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Bell Helicopter Records

Identifier: AR0836

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The Bell Helicopter Records document seventy-one years of aviation history, including aircraft development and testing, military contracts, civil aviation, corporate life, and the growth of the Hurst-Euless-Bedford area of Dallas-Fort Worth. The majority of the collection is composed on audio-visual recordings and photographic negatives. The collection also contains office records such as memoranda, press releases, ad scripts, reports, and presentation text, many of these created by former executives of Bell Helicopter. The collection also contains a reference library of aircraft specifications, maintenance and user manuals, and promotional material that had been built and maintained by Bell Helicopter over several decades for the use of its employees. The bulk of the helicopter information in these records concerns Bell’s military aircraft, though there is also significant coverage of its civilian craft, particularly the Model 47 (the first commercial helicopter certified by the FAA), the Bell 222 twin-engine light helicopter, the 206 family (including TwinRanger, LongRanger, and JetRanger variants), the 214 and 214ST medium lift helicopters, and the four-blade Bell 407 frequently used by law enforcement and news organizations. A particular area of focus for this collection is the UH-1, or Huey, helicopter. A staple of the Vietnam War, over 7,000 Hueys were built at the Hurst, TX facility for use in Vietnam from 1962 to 1975. The collection documents the development and rollout of the experimental YH-40 model, the UH-1D and UH-1H troop transport models, the UH-1C attack helicopter, the UH-1E Marine Corps variant, and the twin-engine UH-1N, as well as other models in the Huey family. Other military helicopters documented in this collection include the H-13 Sioux light observation helicopter (used during the Korean War), the Bell 207 Sioux Scout, the AH-1 Cobra and SuperCobra attack helicopters, and the OH58 Kiowa and OH-58D Kiowa Warrior observation helicopters. Much of the collection covers Bell Helicopter’s role in the development of tiltrotor aircraft. This coverage includes early test flights of the XV-3 in the 1950s, the development and testing of the XV-15 in the 1970s and 1980s, and the rollout of the V-22 Osprey in 1989. The V-22 is extensively documented in photographs, promotional material, and press releases about the development of the aircraft.


  • Creation: 1944-2011
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1980-2000
  • Acquisition: Date acquired: 11/00/2014


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is not restricted.

Conditions Governing Use

All rights to the documents, images, recordings, and other items in the Bell Helicopter Records are retained by the University of North Texas. Materials may be reproduced for general public historical awareness purposes.

Biographical or Historical Information

Founded by aviation pioneer Lawrence Dale Bell, the company that eventually became Bell Helicopter began as part of Bell Aircraft Corporation in Buffalo, NY. In 1941, Bell made an offer to Art Young, an early pioneer in helicopter design, to join the company and provide expertise on rotor wing aircraft designs. That partnership produced the Bell 30 and the Bell 47, the first helicopter certified for civilian use. The helicopter division of the company began to exert more indepedence as its output of rotor wing aircraft began to rival Bell Aircraft's output of fixed wing aircraft. In 1951, the entire division established a new headquarters in Hurst, TX. When technology conglomerate Textron purchased Bell Aerospace in 1960, it spun off the helicopter division to create Bell Helicopter as a separate corporation. Bell Helicopter has become one of the largest manufacturers of both military and commercial aircraft in North America, with facilities in Hurst and Amarillo, TX and Mirabel, Quebec. The company is particularly known for manufacturing the UH-1, or Huey, series of helicopters, which were the workhorse aircraft for combat, troop transport, and medevac operations during the Vietnam War, and for pioneering vertical take-off and landing aircraft design with the experimental XV-15 and its full-production version, the V-22 Osprey. It also manufactures an array of civilian aircraft, including the Bell 407 frequently used by law enforcement agencies, television news stations, and for aerial filmmaking and photography, and the Bell 222, seen in the television series Airwolf.

Note written by Robert Lay


318.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The Bell Helicopter Records document seventy-one years of Bell Helicopter Textron's corporate history. The collection includes manuscript materials such as corporate memos, correspondence, planning documents, reports, studies, white papers, and spec sheets; photographs of various aircraft, noteworthy public figures, and production facilities in Hurst, TX, Amarillo, TX, Buffalo, NY, and Mirabel, Quebec, Canada; and film recordings for promotional, engineering, and training purposes. Major highlights include the UH-1, or Huey, series of helicopter, the Vietnam War, the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, and commercial aircraft including the Bell 47, the first helicopter certified for civilian use; the Bell 222 twin-engine light helicopter; the Bell 206 family, including the JetRanger and LongRanger models; and the Bell 400 TwinRanger.

