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Lawrence Bell

Bell, Lawrence Dale

Enshrined 1977 1894-1956

When Bell Aircraft was asked to submit a proposal for an experimental airplane to break the supersonic speed barrier, Bell cautioned his engineers to throw the books away. In this experiment, he insisted, there would be no previous aircraft standards. This laid the groundwork for the Air Force’s first rocket-propelled airplane, the X-1, to be built for NACA’s flight research.

  • In 1935 formed the Bell Aircraft Corporation to develop advanced military airplanes, including the B-29 Superfortress and the first U.S. jet airplane the P-59.
  • Developed and produced the first commercially licensed helicopter in 1946.
  • In 1947 received the Collier Trophy for the rocket powered Bell X-1 breaking the sound barrier with Chuck Yeager.
  • Developed guided bombs, missiles, and rocket engines as well as vertical take-off and landing aircraft.


Born in Mentone, Indiana, Bell became an airplane mechanic for his brother, Grover, and Lincoln Beachey in 1912. Employed by the Glenn L. Martin Company in 1913, he eventually rose to General Manager. Bell then joined the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation in 1928, and later became its Vice President and General Manager.

In 1935, Bell formed the Bell Aircraft Corporation to develop advanced military airplanes. His first, the Airacuda, was a twin-engine fighter with pusher propellers. His next achievement was the advanced P-39 Airacobra fighter with a tricycle landing gear, a mid/fuselage-located engine and a cannon firing through the propeller hub. Next came the P-63 Kingcobra fighter, the RP-63 Pinball target plane and the PT-39 trainer. Bell built the first U.S. jet airplane, the P-59 Airacomet, which opened a new era in American aviation. His company also produced B-29 Superfortress bombers; aircraft gun mounts, radar-controlled remote flight systems, the XP-77 interceptor and the XP-83 twin-jet fighter. In 1946, the rocket-powered Bell X-1 became the first airplane to break the sound barrier, for which Bell received the Collier trophy. The modified X-1A exceeded Mach 2.5, the X-2 attained 2,148 mph and 126,000 feet altitude, and the X-5 was the first aircraft with variable sweepback wings. Meanwhile, Bell developed and in 1946 produced the first commercially-licensed helicopter. He followed up these accomplishments with the widely-used Sioux and Iroquois series helicopters. Bell also developed guided bombs, missiles and rocket engines, as well as the XV-3 Convertiplane and the X-14 vertical takeoff and landing aircraft.

To Lawrence Dale Bell, for outstanding contributions to aviation during his career with early aircraft companies and his development of innovative and unique aircraft that opened new frontiers to flight, this award is most solemnly and respectfully dedicated.

Lawrence Dale Bell died on October 20th, 1956.