Bell 47

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Bell 47
Bell 47G-5 Uni Fly, STA Stauning, Denmark (cropped).png
Bell 47G
Role Multipurpose light helicopter
National origin United States
Manufacturer Bell Aircraft
Bell Helicopter
Designer Arthur M. Young
First flight 8 December 1945
Introduction 1946
Primary users United States Army
British Army
Produced 1946–1974
Number built 5,600
Developed from Bell 30
Variants Bell H-13 Sioux
Bell 47J Ranger
Kawasaki KH-4

The Bell 47 is a single rotor single engine light helicopter manufactured by Bell Helicopter. It was based on the third Bell 30 prototype, which was the company's first helicopter designed by Arthur M. Young. The 47 became the first helicopter certified for civilian use on 8 March 1946.[1][2] The first civilian delivery was made on December 31, 1946 to Helicopter Air Transport.[3] More than 5,600 Bell 47s were produced, including those under license by Agusta in Italy, Kawasaki Heavy Industries in Japan, and Westland Aircraft in the United Kingdom. The Bell 47J Ranger is a modified version with a fully enclosed cabin and tail boom.

Design and development[edit]

Early models varied in appearance, with open cockpits or sheet metal cabins, fabric covered or open structures, some with four-wheel landing gear. Later model D and Korean War H-13D and E types settled on a more utilitarian style. The most common model, the 47G introduced in 1953, can be recognized by the full "soap bubble" canopy,[4] exposed welded-tube tail boom, saddle fuel tanks and skid landing gear.

The later three-seat 47H had an enclosed cabin with full cowling and monocoque tail boom. It was an attempt to market a "luxury" version of the basic 47G. Relatively few were produced.

Engines were Franklin or Lycoming vertically mounted piston engines of 178 to 305 HP (150 to 230 kW). Seating varied from two (early 47s and the later G-5A) to four (the J and KH-4).

In April 2011 there were 1068 registered with the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States[5] and 15 in the United Kingdom.[6]

Bell 47s were produced in Japan by a Bell and Kawasaki venture; this led to the Kawasaki KH-4 variant, a four-seat version of the Model 47 with a cabin similar to the Bell 47J. It differed from the "J" in having a standard uncovered tail boom and fuel tanks like the G series. It was sold throughout Asia, and some were used in Australia.

In February 2010, the Bell 47 type certificates were transferred to Scott's Helicopter Services.[7] The sister company that was formed, Scott's - Bell 47, is in the process of starting production of a turboshaft powered version of the Bell 47, the 47GT-6, using a Rolls-Royce RR300 engine and with composite rotor blades, with deliveries planned from 2016.[8]

Operational history[edit]

Bell 47J Ranger

The Bell 47 entered US military service in late 1946, and operated in a variety of versions and under different designations for three decades. It was designated H-13 Sioux by the US Army, and during the Korean War, it served a variety of roles, including reconnaissance and scouting, search and rescue, and medevac.

The "Telecopter" was a Bell Model 47 rented by television station KTLA in Los Angeles, California. It was outfitted with a television camera and it made the world's first flight by a television news helicopter on July 3, 1958, with its inventor, John D. Silva, aboard. When the television station reported it was receiving no video, Silva exited the helicopter's cockpit to climb onto its landing skid while it hovered at 1,500 feet (457 m) so he could investigate the microwave transmitter bolted to its side, where he discovered a vacuum tube had failed due to vibration and hot weather. After Silva fixed the problem overnight, the Telecopter made the world's first successful television news flight on July 4, 1958.[9]

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had a number of Bell 47s during the Apollo program, used by astronauts as trainers for the lunar lander. Apollo 17 commander Eugene Cernan had a nearly disastrous crash into the Indian River in Florida in 1972, shortly before his flight to the moon.[10] The 47 has also served as the helicopter of choice for basic helicopter flight instruction in many countries.


