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Tracking down a Bell 47 serial

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Tracking down a Bell 47 serial

Old 13th Sep 2021, 11:48
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Tracking down a Bell 47 reg

Hello all, I am, for purely nostalgic reasons, trying to track down the serial of the first aircraft I ever flew on, a Bell 47 helicopter.

This would have taken place when I was a young lad in the early '90's, likely between 1992 - '94. As I recall, my father took me to a pub somewhere in Cheshire which was operating helicopter pleasure flights. I cannot for the life of me remember the name or location of the pub, and my father has sadly long since passed.

My memories of it are mostly hazy, but I recall being out in the sticks somewhere and we must have been near a river or stream as I clearly remember thinking it looked like a giant snake from the air!

I'm hoping the rarity of it being a Bell 47 may help, as even back then it was considered ancient and fairly unusual. Being a total spotter at the time, I recall carrying with me my copy of 'Civil Aircraft Markings', and the pilot flicking through it and pointing out the helicopter's serial, which I duly underlined. Unfortunately I have either misplaced of thrown out the book.

So if anyone recalls who was operating Bell 47 pleasure flights in the UK at the time, please let me know. Or even a list of Bell 47 serials operating in the UK during the early '90's might help ring a bell?

TIA.

Last edited by Stu666; 13th Sep 2021 at 19:45.
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Old 13th Sep 2021, 15:15
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Originally Posted by Stu666 View Post
I'm hoping the rarity of it being a Bell 47 may help, as even back then it was considered ancient and fairly unusual.
I don't want to sound unduly pessimistic, but there have been almost 200 Bell 47s on the UK register over the years, so not all that rare.

Any more identifying features that you can recall might help to narrow things down.
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Old 13th Sep 2021, 15:37
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Just to be a bit pernickety, you are actually looking for the aircraft's civil registration rather than its serial number/constructors number....Agree with DR you are going to have a few to choose from. I seem to recall a company out of Barton was offering pleasure flights around that time.... They may have branched out....!!
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Old 13th Sep 2021, 15:45
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Can't really help but by the date range you state certainly helps you: by that time there can't have been that many Bell 47s flying on the UK register. Even fewer giving pleasure flights. If nothing else, track down a UK civil register and go through each on G-INFO to work out a shortlist. It would take a while but I suspect you'd end up with quite a short, shortlist.
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Old 13th Sep 2021, 17:31
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Thanks all.

Just had a quick look at G-INFO, and there's been 182 Bell 47 registrations total and 16 currently active. Unfortunately none of the registrations are jumping out at me as I'd hoped. Also not sure if searching "Bell 47" would necessarily return all the hits, as some may have been recorded as variations.

Looks like I'm in for some detective work when time permits!

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Old 13th Sep 2021, 18:13
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Manchester Helicopter Charter Company used G-BPAI primarily for pleasure flying from their base at Manchester Barton around that time.
Apart from Barton, they would operate pleasure flights from pub gardens in the summer.
Are you sure the snaking river is not the adjacent Manchester Ship Canal which runs alongside Barton aerodrome, and your 'pub' was in fact the clubhouse restaurant ? There are also a few hotels further along the canal which host helicopter visitors.

A colour scheme might also assist. BPAI is predominantly red. The reason I mention this as one of the MHCC shareholders had another Bell 47 at the time in an ex-Army overall paint finish, should that jog your memory.

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Old 13th Sep 2021, 19:07
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Originally Posted by ANW View Post
Manchester Helicopter Charter Company used G-BPAI primarily for pleasure flying from their base at Manchester Barton around that time.
That's a good, if inadvertent, illustration of how difficult tracking down the Bell 47 in question is likely to be.

While G-BPAI may well have been operated by MHCC, they were never the registered owner of the aircraft, which had two owners while on the UK register: London-based Bola Ltd (1988 to 1993) and Huddersfield-based LRC (Leisure) Ltd, before being cancelled from the G- register in 2007 (although it still operates in the UK on a US registration).
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Old 13th Sep 2021, 19:42
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Originally Posted by ANW View Post
Manchester Helicopter Charter Company used G-BPAI primarily for pleasure flying from their base at Manchester Barton around that time.
Apart from Barton, they would operate pleasure flights from pub gardens in the summer.
Are you sure the snaking river is not the adjacent Manchester Ship Canal which runs alongside Barton aerodrome, and your 'pub' was in fact the clubhouse restaurant ? There are also a few hotels further along the canal which host helicopter visitors.

