Get Curtiss Model D essential facts below. View Videos or join the Curtiss Model D discussion. Add Curtiss Model D to your PopFlock.com topic list for future reference or share this resource on social media.
Curtiss Model D
Curtiss Model D
A "headed" Curtiss Model D (Curtiss photo 1916) pusher; later "headless" models incorporated elevators around the rudder in the tail (like most aircraft since).
It was also the aircraft type which made the first takeoff from the deck of a ship (flown by Eugene B. Ely off the deck of USS Birmingham on November 14, 1910, near Hampton Roads, Virginia) and made the first landing aboard a ship (USS Pennsylvania) on January 18, 1911, near San Francisco, California.
It was originally fitted with a foreplane for pitch control, but this was dispensed with when it was accidentally discovered to be unnecessary. The new version without the foreplane was known as the Headless Pusher.
Like all Curtiss designs, the aircraft used ailerons, which first existed on a Curtiss-designed airframe as quadruple "wing-tip" ailerons on the 1908 June Bug to control rolling in flight, thus avoiding use of the Wright brothers' patented wing warping technology.
Glenn Curtiss at the controls of the Curtiss Reims Racer, which used the "shoulder cradle" apparatus shown (as his later Model D did) to operate the ailerons' control cables
The Model D was a biplane fitted with a wheeled tricycle undercarriage. The construction was primarily of spruce, with ash used in parts of the engine bearers and undercarriage beams, with doped linen stretched over it. The outrigger beams were made of bamboo. Prevented by patents from using the Wright Brothers' wing warping technique to provide lateral control, and with neither the Wrights nor himself likely to have known about its prior patenting in 1868 England, Curtiss did not use the June Bug's "wing-tip" aileron configuration, but instead used between-the-wing-panels "inter-plane" ailerons, instead, as directly derived from his earlier Curtiss No. 1 and Curtiss No. 2 pushers. In the end, this proved to be a superior solution. Both the interplane and trailing-edge ailerons on these early aircraft did not use a hand or foot-operated mechanism to operate them, but very much like the earlier Santos-Dumont 14-bis had adopted in November 1906, required the pilot to "lean-into" the turn to operate the ailerons -- on the Curtiss pushers, a transverse-rocking, metal framework "shoulder cradle", hinged longitudinally on either side of the pilot's seat, achieved the connection between the pilot and aileron control cabling. Almost all Model Ds were constructed with a pusher configuration, with the propeller behind the pilot. Because of this configuration, they were often referred to as the "Curtiss Pusher". Early examples were built in a canard configuration, with elevators mounted on struts at the front of the aircraft in addition to a horizontal stabilizer at the rear. Later, the elevators were incorporated into the tail unit, and the canard surface arrangement dispensed with, resulting in what became called the Curtiss "Headless" Pushers.
In addition to amateur aviators, a Model D was purchased in April 1911 by the Aeronautical Division of the U.S. Army Signal Corps as a trainer (S.C. No. 2), and by the Navy as an airborne observation platform. A number of them were exported to foreign militaries, as well, including the Russian Navy. On November 14, 1910, Eugene Ely took off from USS Birmingham in a Model D. This was the first time an aircraft had taken off from a ship. On January 18, 1911, Ely landed a Model D aboard USS Pennsylvania. This was the first aircraft to land on a ship.
Upon his election in November 1915, Congressman Orrin Dubbs Bleakley became the first government official to fly from his home state to Washington, D.C. The trip was made in a 75 hp (56 kW) Curtiss biplane from Philadelphia, piloted by Sergeant William C. Ocker, on leave from the United States Aviation Corps at the time. The trip took 3 hours, 15 minutes, including an unscheduled stop in a wheat field in Maryland.
with one 40 hp (30 kW) Curtiss four-cylinder inline engine
Signal Corps Number 2, one 40 hp (30 kW) Curtiss Vee engine, top speed of 60 mph (97 km/h) at sea level
with one 75 hp (56 kW) Curtiss eight-cylinder Vee engine
A number of Curtiss Pusher original and reproduction aircraft exist, and reproductions of the design date as far back to the era when the original aircraft was in production, mostly built by private parties.
Original - Model D in storage with the Ohio History Connection in Columbus, Ohio. It was assembled by Paul and Josh Wilber in Norwalk, Ohio from 1911-1912 and first flew on October 7, 1912. The original Roberts four-cylinder, two-cycle, 50 horsepower engine was replaced by a Kirkham six-cylinder, four-cycle, 50 horsepower engine. The aircraft is currently in storage. Approximately ninety percent of the aircraft is original.
Replica - Model D on display at the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum in Hood River, Oregon. It has a Continental C-85 engine installed.
Replica - Model D on static display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. It was built in 1919 and includes parts from an original airframe. It initially had an OX-5 engine installed, but this was replaced by a Curtiss V8. It was donated to the Smithsonian in 1925.
Replica/Original parts, airworthy, on display at Fargo Hector Airport, Fargo North Dakota, Built/restored/flown by the late Charles Klessig, Galesburg, N.D.
In popular culture
A Headless Curtiss D was the aircraft used by Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon) as the pickup aircraft for a Skyhook-type lift in the prologue section of The Great Race. Fate's assistant, Maximilian Meen (Peter Falk) piloted the D and successfully made the pickup, but was unable to gain altitude and pancaked into a nearby pigpen.