Tag Archives: Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company

8–27 May 1919

Curtiss Aeroplne and Motor Company NC A2282, NC-4. (U.S. Navy)
Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company NC A2294, NC-4. (U.S. Navy)

27 May 1919: NC-4, designating number A2294, one of three United States Navy Curtiss NC flying boats, arrived at the harbor of Lisbon, Portugal, becoming the first airplane to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

Lieutenant Commander Albert Cushing Read, United States Navy, Aircraft Commander, NC-4. (National Photograph Company Collections, Library of Congress)
Lieutenant Commander Albert Cushing Read, United States Navy, Aircraft Commander, NC-4. (National Photo Company Collection, Library of Congress)

NC-4 was under the command of Lieutenant Commander Albert Cushing Read, United States Navy, who also served as navigator. The pilots were First Lieutenant Elmer Fowler Stone, United States Coast Guard, and Lieutenant (j.g.) Walter T. Hinton, U.S. Navy. Lieutenant James L. Breese, USN and Chief Machinist Mate Eugene S. Rhoads, USN, were the engineers. Ensign Herbert C. Rodd, USN, was the radio operator.

Aboard the other aircraft were several officers who would rise to high rank in the Navy: Commander John Henry Towers would later command the Pacific Fleet; Lieutenant Marc A. Mitscher commanded the Fast Carrier Task Force during World War II, and later commanded the Atlantic Fleet. Lieutenant Patrick N.L. Bellinger commanded Patrol Wing 2 at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, and would go on to command Naval Air Forces, Atlantic Fleet.

Three Curtiss flying boats, NC-1 (A2291), NC-3 (A2293) and NC-4 (A2294), under the command of Commander Towers in NC-3, departed Naval Air Station Rockaway, New York City, New York, United States of America, at 10:00 a.m., 8 May 1919, and flew to NAS Chatham, Massachusetts.

During the flight, NC-4 developed an oil leak from the center pusher engine, so it was shut down. This slowed the airplane but it was still able to continue. In mid-afternoon, however, the center tractor engine suffered a failed connecting rod. With only two engines operating, NC-4 was forced down at sea, approximately 80 miles (129 kilometers) from Chatham. The sea was calm and the flying boat taxied the remaining distance on the water. It arrived there at 7:00 a.m., 9 May.

Curtiss NC-4, 1 October 1919. (New Bedford Whaling Museum)
Curtiss NC-4, 1 October 1919. (New Bedford Whaling Museum)

At the air station, the failed engine was replaced with a 300 horsepower Liberty L12, the only spare engine available. The leaking engine was repaired.

Delayed several days by weather, NC-4 departed NAS Chatham at 9:15 a.m., 14 May, and flew to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in the Canadian Maritimes, landing there  at 1:07 p.m. Continuing on to Newfoundland that day would have had them arriving after dark.

NC-4 took off from the waters of Halifax the following morning at 11:47 a.m., and arrived at Trepassey Bay, Newfoundland, at 5:41 p.m., rendezvousing with the aircraft tender USS Aroostook (CM-3). NC-1 and NC-3 had arrived two days earlier.

Trepassey Bay, Newfoundland, May 1919. The white-hulled ship at the center is the aircraft tender USS Aroostook (CM-3). (Library of Congress)

All three airplanes were serviced from the tender. The temporary 300 horsepower Liberty engine which had been installed on NC-4 was replaced with a correct 400 horsepower engine.

NC-4 departs Trepassey Bay, Newfoundland, 16 May 1919. (U.S. Navy)
NC-4 departs Trepassey Bay, Newfoundland, 16 May 1919. (U.S. Navy)

The three Curtiss flying boats took off from Trepassey Bay at 6:00 p.m. on the evening of 16 May and headed across the Atlantic Ocean to the Azores.

NC-1 and NC-3 were both forced down by rain, heavy clouds and thick fog about 200 miles short of their destination. NC-1 was damaged and unable to continue. The crew was rescued by a Greek freighter and the airplane taken in tow, but it sank several days later. NC-3 drifted for two days on surface of the Atlantic, and coming within sight of land, two engines were started and the airplane taxied into the harbor at Ponta Delgada, Ilha de São Miguel.

NC-3 off Punta Delgada, Azores, 19 May 1919. (U.S. navy)
NC-3 off Ponta Delgada, Ilha de São Miguel, Azores, 19 May 1919. (U.S. navy)

NC-4 deviated from its planned course and landed at Horta, on Faial Island, at 1:23 p.m., 17 May. Weather kept NC-4 at Horta for the next few days, until at 8:45 a.m. on the 20th, it took off and flew to Ponta Delgado, landing there just two hours later.