Arrangement Note

The Bell Helicopter Records have been divided into nine series and eleven sub-series to reflect different offices of origin and/or intended function of the records contained therein. Each series or sub-series may feature a different level of description or system of arrangement as appropriate to the content. In general, audio/visual recordings are listed at the item level, manuscripts at the folder level, and negatives at the box level. Researchers are highly encouraged to refer to the Box and Folder Listing below for a more complete description of the scope and content of each series and sub-series.

Physical Access Requirements

This collection is stored off-site and requires a minimum of 24 hours notice prior to use.

Technical Access Requirements

Access to audio/visual recordings can be provided by the UNT Media Library. Due to the condition and age of the 16mm films, these items will are only available digitally, and must requested using the Special Collections scan-on-demand procedure. Video cassettes can be requested and viewed in the Media Library, and can also be digitized on request. At this time, access to photographic negatives can only be provided through the direct assistance of archives staff. Please contact the department for any and all photograph requests. The department can provide access to most born-digital content upon request. Proprietary file formats may not be available for immediate viewing; these will be decided on a case by case basis. Please contact the dpeartment directly for any requests involving born-digital records in the collection. Some photographs from this collection are available for viewing on the Portal to Texas History at

Custodial History

The Bell Helicopter Records were stored on-site at Bell's Hurst, TX facility. Audio/visual media and the indexed A- and B-File negatives were housed in boxes and shelves in the old A/V Room. Much of the manuscript records and printed photographs were stored in filing cabinets and plastic bins in a converted tractor trailer. These items exhibit some signs of deterioration due to exposure to the elements, but are overall in fine condition.

Source of Acquisition

Bell Helicopter Textron

Method of Acquisition


Appraisal Information

Prior to donating the materials, Bell Helicopter staff reviewed the collection to remove sensitive personnel records, proprietary company records, and any records still under government classification. A team of archivists from UNT Libraries visited the Hurst facility in June 2015 to appraise the records and advise on what types of material would be best suited for preservation. The archivists were concerned about the space constraints involved in accepting a large amount of engineering data that might have limited value in regards to the history of the company--this would include materials testing and strain test results that would be all but impossible for a person without a background in engineering to understand. After some deliberation the archivists decided that this engineering and scientific data might have value to audiences that were not traditional users of archives, and the engineering data Bell intended to transfer was not as large as previously thought. The archivists retained this material, with the exception of three linear feet of photo-negatives labeled "MET Lab." MET Lab refers to the metellurgical lab, which conducted microscopic analysis of aircraft materials. These negatives were microscopic photographs of unidentifiable material samples, and could not be traced to any written test reports. Representatives from Bell did not believe that there was anyone capable of providing information about the MET Lab negatives, so these materials were deaccessioned from the collection. In addition to the MET Lab negatives, the archivists deaccessioned multiple copies of records. Among the manuscripts were several hundred identical copies of aircraft brochures. The archivists retained three copies of each of these and deaccessioned the remainder.

Accruals and Additions

Original donation: Accession # 2014-75 First accretion: Accession # 2016-43

Processing Information

These records were processed by the special projects team of the Department of Special Collections. Sam Ivie - Photographic prints, photographic negatives, and slides Amanda Montgomery - Negative index database Savannah Bruce - Reference Library, Aircraft Files, and photographic negatives Connor Flowers - Executive Files, Public Relations, photographic negatives, and negative index database Trista Neeley - Audio/visual materials and Reference Library Morgan Sisk - Photographic negatives Robert Lay - Aircraft Files, Sales Records, and general project management and oversight

Bell Helicopter Records
Robert Lay, Sam Ivie, Amanda Montgomery, Savannah Bruce, Connor Flowers, Morgan Sisk, and Trista Neeley
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of North Texas Special Collections Repository

University of North Texas, Willis Library
1155 Union Circle # 305190
Denton TX 76203 US