Lunch in the Isle of Wight? Let's take the old Aerocar for a spin

Is it a car? Is it a plane? No, it's the Portsmouth Aerocar.

Tuesday, 20th June 2017, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 20th June 2017, 3:52 pm
The Land-plane, a variant of the Portsmouth Aerocar, at Portsmouth Airport in an artists impression taken from a sales brochure.

As promised last week, here’s a more detailed look at the invention which has just had the 70th anniversary its first flight from Portsmouth Airport.

The Portsmouth Aviation Company’s Portsmouth Aerocar emerged in the immediate post-war period as a versatile, multi-role light general aviation aircraft.

The ideas for the Aerocar originated from the managing director of Portsmouth Aviation, Lionel Balfour, about 70 years ago during the latter stages of the Second World War.

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The pilots view from the cockpit of the Portsmouth Aerocar  taken from a sales brochure for the aircraft.

He had anticipated that after the war the commercial aviation industry would be faced with a shortage of aircraft.

The Aerocar was envisaged as being suitable for re-instating the sort of air service operated by his company, Portsmouth Southsea and Isle of Wight Aviation, across the Solent between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight in the 1930s and could also be easily adapted for a number of roles.

The Aerocar concept was conceived, developed and promoted by Lionel Balfour with much of the design being the responsibility of fellow director Flt Lt Francis Luxmoore.

The design took the form of a high wing, twin engine, twin boom configuration with an under-slung fuselage pod that could be tailored for a number of different roles without affecting the basic design.

The team at Portsmouth Aviation that built the Aerocar, photo courtesy of Christopher Balfour.

Key aspects of the design were its practicality, versatility and simplicity.

The prototype, Aerocar Major, registration number G-AGTG, was flown from Portsmouth Airport in the late afternoon of June 18, 1947. It was conducted by Mr Luxmoore in the absence of chief test pilot Alan Jones.

The aircraft was powered by two Cirrus Major engines each giving 155hp.

The Aerocar Major had a number of novel features including a fuselage pod and twin boom arrangement, retractable undercarriage and variable pitch propellers. The aircraft was offered in a variety of roles as a land-plane, float plane and ski versions.

Although the prototype was under-powered the Portsmouth Aerocar appeared to be set for a successful future.

Lionel Balfour had ideas for a version to be used by the army and a brochure was drawn up by the company about 1945 when Aerocar design work was starting.

Plans had been made to put the Aerocar into production at the Airspeed factory at Christchurch. Its future depended on an agreement for licence manufacture in India.

But the deal collapsed as a result of internal troubles arising from the partitioning of India as part of India gaining independence.

The pilots view from the cockpit of the Portsmouth Aerocar  taken from a sales brochure for the aircraft.
The team at Portsmouth Aviation that built the Aerocar, photo courtesy of Christopher Balfour.
Although the prototype was under-powered the Portsmouth Aerocar appeared to be set for a successful future.