|Arthur Young: Maker of the Bell 47 helicopter|
by Richard S. Tipton
In Search of a Challenge
"There were so many crashes that Arthur had to learn mass production of rotor blades," recalled Kelley, "so he taught a neighboring farm boy how to make them. "
In 1937, Young developed a larger model, powered by a 20-horsepower outboard motor. It involved complicated gearing which went up through the hub, out through the blades—turned a corner and spun the little propellers on each blade.
"I used this model to explore stress problems and it blew up on me three times before I got it to hold together," Young said. "This model was the wrong type and I had to throw the whole thing out, but the experience gained in calculating stress and building parts proved invaluable."
"I returned to making smaller models and began to concentrate on stability." Young observed. "This meant I had to have flights and have wrecks."
"Many earlier helicopters had received backing only to crash on their trial run. The backers then backed out and the project collapsed. I felt you had to have the crackups before the initial flight, because these crackups were teaching you something."
He began to make progress. If the model had a wreck he could rebuild it in a day and move quickly ahead—experimenting with different rotor configurations.
"My major problem was that when the small helicopter model I was working with took off, it would start to tip a little—dash off to one side and then dash back again. After several swings the model tipped over.
His first thought was to install a pendulum which would sense gravity. But tests showed that the pendulum didn't know the difference between acceleration and gravity.
"After a series of unsuccessful flights I decided to try a stabilizer bar, " Young said. "The bar was linked directly to the rotor so the rotor plane was controlled independently of the mast.
"With the addition of this device, the model performed remarkably, showing great stability. In a few days I was flying the helicopter in the barn. I could even hover it motionless."
The problem which had plagued Young had finally been solved.
Growing helicopters at Gardenville
After a decade of research, many failures and the big breakthrough with the inven tion of the stabilizer bar, Young was now ready to perfect a model that would appeal to a manufacturer and result in the production of full scale helicopters.
There was one drawback. Although the stabilizer bar provided smooth model flights, there were no remote controls for demonstration purposes.
"Arthur solved this problem by replacing the bar with a flywheel positioned on top of the mast," Bart Kelley explained. "The rapidly turning flywheel tilted the rotor as the bar had previously done, and the flywheel could be tilted by the operator on the ground by means of solenoids or electromagnets. This remote control system enabled him to maneuver the model around the old barn's interior and even fly it out the door and back."
"The flight was made before a group of engineers in a small area of the factory which was brimming with Airacobra pursuit planes." Young remarked. "After the demonstration, I showed my film, "Principles of Stability". It traced the various rotors I'd used in my flight tests. The ending concentrated on my present remote control model.
"Then came my introduction to Larry Bell. I took a fancy to him right away. Larry was a marvelous person with a great sense of humor and he always knew what was going on.
"One day, I remember, he was walking me through the plant and some Army visitors were coming our way. He too'k me by the arm and said, Arthur, I want you to meet some members of the opposite sex. "
Larry Bell and the inventor reached an agreement and on November 24, 1941 Young and his assistant, Bart Kelley, arrived at the plant to supervise the initial building of two prototypes that were called for in the terms of the contract.
"I've known Arthur since I was seven years old," Kelley said. "When I was serving as his apprentice in 1931, he was measuring the thrust of the propellors he had mounted at the tips of the blades of his helicopter model."
Prior to his working reunion with Young in 1941, Kelley had picked up a B.A. and M.A. in physics from Harvard and had devoted six years of teaching mathematics in Massachusetts' preparatory schools.
"When I arrived at Bell," Young continued, "I thought there would be engineers and experts on many subjects—that we'd immediately start building a full scale helicopter after I told them how big it would be. But nothing happened. They were all too busy with war contracts following December 7.
"I waited. There would be conferences from time to time, but they didn't amount to anything. Then one day a carpenter came in our office and started sawing the walls down. I asked him, 'what are you doing?' In a tone that implied I was a ninny, he said they were going to enlarge the place—put in 24 drafting boards so we could make the helicopter.
"I didn't want to make drawings. Drawings, which were the normal procedures for airplanes, wouldn't work for the complex and untried mechanism of the helicopter. Drawings would come later after we built the prototype
"Then I discovered something interesting as I was going over the budget with the engineer who had been assigned to us. It specified that $250,000 was to make drawings for the helicopters—not to build them as stated in the contract."
"I must have been divinely inspired, because I went over to the head of manufacturing and explained the predicament. He spoke my language and said o.k., he'd sign a budget to make two helicopters provided that the engineering drafting department had nothing to do with it.
