The Aerospace Industry in Buffalo, NY

Bell Aircraft in Buffalo, NY
1935-1960 Time Line and
25 Photographs from the Niagara Aerospace Museum taken in 2002


Special thanks to the staff of the Niagara Aerospace Museum, especially Curator/Sr. Historian Richard Byron, for their cooperation and assistance
Time Line below illustrations



Click on illustrations to enlarge and information

Major Reuben Fleet

Consolidated's Vice President in charge of sales, Lawrence D. (Larry) Bell

The P-39Q Airacobra in production in the Wheatfield plant in 1943.

Detail of previous photo

P-39Q Airacobra built at the Wheatfield plant.

P-39Q Airacobra.

P-39Q Airacobra

The 47B-3 was the second model to be developed in 1947.

The 47B-3 was the first commercially licensed helicopter

The 47B-3




X-22A V/STOL.

X-22A V/STOL

X-22A V/STOL

X-22A V/STOL

X-22A propeller

Rocket Belt

Cold gas (nitrogen) pre-prototype of one-man Rocket Belt.

Rocket Belt.

GAM-63 "Rascal" Rocket

The Rascal's engine

Detail of previous photo.


Larry Bell Forest Lawn Monument


Detail of previous photo.






Time Line
1924 Major Reuben Fleet merges two out-of-state aircraft companies and establishes the Consolidated Aircraft Company and moves it into the building Curtiss built (and left at the end of WW1) at 2050 Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo. This followed a successful career in the US Army where he learned to fly during WW1. In 1919, he was given the job of starting the first US Air Mail Service with Army Corps pilots flying Curtiss Jennys.

Among the many airplanes Consolidated will develop (after the company left Buffalo) are the world famous PB2Y Catalina navy flying boat, the PT-1, PT-3, and XPY-1 "Admiral."
1928 Consolidated develops the "Huskie, Jr." for military and civilian use. (These are also produced in Consolidated's Fort Erie plant.)

Lawrence D. ("Larry") Bell joins Consolidated as Vice President in charge of sales.
1935 Consolidated moves to San Diego.

Larry Bell, vice president and general manager for Consolidated, with the help of three associates from Consolidated, decides to found his own company in Buffalo .

Bell's vision entails designing airplanes for the military that are designed around great firepower, rather than in the traditional method of adding firepower to airframe designs. With a 1936 contract, he begins with the YFM Airacobra, one of the many cutting edge designs by engineer Bob Woods.
1940 Bell Aircraft moves into a brand-new plant that the federal government helps finance for them in Niagara Falls, the Wheatfield plant. Bell employs 32,022 by the end of the year
1941 The Wheatfield plant produces Bob Woods' P-39 Airacobra. By the time construction cease in 1944, 9588 will have been built.

After combat experience with the Airacobra, an upgraded airframe, designated P-63 Kingcobra will succeed the Airacobra. Over 3600 will be built, most sent to the Russian front for close-support against Nazi armor.

Bell employment will rise from 56 employees to 36,000 at the peak of war production.

Bell begins helicopter development, setting up an experimental shop in Gardenville.
1942 Bell builds and flies the first American jet plane, the P-59 Airacomet. The P-59 is built in utmost secret on the upper floor of the old Ford (later Trico, now Tri-Main) plant on Main Street. It is then shipped to California via rail with a propeller attached to it as a disguise.
1946 The 47B is the first Bell helicopter model in production.

The 47B3, the second model to be developed, is the first aircraft designed and produced by a manufacturer primarily for agricultural work. This "roadster" model had a full view open cockpit, easy access, rear view mirrors and small windshield that deflects the wind nicely.

Further, the Bell Aircraft Co. designs and fabricates agricultural accessories for dusting and spraying.
1947 Bell develops several rocket-powered planes, beginning with the X-1, first aircraft to break the sound barrier when Chuck Yeager flies at 760 mph on October 14.
1950s A series of X aircraft are built: the X-1A, X-2 , and X-5. Many of the workers who were laid off after the war are rehired.

X-1 is designed to break the sound barrier.

The X-2 is designed to fly twice the speed of sound. Two are built, but one is jettisoned into Lake Ontario when fire breaks out. The second plane fails to meet expectations. In the process, the test pilot is killed

X-5 is the first adjustable-wing aircraft.

The "Meteor" guided missile is also developed.
1960s The Aegina engine is developed for unmanned satellite launchings (still being used in the new century because of reliability and low cost).

Bell starts developing amphibious hovercrafts (still being used in the new century.)

Bell Aircraft moves to Texas
because of technological changes in the industry, management turnovers, and the high cost of manufacturing in New York State.

Sources of text:


See also: Lawrence Bell Memorial in Forest Lawn Cemetery Illustrations

Photos and their arrangement 2002 Chuck LaChiusa
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