NC-4 departing Ponta del Gada, Azores for Lisbon, Portugal. (National Photo Company Collection, Library of Congress)
NC-4 departing Ponta Delgada, Ilha de São Miguel, Azores, for Lisbon, Portugal, 27 May 1919. (National Photo Company Collection, Library of Congress)

Again, NC-4 was forced to remain in harbor waiting for favorable weather. On 27 May, it was good enough to resume the journey, and the crew once again took off, this time enroute to Lisbon, Portugal.

At 8:01 p.m., 27 May 1919, NC-4 touched down on the Tagus Estuary, Lisbon, Portugal, and became the very first airplane to complete a flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

Curtiss NC-4 at Lisbon, Portugal, 27 May 1919.
Curtiss NC-4 at Lisbon, Portugal, 27 May 1919.
The flight crew of NC-4. Left to right: Chief Machinist Mate Eugene S. Rhoads, USN; Lieutenant James L. Breese, USN; Lieutenant (j.g.) Walter T. Hinton, USN; Lieutenant Elmer F. Stone, USCG; Lieutenant Commander Albert Cushing Read, USN. Ensign Herbert C. Rodd is not in this photograph. (U.S. Navy)
The flight crew of NC-4 at Lisbon, Portugal, 28 May 1919. Left to right: Chief Machinist Mate Eugene S. Rhoads, USN; Lieutenant James L. Breese, USN; Lieutenant (j.g.) Walter T. Hinton, USN; First Lieutenant Elmer Fowler Stone, USCG; Lieutenant Commander Albert Cushing Read, USN. Ensign Herbert C. Rodd, USN, is not in this photograph. (U.S. Navy)

NC-4 was the fourth of ten NC flying boats designed and built by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, Garden City, New York. It was a 3-bay biplane with a boat hull, powered by four engines installed in three nacelles between the upper and lower wings.

There were variations between the individual aircraft. NC-4’s hull was built by Herreschoff Manufacturing Company, at Bristol, Rhode Island. The hull was constructed of two layers of spruce planking with a layer of muslin and marine glue between. It was 45 feet (13.7 meters) long with a beam of 10 feet (3.0 meters and depth of 9 feet (2.7 meters).

The Curtiss NC-4 was 68 feet, 3 inches (20.803 meters) long with an upper wingspan of 126 feet, 0 inches (38.405 meters) and lower span of 96 feet, 0 inches (29.261 meters). The upper wing and the center section of the lower had no dihedral, while the lower wings’ outer panels had 3° dihedral. Their vertical gap varied from 13 feet, 6½ inches (4.128 meters), inboard, to 12 feet, 0 inches (3.658 meters). The chord was 12 feet, 0 inches (3.658 meters), and the lower wing was very slightly staggered behind the upper. The total wing area was 2,380 square feet (221.1 square meters). The biplane-configured horizontal stabilizers had an upper span of 37 feet, 11 inches (11.252  meters), no dihedral, and the vertical gap was 9 feet, 3 inches (2.819 meters). Their total surface area was 330 square feet (30.7 square meters). The overall height of the flying boat was 24 feet, 5 inches (7.442 meters).

The empty weight of NC-4 is 15,874 pounds (7,200 kilograms) and it has a gross weight of 26,386 pounds (11,968 kilograms).

This Ford-built Liberty 12 Model A at the National Air and Space Museum was one of four engines powering NC-4 during its transatlantic flight in 1919. (NASM)
This water-cooled, 1,649.3-cubic-inch (27.028 liter) Ford-built Liberty 12 Model A single-overhead-camshaft V-12 engine at the National Air and Space Museum was one of four engines powering NC-4 during its transatlantic flight in May 1919. (NASM)

Originally built with three engines, flight testing led to the addition of a fourth. These were water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,649.336-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter) Liberty L-12 single overhead cam (SOHC) 45° V-12 engines with a compression ratio of 5.4:1. The Liberty produced 408 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. The L-12 as a right-hand tractor (left-hand pusher), direct-drive engine. The Liberty 12 was 5 feet, 7.375 inches (1.711 meters) long, 2 feet, 3.0 inches (0.686 meters) wide, and 3 feet, 5.5 inches (1.054 meters) high. It weighed 844 pounds (383 kilograms). Two were mounted in a center nacelle with one in tractor and one in pusher configuration. Two more were in individual nacelles in tractor configuration. The engines drove four-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propellers.

NC-4 had a maximum speed of 85 miles per hour (137 kilometers per hour), a service ceiling of 4,500 feet (1,372 meters) and range of 1,470 miles (2,366 kilometers).

NC-4 was restored by the Smithsonian Institution during the early 1960s and remains a part of its collection, though it is on long term loan to the National Museum of Naval Aviation, Pensacola, Florida.

