Books

AEROCAR

A PORTSMOUTH VENTURE, EMBRACED BY AN INDIAN MAHARAJAH

Christopher Balfour

Available now directly from the publishers Tricorn Books price £15 plus P&P - click to go to Amazonalso at the Aviation Bookstore Tunbridge Wells

In his monumental book, British Private Aircraft, 1946–1970, Arthur Ord-Hume put a picture of the Aerocar on the cover of Volume 2. In the section describing this British venture he writes:

As peace loomed, the Directors of Portsmouth Aviation [my father, Lionel Balfour, and Francis Luxmoore] embarked on the design and construction of a really practical twin engine aeroplane. It performed perfectly. Everyone who flew it spoke glowingly of its handling and performance. The orders started rolling in but the company had no money to make that leap into aircraft production. Nobody wanted to help. An outstanding design was thus crippled by National political failure to provide any aid whatsoever to a small but established firm that happened to be onto a winner and holding a full order book. Had but a fraction of the aid given elsewhere been available to Luxmoore and Balfour, the Aerocar would have returned its investment by way of rich earnings. Abandoned projects like the V-1000, TSR 2, and others are well remembered. Whilst the Aerocar was at least as serious a loss to aviation, it is regrettably forgotten today.

Lionel Balfour and his colleague, Francis Luxmoore, sought to develop a radical aeroplane to challenge the cumbersome  pre-war aircraft that were available in the 1930s. With convenience and comfort in mind, the Aerocar prototype G-AGTG was tested and orders started rolling in. All they needed to do was finance it.



Their journey took them to the United States, Canada and then India, where the support and generosity of the Jam Saheb of Nawanagar, a maharajah of one of the princely states, helped them with their endeavour. But with the onset of Partition, the Aerocar’s future was doomed. Using previously unseen documents, and notes from his father’s archives, Christopher Balfour tells the story of this very British endeavour.

review Geoff Kingston 2019

This is a very personal account of a valiant attempt by Lionel Balfour and Francis Luxmoore to bring into production in the early post war period a truly innovative light twin engined aircraft which had the potential to revolutionise that sector of the market.
Their first hand experience as aircraft operators both before and during the war lead them to incorporate a number of ideas which made the Areocar a very versatile proposition and an aircraft that was designed to be both easy and economical to operate and maintain.

Sadly as is so often the case the project was ultimately frustrated by Governments lack of foresight and bad decision making here and in India.

Written by Lionel's son Christopher who was in his early teens at the time this book; is like delving into a family scrapbook and it is written with the insight and involvement that can only come when the author has been this close to the subject.
Christopher had access to and has incorporated into the book all sorts of period information and the specification sheets and extracts from the maintenance notes will keep the technically minded interested for hours. There are some of the aviation press articles reproduced , production pictures drawings and reports from the air shows where the prototype was flown and displayed, notes of meetings and photos of correspondence that draw you into the story.

This was a book that when I picked it up I did not want to put down, wanting to see exactly how the story had unfolded and knowing that there were lots of things from period reproduced therein to come back and savour.
I confess to being more of an old car man with a great interest in that period but this had me hooked and I think Aerocar will be of great interest not only to Aviation enthusiasts young and old but to anyone with an interest in the development of transport in the early post war years.

For me it also made me appreciate and understand more fully the impact of our withdrawal from India in the late 40's and how differently things could have turned out.

 

 

Learning From Difference

Incipient privilege followed by a tangled upbringing stimulated constant questioning.

This has hopefully led to a little understanding and the plea for the Conservative Party to reconsider some of their 1970s policies.

7 Balfour brothers from Fife who traveled the World after 1850. Other maternal and paternal relatives. Artist. Engineers. Entrepreneurs. Merchants. Musicians. Pacifist. Philosophers. Politician. Sailors. Soldiers. Suffragette. Traders. Meon Valley war and death. Isle of Wight, Petersfield and Portsmouth ventures. Getting over Eton. Engineering or Establishment?


Class and school divisions. Considerate or coercive welfare. Inequality. Value of face to face Career and Employment Service privatised in the 1990’s. The idea of an Unconditional Basic Income for all citizens. Importance of Politics. Party difficulties. Need for experienced older participants.


Accepting Mercedes, etc. The price for defeating Hitler and Co. Afghanistan and Libya sixty years ago. Then peaceful countries.

Other books from Christopher Balfour

 

Son of one of the founders of the Spithead Express, the author's childhood was spent clambering in and out of the ferry planes. He still vividly remembers the sights, smell and sounds of those pioneering years at Portsmouth and Ryde and recalls talking to the pilots, including Amy Johnson.


During the war the factory was a welcome respite from school and he was old enough to be able to help collecting the components from outlying workshops. He was at the aerodrome for the takeoff and landing trials of the Aerocar prototype and, when there were still prospects for the company in India, he flew out to Jamnagar in the Schools Special Solent flying boat; the trip from Southampton to Karachi taking four days.

After these and the other traumatic experiences described in the book, the author opted for a less eventful life working as an officer, and later a
councillor, in local government. This, his third book, fulfils a long-held ambition to record the story of the Spithead Express.

 

First manufactured in 1946 and still produced today, Bristol cars have become a uniquely British institution that is celebrated in this comprehensive history, written by a dedicated owner of nearly 50 years' standing. These hand-built cars are owned by car connoisseurs who appreciate their fine engineering, handling, reliability, longevity and everyday practicality, and also savour the driver experience. This lavish book explores the details of the company's complex and fascinating history, and will appeal to all owners, past and present, as well as the many admirers of these cars.

 

Roads to Oblivion. Triumphs and Tragedies of British Car Makers. 1946 - 1956.   Attempt to explain, quoting from owners world wide, how opportunities were lost because of flawed design and shoddy assembly.  Bay View Books. 1996 ISBN 1 870979 82 6

 

Auto-Architect: the autobiography of Gerald Palmer was designer of the Jowett Javelin, MG Magnette, Riley Pathfinder and later worked for Vauxhall. Christopher assisted Gerald and contributed to his autobiography.  Magna Press, 1998 ISBN 0 9519423 60

 

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