The prototype Bell Model 47, c/n 1 was awarded the world’s first commercial helicopter license, NC-1H, on March 6, 1948. The one pictured here is the fifth Model 47 built and was licensed as NC-3H. Production followed, both civil and military, with totals reaching 416 by the end of 1952. Production of the Model 47 ended in 1973.
Bell Model 47 serial number 5’s initial registration number was NX92842. It became NC-3H and was assigned to the new Bell Helicopter pilot training school. This is the only survivor of the original 11 Bell Model 47s. The helicopter was certified on May 10, 1946 and the first flight was on May 14, 1946. Larry Bell donated the helicopter to the Burgard Vocational High School Aviation Department in Buffalo, New York, to train students to work on helicopters in their aircraft mechanics license course on June 23,1947.
In 1995 and 1996, a team of retired Bell employees working in donated space at Prior Aviation volunteered over 2,000 hours of their time to fully restore this historic aircraft.
The restoration tem members were: Gerald Bainbridge, Jack Bainbridge, Clinton Brockway, Robert L. Brown, John Curran, Nelson Faso, Murray Greenspan, William Kahn (Crew Chief), Richard Clemann, Leonard Nisiak, Donald Ronald, and William Sinon.
This restoration project was supported with funding from the Bell Fund of the Buffalo Foundation. This helicopter is on loan from the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.
What is an “N-number”?
“N-numbers” are the identification numbers required to be applied to licensed aircraft in the United States. Other countries have different letters for their identification numbers. NC-3H was registered at a time when there was another letter after the “N” that indicated the aircraft’s airworthiness category, such as “C” for standard, “R” for restricted, “X” for experimental, and later an “L” for limited. (Federal Aviation Administration, 2017) Since 1949, only N-numbers are used, such as N-1234
You can read more about the history of the FAA’s (and its predecessors’) identification numbering requirements here.