A colour scheme might also assist. BPAI is predominantly red. The reason I mention this as one of the MHCC shareholders had another Bell 47 at the time in an ex-Army overall paint finish, should that jog your memory.
I like your thinking, but I'm 99% sure it wasn't Barton. At the time I was a complete aviation nerd and wouldn't have been able to take my eyes off any other aircraft onsite. I'd definitely have remembered a control tower and airfield. Also, Barton is right next to a built up area - as I recall we were out in the sticks with lots of open countryside visible once we were in the air. It was only a very short flight, maybe 10 minutes, if that. Can't have gone far. I distinctly remember a large beer garden with your typical wooden benches.

Unfortunately I have no memory of the colour scheme, except that I think the tail boom was either a natural metal colour or painted silver/white. G-BPAI looks to fit this description, and if they were doing pub pleasure flights around that time, I guess could be a good candidate still.
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Old 13th Sep 2021, 20:48
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Just a small point, the Manchester Ship Canal does not do much "snaking", either near Barton or elsewhere. It runs for long lengths virtually straight...!!
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Old 13th Sep 2021, 21:26
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Originally Posted by Stu666 View Post
Hello all, I am, for purely nostalgic reasons, trying to track down the serial of the first aircraft I ever flew on, a Bell 47 helicopter.
Try this listing. It's separated into 2 lists and shows most Bell 47s by S/N and the associated civil registrations associated with that S/N. Maybe one of the entries will jog your memory. Good luck.
ROTORSPOT - Production list for Bell 47
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Old 13th Sep 2021, 21:31
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Mr Reid, you seem to put a great deal of trust in registered ownership info. That alone does not tell the full operational story for any flying machine. You have no idea regarding my involvement with that company and its helis, which included BPAI. It wore MHCC titles/tel. as such throughout its time with the company (photos available). I don't take kindly to being called a liar.

Given what little recollections the original poster is able to provide, but with specific regard to the approximate dates he lists, I would put BPAI at the top of the list. From my recollection, I cannot recall any other B47s operating commercial pleasure flights in the NW area at that time.
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Old 13th Sep 2021, 21:46
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Originally Posted by ANW View Post
Mr Reid, you seem to put a great deal of trust in registered ownership info.
If you mean that I trust the CAA's "Registered Owner" data to show the registered owner, then guilty as charged.

Originally Posted by ANW View Post
That alone does not tell the full operational story for any flying machine. You have no idea regarding my involvement with that company and its helis, which included BPAI. It wore MHCC titles/tel. as such throughout its time with the company (photos available). I don't take kindly to being called a liar.
Where did I call anyone a liar? I simply stated a fact, and I am well aware that owner and operator are often two separate entities. I don't dispute any of your assertions.
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Old 14th Sep 2021, 15:42
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Wonder if it looked like this :- https://abpic.co.uk/pictures/view/1163199 ??? Photo not taken in the the NW of England but time is about right.

Last edited by Planemike; 14th Sep 2021 at 16:53.
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Old 14th Sep 2021, 16:45
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Plan B,

start scrolling and look at U.K. Aircraft

https://abpic.co.uk/pictures/search?...B%22type%22%5D
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Old 14th Sep 2021, 22:24
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ABPic will also allow a search for all the photos of a given aircraft type in a particular year - might be quicker as the OP has an approximate timeframe.

Either use a URL to include the year, like this: Bell 47 photos taken in 1992

or open the Search form and enter the year and type.

Good luck!
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Old 15th Sep 2021, 07:26
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Originally Posted by Planemike View Post
Wonder if it looked like this :- https://abpic.co.uk/pictures/view/1163199 ??? Photo not taken in the the NW of England but time is about right.
G-BPAI seems the most likely candidate at the moment. It's a shame I have no memory of the colour as it would have helped narrow it down.

Originally Posted by DaveReidUK View Post
ABPic will also allow a search for all the photos of a given aircraft type in a particular year - might be quicker as the OP has an approximate timeframe.

Either use a URL to include the year, like this: Bell 47 photos taken in 1992

or open the Search form and enter the year and type.

Good luck!
Very helpful suggestion, thanks! I've been through the years 1990 - '97 and while nothing leapt out at me, the 1990 photo of G-BPAI does ring a very faint bell, although it could just be a bit of tinnitus
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