Bell Aerospace

In 1941, the Bell Aircraft Company constructed an aircraft manufacturing plant in Wheatfield, New York. Due to the numerous wars raging around the world at the time, the United States government provided the funding for this vital facility. Located at the corner of Niagara Falls Boulevard and Walmore Road, the plant consisted of fifty buildings on eighty acres of land, with a total of over 1.8 million square feet of floor area. The Bell Wheatfield plant manufactured fighter aircraft for the Allies during World War II. The P-39 Airacobra, the most successful American-made fighter during the war, was manufactured in Wheatfield, and it was put to great use by Soviet pilots.  Bell also developed the first American jet airplane, the P-59 Airacomet, in Wheatfield during the war. During its peak production years, Bell employed nearly 28,000 people at its Wheatfield plant. After World War II ended, the plant manufactured helicopters, missiles, experimental airplanes and various components for space exploration. The first aircraft to break the sound barrier, the Bell X-1, was also manufactured in Wheatfield. Bell moved its helicopter manufacturing operation to Fort Worth, Texas, in 1951 due to a better climate for flying and a friendlier labor environment. In 1960, Bell was acquired by Textron, and the company was renamed Bell Aerospace Textron.  Over the next several decades, the Bell Wheatfield plant’s production output declined due to increased competition in defense manufacturing and difficult economic conditions in Western New York. In the years that followed, Bell Aerospace Textron gradually sold its product lines to various defense contractors, and in 1994, operations ceased at the Wheatfield facility with the sale of its missile guidance production line to Loral Corporation.

Prior to the late 1970s, asbestos-containing materials were utilized in the construction and maintenance of buildings at Bell Aerospace’s Wheatfield plant. Pipe covering, insulating cement, gaskets and block insulation contained asbestos. Inhaling dust from the application and removal of asbestos-containing materials placed workers at risk for developing an asbestos-related disease, such as mesothelioma or lung cancer.

Steam was used during manufacturing processes, and it was also used to heat buildings throughout the facility. A network of pipes delivered steam to radiators and manufacturing equipment. Boilers, pumps, valves and pipes were covered in asbestos-containing insulation. Workers who performed maintenance within the steam system removed asbestos insulation in order to gain access to the equipment. When these procedures were completed, new insulation was applied. The process of removing and applying insulation to equipment in the steam system caused asbestos-containing dust to become airborne.

Our clients understand the importance of securing legal representation as soon as possible after a diagnosis of mesothelioma or lung cancer. If you or a loved one once worked at Bell, and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.

Image above provided by: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, LC-USW33-059641