Curtiss NC-4 (Smithsonian Institution)
Curtiss NC A2294, NC-4.(Smithsonian Institution)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

23 April 1915

Lieutenant Commander Patrick Neison Lynch Bellinger, United States Navy.

23 April 1915: Lieutenant Patrick Neison Lynch Bellinger, United States Navy, flew a Burgess-Dunne hydroaeroplane to an altitude of 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) over Pensacola Bay, Florida.

The Aero Club of America certified Lieutenant Bellinger’s record:

     Homolgation of the altitude record made by Lieut. P. N. L. Bellinger at Pensacola Bay, Fla., on April 23rd last has been officially recognized and awarded as follows: American altitude record, aviator alone, hydroaeroplane, 10,000 feet. This height was reached in one hour, nineteen minutes. It is interesting to note the climbing record in connection with this flight, 6,000 feet being attained in 24 minutes and 8,000 feet in 41 minutes.

Flying, Vol. IV, No. 5, June, 1915, The Aero Club of America, Club News, Page 554 at Column 1

Burgess-Dunne Model BD-5, U.S. Navy serial number AH-10.
Burgess-Dunne hydroaeroplane, U.S.N. serial number AH-10. (United States Navy)
Lieutenant John William Dunne, Wiltshire Regiment, British Army. (The Sketch, 19 May 1909)

The Burgess-Dunne Model BD-5, U.S. Navy serial number AH-10, was a licensed variant of the British Short Brothers-built Dunne D.5. The configuration was designed by Lieutenant John William Dunne, F.R.Ae.S., and was based on his observations of the Roemer’s Alsomitra macrocarpa seeds, although his design essentially reversed the aerodynamic features of the seed.

According to Wikipedia:

The seed or samara of this species is unusual in having two flat bracts extending either side of the seed to form a wing-like shape with the seed embedded along one long edge and the wings angled slightly back from it. As the seed ripens the wings dry and the long edge furthest from the seed curls slightly upwards. When ripe, the seed drops off and its aerodynamic form allows it to glide away from the tree.[6][7] The wing spans some 13 cm and can glide for great distances. The seed moves through the air like a butterfly in flight — it gains height, stalls, dips and accelerates, once again producing lift, a process termed phugoid oscillation.[8] In the past it was often found on the decks of ships at sea.

The seed’s relative stability in pitch and roll inspired Igo Etrich, a pioneer of early aviation. The contemporary pioneer J.W. Dunne also studied the seed but discarded it as inspiration because it was not directionally stable.

Alsomitra macrocarpa seed. (Scott Zona/Wikipedia)

The BD-5 was a two-place, single-engine, four-bay biplane with a single pontoon and wingtip-mounted floats. The wings were swept 30° and the lower wing was staggered significantly behind the upper. Both wings had anhedral, and the upper wing had slightly more area and a negative twist. There was no tail, rudder or elevators. The ailerons also acted as elevators. The design was very stable and it could not be forced into a stall.

Burgess-Dunne Hydroaeroplane, 1914. (FLIGHT First Aero Weekly in the World, No. 286 (Vol. VI, No. 25), 19 June 1914 at page 645.)

The Burgess-Dunne was 24 feet, 8 inches (7.518 meters) long, with a wingspan of 46 feet, 0 inches (14.021 meters). The wings have a chord of 6 feet, 0 inches (1.829 meters) vertical gap between the wings was 6 feet, 0 inches (1.829 meters). The total wing area is 545 square feet (50.63 square meters). The airplane’s empty weight was 1,450 pounds (658 kilograms), and it had a gross weight of 1,700 pounds (771 kilograms).

The pontoon had a single hydrodynamic step. It was 17 feet, 8 inches (5.385 meters) long, 3 feet, 1 inch (0.940 meters) wide and had a maximum depth of 1 foot, 2 inches (0.356 meters).

The airplane was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated 567.450-cubic-inch-displacement (9.299 liter) Curtiss OXX-2 overhead valve 90° V-8 engine with dual ignition. It had two valves per cylinder, a compression ratio of 4.92:1, and produced 100 horsepower at 1,400 r.p.m. The OXX-2 was a direct-drive engine and turned a two-bladed, 8 foot (2.4 meter) diameter propeller in a pusher configuration.

The Burgess-Dunne had a fuel capacity of 22 Imperial gallons (100 liters) and carried 4 gallons (18 liters) of lubricating oil.

During flight testing, the Burgess-Dunne Hydroaeroplane averaged 58.75 miles per hour (94.55 kilometers per hour) ground speed over a triangular course with a 10 knot wind (11.5 miles per hour, or 5.4 meters per second).

