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THIS IS a tale of post-World War II aviation optimism, the independence of India and, seven decades later, serendipity of the name Portsmouth in researching my GMax/Flight Simulator hobby.
This last item first: I delight in using GMax software to build aircraft and other fabrications for use in Microsoft Flight Simulator. Not long ago, I built a 1928 monoplane, the sleek Vulcan American Moth.
As exhibited by its livery, the American Moth was built in Portsmouth, in southern Ohio at the confluence of the Scioto and Ohio Rivers. While Googling Portsmouth, what also popped up was Portsmouth Aerocar. It’s an entirely different Portsmouth, this one on England’s south coast; and a fascinating new GMax/Flight Sim project.
As World War II came to an end, aircraft industry executives anticipated a resurgence of commercial aviation, but also a shortage of non-military planes. What’s more, there would be WWII pilots wishing to incorporate flying into their civilian life. Small, practical private aircraft would be the coming thing. Portsmouth Aviation had a response: the Aerocar.
In the U.S., the Piper Cub, produced between 1938 and 1947, became the Ford Model T of aviation. The amphibious Republic RC-3 Seabee, built 1946 – 1947, promised to deliver a family of four directly to their cabin on the lake. In Britain, the Miles M.57 Aerovan was a boxy twin-engine transport that could even carry a small car.
The Portsmouth Aerocar registered G-AGTG first flew on June 18, 1947. A key to its versatility was an underslung fuselage, a pod that could be tailored to a variety of uses. Its six doors were augmented by a hinged rear hatch. The Aerocar could carry five people, six in a pinch.
The Aerocar’s center seats could be used as a flying office. Or the center row and rear seat could be removed, leaving room for 1000 lbs. of payload.
Alas, all this was for naught. Only the prototype Aerocar was built. As noted in retrospect, “… financial constraints and adverse circumstances beyond the control of the company meant that backing for the project diminished….”
This is where the independence of India enters today’s tale. The advent of its independence from Britain in 1947 led to complexities of the nation’s partition into India and Pakistan. Coincidentally, this was just about the time Portsmouth Aviation made a deal to license manufacturing of the Aerocar in India.
Lionel Balfour had been managing director of Portsmouth Aviation during the aircraft’s development. However, following collapse of the India deal, the company was reorganized and Balfour no longer had any financial interest. G-AGTG was stored for a few years and then scrapped in 1950.
Not that the Portsmouth Aero has been ignored by modelers. There’s a beguiling rubber-band model flying in the linked video. And my construction and computer-simulated flight of the Portsmouth Aerocar will be the subject here tomorrow. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2016
Noticing your interest in Miles Aircraft and the Portsmouth Aerocar…may I suggest you hunt down the encyclopedic works on British Private Aircraft by Arthur W.J.G. Ord-Hume. There are pre-war and postwar volumes. They are expensive, but worth the price.
Mr. Ord-Hume is the aviation-writer equivalent of L.J.K. Setright. He is the consummate historian on this subject. Being an aircraft engineer, he has the facts nailed. But what makes the books so great is his writing style: simultaneously erudite and witty, he brings history to life as few writers on any topic have.
Trust me on this, Dennis. You wll love these books, and will treasure them as I do.
Thanks for the recommendations. They certainly sound like my kind of books.