Scott’s Helicopter Services of Le Sueur, Minn., has acquired the type certificate and assumed all aspects of commercial spares support, technical support and continued airworthiness for the Bell 47 (H-1, 2H1 and 2H3 models). The aircraft will be known as “Scott’s-Bell 47.” Scott’s is a Bell-approved customer service facility.
The Bell 47 made its first flight on Dec. 8, 1945, and more than 5,600 were built before production ended in 1974. Approximately 800 remain in service worldwide and an estimated 500 of those are in the U.S. The 47 was the first helicopter certified by the FAA, the first used by all branches of U.S. armed forces, the first helicopter used as a gunship, to cross the Swiss Alps, to carry a U.S. president and to spray crops–a role it continues today. NASA used the 47 as a lunar module training aid for Apollo astronauts.
“This model really started the commercial helicopter business, and Bell has a lot of heritage in the 47,” said Danny Maldonado, Bell senior v-p and chief services officer. “However, we felt it was the best thing for our customers, and the 47, to transition ongoing support to Scott’s Helicopter.”
Scott Churchill, a 17,000-hour helicopter pilot, founded Scott’s Helicopter Services in 1981 [at Le Sueur out of a single hangar]. Churchill said the 47 remains an ideal platform for aerial crop dusting applications. “I’ve been flying for 35 years and I have yet to find another aircraft that can take the pounding these can take,” he said. Churchill said another key reason the 47 remains popular for aerial application is its portability. “You can land on top of a mobile truck [loaded with insecticide and aviation fuel] right in the field.”
He said the 47 has retained a loyal, albeit niche, following in the training, utility and agricultural markets because of its ease of maintenance, reliability and durability and pleasant flying qualities.
Churchill began preliminary discussions with Bell about acquiring the 47’s type certificate in 2001 and those talks became more serious in 2003. He plans to increase the staff of his Model 47 support facility from the current six to 25 employees and initially will house it in a separate building he owns in Le Sueur, but may construct a new dedicated facility next year. He also plans to draw on Minnesota’s native aerospace manufacturing companies, cultivated in part by Cirrus Aircraft in Duluth, for any needed parts production capacity. As part of the deal Scott is acquiring all of Bell’s Model 47 inventory and will continue to work closely with Bell engineering. “We’re still staying somewhat joined at the hip,” he said. “As a Bell CSF we can still hire Bell engineering staff to help” as needed.
Churchill also said that he has received excellent support from the FAA in acquiring the Bell 47’s type certificate. “The FAA is excited about this and it has been very positive,” he added.