The Liberty Gazette
February 5, 2013Ely 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.