The AIRPHIBIAN was
conceived during World War II by Robert Edison Fulton Jr. who had previously
designed and built a aerial gunnery simulator for Admiral Louis de Florez for the special devices section of the USA Navy at Sands Point, Long Island,
NY. Bob had become a pilot during this period, flying a high wing monoplane
back and forth from New York City and Washington DC and had discovered a
niche. Somewhere and somehow during that time the first prototype of the AIRPHIBIAN.
Polhemus, Wayne Dasher and Franz Alverez were the technical team that
worked on the aerial gunnery simulator and also built the AIRPHIBIAN prototype
(see photo). It was a composite and modification of the STINSON Voyager 160 or 185 with
the same wing, the same but modified fuselage, the same horizontal
stabilizer, the same vertical fin, and the same engine. The
cockpit area was modified to include a double disconnect structure for
the wings and a fuel tank which replaced the back seat area. There
was a new 4 wheel landing gear, and a 3 bladed propeller. I do not believe
that the auto drive system was complete nor propeller disconnect.
However the basic system for the quick car/plane disconnect
was in place and refined later.
Just before the end of WWII, Aeronautical
Engineer Grover Loening gave a dinner party at his home in Locust Valley
NY. The guests were Capt.& Mrs Frazer Dougherty and MM Robert Fulton. Frazer
was stationed at Mitchell Field as the aide de camp and pilot for Maj Gen
Frank O'Driscol Hunter, the commanding General of the 1st Air Force. Frazer
had just completed a 1 year, 60 mission tour of duty with the 5th AF, 345th
Group, 498th Squadron.
During the evening
Bob related his flying experience and the development of his auto/plane
idea. After several telephone calls and letters, Frazer made the
first flight of the AIRPHIBIAN off a small grass airstrip just west of Middleburg,
Va. This remote, relatively unknown and unused 'strip' (although just
south of route 7) was chosen due to Bob's 'secrecy' phobia. It was probably
the dumbest step taken in the entire project as there was no place to go
except up. It was during this session that we (Bob, Wayne, Ted and I) all
met for the first time and successfully flew the AIRPHIBIAN, the first auto/plane
Franz Alverez was
an engineering associate and deeply involved in all aspects of the company.
Ted Polhemus was an electronic genius with a flexible talent that permitted
him to be knowledgeable and useful in every aspect of engineering. Wayne
Dasher was the quintessence of an aircraft and engine mechanic of the old
school and probably the primary person responsible for the success of the
AIRPHIBIAN. I became part of the group because of my military flying experience
and was assigned to be test pilot for CAA/FAA certification.
FRAZER'S FLYING BACKGROUND
My flying experience
was one of a Air Force Cadet, which was PT 19 training at Cuero, Texas,
Basic Training at Randolph Field, and advanced training at Ellington Field.
I was slated to B-25 training at Columbia S.C. and then assigned to the 345th Bomber Group, 498th Squadron. in Port Morseby and Nadzab New
where I flew 60 missions. The 345th BG's B-25 Sq were
equipped with 14 forward firing 50 caliber machine guns, and the groups
combat techniques were entirely low altitude strafing and skip bombing on
targets in New Guinea,
New Briton, and New Ireland. I flew primarily as Captain of the plane.
After my 60 missions
I was transferred to 5th AF Headquarters in Australia where I flew various
missions for Hq. Officers mostly into New Guinea. Within 3 months of this
assignment, I was reassigned to Mitchell Field as the aide de camp and pilot for Gen Hunter the
commanding General of the 1st AF. During this year long tour of duty I flew C-60's, B-25's,
and had a sufficient number of flights both VFR and IFR to become instrument rated.
Frazer Dougherty - October
Robert Fulton Jr
PICTURE NEEDED OF TED, FRED, ROSS OTHERS?