History Behind The Card: “Curtiss” Hydro-Aeroplane.
Card #77 of 85, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Vice Regal – Black-back issue
- Glenn Hammond Curtiss, in Hammondsport, New York, United States of America, May 21, 1878 – July 23, 1930, Buffalo, New York, United States of America.
Glenn Curtiss is one of the more famous pioneers of aviation. In Canada, he earned his aviation fame by helping the AEA (which includes Alexander Graham Bell of the telephone) develop the Silver Dart aircraft – the nation’s first. It adorns the top banner of this blog. For more on the AEA and the first Canadian aeroplane, the Silver Dart, click HERE.
But, what this card is discussing here, is a sea plane… an aircraft that can take-off and land on water, but fly in the sky like a typical aircraft. It’s also called a flying boat. And a floatplane.
The Curtiss Hydro-Aeroplane… but which one? The image we see on the card depicts two propellers, but in every single actual photography I have seen of a 1911 Curtis Hydro-Aeroplane… even ones as late as 1917, they are all single engine, single-propeller pusher aircraft.
The Wills’s card shows… dammit, I don’t know what it shows… two props, but no drawn image of an engine.
The photos I have seen of all the 1911 versions show the float below the lower biplane wing… with separation. The single pilot sits on a seat just in front and even with the lower wing, with the steering column placed between the pilots legs, with the legs exposed to the air and still not touching the float/pontoon.
The image on the Wills’s card shows the pilot sitting in a cabin within the pontoon, with the lower biplane wings not a single wing, but rather two lower wings attached to the fuselage that IS the pontoon.
You’ll have to forgive me. I’m using non-technical terms, because I am not an aviation expert. I am more of a historical detective (amateur, to be sure), who simply fell into this aviation blogging hobby.
What I did find, regardless, is that there IS a similar-looking Curtis Hydro-Aeroplane called the Curtiss Flying Boat Nr.1, which first flew on January 10, 1912… it has a single 60 horsepower engine mounted on the hull/pontoon at the front of the craft, which via chains drove two propellers. This, was also a two-seater.
IF this Curtiss Flying Boat Nr.1 IS the aeroplane featured on the Wills’s card, then it also means that the 85-card Aviation series (produced for the Australian cigarette market), came out in 1912… and yet, other evidence suggests the series was released in late 1911.
It doesn’t mean anything, because the depiction of the aircraft on the Aviation card is still not a match to the Curtiss Flying Boat Nr.1. It’s the closest I’ve seen, however.
For the record, the Nr.1 aircraft was unable to take-off.
What I am going to do here, is present a few photos various Curtis Hydro-Aeroplanes in as near a chronological order as I can determine. I am taking all photographs below from www.aviastar.org… a pretty damn good site for information on all things aviation!
Readers are very much welcome to correct me on their order, as well as correct me on anything within this blog.
1910: Curtiss Hudson Flyer
Completed in 1910, the Hudson Flyer was a standard model Curtiss aircraft modified with an emergency flotation device added and a hydrovane installed in front of the nose wheel.
It never actually took off or landed on the water, but it’s certainly a hydro-aeroplane prototype.
It first flew on May 29, 1910 at Albany, NY, refueling at Poughkeepsie, NY, landed in northern New York City, and completed the 251 kilometers trip on Governor’s Island, winning a $10,000 prize offered by the New York World newspaper for the first flight between New York State’s capital of Albany and New York City.
1911: Curtiss Hydro-Aeroplane
The photo above shows pilot and plane designer Glenn Curtiss taking off on January 26, 1911 from the waters off San Diego, California.
The plane, oft called the Curtis Hydro-Aeroplane, but officially designated as the Curtiss Model-A, was a biplane with two floats and a six-foot long (1.83 meter) hydrofoil.
One month later in February of 1911, Curtiss and this aeroplane became the first to carry a passenger in a seaplane.
He later added wheels to the aircraft to turn it into the Triad (see two spots below).