  • 13 May 1949, a Bell 47 set an altitude record of 18,550 feet (5,650 m).[11]
  • 21 September 1950, first helicopter to fly over the Alps.[11]
  • 17 September 1952, Bell pilot Elton J. Smith set a world distance record for piston helicopters of 1,217 miles (1,959 km) by flying nonstop from Hurst, Texas, to Buffalo, New York.[11] As of 2018, this record still stands.[12]


Section source: Complete Encyclopedia[13]


Pre-production version, powered by a 178 hp (133 kW) Franklin piston engine.
Improved version of the Bell 47, powered by a 157 hp (117 kW) Franklin O-335-1 piston engine.
A 47B on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, 2011
Equivalent to the military YR-13/HTL-1, powered by the 157 hp (117 kW) Franklin O-335-1.
Agricultural/utility version with open crew positions. Also, offered in a version to the US Postal Service as the Bell Airmailer .[14]
First to appear with a molded "soap bubble" canopy.
Introduced in 1949, it had an open tubework tail boom reminiscent of the Bell Model 30 and three seats.
Powered by a 200 hp (150 kW) Franklin 6V4-200-C32 engine.
Combines a 200 hp (149 kW) Franklin engine with the three-seat configuration of the 47D-1 and introduced the twin saddle-bag fuel tank configuration.
Powered by the Lycoming VO-435 engine. Produced under license by Westland Aircraft as the Sioux for the UK military.
Powered by a 240 hp (179 kW) VO-435.
Wider cabin, improved rotor blades and increased fuel capacity.
Powered by a supercharged 225 hp (168 kW) Franklin 6VS-335-A.
Powered by a turbocharged 280 hp (209 kW) Lycoming TVO-435.
Three-seat helicopter powered by an Avco Lycoming VO-540 engine.
A three-seat utility version. A two-seat agricultural version was later known as the Ag-5. The 47G-5 remained in production even after H & J production had ended.[citation needed]
Bell 47H-1
A three-seat version with an enclosed cabin and fuselage.[15]
47J Ranger
A four-seat version powered by a VO-435 engine.[15]
Military two-seat training variant of the 47J.


See H-13 Sioux
1957 47H-1

Licensed versions[edit]

Agusta A.115 1971 Italian prototype of a Bell 47J with an unclad, tubular tail boom, and powered by a Turbomeca Astazou II turboshaft engine Meridionali/Agusta EMA 124 Italian prototype with redesigned forward fuselage. Not produced.[16][17]

Kawasaki KH-4 Japanese production version with redesigned, lengthened cabin, and redesigned control system


Carson Super C-4 El Tomcat Mk.II Bell 47G-2 modified extensively for agricultural spraying by Continental Copters Inc. First flew in April 1959. Followed by further improved versions.


Military operators[edit]

For all military operators, regardless of the actual model, see Bell H-13 Sioux operators
An Agusta-Bell 47G of the Italian Carabinieri

Government operators[edit]

 United States

Aircraft on display[edit]

  • 655 – Bell 47D-1 on static display at the Museo Nacional Aeronautico y del Espacio in Santiago.[31]
New Zealand
United Kingdom
  • G-ARXH - Bell 47G at the Armourgeddon Military Collection, Husbands Bosworth, Leicestershire.
  • G-AXKS - Bell 47G-4A at the Museum of Army Flying, Middle Wallop, Hampshire.
  • G-AZYB (painted in former SABENA markings as OO-SHW) – Bell 47H on static display at the Helicopter Museum in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset. It supported a scientific expedition in Antarctica.[44][45]
United States

Surviving aircraft[edit]

  • OE-XDM – Bell 47 G-3B-1T (a former United States Army TH-13T) airworthy with The Flying Bulls in Salzburg.[66][67][68]
United States

Specifications (Bell 47G-3B)[edit]

Bell 47 Drawing.svg

Data from International Directory of Civil Aircraft[15]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1 or 2
  • Capacity: 1 passenger or 2 litters (1,057 lb (479 kg) payload)
  • Length: 31 ft 7 in (9.63 m)
  • Height: 9 ft 3 in (2.82 m)
  • Empty weight: 1,893 lb (859 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 2,950 lb (1,338 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Lycoming TVO-435-F1A six-cylinder vertically mounted horizontally-opposed air-cooled piston engine, 280 hp (210 kW)
  • Main rotor diameter: 37 ft 2 in (11.33 m)
  • Main rotor area: 1,085 sq ft (100.8 m2)


  • Maximum speed: 91 kn (105 mph, 169 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 73 kn (84 mph, 135 km/h)
  • Range: 214 nmi (246 mi, 396 km)
  • Rate of climb: 860 ft/min (4.4 m/s)

Notable appearances in media[edit]

See also[edit]

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists



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External links[edit]