Designed by mathematician, philosopher, and inventor Arthur Young working for the Bell Aircraft Corp. in New York, the Model 47 was the first helicopter to be issued a civilian Type Certificate by the FAA. This Franklin piston engine powered helicopter received its Type Certificate in March of 1946.
Later used during the Korean War with the U.S. Army designation H-13 Sioux, the most common model, the 47G series, came along in 1953 with a Lycoming VO-435 piston engine. The exposed welded tubular tail-boom, dual saddle-tank fuel tanks, skid landing gear, and of course the large round “bubble” canopy made the Model 47 very recognizable.
Some quick research revealed figures of more than 5,600 Model 47s built, including those produced under license from Bell by other companies around the world, with nearly 1,100 on the FAA registry today and I’m sure more in other countries. Today most operators use this tried and true light-helicopter for aerial application and helicopter flight training.
Scott’s Helicopter Services
One long time operator of the Model 47 is Scott’s Helicopter Services located in Le Sueur, MN. In 1981 Scott Churchill began operating one Model 47 for agricultural application in southern Minnesota. Over the years the business grew and today operates 20 Model 47s, 8 Bell Jet Rangers, and one B model Huey in a variety of missions: agricultural application, insect control, helicopter flight training, television news, aerial photography, and heavy lifting.
Holder of an FAA repair station certificate it performs routine maintenance and inspections on its own fleet of aircraft as well as for customers worldwide, and has a dedicated shop capable of repair and overhaul for many components, several models of the Allison turbine engines, and the Lycoming VO engines. In 1994 it became a Bell authorized service center for the Model 47.
When I visited the facility it was full of helicopters undergoing a variety of maintenance. I visited with Ben Hammer and Eric Lane as they worked on one of the helicopters used for aerial application. Both are pilots and mechanics and explained how they primarily fly aerial application or insect control in the summer months and perform maintenance in the off-season. Lane explains, “I began working here over two years ago as an aspiring helicopter pilot. The bonus for me is I also get to work on them.” One of many projects I was shown was a 1947 Bell Model B1 being readied for complete restoration.
Texas Helicopter Corp.
In an effort to ensure availability of spare parts for both his fleet and for the industry, Churchill purchased Texas Helicopter Company (THC) in 2001. THC provides numerous Model 47 replacement parts certificated under an FAA parts manufacturing approval (PMA) such as cooling fan belt sets, main-rotor grips, engine mounts, typical fluid hoses, and more. THC also supplies supplemental type certificate (STC) kits such as an exhaust muffler kit which significantly reduces noise with only minor performance losses, the “No-Bar” kit which removes the stabilizer bar from the main rotor system reducing the aircraft’s weight by more than 30 pounds and provides the pilot a more responsive feel. Additional STC kits include the Sprag Kit and Lycoming VO-435 series engine modification kits.
Realizing that availability of spare parts would continue to be a future concern for all Model 47 operators, in 2002 Churchill approached Bell Helicopter to discuss the possibility of a licensing agreement which would allow his companies to build more parts. Churchill explains these discussions were on and off for five years and eventually in 2007 the discussions went cold. Then in February 2009 Churchill received a telephone call from Bell and recalls, “I remember it well. Basically I was told they decided not to enter into a licensing agreement with my companies to build parts. Instead I was told they would sell me the Type Certificate of the Model 47.”
Scott’s – Bell 47, Inc.
Chris Meyer has been appointed General Manager of SB47.
ATP is partnering with Scotts-Bell to provide single-source, digital, technical publications services for the Bell 47 helicopter.
Lycoming has received European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) type certification for the Lycoming IO-580-B1A engine.
The STC covers replacing the original IO-360 Lycoming engine in the Mooney M20E, M20F and M20J with a new or remanufactured IO-390-A3A6 engine.