1911: Curtiss Tractor Hydro
The second Curtiss hydro was a notable exception to the standard pusher design. The un-named machine that Curtiss used for his flight from North Island to the cruiser Pennsylvania was an otherwise standard Type III pusher air-frame with the engine installed ahead of the wing as a tractor to keep the propeller out of the spray.
The pilot was seated behind the wings and the forward elevator was eliminated.
Curtiss didn’t like the arrangement mainly because of the discomfort of sitting in the propeller blast and engine exhaust; the problem of spray on the propeller on subsequent pusher seaplanes was reduced somewhat by the addition of horizontal spray deflectors to the top of the main float ahead of the propeller.
1911: Curtiss A-1 Triad/Model E/A-1
Originally called the “Triad” because it was supposed to be a land, air, and sea vehicle, Curtiss later just called it Model E.
This Model E airplane was a larger version of the Model D standard Curtiss land/air aeroplane, but he used it as the basis for his development of the seaplane.
The Model E achieved fame through examples purchased by the United States Navy. A Model E-8-75 floatplane became the Navy’s first aircraft when purchased in June 1911 and received the designation A-1, as well as the nickname “Triad” since it could operate from the land and sea and in the air.
General characteristics of the standard Curtiss Model E:
- Crew: One pilot;
- Capacity: 1 passenger;
- Length: 27 feet 8 inches (8.43 meters);
- Wingspan: 37 feet 0 inches (11.28 meters);
- Height: 9 feet 4 inches (2.84 meters);
- Wing area: 331 square feet (30.8 square meters);
- Empty weight: 975 pounds (442 kilograms);
- Gross weight: 1,575 pounds (714 kilograms);
- Powerplant: 1 × Curtiss V-8, 75 horsepower;
- Maximum speed: 65 miles per hour (105 kilometers per hour).
Of course, then there’s data for the same plane, but one called the Curtiss A-1
- Crew: One pilot;
- Capacity: 1 passenger;
- Length: 29 feet 7inches (8.71 meters);
- Wingspan: 37 feet 0 inches (11.28 meters);
- Height: 9 feet 10 inches (2.69 meters);
- Wing area: 286 square feet (26.57 square meters);
- Empty weight: 926 pounds (420 kilograms);
- Gross weight: 1,576 pounds (715 kilograms);
- Powerplant: 1 × Curtiss V-8, 75 horsepower;
- Maximum speed: 60 miles per hour (97 kilometers per hour).
Two versions of the same plane with different specifications and vastly different speeds.
Other flying boats/hydro-aeroplanes built by Curtiss are:
1912: Curtiss Flying Boat Nr. 1
A closer visual look at the Curtiss Flying Boat Nr. 1 shows it to be very close in design to the one pictured on the Wills’s card at the very top.
It might be the same plane… with the card taking a more fanciful approach seeing as how the plane had not yet been completed or flown at the time of the Wills’s card’s issue at the end of 1911.
Called a flying boat, owing to the back that it’s “pontoon” was actually more like a boat’s hull, it had its first tests on January 10, 1912 at San Diego.
It had a wide hull, a bit longer than the pontoon’s Curtiss used in his previous aircraft.
It was attached under the lower wing, with one 60 horsepower motor driving two propellers located in front and between the biplane’s wings.
For the pilot, there were two side-by-side seats in the cockpit located behind the wing in the fuselage.
Although the Curtiss Flying Boat Nr. 1 was capable on the water, it did not have the capacity to fly, ultimately being deemed a failure. Figures… of all the successful seaplanes, the Wills’s card has a failure on it.
1912: Curtiss Flying Boat Nr. 2 Flying Fish/C-1 Flying Boat
Sigh… this Curtiss Flying Boat Nr. 2 is also known as the Flying Fish, the C-1 Flying Boat, and the Curtiss Model E – I think Curtiss was a wonderful designer and aviator, but lousy at marketing.
