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Danbury Conn

After that first successful flight off the grass strip west in Middleburg, Va. the plan was to finalize the AIRPHIBIANS design, get FAA certification and start limited production. The Danbury, Conn airport was the chosen site. Bob had made overtures, found a piece of land, 15 acres, on the airport and had proposed to the town officials that the newly formed CONTINENTAL INC be allowed to buy the land and build a factory for production of an exciting secret project. The Danbury officials were skeptical but enough members who questioned the validity of the present one business HATTOWN, believed "here was another industry" even though it was secret. This was an example of the charm of Bob Fulton.

So the team became real and everyone moved to the Danbury area. I was married, and at that time had 3 children, Frazer P, Rush H and Ariel M. We rented a house in Newtown and then finally bought a small red mill house on a small stream in the Plumtrees district of Bethel, about 15 minutes from the Danbury airport.

The initial 'team' was Bob, Ted, Dash and me. Our first tasks were to get the building useable and I clearly remember digging the well. Again we were all there, it was a freezing cold day, someone had to go down in the well and dig. I was chosen and by then it was about 15 ft deep, I went down to the bottom, it was cozy and warm and those three were up there looking down and freezing while I dug. I don't remember the date that the AIRPHIBIAN arrived, but soon we had the shop cleaned up,  filled with equipment and began the process of limited production.

We needed more help. There was a local tool and die maker by the name of Fred Underhill who lived across the road. Fred was a lovely man and all of the complicated machine modifications were done entirely by him. He bored out the back end of the aircraft engine crankshaft and built a tapered arbor to be heat shrunk onto the crankshaft on which to hang 'something' that would be part of the auto drive system. First we hung a large generator on that arbor, then a large multi belt pulley. No easy task!

An engineer was needed, so Bob found Ross Stevens who made various designs and drawings. They were used by Fred and Dash to make parts and assemblies and out came the AIRPHIBIAN. My first real task was to take the auto/plane machine that I first flew and review every part to make it lighter. A lot of the original was cold rolled steel, I substituted 24ST aluminum which is equally strong and much lighter. I do not remember how much I saved but I went over each part to lighten the weight. When I flew the AIRPHIBIAN that first day there was no 'drive system' yet installed. The plane auto disconnect system was however in place and except for refinements is almost the same as it is  today. The propeller quick take off was developed and refined during those early times in Danbury. Over time I became more familiar with the flying characteristics.

So at this point there was Bob Fulton, President; Franz Alverez, VP and Engineer; Ted Polhemus Mechanical and Electrical Master; Wayne Dasher (Dash), top flight A&E Mechanic; Fred, Tool and Die Maker; Ross Stevens, Aeronautical Engineer and Structural Engineer and myself as Test Pilot.

Frazer Dougherty - October 2006


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