One Burgess-Dunne had been ordered by the Navy on 5 December 1914. The cost was $5,000.00, less engine. It was delivered in April, 1915. After being flown to the altitude record, AH-10 was used for artillery spotting at Fort Monroe, Virginia. It was the first U.S. Navy aircraft to be armed with a machine gun, a .30-caliber Benét-Mercié machine rifle, and bomb racks.

On 7 March 1916, AH-10 was damaged in a collision with a sailing vessel off Mobile, Alabama. The pilot, Lieutenant Edward Orrick McDonnell, U.S. Navy, was not hurt. After repair, the airplane was returned to service. (Lieutenant McDonnell had been awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of Veracruz, 21–22 April 1914. He rose to the rank of Vice Admiral.)

Burgess-Dunne AH-10 hydroaeroplane at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, circa 1917. (National Naval Aviation Museum)

Patrick Neison Lynch Bellinger was born 8 October 1885 at Cheraw, South Carolina. He was the son of Carnot Ambrose Bellinger and Eleanor Lynch Bellinger.

A 1907 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, he served at sea aboard the battleship USS South Carolina (BB-26) before being assigned as commanding officer of the C-class submarine, C-4 (SS-15). He was then trained as an airplane pilot. Lieutenant Bellinger was Naval Air Pilot No. 4.

United States Navy Submarine C-4, circa 1912–1914. (U.S. Navy NH92096)

During the Veracruz campaign, 1914, Lieutenant Bellinger flew reconnaissance over enemy lines. It was here that a United States military airplane first came under enemy fire. He was nominated for the Medal of Honor for his actions there.

Lieutenant Commander Bellinger, United States Navy, circa 1919.

In 1919 he was awarded the Navy Cross, “For distinguished service in the line of his profession as commanding officer of the seaplane NC-1 which made a long overseas flight from Newfoundland to the vicinity of the Azores in May 1919.”

Lieutenant Commander Bellinger married Elsie McKeown of Pennsylvania, 24 July 1915. She died at Washington, D.C.,  9 February 1920. He married his second wife, Miriam Georgia Benoist, 14 April 1921.

Bellinger progressively rose in rank and responsibility. As rear admiral, he commanded Patrol Wing 2 at Pearl Harbor at the time of the surprise attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy. During World War II, he was promoted to the rank of Vice Admiral and served as Commander Air Force, Atlantic Fleet. Vice Admiral Bellinger retired from the Navy in 1947.

Vice Admiral Patrick Neison Lynch Bellinger, United States Navy (Retired), died 29 May 1962 at the Chesapeake & Ohio Hospital, Clifton Forge, Virginia. He is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Lieutenant Commander Patrick N. L. Bellinger, U.S. Navy. (Portrait by Harris & Ewing, Washington D.C., 18 January 1920)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

29 March 1923

Lieutenant Russell L. Maughan, Air Service, United States Army (FAI)
First Lieutenant Russell Lowell Maughan, Air Service, United States Army (FAI)

29 March 1923: Flying a Curtiss R-6 Racer, serial number A.S. 68564, at Wilbur Wright Field, Riverside, Ohio, First Lieutenant Russell Lowell Maughan, Air Service, United States Army, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed of 380.75 kilometers per hour (236.59 miles per hour).¹

Flight reported:

The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale has just homologated as world’s records the following performances:

Class C (heavier than air): Greatest speed (U.S.), Lieut. Maughan on Curtiss R.6, 465 h.p. Curtiss, March 29, 1923, 380.751 kms. (236 m.p.h).

FLIGHT, The Aircraft Engineer and Airships, No. 757. (No. 26, Vol. XV.) 28 June 1923, at Page 356, Column 1

Curtiss R-6 Racer. (U.S. Air Force)

The Curtiss R-6 Racers were single-engine, single seat, fully-braced single-bay biplanes with fixed landing gear, developed from the U.S. Navy Curtiss CR. The airplane and its D-12 Conqueror engine were both built by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Co., Garden City, New York.

The fuselage was a stressed-skin monocoque, built with two layers of wood veneer covered by a layer of doped fabric. The wings were also built of wood, with plywood skins and fabric-covered ailerons. Surface radiators were used for engine cooling.

The Curtiss R-6 was 19 feet, 0 inches (5.791 meters) long with a wing span of 19 feet, 0 inches (5.791 meters). It had an empty weight of 2,121 pounds (962 kilograms).

