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Plastics made it possible to create lighter, more durable, and more affordable products.

Bell-47D1 Helicopter

Arthur Young
(American, 1905–1995)

1946. Aluminum, steel, and acrylic plastic, 9' 2 3/4" x 7' 11" x 42' 8 3/4" (281.3 x 302 x 1271.9 cm)

The Bell-47D1 helicopter was designed and produced in 1945 and has been used for crop dusting, traffic surveillance, and, during the Korean War, as an aerial ambulance. What set it apart from other helicopters of its time was the acrylic plastic blow-molded cockpit. Blow molding is a process by which hollow plastic parts are formed from a single sheet of polymer film. The film is heated above its softening point and then pressed against a mold by a blast of compressed air. Through this process, the cockpit shell of this helicopter was made from one piece of acrylic plastic rather than sections joined by metal seams. The result is a lighter shell with a more unified appearance.

A term applied to many natural and synthetic materials with different forms, properties, and appearances that are malleable and can be molded into different shapes or objects.

What’s in a Nickname?
The bubble also lends an insect-like appearance to the hovering craft, which generated its nickname, the “bug-eyed helicopter.”

Flight Facts
Awarded the world’s first commercial helicopter license by the Civil Aeronautics Administration (now the FAA), the Bell-47D1 weighs 1,380 pounds. Its maximum speed is 92 miles per hour and its maximum range 194 miles. It can hover at altitudes up to 10,000 feet.