Bell 47

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This article is about the civil versions and operators of the Bell Model 47. For the military versions and operators, see H-13 Sioux.
Bell 47
Helicopter Bell 47.jpg
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 Model 30
Variants H-13 Sioux
Bell 47J Ranger
Kawasaki KH-4

The Bell 47 is a two-bladed, single engine, light helicopter manufactured by Bell Helicopter. Based on the third Model 30 prototype, Bell's first helicopter designed by Arthur M. Young, the Bell 47 became the first helicopter certified for civilian use on 8 March 1946.[1][2] More than 5,600 Bell 47 aircraft were produced, including those produced 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 fuselage.

Design and development[edit]

Bell 47G
Bell 47J Ranger

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,[3] 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 200 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[4] and 15 in the United Kingdom.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7]

Operational history[edit]

The Bell 47 helicopter entered U.S. military service in late 1946, in a variety of versions and designations for three decades. In the Korean War, it was designated the H-13 Sioux by the U.S. Army, where it served a variety of roles including reconnaissance and scouting, search and rescue, and medevac. It has also served as the helicopter of choice for basic helicopter flight instruction in many countries.

The "Telecopter," a Bell Model 47 rented by television station KTLA in Los Angeles, California, outfitted with a television camera, 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 that 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 that he could investigate the microwave transmitter bolted to its side, where he discovered that 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.[8]

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.[9]


  • 13 May 1949, a Bell 47 set an altitude record of 18,550 feet (5,650 m).[10]
  • 21 September 1950, first helicopter to fly over the Alps.[10]
  • 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.[10] As of 2013, this record still stands.[11]


Section source: Complete Encyclopedia[12]


Bell 47
Pre-production version, powered by a 133-kW (178-hp) Franklin piston engine.
Bell 47A
Improved version of the Bell 47, powered by a 117-kW (157-hp) Franklin O-335-1 piston engine.
A Bell 47B on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, 2011
Bell 47B
Equivalent to the military YR-13/HTL-1, powered by the Franklin O-335-1 piston engine.
Bell 47B-3
Agricultural/utility version with open crew positions. Also, offered in a version to the US Postal Service as the Bell "Airmailer" .[13]
Bell 47C
Bell 47D
First to appear with a moulded 'soap bubble' canopy, as described by Arthur M. Young himself in video recollections.
Bell 47D-1
Introduced in 1949, it had an open tubework tailboom reminiscent of the Bell Model 30, ship number 3, and a three-seat configuration.
Bell 47E
Powered by a 149-kW (200-hp) Franklin 6V4-200-C32 engine.
Bell 47F
Instrument layout on the 47G
Bell 47G
Combines a 149 kW Franklin engine with the three-seat configuration of the 47D-1 and introduced the twin saddle-bag fuel tank configuration.
Bell 47G-2
Powered by the Lycoming VO-435 engine. Produced under license by Westland Aircraft as the Westland Sioux, for the UK military.
Bell 47G-2A
Powered by a 179 kW version of the VO-435.
Bell 47G-2A-1
Wider cabin, improved rotor blades and increased fuel capacity.
Bell 47G-3
Powered by a supercharged 168 kW Franklin 6VS-335-A.
Bell 47G-3B
Powered by a turbocharged 209 kW Avco Lycoming TVO-435.
Bell 47G-4
Three-seat helicopter powered by an Avco Lycoming VO-540 engine.
1957-built Bell 47H-1 of Adventure Helicopters in commercial service at Opa Locka Airport, Miami in 1982
Bell 47G-5
A three-seat, utility version. A two-seat agricultural version was later known as the Ag-5. The 47G-5 was the last model to be produced by Bell.
Bell 47H-1
A three-seat version with an enclosed cabin and fuselage.[14]
Bell 47J Ranger
A four-seat version powered by an Avco Lycoming VO-435 engine.[14]
Bell 47K
Military two-seat training variant of the 47J.


See H-13 Sioux

Licensed versions[edit]

Agusta Bell 47G, built 1964, Italy.
Agusta A.115
[15][16] 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.
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
Agusta-Bell 47G (foreground) and Agusta-Bell AB.47J3 Ranger in Italian Carabinieri markings in 2006

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.[29]
United Kingdom
  • 1538 – Bell 47H on static display at the The Helicopter Museum in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset. It supported a scientific expedition in Antarctica.[39][40]
United States


Bell 47 owned by the Experimental Aircraft Association
United States

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

Bell 47 Drawing.svg

Data from International Directory of Civil Aircraft[14]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1 or 2
  • Capacity: 1 passenger or 2 litters
  • Length: 31 ft 7 in (9.63 m)
  • Rotor diameter: 37 ft 2 in (11.32 m)
  • Height: 9 ft 3 in (2.83 m)
  • Disc area: 1,085 sq ft (100.8 m²)
  • Empty weight: 1,893 lb (858 kg)
  • Useful load: 1,057 lb (482 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 2,950 lb (1,340 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Lycoming TVO-435-F1A flat, six-cylinder, reciprocating engine, 280 hp (210 kW)


Notable appearances in media[edit]

See also[edit]

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists



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  • Spenser, Jay P. (1998). Whirlybirds a history of the U.S. helicopter pioneers. Seattle: University of Washington Press in association with Museum of Flight. ISBN 0-295-98058-3. 
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External links[edit]