Nelson Aircraft

Nelson Aircraft
Nelson Aircraft Corporation
Industry Aerospace
Founded 1945
Headquarters San Fernando, California, United States
Key people Ted Nelson
William Hawley Bowlus
Products Motor gliders
Aero engines

The Nelson Aircraft Corporation was founded in 1945 by sailplane pilot Ted Nelson and sailplane designer William Hawley Bowlus in San Fernando, California.[1]

Bowlus and Nelson formed the Nelson Aircraft Corporation to build a two-seat, motor glider version of the popular Bowlus BA-100 Baby Albatross. The designers nicknamed this design the Bumblebee but they sold the powered glider under the official moniker, Dragonfly.[2]

The first Nelson-Bowlus glider was the Nelson Bumblebee with a pod-and-boom fuselage two-seat powered sailplane [NX1955]. The Bumblebee in 1945-46 was built with a Righter O-45 16-hp 4-cylinder engine. Nelson Aircraft then developed their own 25-28 hp 4-cylinder, two-stroke H-44 and H-49 engines. These engines were used for a limited production version of the BB-1 Bumblebee called the BB-1 Dragonfly.[1]



The team kept the basic Baby Albatross design but made major changes by widening the cockpit and adding side-by-side seating with flight controls for each occupant. Further, there were improvements in the tricycle landing gear, created a steerable nose landing gear, added vertical stabilizers mounted on the ends of the horizontal stabilizer, and a handy hinged canopy. Ease of operation was with a handle to pull-start the engine; this was added inside the cockpit.

In studying the fuselage design of the Baby Albatross the aft section of the fuselage pod was an ideal place to install a pusher engine and propeller. A small engine was needed to fix in this location, so Nelson and Bowlus selected a Ryder four-cylinder, two-cycle power plant. Tests were made which determined the engine was under-powered producing about 16 horsepower, not enough for adequate flight. With this conclusion, the men decided to build a suitable engine from scratch. Their new motor generated 25 horsepower, just enough power for takeoff and a slow climb.[2]


Summary of aircraft built by Nelson Aircraft
Model name First flight Number built Type
Nelson Bumblebee 1946 1 Motor glider
Nelson Dragonfly 1947 7 Motor glider
Nelson Hummingbird 1953 7 Motor glider


Summary of engines built by Nelson Aircraft
Model name Introduced Type
Nelson H-44 1945 4-cylinder, 2-stroke, 25 hp at 3,900 rpm[3]
Nelson H-49 1949 4-cylinder, 2-stroke, 28 hp at 4,000 rpm[3]
Nelson H-59 1953 4-cylinder; 2-stroke, 40 hp at 4,000 rpm[4]
Nelson H-63 1958 4-cylinder; 2-stroke; 43 hp at 4,000 rpm[5]


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