Phil Lockwood, an aviation legend, is looking to ship his 300th AirCam kit in the next few months. AirCam is displaying their newest model, the Gen Three, at Sun ‘n Fun this week. It now carries three seats and a new gross weight rating of 1900 pounds (up from 1680). The overall dimensions of the airframe remain the same and most of the improvements were made to strengthen the landing gear and its support structures.
The origin story of the AirCam could be the subject of a major motion picture, beginning with a young Phil Lockwood in his 20’s flying to Africa to pilot a Maxair Drifter over the Skeleton Coast desert with a wildlife photographer strapped in the front seat. A few years later, Phil left Maxair, started Lockwood Aviation Supply and ended up back in Africa in support of another project to film some of the densest rainforest canopy on earth from a low level. The terrain was so inhospitable that the camera aircraft had to be equipped with floats to operate off a river. A single engine Drifter was not going to cut it.
Nobody bothered to tell Phil that is would be impossible to design a new twin engine aircraft, build it, test fly it and then make it fully operational in six months. So he just did it. Phil and a few helpers finished the aircraft, to be named the AirCam (for Air Camera), in Florida, took it apart and shipped it to Africa. Months later, the AirCam was reassembled in Africa and flown to the rainforest where they filmed the award winning National Graphic Special, Ndoki, The Last Place on Earth.
That was AirCam SN 0001. It now resides in the EAA Aviation Museum in Oshkosh. This month they are shipping SN0296. The AirCam has a loyal following of builders and pilots, including actor Harrison Ford, Astronaut Story Musgrave (who has more T-38 time and more space missions than any other human) and Google Senior VP of Engineering (and, coincidentally the holder of the skydiving altitude record) Alan Eustace.
At Oshkosh this summer, there will be a big celebration of the AirCam legend to commemorate the 300th aircraft and 25 years of aviation excellence. Here in Florida at Sun ‘n Fun, we don’t have to wait for the official celebration to begin. We can enjoy the experience here and now.