September 21, 2010 by Alton K. Marsh, Senior Editor, AOPA Pilot
Current owners of the Aerocar tell you in a video (see the link below) how things are going with the history-making car/aircraft. The video was shot a year ago in California where Eric (shown on the right), son of Aerocar owner Ed Sweeney, runs Auburn Aircraft Works. The video was finally put together this week. Watch for a story on the Aerocar in a future issue of AOPA Pilot. Now the Aerocar has moved to Florida with another son, Sean (shown on the left). The Aerocar was the passion of Molt Taylor. It made several appearances on a television quiz show and a comedy series, the Bob Cummings Show. If you said, “Bob who?” you are less than 50 years old, and if you said, “I remember!” you are more than 50. The Sweeney family is keeping it in flying condition–it last flew this month. Here’s my video made Tuesday. Compare the car there with the one in this newsreel from the 1950s. You’ll see a difference in the steering wheel and hood design.
If the link to the AOPA video doesn’t work, go to this URL:
I met Molt once when a friend and I flew in to Longview airport in the 50’s. We walked into his large hangar and heard someone working over in a corner. We walked over and my friend, who had met Molt before, hollered out, “Hey Molt, it’s Cliff. May my pal and I look around?” Molt replied in a gruff voice, “Go ahead – but don’t touch anything!”.
We saw the Aerocar, his Imp, and several other design ideas of his. He had a couple of old production airplanes in there, too. When we got done, Molt too the time to explain the “secret” of his designs. It was the driveshaft coupling which hooked the engine up to a flexible driveshaft to the rear-mounted propeller. I guess the Imp didn’t have a starter, so if you had an engine quit you couldn’t re-start it by windmilling the prop.
I, also, would ‘ve liked to see it actually fly again. The 50’s link didn’t so all I have is old memories. The concept is under serious review and redo…but it was the first, workable concept flying car. Thanks to the familiy that keeps the birdcar going. 1 Hour a year is not enough for currency, however.
HI, Rae, and Jay,
You are correct that the Aerocar is not shown flying in the video. I have an article coming out in a future issue explaining that shortly after this video was made, sharp-eyed Eric Sweeney, owner of Auburn Aircraft Works, a repair shop in Auburn, California, spotted a tiny crack in metal near the tail. Most people would never have seen it. After assembling the car as shown in my video, it was parked and I went back to my hotel in Sacramento. There followed numerous efforts to join up with it as soon as it got repaired, but other problems were discovered. It is now in Florida. Remember Ed saying in my video that his grandson was going to solo it when he turned 16? His grandson did that September 2 in Florida, one year after my video was made. So it is flying, but I didn’t get to ride in it or even videotape it. However, I have requested a scene of his son flying from the proud father, Sean, who is seen in the video on the left. Hope to have that video by the time we publish the article on “Why I Couldn’t Fly the Aerocar.”
In the 1970’s I met Molt Taylor at the Kelso Airport. At the time some pilots were performing aerobatic routines over the airport for the pilot and other visitors on the airport. It was an informal activity and both the Unicom operator and pilots in the air were warning incoming and departing aircraft to avoid the airport area during the performances. My student (on a dual cross-country) in the Cessna 152 Aerobat suggested that I perform a routine that I had performed at the Bremerton Airport when the Control Zone was not in effect. I agreed to do my engine-out erobatic routine and the airspace was opened for my performance. Without a low-level waiver I intiated the routine from 4000 feet above the airport. Shut down the engine and slowed the airspeed to stop the propeller. I entered a loop and upon entry speed for the slow roll at the bottom of the loop I executed the roll followed by a thre-turn precision spin which was completed over the approach end of the landing runway and enter a spiraling turn for a touchdown just past the number. I restarted the engine and taxiied to the parking area and was stratle to see people rushing toward my aricraft. Feearing one might run into the propeller, I shut the engine down and was surrounded by people asking if I was scared about not having a working engine. I tried to explain that the energy amnagement routine was not dangerous but I doubt the there were many believers. Later, Molt Taylor met me and invited my student and I to see his Aerocar. He took us the the hangar where it was stored. After pulling it out of the hangar and offering to give my student and I a ride in the famous car, Molt was unable to get the engine to start. He apologized for the “glitch” but I was impressed with the opportunity to see his original Aerocar. I remember watching the “Bob Cummings Show” and the Aerocar scene-stealer.
I have not kept the AEROCAR web site up to date in a LONG time. Sorry about that.
As a family we are proud to own and keep N102D AEROCAR flying. Yes, my grandson soloed in it on his 16th birthday in early September and then drove it for his dirver’s license test !
In the Fall and Winter it is kept with my son Sean at the Warbird Adventure Museum at the Kissimmee, FL airport. During the early Summer months it is with Eric in Auburn, CA. Eric is also restoring Molt’s one-and-only AEROCAR Model 2.
I have not kept the web site up to date, sorry. And circumstances, distractions and inadequate money have delayed further progress on a new AEROCAR. The design is done and only the car is finished. It will follow Molt’s 1960’s design for a twin engine pusher arrangement.
I saw this airplane fly at Oshkosh 2002. I have a number of pics, but only one rather fuzzy one of it flying, but I certainly remember the flight and the surprise of seeing the airplane there. The tailcone had a lot of exhaust soot on it so it looked like it was doing a good bit of flying, but it only flew once there that I saw. So glad to have seen it! Never thought I’d get to see it fly in my lifetime. Not sure if I ever talked to Molt, but he used to be a regular fixture at Oshkosh in the 80’s, driving around the grounds in a giant station wagon.