Curtiss would refer to the earliest designs of the Model F, as the Model E. Regardless, let’s just call this Flying Boat Number 2 (that’s what the Nr designation means), and or the Flying Fish.
This is generally recognized as being the very first successfully-built flying boat.
It had a full-length, flat bottomed hull and held the biplane wings and tail upon it.
The aircraft used a Curtiss Model O powerplant capable of 75 horsepower, and was placed between the wings and behind the cockpit–a pusher-type.
Initially, the Flying Fish used a 1910-style set of surface wings, and used forward elevators affixed to the bow… which is noteworthy only because “modern” aircraft of the day were not using this set up during production.
Curtiss updated the original versions with double surface E-75 wings and no forward elevators, and it was with this set-up that Curtiss began to publicize the aircraft as the Flying Fish – so I guess he was learning how to market his aircraft.
His initial style of naming his aeroplane within his own company was vastly different from when he was with the AEA building such wonderful aircraft as the June Bug and Silver Dart – one-off aircraft names that stand-out.
While the earliest tests of the Flying Fish made it seem more like a fish—unable to fly—he used a hydrostep behind the center of the plane’s gravity, which took almost 50 percent of the aircraft’s hull from contact with the water at near-contact speeds, and it also gave a degree of rotation at take off speed to allow the wings to reach the higher angle of attack needed for take off.
The Flying Fish was able to make its initial flight in July of 1912.
1913: Curtiss Model F
A beautiful aircraft, the Curtiss Model F was used by the US Navy, Italian Navy and Russian Navy during WWI, starting in 1916.
However, as the date states above, it was a 1913 design.
A biplane with the engine mounted between the wings, but behind the side-by-side dual pilot/passenger cockpit, it was a pusher-type aircraft.
The wings of the earliest version consisted of a two-bay, unstaggered, equal-span construction with large ailerons mounted on the interplane struts and extending past the span of the wings themselves.
In the revised 1918 version of the Model F, it used an unequal-span wing that incorporated the ailerons into the upper wing and sponsons (short wings) on the sides of the hull to improve the aircraft’s handling in water. These were known as the Model MF (for Modernized-F), and years later as the Seagull in the postwar civil market. Marketing!
General characteristics – 1917 Version
- Crew: two;
- Length: 27 feet 9¾ inches (8.47 meters);
- Wingspan: 45 feet 1⅜ inches (13.75 meters);
- Height: 11 feet 2⅞ inches (3.42 meters);
- Wing area: 387 square feet (36.0 square meters);
- Empty weight: 1,860 pounds (844 kilograms);
- Gross weight: 2,460 pounds (1,116 kilograms);
- Powerplant: 1 × Curtiss OXX-3 V-8, 100 horsepower;
- Maximum speed: 69 miles per hour (111 kilometers per hour);
- Endurance: 5 hours, 30 minutes;
- Service ceiling: 4,500 feet (1,370 meters);
- Rate of climb: 230 feet/minute (1.2 meters/second).
1915: Curtiss Model 2 / R-2 / R-3
This aircraft was Curtiss using one plane for multiple uses.
Built originally as a standard land-air aeroplane, the Curtiss Model R-2 was used as such for the US Army, and outfitted (instead of wheels) with twin floats for the US Navy.
Consider, however, that the Army only ordered 12 aircraft, while the Navy ordered 100.
The Model R was the designation given to the prototype, by the way.
The Curtiss Model R-2 (the actual production version of the Model R) was a two-bay biplane (two cockpits, if you will – one each for pilot and passenger) set in open, tandem formation.
It had a fixed tailskid under carriage, and, either wheels or twin floats.
The biplane wings were slightly staggered and of unequal span.
The aircraft was used by the U.S. Army and Navy for general liaison and communication duties, observation, training, and as air ambulances.
The later Model R-3 built for the U.S. Navy had a longer wingspan, three-bay wings, and was intended for use as a torpedo bomber.
