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Bell 54 / XH-15 / XR-15




By February 1946 the USAAF issued a to specification for a liaison and observation aircraft. This called for a two-seat, single main rotor type of about 1360kg gross weight and to be powered by a supercharged engine of approximately 260hp. G & A Aircraft Co (Firestone) of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, won first place and was awarded a contract for three examples of its 100hp Continental A100 powered XR-14-GA (s/n 46-527/529) which were never built. Bell, with its Model 54 proposal, won only second place in this design competition. But at that time, some AAF personnel advocated a contract with Bell and in May 1946 action was initiated for the building and development of three examples of the Model 54 under the designation XR-15-BE (to be redesignated XH-15-BE in 1948). The formal contract was signed a few weeks later. The XR-15 was to be developed both for the Air Force and Army Ground Forces.

The Model 54 was an all-metal four-seat helicopter using the same basic rotor system employed in other Bell models, featuring a two-blade rotor with stabilising bar. Power was provided by one 275hp Continental XO-47-5 engine located at the bottom of the rear cabin. Accommodation was provided for a crew of two seated side-by-side in a largely glazed cabin. It had a semi-monocoque fuselage reinforced with stiffeners and fitted with a horizontal stabiliser, and a tricycle (later quadricycle) non-retractable undercarriage. The two-bladed anti-torque rotor was fitted on the starboard side. The aircraft were initially designated XR-15, but this had been changed to XH-15 by the time the first example made its maiden flight in March 1948. Three aircraft were built (s/n 46-530-532) and tested but no production contracts followed. Though funded by the Army Ground Forces (AGF) the XH-15 was evaluated almost exclusively by the Air Force, the latter service having taken control of several AGF aviation projects following the 1947 creation of the USAF. All three examples acquired were used by the Army as high altitude research vehicles until development of the Model 54 came to a halt at the end of 1950. They were stricken from the inventory in the early 1950s. No XH-15 has survived.



Bell 54
Engine: Continental XO-47-5, 275hp
Rotor diameter: 11.38m
Length: 8.94m
Overall length: 13.43m
Height: 2.68m
Weight: 1268kg
Maximum speed: 170km/h
Absolute ceiling: 6100m
Range: 320km



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