A horse is a horse. Of course. But Bell’s horse, “Straight Up”, is anything but just another statue you’ll see around town.
Straight Up is one of nearly 100 horses around the Amarillo area thanks to a project initiated by Center City of Amarillo, a non-profit organization dedicated to the revitalization of historic downtown Amarillo. The Hoof Prints of the American Quarter Horse project began in 2002 to raise funds for Center City of Amarillo and promote a community-wide public art display celebrating the history and spirit of the American Quarter Horse.
According to The American Quarter Horse Association, which is headquartered in Amarillo, the American Quarter Horse is steeped in rich history as the world’s most versatile horse due to traits necessary for life on a wilderness frontier – quick, tough and hardy. Also known as “America’s Horse”, the Quarter Horse has been used on ranches surrounding Amarillo for decades and is a true testament to the resilience of life on the high plains of Texas.
The horses of Hoof Prints are an exact replica of a full-size Quarter Horse, weighing approximately 125 pounds and made of fiberglass.
Gary Ward, a second-generation Western Artist and now retired teacher of the Canyon Independent School District, was the original artist of Bell’s horse. Initially, Straight Up took on the color of a bright blue Texas sky complete with cloud wisps and a prominent Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey taking up most of its mid-section. In 2009, after Bell started work on the U.S. Marine Corps H-1 upgrade program, Ward refreshed the horse to include both an AH-1Z and UH-1Y on the side opposite the V-22.
Now in its third version, Bell partnered with its very own aircraft paint shop to customize the horse. The new look visualizes Bell’s transformation from being a company specializing in manufacturing world-class helicopters to a technology company creating the future of vertical lift experiences.
In a matter of just a few weeks, the team of artists dedicated a small paint bay normally used to paint smaller aircraft components to instead refresh the horse with a modern paint scheme. The horse now sports a sleek black and gray coat featuring elements of carbon fiber composite and rivets, materials used in current aircraft assembly. All while highlighting the innovation and autonomy of the future of aerospace manufacturing.
“The new design represents the direction Bell is headed as a technology company with aggressive designs like the Bell Nexus, Bell V-280 Valor, Bell 525 Relentless and now the Bell 360 Invictus,” said Bell Paint Shop Manager, Michael Green. “It’s not often that the local community gets to see what our aircraft assembly operations entail, so to highlight the talent of this team that paints aircraft every day for our customers around the globe makes me extremely proud.”
The aviation paint used to complete the horse’s new exterior is designed for high-end commercial aircraft that perform at high altitudes and extreme temperatures at 500+ miles per hour. Straight Up’s pristine coat can now withstand the heat, wind, thunderstorms and other harsh weather that blows across the Texas Panhandle.
Amarillo is home to Bell’s military and commercial assembly and delivery center and painting the aircraft is just one of the many phases within the final assembly operations that take place every day at Bell’s Amarillo facility.
Since the opening of the Aircraft Assembly Center over 20 years ago, the company has delivered more than 400 Bell Boeing V-22 tiltrotors which have transformed the way the United States military plans and executes missions with increased speed, range and endurance. The Amarillo team has historically produced Bell OH-58, UH-1Y, and AH-1Z military helicopters at the facility, as well as future aircraft to include the Bell 525 Relentless, the world’s most advanced commercial helicopter, and the Bell V-280 tiltrotor and soon to be Bell 360 Invictus prototype which is shaping the future of U.S. Army Aviation.
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