General characteristics – Model R-2
- Crew: two;
- Length: 14 feet 4⅜ in (7.43 meters);
- Wingspan: 45 feet 11½ in (14.01 meters);
- Wing area: 505 square feet (46.9 square meters);
- Empty weight: 1,822 pounds (826 kilograms);
- Gross weight: 3,092 pounds (1,402 kilograms);
- Powerplant: 1 × Curtiss V-X, 160 horsepower;
- Maximum speed: 86 miles per hour (138 kilometers per hour);
- Endurance: 6 hours, 42 minutes.
1916: Curtiss Model L
If you are like me, you are wondering why the Model L aircraft was thusly named AFTER the Model R. I don’t know why it was done this way.
The original concept for the Model L was as a civil trainer, but was turned into a military version as the Model L-2 as a land/air aeroplane for the US Army, and as the Model L-3 by adding pontoons in place of the wheels to make it usable on water/air for the US Navy.
The photo above makes the aircraft look pretty slick, but you have to see it out of the water:
Notice that in the L-2 version, there are also tiny floats at the bottom of the lowest wing of the triplane.
The upper two wings were of equal span, but the lowest was much shorter in span.
The cockpit was wide, and sat two people, gaining it the nickname: “Sociable Trainer“.
Only two of these aircraft were sold to the U.S. Navy.
- Crew: two;
- Length: 18 feet 0 inches (5.49 meters)
- Wingspan: 25 feet 0 inches (7.62 meters)
- Powerplant: 1 × Curtiss OX-2 – a V8 piston engine, 90 horsepower.
1916: Curtiss N-9
A popular aircraft with the US Navy, with 560 built, the Curtiss N-9 was a floatplane variant of the Curtiss JN-4—the famous “Jenny” military trainer used during WWI, also by the US Navy.
The N-9 biplane used a single central-positioned pontoon mounted under the fuselage. A float was fitted under each lower wingtip.
With the additional weight of the pontoon to the JN-4 to turn it into a N-9, Curtiss made structural and aerodynamic changes, and he used wind tunnel data from the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).
The N-9 became the very first American naval aircraft to use wind tunnel data directly into its design.
The wingspan of the N-9 was increased by 10 feet (3.05 meters), the fuselage was lengthened, the tail surfaces were enlarged, and stabilizing fins were added on top of the upper wing.
When first flow for the initial order of 30 aircraft, the N-9 used a Curtiss OXX-6 powerplant capable of 100 horsepower.
Considered slightly under-powered, Curtiss used, on the next order, a Hispano-Suiza powerplant with 150 horsepower, manufactured in the U.S. under license by Wright-Martin‘s Simplex division (later Wright Aeronautical). These aircraft were re-designated Curtiss N-9H.
1916: Curtiss Model T Triplane aka Wanamaker Triplane
This baby has three names: The Wanamaker Triplane, the Curtiss Model T, and the Curtiss Model 3… a whole lot of names considering its lack of success, and the fact that there was only ever one built. Yup… three names… one aeroplane.
Officially, the company called it the Curtiss Model T. Unofficially, it was known as the Wanamaker Triplane after the person who commissioned it. After Curtiss created a new official naming system, the plane was retroactively known as the Curtiss Model 3. No big mystery here.
If you glance at the photo above, and see ants atop the wings, you can get a taste of just how large the aircraft was.
It was a four-engine triplane patrol flying boat—in concept—and was the largest seaplane in the world, and the first ever U.S.-built four-engine aircraft.
In 1913, Rodman Wanamaker—an American businessman—contracted with Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company to construct a flying boat (called America) for him so he could try and win a £10,000 prize from the Daily Mail newspaper of Great Britain awarded for the first aircraft to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.
Lewis Rodman Wanamaker (born February 13, 1863 – March 9, 1928) was a department store magnate, owning stores all over the Philadelphia area, New York City, and Paris, France.
