Simanaitis Says

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A CURTISS BROCHURE describes the aviation state of the art for 1912–1913: “The aeroplane, having progressed from the experimental to the practical stage, and, by means of aviation meetings and exhibitions, having satiated the appetite of the sensation seeking public, is now accepted as a commercial article with a well established place in the advance of civilization.”

Curtiss Aeroplanes, Glenn H. Curtiss Museum, reprint of 1913 brochure, 1986.

Here are tidbits on Curtiss’s thriving business gleaned from this brochure.

This and other images from Curtiss Aeroplanes.

Background. Like the Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss had already established himself as a bicycle maker evolving into an aeroplane manufacturer. Indeed, the Wrights and Curtiss were entangled in a prolonged lawsuit over design technicalities and patent matters.

At issue was the Wrights’ wing warping versus Curtiss’s ailerons. Illustration by Jon Dahlstrom in R&T, December 2003.

The Curtiss Range. By 1913, Curtiss’s facility in Hammondsport, New York, was of considerable size.

Curtiss headquarters in Hammondsport, upstate in New York’s Finger Lake district.

The Curtiss Biplane was available with several models in D and E versions. For example, the D-4, ready to ship, cost $4500. (Figure around $118,000 in today’s dollar.) “40 H.P. An excellent machine for exhibition work, endurance, etc.”

The Standard Biplane was developed from Curtiss’s 1909 trophy-winning Rheims Racer.

The D-8, priced at $5000, upgraded to Curtiss’s 60-hp V-8. Another $500 brought the V-8 to 75 hp. “Capable of developing a speed of 70 miles an hour. For speed and cross-country races.”

The E versions were termed “Weight Carrying,” with “more extensive surface than the Standard machine.” The E-8 was “especially adaptable to passenger carrying…”

The Curtiss Control. “Guided by a rudder that is operated by a steering wheel similar to that of an automobile; balanced instinctively by ailerons that are controlled by a movement to the high side of the aeroplane, as the natural impulse directs; and guided upwards or downwards by moving the steering wheel forward or backward; there is not an unnatural or difficult operation to be learned by the operator of a Curtiss aeroplane.”

The “natural impulse” of keeping the wings level depended upon “a shoulder yoke that is at the same time a brace for the back of the operator. The throttle and ignition are controlled by pedals operated by the feet.”

It was noted, “Being able to have one hand free at all times, the operator of a Curtiss aeroplane has the singular advantage over the operators of most other flying machines in that he can use a field glass, make observations or sketches, etc., while operating the control with one hand.”

The Curtiss Dual Control System.

The Curtiss Dual Control System shifted the steering to the left or right, thus obviating “the dangers of a system where two passengers operate the aeroplane in unison.”

No mention is made of the shoulder yoke aileron control. Maybe both flyers had “natural impulses” to lean in unison?

F.O.B. Hammondsport. “Any Curtiss aeroplane can be ‘knocked-down,’ boxed and put in a truck within one hour after finishing flights.” Reassembly took just two hours.

“The Curtiss aeroplane can be shipped as ordinary express; will go into a side door of any express car, and the cost of shipment is but one-fifth that of any other aeroplane.”

“These are facts that should appeal to every one contemplating engaging in exhibition flying, which requires quick transportation by express, at minimal cost.”

As a deal closer, this feature “made it possible for the Curtiss aviators to do eighty per cent of all the exhibition flying done in this country in the past two years.”

Here’s my personal Rheims Racer, built with GMax for Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Ask the man who flies one. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2020

2 comments on “THE CURTISS AEROPLANE CO. 1912–1913

  1. Roy Mize
    July 28, 2020

    Good post. Rick Leisenring at the Curtiss Museum can fill you in on what happpend to the yokes. Also tell you about the one-off Ruth Law Little Looper that used Wright style controls.

    • simanaitissays
      July 28, 2020

      Hello, Roy,
      I had the pleasure of visiting the museum years ago. I suspect this was when I bought this marvelous brochure.

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