Tag Archives: Aero Club of America

11 December 1917

Katherine Stinson with her Curtiss-Stinson Special. (Library of Congress)

11 December 1917: Katherine Stinson flew her custom-built Curtiss-Stinson Special from Rockwell Field, North Island, San Diego to the Presidio of San Francisco, a distance of 606 miles (975 kilometers)¹ in 9 hours, 10 minutes. This was a new American duration distance record.

Of her flight, she later said “It was easy to tell where I was all the time . . . towns, cities, farms, hills and mountains passed rapidly. . . . I never had any fear. The main thing was speed.”

A contemporary magazine article described her flight:

MISS STINSON FLIES OVER TEHACHAPI MOUNTAINS

Under the auspices of the Pacific Aero Club, Katherine Stinson, on December 11, flew from North Island, San Diego, to the Presidio at San Francisco via inland route, crossing the Tehachapi mountains at 8,000 feet [2,438 meters]. The official distance covered is 460.18 miles [740.59 kilometers]. Time, nine hours, ten minutes; non-stop flight. Left North Island at 7.31 a.m., flew over Tehachapi mountains at 8,000 feet, arrived at San Francisco at 4:41 p.m.

The flight was observed and timed at San Diego by Captain Henry Abbey and Captain Dean Smith, United States Army aviators, and was accompanied as far as Ocean Side by Theodore McCauley, Army Instructor, who piloted a Curtiss reconnaissance machine; the finish was observed and timed by Rear Admiral Chas. F. Pond, U.S.N., President of the Pacific Aero Club; Lowell E. Hardy, Secretary; J.C. Irvine, official observer, Aero Club of America; Robert G. Fowler, Chas F. Craig, and F.C. Porter of the Contest Committee  Pacific Aero Club. She was given a very a very hearty reception by thousands of soldiers at the Presidio upon her arrival.

The aeroplane used was built by Curtiss from two lower wings of Curtiss J.N. 4 with triplane fuselage, Curtiss OX2 90–100 H.P. engine.

Miss Stinson is now the only living aviator to fly over the Tehachapi mountains. Silas Christofferson, deceased, was the only other aviator to perform the feat. The performance does not break the American record for distance held by Miss Ruth Law, but establishes a new record for duration cross country flight and is a most remarkable performance.

Flying, Vol. VI, No. 12, January, 1918, at Page 1063

Katherine Stinson. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

Katherine Stinson was born 14 February 1891 at Fort Payne, Alabama. She was the first of four children of Edward Anderson Stinson, an electrical engineer, and Emma Beavers Stinson.  Deciding to learn to fly, she sold the family’s piano to pay for flying lessons. In 1912 she became the fourth woman in the United States to become a licensed pilot. Later, her younger sister, Marjorie, also learned to fly. In 1913, Katherine and her mother formed the Stinson Aviation Company at Hot Springs, Arkansas.

After the family moved to San Antonio, Texas, the sisters taught at the Stinson School of Flying at Stinson Field (now, Stinson Municipal Airport, FAA location identifier SSF).

Katherine Stinson

During World War I, Katherine Stinson flew exhibitions on the behalf of the American Red Cross, raising more than $2,000,000. She attempted to join the Army as a pilot, but instead was sent to Europe as an ambulance driver.

While “over there,” she contracted influenza, and later, tuberculosis. Although she survived and lived a long life, her illness prevented her from continuing to fly. She moved to Santa Fe, new mexico, for its high, dry climate. Although she lacked a professional education, she he became a successful architect in Santa Fe, New Mexico, designing residences in the Spanish Pueblo Style.

in 1928, Stinson married Judge Miguel Antonio Otero, Jr., son of the former governor of New Mexico. They would adopt her deceased brother Edward’s four children.

Katherine Stinson Otero died at her home in Santa Fe, 8 July 1977, at the age of 86 years. She is buried at the Santa Fe National Cemetery.

“Fear, as I understand it, is simply due to lack of confidence or lack of knowledge—which is the same thing. You are afraid of what you don’t understand, of things you cannot account for.”

—Katherine Stinson

Katherine Stinson in the cockpit of her Curtiss-Stinson Special. (World Aviation News)

The Curtiss-Stinson Special was built by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, specially for Katherine Stinson. It was a single-place, single-engine, two-bay biplane intended for exhibition flights. The Special used the fuselage of a Model 10 Speed Scout fighter, new wings, and the tail surfaces of the JN-4 “Jenny.” It was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 567.45-cubic-inch-displacement (9.299 liters) Curtiss OXX-6 single-overhead-camshaft (SOHC) 90° V-8 engine, rated at 100 horsepower at 1,400 r.p.m. A replica of this one-of-a-kind airplane is in the Alberta Aviation Museum, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

¹ Some sources cite a distance for Stinson’s flight of 610 miles or 981.5 kilometers. The Google Maps Distance Calculator puts the straight line distance between North Island and the Presidio at 461.606 miles (742.883 kilometers).

