Bell's XV-3 Tiltrotor Returns Home

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Late last month, a truckload of aircraft parts was delivered to Bell Helicopter’s Flight Research Center at the Arlington (Tex.) Municipal Airport. Normally, such an event would simply mean that testing of a new or improved model could continue. But this time, the truck held the remains of the Bell XV-3, the world’s first successful tiltrotor aircraft. Over the next two years Bell employees and volunteers will restore the aircraft to museum-quality display condition. Built by Bell in 1954 in Fort Worth under a joint Army/Air Force contract, the XV-3 successfully demonstrated the concept that by rotating its outboard prop-rotors up or down, the aircraft could take off and land vertically like a traditional helicopter as well as fly with the high speed and range of a fixed-wing airplane.

Bell Helicopter will keep the XV-3 in Fort Worth, until 2008, when the historic plane goes on permanent display at the U.S. Air Force Museum in Ohio. Bell officials pointed out while the XV-3 will never fly again, it remains an important part of America’s aviation heritage. The XV-3 restoration project will take place near where the first V-22 tiltrotor aircraft were built and test flown as well as where the newest and first civil tiltrotor, the BA609, is being developed.