Anyhow, because of the outbreak of The Great War (aka WWI), the America never did fly across the Atlantic ocean.
In fact, Wanamaker’s American Trans-Oceanic Company he continued to fun efforts to increase aircraft range through the next decade.
Using newer and stronger Fokker engines on his old America aircraft, and flown by Commander Richard E. Byrd, the aircraft flew across the Atlantic Ocean… just a few days after Charles Lindbergh did his solo crossing on May 21-22, 1927, winning that old Daily Mail cash prize.
In 1915, Wanamaker asked Curtiss to build an even bigger aircraft for him… a flying boat that could perform multiple transatlantic flights, as one could correctly assume that Wanamaker wanna make some money by ferrying passengers across the waters—certainly faster than any dirigible or zeppelin currently on the market. I would assume it was for use AFTER the war.
This is the aircraft that was called the Curtiss Model T, but nicknamed the Wanamaker Triplane.
The aircraft’s initial design showed it to be a triplane 68 feet (17.9 meters) long with equal-span six bay wings that were 133 feet (40.5 meters) in span.
Weighing (with expected armaments) at 21,450 pounds (9,750 kilograms), that initial design had it powered by six 140 horsepower motors turning three propellers: two on the front wings in a tractor configuration in the middle, and one pusher engine behind the wings.
It intrigued the British Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) enough that they place an order for 20 of the aircraft.
The first was built at a Curtiss factory in Buffalo, NY completed in July of 1916. It was the first four-engine aircraft to be built in the U.S.
As you can tell, the finished aircraft had four engines, relative to the prototype design of three.
While the aircraft was still about the same size and weight as the original discussion, its equal wing spans were now unequal wing spans, with the upper wing having a span of 134 feet (40.84 meters).
The aircraft had a closed cabin for two pilots and a flight engineer—similar to what the America had.
The four engines that were supposed to now be on the aircraft—four tractor 250 horsepower Curtiss V-4 engines placed on across the middle wing—were not available at that time.
So… the aircraft was transported to England by ship, reassembled at the Felixstowe naval air station and fitted with four French-made Renault 240 horsepower engines.
It was again retrofitted with four 250 horsepower Rolls-Royce Eagle engines.
Even still… on the aircraft’s maiden flight, the Curtiss Model T Triplane was irreparably damaged, causing the Navy to scuttle the order for the remaining 19 aircraft.
- Crew: 6
- Length: 58 feet 10 inches (17.93 meters);
- Upper wingspan: 134 feet (41 meters);
- Mid wingspan: 100 feet (30 meters)
- Lower wingspan: 78 feet 3 inches (23.85 meters);
- Height: 31 feet 4 inches (9.55 meters);
- Wing area: 2,815 square feet (261.5 square meters);
- Empty weight: 15,645 pounds (7,096 kilograms);
- Gross weight: 22,000 pounds (9,979 kilograms);
- Powerplant: 4 × Renault 12F V-12 water-cooled piston engines, 240 horsepower each, or four 250 horsepower Rolls-Royce Eagle engines;
- Maximum speed: 100 miles per hour (161 kilometers per hour);
- Range: 675 miles (1,086 kilometers) at cruise speed of 75 miles per hour (120 kilometers per hour);
- Endurance: 7 hours;
- Time to altitude: 10 minutes to 4,000 feet (1,220 meters).
1918: Curtiss NC (Navy-Curtiss)
This is actually quite a famous aeroplane. The Curtiss NC, which actually stands for Curtiss Navy-Curtiss – one of those great naming concepts from the department of redundancy department of the Curtiss Aviation company, was also nicknamed Nancy or the Nancy boat… I suppose because NC sounds like Nancy.
It makes me think of Rocky Raccoon by The Beatles.
There were 10 of the planes built and flown by the US Navy, but it was the NC-4 which made headlines when it became the first aircraft to make a transatlantic flight on May 8-31, 1919. It made six stops… to refuel.
