bell aircraft - As a teenager Larry Bell saw his first...

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As a teenager, Larry Bell saw his first plane at an air show, starting a lifelong fascination with aviation. Bell dropped out of high school in 1912 to join his brother in the burgeoning aircraft industry at the Glenn L. Martin Company , where by 1914 he had become shop superintendent. By 1920 Bell was vice president and general manager of Martin, by now based in Cleveland, OH . Feeling that he deserved part ownership, in late 1924 he presented Martin with an ultimatum. Mr. Martin refused, and Bell quit. Bell spent several years out of the aviation industry, but in 1928 was hired by Reuben H. Fleet at Consolidated Aircraft , in Buffalo, New York where he was guaranteed an interest in the company. Before long, Bell became general manager and business was booming, but he still wanted to be able to run his own company. He knew that, although he could raise local capital, he would not be able to compete with either Consolidated or Curtiss-Wright , the two major aircraft builders also based in Buffalo. Serendipitously, in 1935 Fleet decided to move Consolidated Aircraft to San Diego , and Bell stayed behind to establish his own company, the Bell Aircraft Company, on 10 July 1935, headquartered in the former Consolidated plant at 2050 Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo. Incidentally, Bell was the third major aircraft builder to occupy the site. The factory complex was originally built in 1916 for the Curtiss Aeroplane & Motor Company , [1] and during World War I had been considered the largest airplane factory in the world. Bell's first military contract followed in 1937 with the development of the ill-fated YFM-1 Airacuda , an unconventional bomber-destroyer powered by two Allison - powered pusher propellers . The YFM-1 incorporated groundbreaking technology for the time, with gyro stabilized weapons sighting and a thermionic fire control system. Including the prototype, just 13 Airacudas were produced, and these saw only limited service with the USAAC before being scrapped in 1942.
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Bell enjoyed much success the following year with the development of the single engine P-39 , of which 9,588 were built. Putting their previous experience with Allison engines to good use, the P-39 placed the engine in the center of the aircraft, with the propeller driven by a long shaft through which a 37mm cannon was also mounted, firing through the propeller's spinner. Due to persistent development and production
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