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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18 September 1919

Roland Rolffs after setting an FAI altitude record of 9214 meters at Garden City, 20 July 1919. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Roland Rohlfs after setting an FAI altitude record of 9,241 meters (30,318 feet) at Garden City, New York, 20 July 1919. The airplane is the Curtiss 18T-2 Wasp, Bu. No. A3325. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

18 September 1919: Curtiss Engineering Corporation test pilot Roland Rohlfs set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Altitude when he flew a Curtiss 18T-2 Wasp triplane, U.S. Navy Bureau of Aeronautics serial number A3325, to an altitude of 9,577 meters (31,421 feet) over Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York.¹ Contemporary sources, however, reported that Rohlfs’ peak altitude was 34,610 feet (10,549 meters).

This record broke Rohlfs’ previous FAI World Record for Altitude of 9,241 meters (30,318 feet) set at Garden City, New York, 30 July 1918.²

aeronautics officials check altitude-recording barographs with Roland Rohlfs after a record-setting flight. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Aero Club of America officials check altitude-recording barographs with Roland Rohlfs after a record-setting flight. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

Rohlfs took off at 12:06 p.m. and reached his peak altitude 1 hour, 15 minutes later. The air temperature was -43 °F. (-41.7  °C.). He touched down after 1 hour, 53 minutes.

The Curtiss 18T Wasp was a two-place single-engine triplane fighter designed and built for the United States Navy at the end of World War I. A3325 had been loaned to the U.S. Army to set an airspeed record of 163 miles per hour (262 kilometers per hour), before being returned to Curtiss for additional testing. It was fitted with a set of longer wings and redesignated 18T-2. The second 18T, A3326, retained the standard 32’–½” (9.766 meters) wings and was redesignated 18T-1.

The Curtiss 18T-2 was 23 feet (7.010 meters) long with a wingspan of 40 feet, 7½ inches (12.383 meters). It weighed 1,900 pounds (862 kilograms). The airplane was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,145.11-cubic-inch-displacement (18.765 liter) Curtiss-Kirkham K-12 60° single-overhead-cam V-12 engine which produced 375 horsepower at 2,250 r.p.m., and 400 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. The K-12 drove a two-bladed fixed-pitch propeller through a 0.6:1 gear reduction.

Roland Rohlfs takes off from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York at 12:06 p.m., 18 September 1919. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Roland Rohlfs and the Curtiss 18T-2 take off from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York, at 12:06 p.m., 18 September 1919. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

A3325 later crashed during a test flight. Its sistership, A3326, suffered a crankshaft failure and was destroyed. The Curtiss 18T was never placed in series production.

¹ FAI Record File Number 15676

² FAI Record File Number 15674

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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1 August 1911

Miss Harriet Quimby, 1911, (Leslie Jones Collection, Boston Public Library)
Miss Harriet Quimby, 1911, (Leslie Jones Collection, Boston Public Library)

1 August 1911: After 33 flight lessons over a four-month period at the Moisant Aviation School at Hempstead, Long Island, New York, Harriet Quimby took her flight test and became the first woman to receive a pilot’s license, Number 37, from the Aero Club of America. She was “America’s First Lady of the Air.”

She was well-known throughout the United States and Europe, and wore a purple satin flying suit.

On 16 April 1912 she became only the second pilot to fly across the English Channel when she flew from Dover to Calais in 59 minutes with a Blériot monoplane.

Eleven months after receiving her pilot’s license, 1 July 1912, Harriet Quimby was killed when she fell from her Blériot XI during a flying demonstration at Squantum, Massachusetts.

Harriet Quimby and her Blériot XI
Harriet Quimby and her Blériot XI. (Library of Congress)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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12 June 1918

Aviator’s Certificate No. 1702, Aero Club of America. (NASM)

12 June 1918: 2nd Lieutenant James Harold Doolittle, Aviation Section, Signal Officers’ Reserve Corps, was granted Aero Club of America pilot certificate No. 1702 on behalf of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.

The license was signed by Alan Ramsay Hawley, President, and William Hawley, Secretary.

Blue, leather-bound book containing James H. Doolittle’s Aero Club of America Aviator’s Certificate. (NASM)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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8 June 1911

Glenn Hammond Curtiss’ Federation Aeronautique Internationale/Aero Club of America Licence, No. 1, issued June 8, 1911. (NASM-CW8G-0258)

8 June 1911: The Aero Club of America, as representative of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, issued Aviator Certificate Number 1 to Glenn Hammond Curtiss. The document was signed by Allan A. Ryan, president of the club, and G. F. Campbell-Wood, secretary.

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