This biplane was one of the largest yet designed, and within her fuselage it contained sleeping quarters and a wireless transmitter and receiver.
At first, the aircraft used three V12 Liberty engines capable of producing 400 horsepower each. During testing a fourth engine was added to give it enough power to lift off the water, added in a pusher configuration behind the wings.
The engines were built by all of the Lincoln, Ford, Packard, Marmon, and Buick automobile companies, but was designed by the Aircraft Production Board task force led by Jesse G. Vincent of the Packard Motor Car Company and Elbert J. Hall of the Hall-Scott Motor Co. in Berkeley, California.
At least it flew. The NC was able to achieve a maximum speed of 85 miles per hour (137 kilometers per hour), and able to fly as far as 1,470 miles (2,366 kilometers).
General characteristics (of the NC-4)
- Crew: 5;
- Length: 68 feet 3 inches (20.80 meters);
- Wingspan: 126 feet (38 meters);
- Height: 24 feet 5 inches (7.44 meters);
- Wing area: 2,441 square feet (226.8 meters squared);
- Empty weight: 16,000 pounds (7,257 kilograms);
- Gross weight: 28,000 pounds (12,701 kilograms);
- Max takeoff weight: 27,386 pounds (12,422 kilograms);
- Powerplant: 4 × Liberty L-12A, American 27-liter (1,649 cubic inch) water-cooled 45° V-12V water-cooled piston engines, producing 400 horsepower each;
- Maximum speed: 85 miles per hour (137 kilometers per hour);
- Stall speed: 62 miles per hour (100 kilometers per hour);
- Range: 1,470 miles (2,366 kilometers);
- Endurance: 14.8 hours;
- Service ceiling: 4,500 feet (1,400 meters);
- Rate of climb: 220 feet/minute (1.1 meters/second);
- Armament: Guns: Machine guns in bow and rear cockpits.
On October 4, 1918, the NC-1 made its first test flight using the original three-engine set-up. On November 25, 1918, it flew again, with a world record 51 people on board.
I’m guess it didn’t soar into the air like an eagle.
The NC-4 is preserved in the National Museum of Naval Aviation, at NAS Pensacola, Florida.
1917: Curtiss H.16
Although the title of this section indicates it should only be about the H.16, there are other aeroplanes built by Curtiss that are part of its evolution.
I’m being lazy here, and am taking the following information on the H-class from www.flyingmachines.ru. To be honest, this is a great website with photos of aeroplanes I’ve never seen before.
H-12 (Model 6A) – The H-12 of late 1916 was a considerably enlarged version of earlier H-boats and was powered initially with two 160 horsepower Curtiss V-X-X engines. Eighty-four went to the RNAS, which named them Large Americas. Again, Britain was dissatisfied with the under-powered Curtiss engines and substituted 275 horsepower Rolls-Royce Eagle I engines in their H-12‘s, later replaced by 375 horsepower Eagle VIII‘s.
With US participation in the war becoming imminent, funds for the expansion of Naval aviation became available and the Navy was at last able to buy twin-engined flying-boats. The first of 20 H-12‘s was delivered in March 1917. Engines were the 200 horsepower Curtiss V-2-3, later replaced with Liberties. US Navy serial numbers: A152, A765/783
H-12A (Model 6B) – Original H-12‘s re-engined in Britain with 275 horsepower Rolls-Royce Eagle I engines and later Curtiss versions altered at the factory for engines to be installed in Great Britain. For the H-12A model at least, some hulls were built by the Niagara Motor Boat Company of Tonawanda, NY. RNAS serial numbers: 8650/8699 (50), N1160/l179 cancelled (20), N1510/1519 (10).
Powerplant: Two 275 horsepower Rolls-Royce Eagle I engines.
