The company was founded on July 10, 1935 as Bell Aircraft Corporation by Lawrence Dale Bell in Buffalo, New York. The company focused on the designing and building of fighter aircraft.
Their first fighters were the XFM-1 Airacuda, a twin-engine fighter for attacking bombers, and the P-39 Airacobra.
The P-59 Airacomet, the first American jet fighter, the P-63 Kingcobra, the successor to the P-39, and the Bell X-1 were also Bell products.
The X-1, piloted by Chuck Yeager, was the first manned airplane to exceed the speed of sound in level flight and was the first of the X-planes, a series of American experimental rocket planes designated for testing of new technologies and often kept secret.
In 1941, Bell hired Arthur M. Young, a talented inventor, to provide expertise for helicopter research and development. It was the foundation for what Bell hoped would be a broader economic base for his company that was not dependent on government contracts.
The Bell 30
The Bell 30 was their first full-size helicopter (first flight December 29, 1942) and the Bell 47 became the first helicopter in the world rated by a civil aviation authority, becoming a civilian and military success.
Textron purchased Bell Aerospace in 1960. Bell Aerospace was composed of three divisions of Bell Aircraft Corporation, including its helicopter division, which had become its only division still producing complete aircraft. The helicopter division was renamed Bell Helicopter Company and in a few years, with the success of the UH-1 Huey during the Vietnam War, it had established itself as the largest division of Textron. In January 1976, Textron changed the name of the company again to Bell Helicopter Textron.
Bell Helicopter has a close association with AgustaWestland. The partnership dates back to separate manufacturing and technology agreements with Agusta and as a sublicense via Agusta with Westland. When the two European firms merged, the partnerships were retained, with the exception of the AB139, which is now known as the AW139. As of 2014, Bell and AW cooperate on the AW609 tiltrotor.
Bell Helicopters have become legendary in both the commercial and military spheres, mention the Korean War and images of the “MASH” Bell 47 (H-13 Sioux) immediately come to mind, as do images of the Bell UH-1 (Huey) when the Vietnam War is spoken of.
After the Bell 47 Also known as the BellXH-13F a long list of military helicopters were designed and produced by Bell Helicopters Many of them were also produced as Civilian variants with different designators
The Bell R-12 (later redesignated H-12; company Model 48) was an American 1940s military utility helicopter
Bell 207 Sioux Scout – experimental attack helicopter
Bell AH-1 Cobra
Bell AH-1 SeaCobra/SuperCobra
Bell OH-58 Kiowa
Bell UH-1Y Venom
Bell AH-1Z Viper
Bell CH-146 Griffon
Bell ARH-70 Arapaho
Bell is also responsible for a large range of Civilian Helicopters
Bell 47J Ranger
Bell 429 GlobalRanger
Bell 525 Relentless
Bell 505 Jet Ranger X