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Above: Floyd Carlson makes the first flight in the Bell Model 30 Ship 1 in a field behind the Gardenville Chrysler dealership where the Bell helicopter program was housed. The fight occurred on June 26, 1943 making the Model 30 the third successful North American helicopter. Photo: Courtesy of the collection of Todd Carlson

in the Jenny with Milt. Floyd began fly- ing under Milt’s tutelage at the age of nine. By the age of 16, he had received his private pilot’s license. In 1938, at the age of 21, Floyd got his first profes- sional pilot job as a charter pilot and instructor with Buffalo Aeronautics in Buffalo, NY (Carlson, T., n.d.). Around this same time, the United States got involved in WWII. Bell air- craft, which was also located in Buffalo, was a major supplier of fixed-wing air- craft for the U.S. military. The Bell P- 39 Airacobra fighter plane quickly became an important part of the war effort. In June of 1942, aircraft pro- duction was ramping up and Floyd Carlson was hired on at Bell as a P-39 test pilot.


While working as a test pilot on the P-39, Floyd also became involved with a group of Bell engineers led by Arthur Young, the genius behind the Bell heli- copter. Carlson was assisting Young’s group with the design of the helicopter flight controls. By the end of 1942, the first prototype Bell helicopter was com- pleted and a full time test pilot was needed in the helicopter group. Bob Stanley, Bell’s chief test pilot, attempt- ed to hover the experimental helicop- ter. Despite Arthur Young’s request to keep the helicopter tethered, Stanley had the tether removed. This resulted in the helicopter going into uncontrol- lable pilot induced oscillations and Stanley being thrown into the rotor blades. Although he suffered only


minor injuries, Stanley was under- standably not impressed with the heli- copter and did not want to continue test flying it. Despite the accident, Larry Bell was not willing to give up on the helicopter project. Floyd Carlson was transferred from his fixed-wing test pilot duties at the main Bell plant and assigned to the small helicopter team that was working in an abandoned Chrysler dealership outside Buffalo, in Gardenville, NY (Spenser, 1998). Carlson quickly became a valued mem- ber of the small Gardenville helicopter development group. He was the only professional pilot in the group and his fixed-wing test pilot background helped him quickly learn to hover the new hel- icopter while it was tethered to the

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