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THE BEAUTY OF a good hobby is never knowing where it might lead. And so it is with my GMax/Microsoft Flight Simulator hobby and the Portsmouth Aerocar.
Yesterday I offered a brief history of this British twin-engine craft developed as a versatile entry in post-World War II commercial and private aviation. Today, my initial thought was to share a virtual flying experience with my own Aerocar. However, planning my virtual adventure led to more real history, both of the Aerocar and also of its Portsmouth, England, base of operations.
In fact, it lead me to Goodwood, home of vintage car celebrations, the Festival of Speed and Revival. What’s more, the estate also has Goodwood Aerodrome (airport ID EGHR).
I selected Goodwood Aerodrome for my virtual flight because the real Aerocar’s Portsmouth Airport is no more. Its legacy, though, remains. In 1928, the British Air Ministry encouraged towns and cities with populations of 20,000 or more to consider having an airport.
Portsmouth, known for its annual Christmas Festival, is on England’s south coast about 20 miles southeast of the major seaport of Southampton. Following the Air Ministry’s suggestion, Portsmouth acquired land for its own airport in 1930. The acreage included fortifications remaining from Napoleonic days when Portsmouth was one of the most fortified cities in the world.
Portsmouth Airport’s grass runways supported a lot of English Channel air service. In 1936, it was also the start of the Schlesinger African Air Race, also known as the Portsmouth-Johannesburg.
With regard to the Aerocar, the Portsmouth Airport website mentions Britain’s nationalization of air services as also contributing to the craft’s demise in the late 1940s.
A pair of accidents on August 15, 1967, within 90 minutes of each other, brought notoriety to Portsmouth Airport, albeit thankfully with no injury to passengers or crews. Both accidents were traced to inadequate braking offered by the facility’s grass landing strips in the wet.
The airport struggled financially into the early 1970s and closed officially on December 31, 1973. Today, Google Maps show the Anchorage Park housing development on a portion of the original airport. The Airport Service Road remains, though its nearest airport is 15 miles away at Goodwood Aerodrome.
Thus my Goodwood flight. I set the craft’s Flight Simulator dynamics by the book, a maximum weight of 3950 lbs. and each 4-cylinder Blackburn Cirrus Major engine producing 155 hp. The Aerocar easily became airborne within Goodwood 14R’s grassy 4265 ft.
From the official Goodwood Circuit Patterns & Noise Abatement: “Please note all aircraft must avoid flying over Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve below 500 feet.”
I must check if any flight-sim colleagues have made add-on scenery for the region. A rendition of Goodwood House in the stock Flight Simulator did provide a suitable backdrop to end my virtual adventure. I trust the Earl of March didn’t mind the noise.
Building the Portsmouth Aerocar involved about a month of GMax entertainment. Each individual element is click-and-draw, and I’m always amazed by the intricacy of my relatively straightforward handiwork. GMax pros are much more artistic with highly detailed renderings.
GMax animations permit the modeling of movable aircraft controls, in the Aerocar’s case including twin yokes, rudder pedals, throttles and levers for flaps and what the Brits call “undercarriage” retraction.
I tried something new with the Aerocar, specifically a cutaway image. This began with the GMax model in its “Wireframe” Perspective view. The other option, “Smooth + Highlights,” shows full surface development.
GMax techniques allow hiding specific elements and selectively deleting pieces of others. Hence, I could excise unwanted wing panels and parts of the roof, thus yielding a cutaway view of the Aerocar cabin.
All in good GMax time-gobbling fun.
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2016