The R-6 was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated 1,145.111-cubic-inch-displacement (18.765 liter) Curtiss D-12 dual overhead cam (DOHC) 60° V-12 engine, which was developed by Arthur Nutt, based on the earlier Curtiss K-12 which had been designed by Charles B. Kirkham. The D-12 had four valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 5.7:1. It was rated at 415 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m., and 460 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. During testing, it produced a 475 horsepower at 2,320 r.p.m. using a 50/50 mixture of 95-octane gasoline and benzol. The D-12 was a right-hand tractor direct-drive engine. It turned a two-bladed, fixed-pitch, forged aluminum propeller designed by Sylvanus Albert Reed, Ph.D. The Curtiss D-12 was 56¾ inches (1.441 meters) long, 28¼ inches (0.718 meters) wide and 34¾ inches (0.882 meters) high. It weighed 678.25 pounds (307.65 kilograms).

The racer had a range of 281 miles (452 kilometers) and a ceiling of  22,000 feet (6,706 meters).

Two R-6 Racers were built for the U.S. Army at a cost of $71,000, plus $5,000 for spare parts.

A.S. 68564 disintegrated in flight at the Pulitzer Trophy Race, 4 October 1924, killing its pilot, Captain Burt E. Skeel.

Curtis R-6, A.S. 68564, P-278. (FAI)
Curtiss R-6, A.S. 68564, P-278. (FAI)

Russell Lowell Maughan was born at Logan, Utah, 28 March 1893. He was the sixth of eight children of Peter Weston Maughan, an accountant, and Mary Lucinda Naef Maughan. He attended Utah Agricultural College in Logan and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in 1917.

Maughan was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Signal Officers Reserve Corps, 28 May 1917. He was promoted to first lieutenant, 8 January 1918. This commission was vacated 10 September 1920 and he was appointed a first lieutenant, Air Service, United States Army, retroactive to 1 July 1920.

On 14 August 1919, Maughan married Miss Ila May Fisher at Logan, Utah. They would have three children, but divorced sometime after 1940. His son, Russell L. Maughan, Jr., would become an officer in the U.S. Air Force.

Following the War, Lieutenant Maughan became a test pilot at McCook Field, Ohio. In 1921, he was reassigned to the 91st Observation Squadron, based at the Presidio of San Francisco.

Russell L. Maughan with Curtiss R-6 Racer, at National Air Races, 1922. (Library of Congress)

On 14 October 1922, he won the Pulitzer Trophy Race at Selfridge Field, near Mount Clemens, Michigan, before a crowd of 200,000 spectators. He set two World Speed Record during the race with his Curtiss R-6: 330.41 kilometers per hour (205.31 miles per hour) over a distance of 100 kilometers, and 331.46 kilometers per hour (205.96 miles per hour) over a distance of 200 kilometers). On 29 March 1923, he set another World Speed Record, 380.75 kilometers per hour (236.587 miles per hour), again flying a Curtiss R-6.

On 23 June 1924, Lieutenant Maughan flew a Curtiss PW-8 Hawk from Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York, to the Presidio of San Francisco on the west coast of California, in an elapsed time of 21 hours, 47 minutes including refueling stops enroute. This was the “Dawn-to-Dusk Flight.” For this transcontinental flight, Maughan was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Major General Mason Patrick, Chief of the Air Service, with Lieutenant Russell L. Maughan, 8 July 1924. (Library of Congress)

On 1 October 1930, Maughan was promoted to captain. He served in the Philippine Islands from 1930 to 1935, acting as an advisor to the government until 1932. From 1932 to 1935, he served as the post operations officer. He and his family lived in Manila. They returned to the United States aboard SS Columbus, a Norddeutscher Lloyd passenger liner, arriving at New York City from Southampton, 18 August 1935.

On 16 June 1936, Captain Maughan was promoted to major (temporary). That rank was made permanent 12 June 1939. He was again promoted, this time to lieutenant colonel, 11 March 1940.

During World War II, Lieutenant Colonel Maughan commanded the 60th Transport Group, a Douglas C-47 unit, 1941–42, and then, promoted to the rank of colonel, he commanded the 51st Troop Carrier Wing , which included the 60th, as well as eight other transport groups, during Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa.

On 25 October 1946, Colonel Maughan married Lois Rae Roylance in Nevada. She was 21 years his junior. They lived in Portland, Oregon.

Maughan was discharged from the U.S. Air Force, 30 November 1947, at the U.S. Army Hospital at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. He died at the U.S. Air Force Hospital, Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, 21 April 1958, at the age of 65 years.

¹ FAI Record File Number 15194: Class C, Powered Airplanes: 380.75 kilometers per hour.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

20 March 1935

The second prototype Grumman XF3F-1, Bu. No. 9727, photographed 10 January 1936. (U.S. Navy, Naval History and Heritage Command, NH 44277)

20 March 1935: At Farmingdale, New York, test pilot James H. (“Jimmy”) Collins took the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation’s prototype XF3F-1, Bu. No. 9727, for its first flight. Collins made three flights that day.

