In 1966, the Beatles performed their last concert together, a satellite was sent to orbit the moon for the first time and Muhammad Ali defended his world championship in boxing. In the very same year, this Bell 47 “Soloy” was built; it now forms part of the Flying Bulls fleet. On the occasion of its 50th birthday, it is worth taking a look at the exciting history of a legendary helicopter.
Anyone who saw lots of television and cinema films from the sixties to the eighties will recognise it immediately: the Bell 47, the helicopter with the distinctive glass dome. Hardly any other helicopter has appeared nearly as much in television series or cinema films, be it in “Thunderball” with Sean Connery as James Bond or in “Where Eagles Dare” with Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. It played one of the main roles to some extent in the television series M*A*S*H: the series took place during the Korean War in a mobile army surgical hospital – the Bell 47 was the primary means of transport there. These helicopters were actually used in the Korean War, among others, but countries such as Japan, Italy or Germany used them as military helicopters. However a civilian version was also made: after the maiden flight in December 1945, type approval was granted a year later – the first civilian helicopter in the world.
In total, around 16,000 Bell 47 models were made in different versions – all proved themselves over decades with their exceptional longevity. Some models, such as the Flying Bulls’ OE-XDM for example, were retrofitted with a turbine powertrain to increase the lifespan. The additional “Soloy” name was given to the Bell 47 by the company of the same name, which carried out the conversion work on the aircraft. The 800 kg helicopter is powered by a 2-blade rotor and initially an Allison turbine engine, then later a Rolls Royce turbine engine.
The Flying Bulls’ model can look back on an exciting history. Built in 1966, it was sold in 1988 and brought from the USA to Europe and was used to spray crops there. In 1998, just before 10,000 flying hours had been completed, it was damaged by a heavy landing. One year later, it was discovered by Christian Haiml. The expert in rotor aircraft stripped it down and put 1,200 man hours into it. In December 2002, a test flight was completed successfully, before it became part of the Flying Bulls fleet in 2003.
A Bell 47 is now a genuine rarity and anyone who is familiar with its exciting history knows that there are still some chapters to be added to this. The Flying Bulls congratulate the birthday boy and are looking forward to many further unforgettable flying hours with the Bell 47 “Soloy”.