"Now that I had the budget problem out of the way, I began to think—how do you build a helicopter? It's a horrendous thing —like going to a department store an asking for parts for a space vehicle or something. They may have a lot of items but not the ones we needed.
"I determined that in order to have more room to build and fly the machine, it was essential that we have our own plant. I wrote a memo on the subject and received no response. Subsequently I learned the operating funding was being withheld. The reason, it seems, was that Larry Bel was concerned about how safely a helicopter could land in the event of engine failure.
"My idea for a demonstration of auto rotation was to put a raw egg on the model as a passenger. I picked up two eggs at nearby restaurant—one was for dress rehearsal—and set up a time with Larry to see the performance."
"Back at the shop I rigged the machine to a vertical wire that was attached to the 30-foot ceiling. The model climbed too fast on my first attempt and the egg was tossed out as it hit the ceiling. When Larry saw the test, however, everything went smoothly and the helicopter autorated to the floor without breaking the egg. He was more than pleased with the demonstration and the funds were released.
"After some searching, we found our location—an old Chrysler agency and garage which was about 10 miles from Bell in Gardenville, a suburb of Buffalo. It had a big yard for preliminary testing and a meadow where we could make short flights. The building was easily converted into a combination machine shop, drafting room, office and workshop for making the blades. The garage served as our manufacturing facility."
Almost immediately, following the Gardenville move on June 23,1942, a group of maintenance men paid an unforgettable visit to the new helicopter plant.
"They put up a board fence, painted it Navy gray and placed searchlights and armed guards all around," Young said. "I called Bell powers and said listen—this will only attract attention to the place.
Everything was removed and our security measures were reduced to an inconspicuous night watchman."
Young and his small staff were now ready to go to work on constructing the first helicopter, the Model 30.
Having their ups and downs
When Bell opened its first helicopter plant in Gardenville, there were about 15 people, including engineers, body men, tool and pattern makers, flight mechanics and one welder.
According to Bart Kelley, during the three-year Gardenville project (from June 1942 to June 1945 ), employees never exceeded 32 in number.
The rollout ceremony, however, was short lived because the machine wouldn't start. Kelley towed it back inside with his car. Two batteries were added which gave the engine enough spark to kick her off.
"We made the helicopter so quickly, because we weren't too sure how to make it," Young reflected. "It took longer when you knew all the things that had to be done right."
Although Arthur Young was not a pilot, he was the first to take the control of the Model 30 which was tethered to cables behind the garage. He sat on the helicopter's seat—a wooden bench—and made brief hovers that were not more than a foot off the ground during early testing.
"Our first problem was excess vibration wheneverArthur hovered in a breeze of 20 knots or so," Kelleypointed out. "We later solved this problem, but around late December of 1942 we had our first major setback.
"A Bell executive who was also a pilot, felt he should be the first to make the initial flight. While getting the feel of the machine in a tethered hover, he lost control was tossed into the rotor and slung onto a snow bank. Fortunately, his injuries were limited to a broken arm."
On June 26, 1943 the cable was removed and Carlson took the Model 30 on its maiden run around the meadow behind the garage. Six members of the Gardenville group, incidentally, acquired the ability to fly the helicopter from this tethered technique.
"During our first flights, the aircraft flew very well," Young said, "until it got up to 25 miles per hour. Then, the helicopter experienced severe vibrations. It was actually Floyd who came up with an idea to remedy the situation. He suggested put tiny a brace on the rotor which we called the Swedish yoke. This yoke stiffened the rotor and we didn't have this problem anymore."
By July 1943, Ship No. 1 was flying at speeds over 70 miles per hour. The aircraft's legs had been removed and replaced with wheels. Genevieve's fuselage and tail-boom were also dressed up and painted blue so she'd look pretty during demonstrations.
While flights of the first Model 30 were underway, Ship No. 2 was being manufactured. Its specifications called for an enclosed cabin instead of the open cockpit and room for a passenger as well as the pilot.
"Under the agreement that Arthur had with Larry Bell," Bart Kelley injected, "the first helicopter would be made to demonstrate the principles, the second, a twoplace machine, was to give Larry a ride."
As the flight envelope for Ship No. 1 expanded, the field behind the garage wasn't big enough for sufficient manuevers, so the aircraft was towed by car to a small airport on Buffalo's west side.
Ship No. 2 replaced the first Model 30 as the test vehicle in late September 1943. It would have made its debut earlier, but suggestions came from Bell Aircraft that the helicopter should look like an AirCobra.
Relating Mr. Bell's impression of the flight, Bart Kelley reports: "Larry said that since he was raised on a farm in Indiana, he'd seen a cow from every angle. But he'd never seen a cow from the angle that was provided by the helicopter."