BELL AIRCRAFT CORPORATION
The Bell Aircraft Corporation was an aircraft manufacturer of the United States, a builder of several types of fighter aircraft for World War II but most famous for the Bell X-1, the first supersonic aircraft, and for the development and production of many important civilian and military helicopters. Bell also developed the Reaction Control System for the Mercury Spacecraft, North American X-15, and Bell Rocket Belt. The company was purchased in 1960 by Textron, and lives on today as Bell Helicopter.
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The Bell P-39 Airacobra was one of the principal American fighter aircraft in service when the United States entered World War II. The P-39 was used by the Soviet Air Force, and scored the highest number of individual kills attributed to any U.S. fighter type in the Eastern European theatre.[N 2] Other major users of the type included the Free French, the Royal Air Force, the United States Army Air Forces, and the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force. Designed by Bell Aircraft, it had an innovative layout, with the engine installed in the center fuselage, behind the pilot, and driving a tractor propeller via a long shaft. It was also the first fighter fitted with a tricycle undercarriage. Although its mid-engine placement was innovative, the P-39 design was handicapped by the absence of an efficient turbo-supercharger, preventing it from performing high-altitude work. As such it was rejected by the RAF for use over western Europe but adopted by the USSR where most air combat took place at medium and lower altitudes. Together with the derivative P-63 Kingcobra, the P-39 was one of the most successful fixed-wing aircraft manufactured by Bell. CLICK ON PICTURE AT RIGHT TO GO TO PLANE PAGE
The Bell P-63 Kingcobra is an American fighter aircraft developed by Bell Aircraft in World War II from the Bell P-39 Airacobra in an attempt to correct that aircraft's deficiencies. Although the P-63 was not accepted for combat use by the United States Army Air Forces, it was adopted by the Soviet Air Force. Although the XP-39E proved disappointing, the USAAF was nevertheless interested in an even larger aircraft based on the same basic layout. Even before its first flight, the USAAF placed an order on 27 June 1941 for two prototypes of an enlarged version powered by the same V-1710-47. The new design was given the designation XP-63 and serials were 41-19511 and 41-19512. A third prototype was also ordered, 42-78015, using the Packard V-1650, the U.S.-built version of the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine.
The XP-87897 was larger in all dimensions than the Airacobra. The wing was redesigned again, this time with new NACA laminar flow airfoils, 66(215)-116 a=0.6 at the root and a NACA 66(215)-216 a=0.6 at the tip. The wing taper ratio was approximately 2:1, span was 38 ft 4 in (11.68 m), and wing area was 248 sq ft (23.0 m2). The engine was fitted with a second remotely mounted supercharger, supplementing the normal single-stage supercharger. At higher altitudes, when additional boost was required, a hydraulic clutch would engage the second supercharger, adding 10,000 ft (3,000 m) to the service ceiling. A larger four-bladed propeller was also standardized. A persistent complaint against the Airacobra was that its nose armament was not easily accessible for ground maintenance, and in order to cure this problem, the XP-63 airframe was fitted with larger cowlingpanels.
In September 1942, even before the prototype flew, the USAAF ordered it into production as the P-63A (Model 33). The P-63A's armament was to be the same as the current P-39Q, a single 37 mm (1.46 in) M4 cannon firing through the propeller hub, two synchronized 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns in the cowl, and two 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns in underwing gondolas.
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