CURTISS

Glenn Hammond Curtiss, shy and reserved, was pioneer of aeroplane, formed what became world's largest aircraft company but then after Second World War withered with amazing swiftness almost to nothing. Bicycle-maker, then builder and racer of motorcycles including high-power engines. Provided engines for several airships and unsuccessful flying machines before becoming founder-member of Aerial Experiment Association 1 October 1907. Provided aircraft and engines for AEA members, and Curtiss’ own June Bug won Scientific American prize for first officially observed flight exceeding 1 km (20 June 1908). On 20 March 1909 formed Herring-Curtiss Co. With Augustus Herring, first US aircraft company. Engaged 1908-13 in bitter and unnecessary litigation with Wrights. Took 63-hp machine to Reims August 1909 and won 2 major prizes; 29 May 1910 added $10,000 Pulitzer prize for flight down Hudson, Albany-NY. Set up flying schools and large team who toured US giving shows, one pilot (Eugene B. Ely) making first take-off from ship and later first landing. Substantial sales of Model D and 2-seat Model E landplanes. Types C and F flying-boats and various amphibians. Curtiss Aeroplane Co. formed at Hammondsport, NY, 1 December 1910; Curtiss Motor Co. 19 December 1911; merged into Curtiss Aeroplane & Motor Corp. (adding another company, Burgess & Curtis, with one s) 13 January 1916. Curtiss started US naval aviation, training pilots and providing aircraft, and first major order was 144 of various subtypes of Model F trainer flying-boat. Built large flying-boat for transatlantic bid (thwarted by war) by Royal Navy officer John C. Porte, who imported giant Curtiss Wanamaker triplane and got H-4 adopted as standard RNAS patrol flying-boat, leading to large numbers of H-12 and H-16 boats and combined Curtiss/Porte F.2A and F-5L. In 1914 Curtiss lured B. Douglas Thomas from Sopwith to design Model J trainer, leading to JN-4 which trained over 95% of US wartime pilots and many Allied pilots, over 6,000 built. Other major wartime types were MF training flying-boat, R-2 and R-6 reconnaissance 2-seaters, R-6 torpedo bomber, N-9 trainer seaplane, and HS-1, -1L and -2L coastal flying-boats. By 1920 Curtiss had also flown 42 other types as prototypes, and in 1922 built 34 TS-1 fighters designed by Navy. Immediate post-war types included Model 17 Oriole 3-seater and Model 19 Eagle 3-engined airliner. Both had 160-hp inline engine derived from earlier Curtiss engines by Charles Kirkham; when Kirkham combined 2 cylinder blocks in K-12 result was world-beating 465-hp D-12, which later became Conqueror, up to 700-hp. Early recipients of this engine included Curtiss racers such as Army R-6 (won 1922 Pulitzer race and twice gained world speed record) and Navy CR-3 (won 1923 Schneider Trophy), R2C (1923 Pulitzer and world speed record) and R3C-2 (1925 Pulitzer and Schneider wins). Even more important, D-12 powered Army PW-8 fighter and all early Navy F6C Hawk fighters. These led to profusion of later Hawks, some with Curtiss water-cooled engines and others with Pratt & Whitney or Wright air-cooled radials, to total exceeding 340. Another major family were Falcon observation and attack aircraft (over 550 1925-32 including 100 for Colombia). Fledgeling trainer found civil and military buyers, Curtiss’ own flying service using 109. Seahawks, Sparrowhawks, Falcons and Helldivers followed, same name often being repeated later for different designs. Hawk name was repeatedly used for new fighters, such as F11C and BF2C whose export versions were Hawk II (127) and Hawk III (137). Army also had a squadron of B-2 Condor heavy bombers, and civil Condor 18 (6) led to T-32 Condor II (57). No fewer than 769 Model 50 Robins were built, most 3-seaters, but only 14 twin-engined Kingbird 8-seaters. After 1918 Curtiss himself had other interests, remaining a design consultant but leaving most work to team headed by George A. Page Jr. at Garden City, NY, formerly engine factory. Another plant opened in 1928 at St Louis as result of formation of Curtiss-Robertson Aircraft Corp., and this handled such civil production as Robin and Condor. On 8 August 1929 bitter old rivals Curtiss and Wright merged, to form huge Curtiss-Wright Corp., Guy Vaughan becoming president and Burdette S. Wright v-p in charge of Airplane Division. One of first Army monoplanes was Shrike attack bomber of 1931, and one of last Navy biplanes SOC Seagull of 1934 (306). In 1930 Curtiss-Robertson merged with Travel Air to form Curtiss-Wright Airplane Co. as separate arm of Curtiss-Wright, products having CW designations. Major examples included CW-1 Junior, CW-12 Sport Trainer, various CW-14s, CW-19 fighter/trainers, CW-21 fighter and CW-22 (SNC Falcon) advanced trainer (591). Meanwhile, company’s biggest single family began with Model 75 stressed-skin monoplane fighter designed by Don R. Berlin and flown 15 May 1935. This led to family of Hawk 75s with fixed landing gear, much bigger family of Hawk 75As and P-36s with retractable gear (RAF Mohawk) and even bigger family of Hawk 81 series P-40s (Tomahawk, Kittyhawk, Warhawk), to total by December 1944 of 13,738. Other production included SBC Helldiver biplane (349), SO3C Seagull/Seamew (790 despite being almost unflyable), SB2C Helldiver carrier-based bomber (7,200), SC Seahawk (578), 3,341 C-46 Commando transports and 791 AT-9 Jeep twin-engine trainers. By 1945 Curtiss was huge empire with major plants at Buffalo, St Louis, Louisville, Kenmore and Columbus. Numerous projects, all of which collapsed. Last aircraft to bear Curtiss name was giant XF-87 Blackhawk 4-jet fighter (15 February 1948). Very last project was stillborn plan to make Doman helicopter. Later, after 1958, Wright Aeronautical plant at Wood-Ridge, NJ, built various multi-rotor VTOL devices.

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