|Bell Aircraft Plant to be Designated a Historic Aerospace Site
Wheatfield, N.Y. Plant Produced the Bell X-1,First Aircraft to Break the Sound Barrier
October 2, 2012 – Reston, Va. – The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) will designate the Bell Aircraft Plant, Wheatfield, New York, as a historic aerospace site. A historic marker will be unveiled October 14, at a 2:00 p.m. ceremony at the Calspan Flight Research Facility, Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Bell Aircraft, founded in 1935 by Lawrence Dale “Larry” Bell, based its primary manufacturing facility in Wheatfield, New York, where several important aircraft were designed and produced. During the World War II era, the plant produced the P-39 Airacobra and the P-63 Kingcobra fighters. The P-39 was used to great effect by the Soviet Air Force, with the highest number of individual kills recorded by any U.S.-produced fighter aircraft during the war. The plant also designed and manufactured the P-59A Airacomet, the first U.S. jet aircraft, from 1942 to 1945, as well as the Bell 47, the first commercially certified helicopter.
Among the plant’s most famous contributions to aerospace science were the Bell X-1 (originally designated the XS-1) and the Bell X-2 experimental airplanes. On October 14, 1947, a Bell X-1 piloted by U.S. Air Force test pilot Charles “Chuck” Yeager became the first airplane to break the sound barrier, achieving a speed of Mach 1.06 or 807.2 miles per hour. The Bell X-2 achieved a record-setting speed of Mach 3.2, or 2,094 miles per hour on September 27, 1956, but was lost, along with pilot Milburn “Mel” G. Apt, when it could not recover from a spin brought on by “inertia coupling” during the flight. Other “X” designs produced at the plant were the X-5, X-9, X-14, XV-3, and the X-22.
The plant also manufactured key components of NASA’s Apollo project from 1963 to 1968, including the Lunar Module ascent engine, the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle, and the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle, ignominiously dubbed “The Flying Bedstead” by Apollo astronauts.
AIAA established the Historic Aerospace Sites Program in January, 2000, to promote the preservation and dissemination of information about significant accomplishments made in the aerospace profession. In addition to Bell Aircraft’s Wheatfield, N.Y. plant, other sites recognized by the AIAA History Technical Committee include Pearson Field, Vancouver, Wash.; Bremen Airport, Bremen, Germany; Getafe Airfield, Getafe, Spain; the site of T.S.C. Lowe’s first balloon reconnaissance demonstration; the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory/CALSPAN Facility; the St. Petersburg Yacht Basin; the Honeysuckle Creek, Tidbinbilla, and Orroral Valley Tracking Stations in Australia; the Downey Industrial Site, Downey, Calif.; NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.; and Tranquility Base on the moon. For more information about AIAA’s Historic Aerospace Sites Program, contact Emily Springer at 703.264.7533 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
AIAA is the world’s largest technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession. With more than 35,000 individual members worldwide, and nearly 100 corporate members, AIAA brings together industry, academia, and government to advance engineering and science in aviation, space, and defense. For more information, please visit www.aiaa.org ### American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics 1801 Alexander Bell Drive, Suite 500, Reston, VA 20191-4344 Phone: 703.264.7558 Fax: 703.264.7551 www.aiaa.org