Tag Archives: Aeronautical Division

27 April 1911

Curtiss Type IV Model D, S.C. No. 2, 1911. (U.S. Air Force)
Curtiss Model D Type IV, S.C. No. 2, 1911. (U.S. Air Force)
Glenn Hammond Curtiss (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)
Glenn Hammond Curtiss (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

27 April 1911: At Fort Sam Houston, Texas, the Aeronautical Division of the Signal Corps, United States Army, accepted its second airplane, a Curtiss Model D Type IV. The airplane was built by Glenn H. Curtiss’ Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company at Hammondsport, New York. It was known as a “Curtiss Pusher,” as it was propelled by a propeller behind the engine. The aircraft was a canard configuration with elevators mounted in front. It had tricycle landing gear.

The airframe was primarily spruce and ash, with flying surfaces covered with doped fabric. It was easily disassembled for transport on Army wagons.

The Wrights had patented their “wing-warping” system of flight controls and refused to allow Curtiss to use it. The Model D used ailerons instead, which was a superior system.

The Model D Type IV had a length of 29 feet, 3 inches (8.915 meters) with a wingspan of 38 feet, 3 inches (11.659 meters) and height of 7 feet, 10 inches (2.388 meters). Its empty weight was 700 pounds (317.5 kilograms) and loaded weight was 1,300 pounds (589.7 kilograms).

The engine was a “Curtiss Vee,” an air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 268.336-cubic-inch displacement (4.397 liter) Curtiss Model B-8 90° V-8 engine, producing 40 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. The Model B-8 was 29½ inches (0.75 meters) long, 19 inches (0.48 meters) high and 17 inches (0.43 meters) wide. It weighed approximately 150 pounds (68 kilograms). The engine drove a two-bladed, fixed-pitch wooden propeller in pusher configuration.

The airplane’s top speed was 60 miles per hour (96.6 kilometers per hour). Endurance was 2½ hours.

The Signal Corps assigned serial number S.C. No. 2 to the Curtiss. Intended as a trainer, it was in service until 1914, when it was scrapped.

A reproduction of S.C. No. 2 is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Reproduction of S.C. No. 2 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (NMUSAF)
Reproduction of S.C. No. 2 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (NMUSAF)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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28 March 1913

Thomas DeWitt Milling and William C. Sherman, with Burgess Model H biplane, 28 March 1913. (Photograph by Higby Photo)
Lieutenant Thomas DeWitt Milling and Lieutenant William C. Sherman, with the Burgess Model H biplane, 28 March 1913. (Higby Photo)

28 March 1913: Lieutenants Thomas DeWitt Milling and William C. Sherman, Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps, United States Army, set two American Cross-Country Nonstop Records for Distance and Duration by flying a single-engine Burgess Model H Military Tractor (also known as the Burgess-Wright Model H) biplane from Texas City to San Antonio, Texas, a distance of 220 miles (354 kilometers), in 4 hours, 22 minutes.

During the flight Lieutenant Sherman drew a map of the terrain.

Aero and Hydro reported:

American Cross-Country Nonstop Records.—The Aero Club of America, on recommendation of its Contest Commitee, has adopted the following, relative to cross-country flying, nonstop records: Duration—Aviator With Passenger.—Lieutenant T. DeWitt Milling, Texas City, Tex., to San Antonio, Tex., March 28, 1913, Burgess-Wright tractor biplane, 70-horsepower Renault motor; time, four hours, 22 minutes.

Distance—Aviator With Passenger.—Lieut. T. DeWitt Milling, Texas City, Tex., to San Antonio, Tex., Burgess-Wright tractor biplane, 70-horsepower Renault motor; distance covered, 220 miles.

AERO AND HYDRO, Noel & Company, Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, Volume VI, No. 10, 7 June 1913, at Page 190, Column 1

The U.S. Army Signal Corps purchased six Model H biplanes for $7,500, each. They were assigned serial numbers S.C. 9 and S.C. 24–S.C. 28.

The Burgess Model H was a two-place, single-engine biplane which could be ordered with either wheeled landing gear or floats. It was built by the Burgess Company and the Curtiss Aeroplane and Engine Company, under license from Wright.

The biplane was 27 feet, 9 inches (8.458 meters) long with a wingspan of 34 feet, 6 inches (10.516 meters), and weighed 2,300 pounds (1,043 kilograms)

The airplane was powered by a normally-aspirated, air-cooled, 6.949 liter (424.036 cubic inch displacement) Renault Limited left-hand tractor 90° V-8 engine with a compression ratio of 4.12:1. The engine produced 70 horsepower at 1,750 r.p.m., burning 50-octane gasoline. The V-8 drove a two-bladed propeller at one-half of crankshaft speed. (The propeller was driven by the camshaft.) This engine, also known as the Type WB, was manufactured by three British companies: Renault Limited, Rolls-Royce Limited, and Wolseley Motors Limited.

The airplane had a maximum speed of 72 miles per hour (116 kilometers per hour).

Thomas Milling was issued the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale‘s pilot certificate number 30, and the Army’s Military Aviator Certificate No. 1. He was the first U.S. military officer authorized to wear a military aviator badge as part of his uniform.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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9 October 1912

Arnold and Milling at College Park, Maryland, 1912. (U.S. Air Force)
Lieutenants Arnold and Milling at College Park, Maryland, 1912. (U.S. Air Force)

9 October 1912: In October, Lieutenants Henry H. Arnold and Thomas DeWitt Milling, both assigned to the Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps, United States Army, were ordered to enter the competition for the first Mackay Trophy for “the most outstanding military flight of the year.” Milling withdrew because of illness shortly after the competition started.

