this day, the engine was run up at 150 rpm. The maiden flight occurred on 29 December when pilot Arthur Young flew the tethered Bell 30 model at an altitude of 5 ft; the same day Floyd Carlson also flew the aircraft. Early in January 1943, the prototype was victim of an accident and its pilot, Bob Stanley, was badly hurt. The aircraft was repaired and on 26 June, 1943, the cable was removed and Carlson took Bell 30 on its first free flight. The aircraft performed well and by July 1943 was flying at speeds of over 70 mph. At this time, a three-wheeled undercarriage was installed, the fuselage was covered and the aircraft was painted blue overall, so that it could be used for demonstration flights.

Bell 30 No.2 and No.3

Several modifications on Bell 30 No.1 were introduced in the second aircraft: new undercarriage, semi­monocoque fuselage and new tail rotor mounting, but the most noticeable change was the enclosed cockpit, with car-like doors, for the pilot and one passenger. Unfortunately a setback occurred in September 1943 when the No.1 crashed with Carlson at the controls. Carlson was unhurt but the badly damaged aircraft had to be rebuilt. It was flying again within six months. Thus, in late September 1943, aircraft No.2 replaced No.1 as the test vehicle. One of the first passengers to fly in this aircraft was Larry Bell.

1944, the construction of a third Bell 30 helicopter had begun. Among the several improvements introduced on this machine were a four-wheel undercarriage, an advanced instrument panel and a tubular tailboom, but it retained the open cockpit of No.1. This helicopter flew for the first time on 25 April, 1945, and performed well, so well that it proved to be the best of the trio to demonstrate, but the open cockpit was a real handicap. To overcome this Young had the idea of covering the cockpit with a Plexiglass bubble thus providing both comfort and outstanding visibility for pilot and passenger. The shape of this aircraft was now very near to that of the Model 47 (or H-13, military version of model 47).

Two of the Bell 30s are still in existence:  first is on display at the National Air and Space Museum and second is owned by Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society Museum, Amhurst, New York.

Bell 30 general data

Name: Bell 30
Role: Experimental Helicopter
First Flight: 1943 Introduction: 1944
Primary User: USA Navy and Civil use
Service: Out of service
Crew: 3
Capacity: 3

Length: 31 ft 7 in (9.63 m) Rotor Diameter: 33 ft 0 in (10.06 m)
Height: 9 ft 3 in (2.83 m) Weight: 1,000 lb 
Loaded Weight: 1,500 lb (650 kg) Max. Weight: 1,893 lb (850 kg)
Powerplant: 1 × Franklin six-cylinder Power: 160 shp (120 kW)

Max. Speed: 75 mph Range: 165 mi
Number Built: 3 Unit Cost: Unknown

Bell 30 Video