The Whirlpool (Spanish) Aero Car

Where: Niagara Falls, ON.

Engineer: Leonardo Torres Quevedo

Date of construction: February 15 1916

This Historic Project is commemorated jointly by CSCE and the AIC (Asociación de Ingenieros de Caminos, Canales y Puertos de España – Spanish Civil Engineering Association)

Official opening for the Spanish Aero Car over the Whirlpool Rapids, August 8, 1916. (Source: Niagara Falls Public Library)

Site Location: Lat.: 43° – 07’ – 05” N; Long.: 79° – 04’ – 08” W. (GPS: 43.1180306, -79.0687889) 3850 Niagara Pkwy, Niagara Falls, ON L2E 3E8. Travelling eastbound on the Queen Elizabeth way, take the Highway 405 (General Brock Parkway) exit, Exit 37, and proceed 5 km to the Stanley Avenue/Regional Road 102 exit. Proceed 1.8 km and turn left onto Whirlpool Road. Continue 1.4 km and turn right onto the Niagara River Parkway. Proceed 1.1 km: the aero car is on your left. Or take the WE GO Green Line (Niagara Parks) bus.

Plaque Location: The plaque is mounted on a boulder located in a flower bed in front of the Aero Car Gift Shop.

Plaque mounted on boulder in front of Aero Car Gift Shop. (Source: A. MacKenzie)

Description: Leonardo Torres Quevedo, a Spanish engineer, designed the Niagara Spanish Aerocar to cross the “Whirlpool” of the Niagara River between Lakes Erie and Ontario, a distance of approximately 520 m. It was first tested on February 15, 1916 and was officially inaugurated on August 8, 1916. It opened to the public the following day and, with few modifications, operates to this day, with no accidents of a serious nature. The basket could carry 24 seated passengers and 21 standing passengers. Torres Quevedo built a fully Spanish-owned company, the Niagara Spanish Aerocar Co. Ltd., to carry out the construction, headed by his eldest son, Gonzalo, also a civil engineer.

Henri Rechatin walking a tight rope on the wires of the Spanish Aero Car, 1975. (Source: Niagara Falls Public Library)

Historic Significance: The aero car is believed to be the sole remaining example of Torres Quevedo’s design for an aerial ferry. Although constructed and operated in Canada, it was a Spanish project from beginning to end: devised by a Spaniard and constructed by a Spanish company with Spanish capital. Torres Quevedo was a prolific engineer and innovator who initiated significant developments in dirigible design, radio control and analytical calculating machines. In 1991, the Niagara Parks Commission received the Leonardo Torres Quevedo Award on the 75th anniversary of the Aero Car, in recognition of its commitment to preserving Torres Quevedo’s design. It was the first time this award was presented outside of Spain.

Plaque detail. (Source: A. MacKenzie).

Plaque Wording: International Historic Civil Engineering Site. THE NIAGARA SPANISH AEROCAR. A tribute to the distinguished Spanish Engineer who designed the Niagara Spanish Aerocar. This was only one of his many outstanding contributions to the engineering profession. Engineer Leonardo Torres Quevedo (1852-1936). Constructed 1914-1916. CSCE. The Canadian Society for Civil Engineering. 2010. Asociación de Ingenieros de Caminos, Canales y Puertos de España.

Site Historique International de Génie Civil. LE TÉLÉFÉRIQUE ESPANOL DU NIAGARA. Un homage á l’éminent ingénieur espagnol qui a conçu le Téléférique Espagnol du Niagara. Ce n’était que l’und de ses nombreuses contributions exceptionnelles á la profession d’ingénieur. Ingénieur Leonardo Torres Quevedo (1852-1936). Construit 1914-1916. SCGC. La société canadienne de genie civil. 2010. Asociación de Ingenieros de Caminos, Canales y Puertos de España.

Enclave Histórico International de Ingeniería Civil. EL TRANSBORDADOR ESPAÑOL DE NIAGARA. Un homenaje al distinguido ingeniero españiol qui concibió el Transbordador Espagñol de Niagara. Esta fue solo una des sus muchas sobresalientes contribuciones en la profesión ingeniería. Ingeniero Leonardo Torres Quevedo (1852-1936). Construido 1914-1916. The Canadian Society for Civil Engineering. 2010. Asociación de Ingenieros de Caminos, Canales y Puertos de España.

Plaque Unveiling Ceremony: (September 10, 2010)

CSCE President Vic Perry, left, and Leonardo Torres Quevedo, AICCP President and grandson of the designer, unveil the plaque at Oak Hall, the offices of the Niagara Parks Commission. (Source: CSCE).

Leonardo Torres Quevedo and Vic Perry with the Aero Car in the background. (Source: CSCE).

Links to Online Documentation:

Niagara Falls Public Library, “Images, Spanish Aero Car”.

A. P. Yuste and M. S. Palma, “Scanning Our Past from Madrid – Leonardo Torres Quevedo”, Proceedings of the IEEE, 2005.