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Spencer S-12 Air Car
Republic RC-1 Thunderbolt / OA-15 Seabee / RC-3 Seabee

 

spenc-air-car

 

Percival H. Spencer left Spencer-Larsen in September 1940 and starts the work on his own S-12 Air Car amphibian design. The Spencer Air Car was his 12th design. On 1 March 1941, the first parts are cut for the amphibian Air Car. It was built of steel tube and fabric, featuring an angular cabin with a high wing, a slender low-mounted tail boom, and an engine mounted at the back of the wing / cabin, driving a two-bladed propeller in pusher configuration.
 
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S-12 Air Car
 
The Spencer S-12 Amphibian Air Car, NX29098, took to the air for the first time on 8 August 1941, from sea on Belmore, Great South Bay, Long Island.
 
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S-12 Air Car
 
After the USA is at war, from the Pearl Harbor attack on 7 December 1941, Spence put the Air Car in storage. 
Spence accepts a job offer from The Mills Novelty Company, Chicago, IL, which was interested in the potential of the Air Car as a promotional gimmick for their company, in 1943.  In April the Air Car was flown from Long Island to Chicago, Illinois. Using the wood-forming facilities at Mills, the Air Car forward cabin or reformed to a rounder 'egg'-shape.
 
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S-12 Air Car
 
The Mills Novelty Company was not likely to put the Air Car into production, so Spencer showed it off to his former employers at Republic. By that time, Republic officials were thinking of what the company should be doing when the war came to an end. Expecting private aviation to boom once the fighting stopped, the Air Car plans and manufacturing rights were sold to Republic Aviation Corporation, Farmingdale, New York, in December 1943. Redesign of the Air Car design started in January 1944, to develop an all metal production version.  The first development prototype is named Model RC-1 Thunderbolt Amphibian.
 
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Republic RC-1 Thunderbolt
 
The RC-1 prototype, NX41816, made her first flight from Republic Farmingdale Airport on Long Island, on 30 November 1944.  Spence is at the controls.
 
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Republic RC-1 Thunderbolt Amphibian (NX41816)
 
The Republic Amphibian was presented at the St. Louis Convention in December 1944. A 'Seabee' diorama was displayed at the RAC booth at Jefferson Hotel and tentative arrangements are made with the first distributors. Quota commitments made at the convention totals 1972 airplanes at a basic retail price of $3,500.  The Republic Aviation Corporation's Board of Directors approved the plans for RAC's entry into the personal plane market. Also, in December 1944,NX41816 is demonstrated for the USAAF, US Navy and USCG from National Airport, Washington D.C.
 
The US Navy officially approved the commercial use of the name "Seabee" for the new Republic amphibian on 19 Febuary 1945.
May 1947 saw Seabee NC6429K (s/n 674) built. It was delivered new by Republic's pilots and demonstrated by Republic's pilots for a total of two days to the USAAF as Model YOA-15. The Republic pilots then flew it back to the factory where it was used by the factory as a demonstrator on the east coast the rest of that year and the next.
 
NC6429K was never assigned a military number or painted any other color than a standard Seabee. Republic sold it to a John Philbrook, who used it in his air charter business, Adirondiacs Airways Maine. John had a second Seabee in the business and was killed in that one. Mr. Herman Mau bought it from the estate and based it at his Florida home, land locked (for a few years) because the water level in the lake it is on is too low to fly it out.
 
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Republic RC-3 Seabee NC6429K (s/n 674)
 
On 17 April 1945, RAC President Alfred Marched ordered full steam ahead for engineering, tooling and manufacturing divisions, after initial contract is made with US Army for the order of OA-15 Seabees to be used for rescue work in the Far East.  The projected military rescue amphibian was to be powered by a geared engine and have a cabin arrangement for 2 litters. The contract is later cancelled, when US Army after V-J Day cancelled orders with RAC for $242,000,000.  
 
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Republic RC-3 Seabee
 
In the wake of massive cutbacks following the end of the war in August 1945, the military orders for the Seabee were cut; it is unclear if the military ever got their hands on any. Work on the civilian Seabee continued, with the prototype of the production RC-3 Seabee, NX87451, rolled off the construction line at Republic Aviation Corporation on 22 November 1945. At 9:17 a.m, 1 December 1945, the first prototype Model RC-3 Seabee, NX87451, makes her first flight, taken to the air by designer and test pilot Percival H. Spencer from Republic Airport, Farmingdale.
 
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Republic RC-3 Seabee
 
The first standard production Model RC-3 Seabee rolled off production lines at Republic in March 1946. As the production RC-3 Seabee emerged, it was built mostly of metal, with an egg-shaped forward fuselage and a slender tailboom, both riding on a stepped boat hull. It had a high strut-braced wing with fixed floats mounted just outboard of mid-span. It was powered by Franklin 6A8-215-B8F or -B9F air-cooled flat-six piston engine providing 160 kW (215 HP), mounted in pusher configuration at the rear of the cabin, behind the wing. Images of surviving Seabees show them to have a three-bladed variable-pitch propeller, but apparently the RC-3 was originally built with a two-bladed fixed-pitch prop. The fuel tank was in the wing center section.
 
The Seabee had tailwheel landing gear, all gear with single wheels, the main gear retracting up and back to (not into) the fuselage, the tail wheel hinging up behind the rear of the boat hull. There was a water rudder behind the tail wheel. Flight controls were conventional -- ailerons, elevators, rudder, and one-piece flaps. There were seats for four, including the pilot, access being through a front-hinged car-style door on each side of the fuselage.
 