[According to serial number authority, Joe Baugher, three XF3F-1 prototypes had the same manufacturer’s serial number, 257, and the same U.S. Navy Bureau of Aeronautics serial number, 9727. Two of them were destroyed during flight testing.]

Grumman XF3F-1 Bu. No. 9727, with landing gear extended. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, Catalog #: 17_000148)

The XF3F-1 was a prototype fighter built for the United States Navy. It was a single-place, single-bay, wire-braced biplane with retractable landing gear. The airplane was of all metal construction. It was a development of the F2F, then in production.

Grumman XF3F-1 Bu. No. 9727. (Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation 2815)

Collins  had performed nine dive tests of the XF3F-1. He began the tenth and final test at 6:05 p.m., 22 May 1935. After climbing to 20,000 feet (6,096 meters), he put the biplane into a full power, vertical dive. At a speed of 400 miles per hour (644 kilometers per hour), he pulled out of the dive at 8,000 feet (2,438 meters) but the airplane’s propeller and wings were torn off. An accelerometer indicated that the airplane had sustained a force of 14 gs. The airplane crashed into the Pinelawn Cemetery.

Witnesses at the scene (which included Collins’ sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Collins Joyhard) said that Collins was still alive when he was pulled from the wreckage. He is reported to have said, “Pull me out boys. I’m all through. Never mind wiping my face, I’m done.” ¹

For these tests, he was to have been paid $1,500. On his last day, he had told friends that he planned to stop flying and pursue a career as an aviation writer.

Grumman XF3F-1 Bu. No. 9727 (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, Catalog #: 16_003712)

The XF3F-1 used the same engine as the production F2F-1: An air-cooled, supercharged 1,534.94 cubic inch (25.15 liter) Pratt & Whitney S1A2 Twin Wasp Jr. (R-1535-72) two-row, 14-cylinder radial. This was a direct drive engine with a compression ratio of 6.75:1 requiring 87-octane gasoline. The supercharger impeller ratio was 12:1. The R-1535-72 was rated at 650 horsepower (485 kilowatts) at 2,200 r.p.m. at 7,500 feet (2,286 meters), and 700 horsepower (522 kilowatts) at 2,250 r.p.m. for takeoff.

Grumman F3F-1, Bu. No. 0211, s/n 274. This airplane crashed at sea near NAS Miami, March 1942. (San Diego Air & Space Museum, Roger Bilstein Collection 00032)

The production F3F-2 was 23 feet, 2 inches (7.061 meters) long with a wingspan of 32 feet (9.754 meters) and height of 9 feet, 4 inches (2.845 meters). The total wing area was 260 square feet (25.16 square meters). It had an empty weight of 3,285 pounds ( 1,490 kilograms), and maximum takeoff weight of 4,795 pounds (2,175 kilograms). Unlike the XF3F-1, the F3F-2 was powered by a Wright R-1820-22 rated at 950 horsepower. It had a maximum speed of 264 miles per hour (425 kilometers per hour) at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters), Its maximum rate of climb was 2,750 feet per minuted (14 meters per second), and the service ceiling was 33,200 feet (10,119 meters). It had a range of 980 miles (1,577 kilometers). The F3F-2 was armed by a .30-caliber Browning M1919 machine gun with 500 rounds of ammunition, and a .50-caliber Browning M2 machine gun with 200 rounds.

In August 1935 the U.S. Navy contracted for 54 F3F-1s. The first one was delivered 29 January 1936. A total of 147 F3Fs were built between 1935 and 1938. The F3F was the U.S. Navy’s last biplane fighter. The type was retired in 1943.

James H. Collins was born 25 April 1904, the second child of John Collins, an Irish immigrant to the United States, and Ella E. Ray Collins. His father died when Jimmy was four years old, and his mother, when he was 11. He then lived with an aunt and uncle.

Collins attended Central High School, Akron, Ohio, and worked nights at the B.F. Goodrich rubber factory. After graduating, he enrolled at the University of Akron. He was a member of the Lambda Delta Chi (ΛΔΧ) fraternity.

In 1924, Collins entered the U.S. Army Air Service Primary Flying School at Brooks Field, San Antonio, Texas, and then went on to the Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, also in San Antonio. He was in the same class as Charles A. Lindbergh. After graduating, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the New York National Guard, and assigned to the 102nd Observation Squadron, 27th Division Air Service, at Miller Field, Staten Island, New York.

