Aircraft Welding Diaries: History of Bell Aircraft

Knisley Welding caters to the aircraft exhaust system for some of Bell’s aircraft. Let’s take a look into the brief history of Bell aircraft and how it has come about, how it has contributed to the aircraft industry, and how it is doing now.


Bell Aircraft Corporation was a US aircraft manufacturer that is known for creating the first-ever supersonic aircraft, the Bell X-1. Bell Aircraft has built numerous fighter aircraft for World War II, as well as different types of civilian and military helicopters.

Bell Aircraft was bought by Textron in 1960 and is now known as Bell Helicopter.

Bell Aircraft’s Foundation

Bell Aircraft began with a teenage boy’s dreams. Larry Bell developed his passion for aviation from the first time he saw a plane on an air show. He even dropped out of high school to work for Glenn L. Martin Company, an American aircraft manufacturer.

By the year 1914, Larry Bell was already shop superintendent and by 1920, he had jumped to Vice-President and General Manager. In 1924, Bell wanted part ownership of the company, which could have been the fulfillment of his dreams, but Glenn Martin refused to grant Bell’s request. Bell quit Martin.

Bell returned to the aviation industry in 1928 with interests in Consolidated Aircraft based in Buffalo, New York. Although he had part ownership, Bell still wanted an aircraft company of his own, but he also knew that he could not compete with Consolidated or with Curtiss-Wright, the key players of the aircraft industry at their time. When Consolidated moved its base to San Diego, California, Bell stayed behind and that’s when he built his own company – the Bell Aircraft Company.

From its foundation, Bell Aircraft has produced different models of military aircraft that served in World War II. It then started developing helicopters in 1941.

Bell’s Aircrafts

In 1937, the YFM-1 Airacuda was produced. It was the first military aircraft under Bell. It is an unconventional bomber-destroyer that features gyro-stabilized weapons sighting and a thermionic fire control system. Only thirteen were produced and was scrapped in 1942.

The P-39 Airacobra, a single-engine fighter aircraft, gave much success to Bell. The P-30 is considered one of the principal military aircraft of the US during World War II.

The P-39 performed poorly at higher altitudes. The P-63 Kingcobra addressed this and other shortcomings of the P-39. This, however, made little contribution to the war because it was thought to have been produced too late.

After the World War, Bell focused on experimental aircraft, including the Bell X-1, and then Bell X-2. The Bell X-1 was the first to break the sound barrier, earning its title of the first supersonic aircraft.

Acquisition by Textron

Textron purchased the Aerospace Division of Bell in July 1960. By then, only the helicopter division (also part of the Aerospace Division) was producing aircraft. Now known as Bell Helicopter survives under Textron. It is now known as a rotorcraft manufacturer and is now based in Fort Worth, Texas.

For more information regarding Bell aircraft, or if you are in need of aircraft exhaust systems, aircraft exhaust parts, or aircraft exhaust repairs for a Bell aircraft, just give Knisley Welding a call and we will give you just what you need!

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