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Author Topic:   Early Bell Aerospace rocket motor test
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posted 03-25-2009 05:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rocketmail   Click Here to Email Rocketmail     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I recently acquired a photo scrapbook belonging to Robert W. Kimmel (85) who died March 9, 2004. Before his retirement he worked for 30 years testing rockets at Bell Aerospace, Niagara Falls, NY (from his obituary).

In the scrapbook were his WW2 Navy photos, test pilot autographed Bell Aircraft Corp. photos, photos from the 1946 (or '47?) Cleveland National Air Races, family photos, and six photos of early rocket motor testing.

Five of those are 2.5x3.5" snapshots (including the two I posted) and one is a 8x10" Bell Aircraft Corporation official photo. I believe the photos may have been taken in 1947 (none are dated) but have not been able to pin down where.

Was there rocket motor testing at the Bell Aircraft Corporation facilities in New York at that time? Or, since Bell was working with Reaction Motors, Inc. on the X-1 project, was this testing at the RMI facilities at Picatinny Arsenal in NJ? Or was the testing shown in my photos totally unrelated to the X-1 project?

I have posted two of the pictures. The rocket flames can be seen coming from the center building. The car has a NY license plate and it MAY be dated 47 (hard to read, even with extreme blow up). The other photos shows the rocket motor inside the building either before or after the test.

Does anyone recognize the location or can anyone tell me more about this rocket motor testing?


Posts: 53
From: Belgium
Registered: Dec 2002

posted 04-03-2009 04:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Chuck_Joe   Click Here to Email Chuck_Joe     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In your scrapbook, do you have any pictures of test pilot Richard Dick Johnson?

In 1948 he was flying a F-86 during the Cleveland Air Races. Some pictures of this test pilot would be great to add in my future book about the subject.

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posted 04-03-2009 07:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rocketmail   Click Here to Email Rocketmail     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is an autographed photo of "Tex" Johnson, but I do not see anything related to Richard Dick Johnson. Did he work for Bell? If so, I have several different group photos of Bell employees and he may be in one of them, but they are not identified.


Posts: 2103
From: Stuart, Florida, USA
Registered: Jun 2000

posted 04-03-2009 06:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for albatron   Click Here to Email albatron     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I can probably help you ID the test pilots, and possibly the Air Race photos... please email me. albatron at


Posts: 33
From: Butler NJ USA
Registered: Jun 2011

posted 06-11-2011 01:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Butlerrocketman   Click Here to Email Butlerrocketman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have been researching the history of Reaction Motors, Inc for many years. I live within 15 to 20 minutes of all of their former sites here in New Jersey.

Reaction Motors, Inc (RMI) started out in Pompton Lakes on Wanaque Ave., the building is now a hardware store. From there, RMI moved to Franklin Lakes on Dogwood Trail and tested JATO motors there, there was a blockhouse still standing from the early 40's and recently knocked down about seven years ago.

From there, RMI moved to Pompton Plain in a sandpip off of Rt. 23, they moved into the former silvere factory building and here is where they did the initial prototypes for the XLR-11 Bell X-1 motors. In a 1947 issue of Life there is a photo of the motors being tested.

RMI made so much noise, they were asked to leave that location and they moved to Sickle St. in Rockaway and were there for six years until their headquarters building was completed on 100 Ford Rd. in Denville. There production and office were there until they closed in the early 70's.

At the Denville site, they also worked on the XLR-99 Z-15 motors.

RNI had test stands in Lake Denmark/Picatinny arsenal. There are only two test stands that remain today, slated for demolition in the future. As a matter of fact, I was there on Thursday (6/9) for a tour and took many photos.

I have a huge collection of documents concerning RMI/RMD and I know several of the former employees.

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Posts: 2
From: Surprise, AZ, United States
Registered: Feb 2013

posted 03-24-2013 05:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for melmazio   Click Here to Email melmazio     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was a Rocket Test Engineer at Bell from 1956 to 1962. There were a number of test cells at Bell's Wheatfield plant where rocket tests were regularly conducted during that time. I believe those two photos may have been taken at those facilities. The license plate on the car appears to be a NY plate.

All times are CT (US)

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