During the Great Depression, Collins’ service with the New York National Guard did not provide full time employment. He had to work at other jobs, which included returning to B.F. Goodrich. In 1925, he  briefly returned to the University of Akron, then volunteered for six months active duty with the 94th Pursuit Squadron at Selfridge Field, Harrison, Michigan. He served as assistant engineering and operations officer. He was then commissioned as a lieutenant in the regular Air Service, United States Army. He was assigned as an instructor at March Field, near Riverside, California and back at Brooks Field.

Unable to complete a formal university degree, Collins decided to gain the equivalent of a liberal arts degree through self study. It was around this time that he became a communist. He considered emigrating to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

In 1927, Lieutenant Collins resigned his commission. He then worked as an inspector for the Department of Commerce, the federal agency overseeing civil aviation in the United States. That was followed by employment as chief test pilot for the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, Hammondsport, New York.

Test Pilot, by Jimmy Collins, © 1935, by his wife.

In 1932, Jimmy Collins married Miss Dolores Lacy. They would have two children, Darr, named after a friend of Jimmy’s, and Susan Ann Collins. With the depression ongoing, Collins often lived away from his family, having sent them to live with his older sister in Oklahoma. By doing dive tests, he had hoped to earn enough money to bring them back to New York.

James H. Collins’ remains were cremated at the Fairfield Mortuary, Garden City, New York, then spread from an airplane over the Atlantic Ocean off Jones Beach at 6:05 p.m., 29 March 1935.

Jimmy Collins was the author of Test Pilot, published after his death by The Sun Dial Press, Garden City, New York.

¹ Daily News, Vol. 16, No. 232, Saturday, 23 March 1935, Page 6, Column 1

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes

13 March 1928

Eileen Vollick

13 March 1928: At Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Miss Eileen M. Vollick passed her flight test in a Curtiss JN-4 Canuck, and was issued license number 77. She was the first woman licensed as a pilot in Canada.

The following is an article written by Eileen Vollick, prior to her death in 1968 (photographs are from various other sources):

Owen Sound Sun Times

How I became Canada’s first licensed woman pilot
Wednesday, August 6, 2008 10:38:00 EDT AM

“Opportunity” was calling in a thousand forms, in a new and thrilling and expanding industry- viz-commercial aviation, and I felt the urge to fly, to become a pioneer and blaze the trail for the women of my country.

Early in March, 1927, Jack V. Elliot, pioneer of commercial aviation in Canada, opened his school and clubhouse at a place called Ghent’s Crossing, overlooking Hamilton Bay. The story of that flying school and clubhouse, the first of its kind in the Dominion, will be handed down to posterity, not only on account of its pioneer proprietor, but for the reason that in the pages of Canadian Aeronautical history will be found the names of young men and incidentally one woman, whose vocations were founded on faith and the future destiny of aviation in our country’s commercial life.

A Curtiss JN-4 Canuck at the Elliott Air Service hangar, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. (National Aviation Museum)
A Curtiss JN-4 Canuck at the Elliott Air Service hangar, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. (National Aviation Museum)

My home at that time was on the Beach, and from my bedroom window I could see the activities going at the aerodrome, the cutting down of trees, the dumping of load after load of cinders, to make the track or runway, the building of the hangars, and finally the installing of the planes. Each day as I drove my car past the aerodrome a small still voice whispered “Go ahead, brave the lion in his den and make known your proposition to him.”

I proposed to learn to fly, and fearful of being turned down or laughed at (women had not then entered into this man’s game in Canada.) I hesitated, wondering how much courage or talent was required to fly an airplane. I have never been afraid to go after anything I wanted and to stay until I got it, so, as “the whispering voices”ne day I ventured into the proprietor’s den, and asked him: — “Can a girl learn to fly.” He simply smiled, thinking doubtless I was looking for a thrill, but I soon convinced him I was in earnest, and later I met the Controller of Civil Aviation, Flt. Lieut. A. T. Cowley of Ottawa, who advised me to write the Government for permission to learn to fly commercially, no woman in Canada had previously made such application, and Mr. Elliot was doubtful of my success. However, on June 14th, 1927, I was advised from Ottawa that the matter had been fully considered and in future certificates would be granted to women providing they passed the necessary tests and had reached the age of 19 years, and though it was through my efforts women were admitted into the flying game at Ottawa, had I not been first, some other enterprising girl would have paved the way to put Canadian women on a par with other countries.

I was only 18 years old at that time and could not qualify but with the official benediction over my head I made arrangements with Mr. Elliot and became an ardent disciple of his school.

Eileen M. Vollick with W. Fleming in a Jack Elliott Air Service airplane at Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, ca. 1927–28. (Canada Aviation Museum)

The instruction planes at the Elliot Air Service have a dual control and by means of specially constructed earphones on the helmet the pilot gives his instructions to the student flyer.