Wing span: 92 feet 8 1/2 inches (28.25 meters);
Length: 46 feet 6 inches (14.17 meters);
Height: 16 feet 6 inches (5.02 meters);
Wing area: 1,216 square feet (112.96 square meters);
Empty weight: 7,293 pounds (3,308 kilograms);
Gross weight: 10,650 pounds (4,830,75 kilograms);
Maximum speed: 85 miles per hour (136,79 kilometers per hour) at 2,000 feet (610 meters);
Climb rate: to 2,000 feet (610 meters) 3.3 minutes; to 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) 29.8 minutes;
Service ceiling: 10,800 feet (3,292 meters);
Endurance: 6 hours at cruising speed;
Armament: 4x flexible .303-in Lewis machine-guns, four 100 pound (45 kilogram) or two 230 pound (104 kilogram) bombs.
H-12B (Model 6D) – Believed to be H-12‘s and H-12A‘s re-engined with 375 horsepower Rolls-Royce Eagle VIIIs. RNAS serial numbers: 4330/4353 (24).
H-12L – The U.S. Navy followed the British lead in refilling its H-12‘s with more powerful engines. When the 360 horsepower low-compression Liberty became available late in 1917, the H-12‘s on hand were fitted with these new V12 engines and were redesignated H-12L. The last H-12L‘s were withdrawn from squadron service in July of 1920.
H-16 (Model 6C) – The H-16 was the final model in the Curtiss H-boat line and was built in greater quantities than any or the other twin-engined Curtiss flying-boats.
It was a logical development of the H-12 and was originally intended to use the 200 horsepower Curtiss V-X-X engine. However, the Liberty engine became available before the first H-16 was completed so all 124 H-16 deliveries to the US Navy were made with the 360 horsepower low-compressionV-12 Liberty engines. These were, in turn, replaced by 400 horsepower Liberty 12A‘s in postwar years. The 60 British versions were shipped without engines and were fitted with 345 horsepower Rolls-Royce Eagles after arriving in Britain.
In addition to the 184 aircraft built by Curtiss, 150 of the H-16‘s were built at the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia. Originally, the Navy-built models were to be identified as Navy Model C, but all were operated as H-16‘s. The first Curtiss-built H-16 was launched on June 22, 1918, while the first Navy-built model had come out of the factory on March 27. The H-16‘s were shipped overseas to U.S. bases in Britain in 1918; H-16‘s remained in postwar service with the F-5L‘s until May 1930. Prices for Navy-built H-16‘s ranged from US$55,547 (minus the engines) for the first example down to US$21,680 apiece for the last 30 aircraft built.
Because of their great similarity, identification problems between the H-16 and the F-5L were inevitable. The distinctive features of the H-16 were originally the unbalanced ailerons with significant sweep back toward the tips as on the America and H-12, and the enclosed pilots’ cockpit. The rudder was unbalanced, but could not be distinguished from early F-5L outlines because the balance area of the F-5L rudder was below the horizontal tail at that time. In postwar years, some H-16‘s were fitted with F-5L ailerons, had the pilots’ enclosure removed, and were given added balanced area to the top or the rudder, further complicating the identity problem.
US Navy serial numbers: (Curtiss) A784/799 (16), A818/867 (50), A1030/1048 (19), A4039/4078 (40). (NAF) A1049/1098 (50), A3459/3558 (100).
RAF serial numbers: N4890/4949 (60) (4950/4999 cancelled).
H-16-1 – One H-16 had its engines turned around and was completed as a pusher. No advantage accrued; the adaptation proved to be excessively tail-heavy.
H-16-2 – A second pusher H-16 (A839) was produced by Curtiss with more consideration for the change of balance. Wings of slightly increased span were swept back 5-1/2 degrees. Straight-chord ailerons used with F-5L-type horn balance brought the revised span to 109 feet 7 inches (33.27 meters). The increased wing area required additional rudder area in the form of two auxiliary rudders mounted on the tailplane.
