formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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February 12, 2013 Anderson Greenwood and the AG-14, part 2

The Liberty Gazette
February 12, 2013
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Last week we started a story about the Anderson-Greenwood AG-14, an unusual airplane built in Houston from 1950 to 1953. The design has resurfaced a few times with interest in restarting production. In the early 1960s C. G. Taylor, designer of the much loved Piper Cub and the Taylorcraft, and his friend Ray Hubert produced a bunch of parts thinking they’d resuscitate it and call it the Space Coupe, but it never made it into production. Later in 1969, Cessna Aircraft Company made careful consideration and bought one of the six AG-14s with plans to modify it as a replacement for their venerable Cessna 150 training airplane. Eventually they shelved the idea, redesigning the 150 which became the 152 which, although only built from 1977 to 1985, remains a popular trainer today.

Meanwhile Anderson-Greenwood kept manufacturing parts for other aircraft companies and other industries as well. In the early 1970s Marvin Greenwood decided he wasn’t through with building airplanes of his own design and came up another completely different idea. It was originally labeled Design #51 but would later be changed to the T-250 Aries. Anderson-Greenwood built the first one in Houston for certification then went in search of an aircraft factory.

Mike: The Bellanca Aircraft Company of Alexandria, Minnesota has been around a long time. It was one of the companies that turned down Charles Lindbergh when he asked them to build an airplane that would cross the Atlantic. Oh the regret…but that’s all water under the bridge, or air past the propeller. By the ‘70s Bellanca was producing a high performance single engine airplane called the Super Viking. For as fast as it was, over 200 mph, it was built using rather antiquated technology. And, it only had four seats. The wings were made of wood and the fuselage was steel tube framed with a fiberglass-like fabric covering called Dacron. The Viking was too heavy and couldn’t compete with Beechcraft’s Bonanza or Cessna’s Centurion, both made of aluminum and seating up to six people, so Anderson-Greenwood saw an opportunity and bought the Bellanca company and began building their airplane in Minnesota.

They made their T-250 out of aluminum and with seating up to five it looked as much ahead of its time in the 1970s as the AG-14 did in its day. It flew at 208 mph and the futuristic looking “T” tail made it look something like a jet. Alas, the Aries suffered the same fate as the AG-14, never finding its market. Only four more came off the line before production stopped in 1980 just as the ambulance-chasing liability fiasco that befell the general aviation industry was getting into full swing.

Linda: One of our Saturday morning breakfast buddies, John, who mostly hangs out in Baytown making airplane frames and other interesting things, once owned AG-14 serial number 2, which has had an interesting journey. John knows a lot about the history of the little-known airplane and the whereabouts of the surviving four out of five made. He found several trailer loads worth of parts up in Washington and shared that intel with Dave Powell, of Arkansas, whose father once worked for Anderson-Greenwood. In honor of his dad Dave used those parts to rebuild AG-14 serial number 5 which we saw at a fly-in in Oklahoma a few years ago. It is indeed a unique airplane.

February 5, 2013 Anderson Greenwood and the AG-14

The Liberty Gazette
February 5, 2013
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Anderson Greenwood, a subsidiary of Tyco Flow Control, makes pressure relief valves, tank blanketing products, instrumentation valves and manifolds. But it wasn’t always that way. Once upon a time three Houstonians who worked together at Boeing in Seattle during WWII returned to Houston and set out to build the perfect light airplane.

Ben Anderson and Marvin Greenwood were brothers-in-law, and Lomis was their friend and fellow aeronautical engineer. The men first flew their prototype in 1947 and after producing only five more the U.S. went to war in Korea, reducing the supply of aluminum and ending production of the Anderson Greenwood AG-14.

It’s a most unusual-looking little thing. Some say its cabin shape is like that of an egg, others are reminded of a Volkswagen Bug, and still others liken it to a motorcycle sidecar. But all who know of the rare airplane will tell you, it was ahead of its time.

The wings are behind the cabin, and the tail is a twin boom like Lockheed’s P-38 “Lightning”. The doors, designed to be like car doors, make for easy ingress and egress on both sides. It went into production in1950 and in the December issue of Flying Magazine that year, after Marvin Greenwood took him for a ride in the plane, writer Ed Hoadley reported, “Getting into the airplane is one of the easiest things I've done in months. You simply sit down on the seat, pull your legs in, and you're ready to depart. Women pilots and modest wives may now enjoy the pleasures of flying without the singular embarrassments that they have encountered in the past.”

Mike: Great visibility was the primary goal so the propeller is in the back, which is why we call this type of airplane a “pusher”. I’ve even seen it called “pea pod pusher.” Those who have flown in it rave about the visibility, especially considering it’s time in history. Some say the view is like riding in the front seat of a roller coaster, which made it good for aerial photography and pipeline inspection flying. The engine is started with a foot starter and the whole airplane is only 22 feet long and seven-foot-nine inches high, with room for only two seats. The most it can weigh and still fly is 1,400 lbs. That includes 850 pounds of the airplane itself, and fuel, at six pounds per gallon. With the original 90-horsepower engine and wings that stick out more than 34 feet, by the time it reaches 55 mph it starts flying, maxing out at 120 mph. If you slow down and conserve fuel you can keep flying for four hours.

Ben Anderson, Marvin Greenwood, and Lomis Slaughter Jr. agreed that their company name would be Anderson Greenwood. They left Slaughter’s name out for concern about the impact it might have on sales, but at least he’s listed as one of the patent owners.

The trio and their small staff made this cool little airplane a few miles south of Bellaire along highway 90 at the Sam Houston Airport, which was long ago replaced by a subdivision. When the Korean War broke out Anderson Greenwood turned to producing aircraft parts for other manufacturers. There’s more to this interesting Houston-based story, including a couple of very well-known aircraft companies who were so impressed with the AG-14 that they bought one. We’ll continue next week. Until then, blue skies.