P. H. Spencer, designer of Republic's Seabee, smilingly painted the 'NC' on the tail of Seabee NC87457 (ex NX87457) to celebrate the CAA certification of the Seabee on 21 July 1946. 
 
The first Seabee, N87463 (s/n 13) is officially delivered to a customer on 25 July, 1946, when handed over to president J. G. (Tex) Rankin, Rankin Aviation Industries, Tulare, California, at Republic.
 
In 1947 Republic RC-3 Seabee s/n 1019 (NC6731K) was sold from Republic Aviation to a businessman.  Official RAC records list says that s/n 1019 was imported to Israel by Aerogypt High Speed Development Company, Palistine, Israel.  This businessman donated the Seabee to the new Israel AF for utility flying. The Seabee was initally registered VQ-PAV, but was soon transferred to the Israel AF.
 
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Republic RC-3 Seabee B-61 (s/n 1019) Israel 1948

During the 1980s a Republic Seabee was donated to the Israeli Air Force Museum, Beer Sheva, Israel, by an American businessman, Mr. Robert Hebron.  The Seabee, s/n 864 (ex N6564K), was put on display painted as the original Israel AF Seabee.
Republic had hoped to sell 5,000 Seabees a year but the boom in private aviation didn't really materialize. Republic had also raised the price, with a Seabee going for $6,000 USD in 1946. On the 4th of Octobe 1947 Republic Aviation Corp. announced that the production of the RC-3 Seabee amphibian has been terminated.  Last production RC-3 Seabee was N6770K (s/n 1060).  The last Seabees were not sold until early 1948.
 
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Republic RC-3 Seabee
 
In 1984 P. H. Spencer planned to resume production of all the metal parts for his S12-E model four-place Amphibian Air Car. He had stopped production early in 1982. In addition to the metal parts, he was contemplating manufacture of hull and empennage parts should a market survey indicate a favorable response.
 
The Air Car is basically a wooden aircraft, skinned with fiberglass in molded sections for the hull, cabin, engine cowl, wing root fairings, wingtips, floats, etc. Its heart is a single steel tube weldment combining engine mount, wing spar carry-throughs, and lift strut attach points. This section carries all major flight and water loads. Wings are wooden with three-ply skin. Original powerplant was a 260-hp Lycoming, later replaced with the Teledyne Continental Tiara which came in two models, the 6-285-B, C (285 hp) and the 6-320 (320 hp). A Hartzell three-bladed, reversible propeller permits backing up during taxiing to dock.
 
The S12-E has a span of 37 feet and a length of 26 feet with an empty weight of 2150 pounds and a gross of 3200 pounds. Max speed is 155 mph, cruise 140 mph, landing 55 mph with a 300-hp Continental Tiara engine. Ten were flying in 1984 and 35 are under construction, including one each in Indonesia, New Zealand and Brazil.
 
All owners pronounce it a rugged, stable and forgiving airplane. It has been flown with six different engines, ranging from 180 to 300 hp.
 
 
Variation:
STOL Aircraft Twin Bee

 

RC-3 Seabee
Engine: 1 x Franklin 6A-215-B8F, 160kW / 215 hp
Wingspan: 11.48 m / 38 ft 8 in
Length: 8.53 m / 28 ft 0 in
Height: 2.92 m / 10 ft 7 in
Wing area: 18.21 sq.m / 196.01 sq ft
Max take-off weight: 1429 kg / 3150 lb
Empty weight: 953 kg / 2101 lb
Max. speed: 193 km/h / 120 mph
Ceiling: 3660 m / 12000 ft
Range: 579 km / 360 miles
Crew: 1
Passengers: 3
 
Republic RC-3 Seabee
Wingspan: 11.5 m / 37 ft 8 in
Length: 8.5 m / 27 ft 10 in
Height: 3.1 m / 10 ft 1 in
Wing area: 17.8 sq.m / 192 sq.ft
Empty weight: 995 kg / 2,190 lb
MTOW: 1,430 kg / 3,150 lb
Max speed at altitude: 240 kph / 150 mph / 130 kt
Service ceiling: 3,650 m / 12,000 ft
Range: 840 km / 520 mi / 450 nmi
 
Super Seabee
Engine: Lycoming TIO-540
ROC: 900 fpm
Cruise: 93-100 kt
 
Spencer Air Car
Engine: Continental IO-520, 300 hp
Speed max: 155 mph
Cruise: 135 mph
Range: 750 sm
Stall: 43 mph
ROC: 1000 fpm
Take-off dist: 700 ft
Landing dist: 500 ft
Service ceiling: 15,000 ft
Fuel cap: 96 USG
Weight empty: 2150 lb
Gross: 3200 lb
Height: 11.8 ft
Length: 26.4 ft
Wing span: 37.3 ft
Wing area: 184 sq.ft
Seats: 4
Landing gear: retractable nose wheel
 
Spencer Air Car
Engine: 285-hp Continental
Gross Wt. 3200 lb
Empty Wt. 2190 lb
Fuel capacity: 94 USG
Wingspan 37’ 4”
Length 26’ 5”
Top speed147 mph
Cruise 135 mph
Stall 43 mph
Climb rate 1000 fpm
Takeoff time 16 sec
Range 700 sm
 
 

 

 

 

 

 


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