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BILL MILLIKEN built and flew his own airplane. Maybe that’s not so remarkable, but he was a college student at the time and the year was 1933.

September 5, 1933. Old Orchard Beach, Maine. The Milliken M-1 is poised for flight.

And this is only part of it. There were his 1928 Aero-Triple-Cycle propeller-driven car, the 1933 Milliken M-1 aeroplane, his engineering studies at MIT, his involvement with Boeing B-29 development during World War II, his racing up Pikes Peak and in early Sports Car Club of America venues such as Watkins Glen and Bridgehampton, his fundamental research in vehicle dynamics leading to concepts such as the traction circle, his innovative MX-1 camber car….

Bill Milliken, April 18, 1911-July 28, 2012. Rest his soul.

Bill, who passed away July 28, 2012, at the age of 101, should have written a book.

And, indeed, he did: Equations of Motion: 80 Years of Adventure, Risk and Innovation, by William F. Milliken Jr., Bentley Publishers, 2006.

One of my favorite passages in this wonderful book involves Bill, his pal “Peanut” Spruce and the tangled controls of a church organ. “This was not the only time I retreated from organized religion but was certainly the most memorable.”

The Milliken M-1 airplane was powered by a Henderson motorcycle engine, an air-cooled 4-cylinder. Bill gained knowledge of the aircraft’s wood structures, not to say a heated workplace, in a loft above a canoe shop in his native Old Town, Maine. His mother contributed by sewing the fabric onto the wing.

Bill wrote, “A millinery store downtown, run by two conservative spinster sisters, carried a good grade of unbleached cotton cloth, although not in the quantity we required. After convincing themselves that our use of the material was strictly moral, the sisters ordered another bolt or two.”

On September 5, 1933, a “brief but hectic flight” above Maine’s Old Orchard Beach ended with the M-1 nosed over, though essentially intact. Bill recalled, “Its flight characteristics displayed every form of aircraft instability and demonstrated how little I really knew.”

Unlike the original, the virtual Milliken M-1 benefited from Bill’s career in vehicle dynamics.

A few years ago, I celebrated Bill’s achievements with a flightsim model of his M-1. In flight tuning my virtual version, I profited from his kind advice—and from his career in vehicle dynamics. The flightsim version of the M-1 is a real sweetheart. If you’re into Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004, a Century of Flight, the Milliken M-1 can be downloaded from The Old Hangar,

The real Milliken M-1 resides in the Owls Head Transportation Museum, Owls Head, Maine. ds


  1. Carmudgeon
    September 7, 2012

    Bill was incredibly talented and lived an amazing life. I think his name should have been spelled Milli-can.

  2. Ed Materson
    August 7, 2015

    I was thinking of doing a version of this for X Plane Flight Sim. Interesting little plane. Saw it years ago at Owl Head. Looks like you did a good job.

    December 24, 2018

    I’m reading his autobographic book right now, and is one of the most teachable histories written by an engineer. Totally recommended.

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This entry was posted on September 4, 2012 by in Computer Flight Sim, Vintage Aero and tagged , , , .
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