Powerplant: Two 400 horsepower Liberty 12A engines;
Wing span: 95 feet 0.3/4 inches (28.97 meters);
Length: 46 feet 1 and 1/2 inches (14.05 meters);
Height: 17 feet 8 inches (5.4 meters);
Wing area: 1,164 square feet (108.13 square meters);
Empty weight: 7,400 pounds (3,356.58 kilograms);
Gross weight: 10,900 pounds (4,944.15 kilograms);
Maximum speed: 95 miles per hour (152.88 kilometers per hour);
Rate of climb: 4,700 feet (1,432 meters) in 10 minutes;
Service ceiling: 9,950 feet (3,032.76 meters);
Range: 378 miles (608 kilometers);
Armament: 5-6 flexible 0.30-inch Lewis machine-guns, four 230 pound (104 kilograms) bombs.
1918: Curtiss HA/HA-1 prototype and HA-2 prototype
The Curtiss HA biplane, was a prototype seaplane… designed independently by Captain B.L. Smith of the United States Marine Corps, and built by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company.
The HA was a two-seat biplane with a central float and balancing floats on the wingtips. The fuselage was wood with a fabric covering. The plane was powered by a Liberty V-12 engine in the nose.
The HA prototype was ordered in December of 1917, making its first flight on March 21, 1918.
However, the aircraft was unstable with a heavy tail, and was destroyed later in a crash.
Two more prototypes were built–the HA-1 and HA-2.
The HA-1 was built using salvaged parts from the original HA prototype, but this time it had a differently-designed tailplane and radiator, while the wings were moved farther back. It caught fire during a test flight.
The HA-2 had a wider wingspan, and performed better, but as the war was almost over, no production order was forthcoming.
General characteristics HA-2 prototype
- Crew: 2;
- Length: 30 feet 9 inches (9.37 meters);
- Wingspan: 42 feet 0 inches (12.80 meters);
- Height: 11 feet 5 inches (3.47 meters);
- Wing area: 490 square feet (45.52 meters squared);
- Empty weight: 2,946 pounds (1,336 kilograms);
- Gross weight: 3,907 pounds (1,772 kilograms);
- Powerplant: 1 × Liberty V-12 engine providing 360 horsepower;
- Maximum speed: 118 miles per hour (190 kilometers per hour);
- Rate of climb: 790 feet per minute (4 meters per second);
- Armament: 4 × .30 inches (7.62 mm) Lewis machine guns.
A total of three prototypes and three air/land versions were made for mail delivery.
There is one other Curtiss seaplane built, but it was built after Curtiss’ death in 1930…
1934 Curtiss Model 71/SOC Seagull
Since Curtiss was already four years deceased, I’m reasonably sure he had very little to do with this aircraft, though the overall design bears a similarity to his previous machines.
The Wright Aeronautical Corporation, a successor to the original Wright (Brothers) Company, ultimately merged with the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company on July 5, 1929, forming the Curtiss-Wright company, shortly before Curtiss’s death.
Curtiss passed away on July 23, 1930 …
He was in Rochester, NY to argue against a lawsuit brought against him by his former business partner August Herring, when he suffered an appendicitis attack in court, passing away from complications during an appendectomy.You can read about that partnership HERE.
His funeral service was held at St. James Episcopal Church in his home town, Hammondsport, NY, with interment in the family plot at Pleasant Valley Cemetery in Hammondsport.
Curtiss goes down as one of the all-time pioneer greats of aviation.
On Match 1, 1933, he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (a military decoration awarded to any officer or enlisted member of the U.S. armed forced who distinguishes themself in support of operations by “heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight, subsequent to November 11, 1918.).
That award is now at the Smithsonian.
Further, Curtiss was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1964, the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1990, the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998, and the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2003. The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum has a collection of Curtiss’s original documents as well as a collection of airplanes, motorcycles and motors.
New York’s Laguardia Airport was originally called the Glenn H. Curtiss Airport when it began operation in 1929.