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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. More than 5,600 Bell 47 aircraft were produced, including aircraft produced under license by Agusta in Italymarker, Kawasaki Heavy Industries in Japanmarker, and Westland Aircraft in the United Kingdommarker. The Bell 47J Ranger is modifed version with a fully enclosed cabin and fuselage.

Design and development

Bell 47J Ranger

Early models were variable 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 to a more utilitarian style. The most common model, the 47G introduced in 1953, can be recognized by the full bubble canopy, exposed welded-tube tail boom, saddle fuel tanks, and skid landing gear.

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

Engines were Franklin or Lycoming horizontally-opposed piston engine 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). Many are still in use as trainer and in agriculture (as of 2005).

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 tailboom and fuel tanks like the G series. They were sold throughout Asia, and some were used in Australia.

Operational history

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 United States Army. It has also served as the helicopter of choice for basic helicopter flight instruction in many countries.

NASAmarker had a number of Bell 47s during the Apollo program, used by astronauts as a trainer for the Lunar Lander. Eugene Cernan had a near disastrous accident shortly before his flight to the moon on Apollo 17 by crashing one into the Indian River.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department in California used the Bell 47 as the department's very first aircraft in 1957.


  • 13 May 1949, a Bell 47 set an altitude record of 18,550 feet (5,650 m).
  • 21 September 1950, first helicopter to fly over the Alps.
  • 17 September 1952, Bell pilot Elton J. Smith set a world distance record of 1,217 mi (1,959 km), by flying nonstop from Hurst, Texas to Buffalo, New York.


Section source: Aviastar


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.
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.
Bell 47C
Bell 47D: First to appear with a moulded 'goldfish bowl' canopy.
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.
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.
Bell 47J Ranger: A four-seat version powered by an Avco Lycoming VO-435 engine.


See H-13 Sioux

Licenced versions

Agusta A.115:1971 Italian prototype of a Bell 47J with an unclad, tubular tail boom, and powered by a Turboméca 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.


Government operators


H-13G/H In M*A*S*H markings at Pueblo Museum.

Specifications (Bell 47G-3B)

Popular culture

Later (post Korean war) Bell 47G in faux M*A*S*H paint scheme.

The Bell 47 appeared, and played key roles, in film and television productions. It has been associated with both the M*A*S*H film and M*A*S*H television series, and the Whirlybirds TV series (1957–1959).

See also




  • Mutza, Wayne. H-13 Sioux Mini in Action. Carrollton, TX: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1995. ISBN 0-89747-329-0
  • McGowen, Stanley S. Helicopters: An Illustrated History of Their Impact. Weapons and warfare series. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO, 2005. ISBN 1851094687
  • pp. 21-26.
  • United States, Headquarters Department of the Army, Army Concept Team in Vietnam. Final Report of Essential Load of Scout Helicopters. Saigon, Vietnam: Army Concept Team in Vietnam, 1966.

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