Clarence Hungerford Mackay. (Brittanica)
Clarence Hungerford Mackay

“Hap” Arnold won when he flew a 40-horsepower Wright Model B biplane over a triangular course from College Park to Washington Barracks at Washington D.C., on to Fort Myers, Virginia, and back to College Park.

The Mackay Trophy was established on 27 January 1911 by Clarence Hungerford Mackay, who was then head of the Postal Telegraph-Cable Company and the Commercial Cable Company. Originally, aviators could compete for the trophy annually under rules made each year, or the War Department could award the trophy for the most meritorious flight of the year.

The Wright Model B was a two-place, single-engine biplane. The elevator was at the rear, rather than in canard position as had been the earlier Wright airplanes. (This configuration was known as “headless.”) Roll control was through the Wright Brother’s wing-warping system. The Model B was 26 feet (7.925 meters) long with a wingspan of 39 feet (11.887 meters). It had an empty weight of 800 pounds (363 kilograms) and a gross weight of 1,250 pounds (567 kilograms).

The Model B was powered by a water-cooled, fuel-injected, 240.53-cubic-inch-displacement (3.942 liter), Wright “4-40” inline four-cylinder overhead valve gasoline engine, which produced 32 horsepower at 1,310 r.p.m. The engine weighed 160 pounds (73 kilograms). Two 8½ foot (2.591 meters) diameter, two-bladed, counter-rotating propellers, driven by a chain drive, are mounted behind the wings in pusher configuration. They turned 445–470 r.p.m.

The Wright Model B had a maximum speed of approximately 40 miles per hour (64 kilometers per hour) and its range was 110 miles (177 kilometers).

Approximately 100 Model B aeroplanes were built by the Wrights and under license by Burgess from 1910 to 1914. Three are known to exist.

Arnold won the Mackay Trophy again in 1934 when he commanded a flight of ten Martin B-10 bombers from Bolling Field, Washington, D.C., to Fairbanks, Alaska, and back.

Lieutenant Arnold went on to have a successful career in military aviation.

General of the Army Henry Harley Arnold, United States Army Air Forces. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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1 August 1907

1 August 1907: The progenitor of the United States Air Force was established.

August 1, 1907
 
OFFICE MEMORANDUM NO. 6
 
Brigadier General James Allen, Chief Signal Officer 1906–1913. (U.S. Army)

An Aeronautical Division of this office is hereby established, to take effect this date.
This division will have charge of all matters pertaining to military ballooning, air machines, and all kindred subjects. All data on hand will be carefully classified and plans perfected for future tests and experiments. The operations of this division are strictly confidential, and no information will be given out by any party except through the Chief Signal Officer of the Army or his authorized representative.

 
Captain Charles DeF. Chandler, Signal Corps, is detailed in charge of this division, and Corporal Edward Ward and First-class Private Joseph E. Barrett will report to Captain Chandler for duty in this division under his immediate direction.

 

J. Allen, Brigadier General, Chief Signal Officer of the Army

The United States Army had used stationary balloons for battlefield reconnaissance since the Civil War. The Army’s first self-propelled aircraft, though, was Signal Corps Dirigible No. 1, a rigid airship buoyed by hydrogen, and which could carry two crewmen at just under 20 miles per hour (32 kilometers per hour), with a flight duration of 2 hours.

Signal Corps Dirigible No. 1 at Fort Myer, Virginia, 1908 (U.S. Army)

Dirigible No. 1 had been designed and built by Thomas Scott Baldwin of Hammondsport, New York. On 3 August 1908, the airship, Baldwin No. 8, was presented to the Army for trials. Although the the Baldwin No. 8 reached an average speed of just 19.61 miles per hour (31.56 kilometers per hour). It demonstrated the required endurance of two hours, averaging 14 miles per hour (22.5 kilometers per hour). Although the airship’s speed was short of the requirement, on 5 August, the Army purchased it from Baldwin for $5,737.59.

The U.S. Army’s first aviators, Lieutenants Benjamin D. Fulois, Thomas Etholen Selfridge and Frank P. Lahm were taught to fly the airship. Lahm and Fulois made the first flight of an all-Army crew on 26 August.

Signal Corps Dirigible No. 1 was assigned to the Signal Corps Post at Fort Omaha, Nebraska, where the Army had a balloon factory. It was operated there until 1912. The airships envelope needed to be replaced, and unwilling to spend money for that, the airship was sold.

Responding to an Army specification for a heavier than air craft, Orville Wright brought a Wright Model A Flyer to Fort Myer to demonstrate it. On 17 September 1908, The Model A, with Wright as pilot and Lieutenant Selfridge as a passenger, crashed. Wright was seriously injured, but Selfridge died. He was the first person to be killed in an airplane crash.

The following year, an improved airplane, the Wright Military Flyer was shipped to Fort Myer, arriving 18 June 1909. Tests were conducted over the next several weeks. The Military Flyer achieved a two-way average 42.583 miles per hour (68.531 kilometers per hour), over a 5 mile (8.05 kilometers) course, and demonstrated its endurance at 1 hour, 12 minutes, 40 seconds. On 2 August 1909, the United States Army purchased its first airplane, at a cost of $25,000. Because the Military Flyer exceeded the Army’s requirements in both speed and endurance, bonuses were paid totaling $5,000. The Wright biplane was designated Signal Corps Airplane No. 1.

The Wright 1909 Military Flyer being fueled at Fort Myer. Orville Wright is to the right side of the photograph. (U.S. Air Force)

The airplane was used to train Signal Corps pilots at Fort San Antonio, Texas, and was crashed and rebuilt several times. After just two years’ service, it was retired. The Army gave the airplane to the Smithsonian Institution. It is on display at the National Air and Space Museum.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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