Nelson Dragonfly

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Nelson BB1 Dragonfly in storage.jpg
A Bowlus/Nelson BB-1 Dragonfly in storage at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Dulles, Virginia.
Role Motor glider
National origin United States
Manufacturer Hawley Bowlus
Designer Hawley Bowlus
Introduction 1947
Number built 7
Developed from Bowlus BA-100 Baby Albatross

The Bowlus/Nelson BB-1 Dragonfly is an American, two seat, strut-braced, high-wing motor glider that was developed from the Bowlus BA-100 Baby Albatross glider by Hawley Bowlus.[1][2]

Design and development[edit]

The development of the Dragonfly was sponsored by the Nelson Engine Company to promote the use of their H-44 25 hp (19 kW) four cylinder two-stroke engine. The engine was mounted in the rear of the fuselage pod, in pusher configuration, with the wooden two bladed 42 in (107 cm) propeller below the metal tail boom. The fuel tank holds 3 U.S. gallons (11 L; 2.5 imp gal), enough for self-launching, but not for cross-country powered flight.[1][2][3]

The Dragonfly shares the Baby Albatross's molded plywood fuselage pod, aluminium tube tail boom and strut-braced double spar wooden wing, covered in aircraft fabric aft of the spar. The leading edge is a plywood D-cell. The aircraft features dual controls and a retractable tricycle landing gear with a steerable nose wheel. The engine is started by a ratchet-wire recoil start system that allows restarts in flight, as well as on the ground.[1][2]

Federal Aviation Administration certification of the type was achieved on 21 April 1947, with Nelson Aircraft Corporation as the certificate holder and the type officially known as Nelson Auxiliary Power Glider BB-1. The type certificate indicates that neither the engine nor the propeller need be certified. The type certificate specifies that the Nelson H-49 engine of 28 hp (21 kW) may also be installed.[3]

The Dragonfly was later replaced in production by the improved Nelson Hummingbird PG-185B.[4][5]

Operational history[edit]

In operational use the Nelson powerplant proved heavy and lacking in power and, as the Sailplane Directory terms it, "the result was an under-powered sailplane". The 25 hp (19 kW) engine gave the Dragonfly a sea level climb rate of just 235 fpm (1.19 m/s) and a take-off run of 900 ft (274 m). As a result of the performance deficiencies only seven were produced.[1][2]

In March 2011 there were still four BB-1s registered in the USA, two of which had been transferred to the National Soaring Museum.[6]

Aircraft on display[edit]

Specifications (Dragonfly)[edit]

Data from Sailplane Directory, Soaring and FAA Type Certificate Data Sheet[1][2][3]

General characteristics

  • Crew: one
  • Capacity: one passenger
  • Wingspan: 47 ft 4 in (14.43 m)
  • Wing area: 169 sq ft (15.7 m2)
  • Aspect ratio: 13.25
  • Empty weight: 580 lb (263 kg)
  • Gross weight: 940 lb (426 kg)
  • Fuel capacity: 3 U.S. gallons (11 L; 2.5 imp gal)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Nelson H-44 four cylinder, two stroke, 25 hp (19 kW)
  • Propellers: 2-bladed wooden, 3 ft 6 in (1.07 m) diameter


  • Maximum glide ratio: 18:1
  • Rate of climb: 235 ft/min (1.19 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 5.56 lb/sq ft (27.1 kg/m2)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Activate Media (2006). "Dragonfly Bowlus Nelson". Retrieved 10 March 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Said, Bob: 1983 Sailplane Directory, Soaring Magazine, page 118. Soaring Society of America, November 1983. USPS 499-920
  3. ^ a b c Federal Aviation Administration (April 1947). "Aircraft Type Certificate Data Sheet GTC19" (PDF). Retrieved 10 March 2011. 
  4. ^ Activate Media (2006). "Hummingbird PG-185B Nelson". Retrieved 12 March 2011. 
  5. ^ Said, Bob: 1983 Sailplane Directory, Soaring Magazine, page 123. Soaring Society of America, November 1983. USPS 499-920
  6. ^ Federal Aviation Administration (March 2011). "Make / Model Inquiry Results". Retrieved 10 March 2011. 
  7. ^ "Nelson Dragonfly". Retrieved 14 October 2015. 
  8. ^ National Soaring Museum (2011). "Sailplanes in Our Collection". Retrieved 26 February 2011. 
  9. ^ Federal Aviation Administration (March 2011). "Make / Model Inquiry Results". Retrieved 10 March 2011.