Bell Model 47B

Longest flying helicopter in history

In 1946, the U.S. Civil Aeronautics Authority awarded the first civil helicopter certification to the Model 47.
Eric Long, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
Gift of Douglas D. Daigle and Tridair Helicopters, Inc. in memory of Arthur Middleton Young.
Eric Long, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

It was the first Bell helicopter type to enter production. Although initial sales failed to meet Lawrence Bell’s expectation of a post-World War II civil aviation boom, later versions saw significant service in the Korean War and other conflicts, and the Model 47 became a highly successful commercial model with some logging more than five decades of service. The two-seat Model 47B was the first commercial evolution of Bell’s pioneering Model 30, also designed by talented engineers Arthur Young and Bartram Kelly. This example, the thirty-sixth built, served over a period of 40 years as a factory demonstrator for Bell; as a newsgathering helicopter, crop duster, and trainer; and performed power line patrols and aerial photography missions. In 1989, Douglas Daigle purchased the helicopter, had it restored, and set the world’s hovering record of 50 hours, 50 seconds. Its last flight occurred in December 2004, more than 57 years after its first flight, making it the longest flying helicopter in history.

The National Air and Space Museum is currently creating “We All Fly,” a special section within the Smithsonian Institution featuring general aviation. Its planned opening is fall 2022.

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