Consolidated Vultee Aircraft (Convair) tested a flying car here 75 years ago.
The experimental dual-use ConvAirCar was designed by Theodore Hall. The machine combined a four-passenger, rear engine automobile with a detachable wing and 190 horse power Lycoming aircraft engine. The prototype flew for the first time on November 15, 1947. On Nov. 18, the experiment came to an abrupt halt when the vehicle crash landed in Chula Vista. It had run out of gas. Neither test pilot nor his passenger were seriously injured in the crash, but the fiberglass car body was destroyed. The prototype was rebuilt — and flew again — but it was never mass produced. The original flying car was displayed in the San Diego Aerospace Museum, where it was destroyed by a fire in 1978.
From The San Diego Union, Sunday, Nov. 16, 1947: FLYING AUTO BY CONVAIR MAKES FIRST TEST HOP Roadable Plane Soars for More Than Hour; Craft has Detachable Wing, Two Engines By Bryant Evans
An automobile flew around over San Diego yesterday for an hour and 18 minutes. It was the consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corp. experimental model known variously as the roadable airplane and the flying automobile. Test Pilot Reuben P. Snodgrass took the trim four-passenger car into the air from Lindbergh Field for its first test flight and brought it back for a perfect four-point landing. But although it was the first time most San Diegans had ever seen an automobile fly, there is nothing particularly new about airplanes made to travel on roads.
In fact, the progenitor of the present experimental model goes back about five years when T.P. Hall, a Convair employee, made the first one in his spare time. Later he got the company interested in the idea and ever since the war Convair engineers have been experimenting with it. Four-wheel planes frequently have been seen flying over San Diego. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the present model is its appearance. The automobile part of the craft actually looks like a modern automobile. It has been driven around San Diego streets without attracting any undue attention.
This shows that Convair is thinking market-wise about the plane. Its engineers are trying to design something that will be accepted by the public in large doses. According to William A. Blees, Vice President of sales, the flying-auto is at least two years away from the stage where it will be necessary to worry about production lines. A considerable body of thinking in the aeronautical industry holds that the private plane will never come into its own as a popular form of transportation until it can be used as an automobile.
COULD RENT WING
One suggestion which has been discussed is to sell the automobile part of the craft to the consumer and rent him the flying part. These flying parts would be interchangeable. An owner could drive to Lindbergh Field, rent a wing for a trip to San Francisco. If fog should intercept him, he could land along the way, say at Santa Barbara, and proceed on the highway. The if the weather cleared by the time he wanted to return, he could rent another wing at San Francisco and fly home.
Historical photos and articles from The San Diego Union-Tribune archives are compiled by Merrie Monteagudo. Search the U-T historic archives at sandiegouniontribune.newsbank.com