Bell-47G of the 20S squadron seen at NAS Fréjus-Saint Raphaël. (ARR)
LIGHT UTILITY AND TRAINING HELICOPTER
The world's first truly successful helicopter, the diminutive Bell Model 47 was built to the tune of over 5, 000 airframes between the late 1940s and the early 1970s. Production lines were set up in Italy by Augusta, the UK by Westlands and by Kawasaki in Japan. The helicopter can trace its lineage back to the Model 30 of 1943, which the US Army ordered (ten examples) for service evaluation. Following their recommendations for general improvements, Bell created the Model 47 in late 1945, and this became the first helicopter to be certificated by the American Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA). Military orders followed in 1947, with both the USAAF and the USN acquiring examples as the YR-13 and HTL-1 respectively. The US Army followed suit the following year by purchasing 65 H-13Bs. Bell continued to improved its Model 13 as more and more civil and military orders flowed in, and by 1953 it had focused production on the Model 47G. The military H-13 saw widespread use in the medevac role in Korea, assuming this critical mission from the Grasshoppers of WWII. Numerous other air arms also experienced the versatility of the helicopter for the first time with the Bell 47, and today the type still remains in service albeit in greatly reduced numbers. The helicopter made its first flight on December 8th 1945.
The French Navy used three Bell 47D1s and 12 Bell 47Gs which flew between 1954 and 1960. The first example was a second-hand D1 version, it was delivered in June 1951 and was affected at NAS St-Mandrier on October 3rd to the new training squadron, the 58S. The Bell-47s were also used by the 20S squadron.