My first flight in the air was an epoch of my life never to be forgotten, no matter what I may achieve in the future the exhilaration of that flight will linger when all others are merely an event.

The pilot who took me aloft thought he would either frighten me or find out how much courage I possessed, for though it is against the rules to “stunt” with a passenger, it is of great value for a student and a necessary adjunctive. By “stunts” I mean “spins,” “loops,” “zooms,” all very thrilling and decidedly the acid test for a new flyer, and I got mine for half an hour, satisfying my instructor as to my flying ability.

Eileen Vollick (Canada Aviation and Space Museum)


“As I sat in the cockpit I felt quite at home, fear never entered my head and when I saw the earth recede as the winged monster roared and soared skyward, and the familiar scenes below became a vast panorama of checker- boarded fields, neatly arranged toy houses, and silvery threads of streams, the pure joy of it, gave me a thrill which is known only to the air-man who wings his way among the fleecy clouds. Perhaps the most trying sensation of a flight comes at the close, when the plane glides rapidly earthward and one feels that familiar “elevator” feeling but even that sensitiveness passes away after a few flights. A spin or a loop, though significantly spectacular from below, is a simple stunt to the aeronaut and easy to accomplish. In flying the most important factors are “taking off” and “landing.” Anyone can fly straight and keep towards the horizon, but rising from the ground and returning, is a different matter. These two factors are important tests when the government inspector examines a pilot for his or her license.”

Aviation always had a fascination for me even before I realized what a great thing had been accomplished when a motor driven vehicle could be propelled at great speed through the air, and when I actually became an active member in the field my enthusiasm knew no bounds.

I would like to write here, that, when I entered the school of aeronauts I mixed exclusively with men, no other girl or woman attended the lectures, entered the hangars or worked around the planes but myself, and from the first day when I became a student with the cadets, to the time I received my pilot’s license on March 13, 1928, there was not a man amongst them who failed to remember my sex, nor one who spoke a disrespectful word to me, yet at the same time I was one of them, joined in their discussions, donned overalls and often looked more grimy and greasy than the rest. Truly the air-men are gentlemen. Their ambitions were my ambitions, their success was my success, and each one was as eager as the other to help me in any difficulty, I had confidence in them which was never misplaced, and in the years to come when aeronautics are intelligently understood and acknowledged by the world at large, and I am only one amongst thousands of my sex who are trained flyers, my thoughts will revert to the days when I was a student flyer, and I can say then, with all my heart, “happy days, loyal friends.”

I must mention my first instructor Pilot Earl Jellison, under whose guidance I stored away knowledge which later proved invaluable. Writing from Vancouver where he was stationed Pilot Jellison sent congratulations on my success and wrote as follows: “I was very pleased with your ability last summer, and I think you know something of the confidence I had in you when you walked out on the wing to do your famous ‘parachute jump’ into Hamilton Bay.” This incident happened soon after I started to fly, and it takes a great deal of confidence to walk the wing of an airplane and jump into space, especially when the controls are in the hands of a strange pilot, but I felt no fear and evidently he felt none. A flyer must never make acquaintance with “fear” if he or she wants to become a successful pilot. I have never felt afraid, flying high or low, over land or water, and though I began my flying lessons in summer it was off the ice on Hamilton Bay that I took my solo flight, and passed the government tests. As a proof that my sense of “fear” is small, when I took the parachute jump from the wing of the plane into the waters of Hamilton Bay, from an altitude of 2,800 feet, it was a record, being the first Canadian girl to leap from a plane into water. Parachute work, however, was not my ambition. I wanted to fly.

The first Curtiss JN-4 Canuck built by Canadian Aeroplanes Limited, 1917. (Canada Aviation Museum)
The first Curtiss JN-4 Canuck built by Canadian Aeroplanes Limited, 1917. (Canada Aviation Museum)

The summer months passed too quickly. October came, and flying days were drawing to a close at the airport. Soon, the family of cadets would move from the Beach to the city . . . The first week of the New Year saw me down at the winter quarters, situated at the extreme end of Hamilton Bay, in the north section of the city. And I began the most strenuous hard work I have done during the nineteen years of my life.

The oracle of “early morning flying” is an open sesame if the student-flyer wants to become a real success, and after several flights off the ice on Hamilton Bay, I made arrangements with my instructor Pilot Richard Turner, to fly as early as possible.

This necessitated some of the mechanical crew being down at the airport long before the sun rose in the horizon to fuel the plane and warm up the motor ready for flight. It is said that an aviator or aviatrix must be ready at all times day or night whenever a call comes, and this creed is thoroughly instilled into the minds of each student. So up in the morning early, long before the streets were warmed I left my cozy cot, drove my faithful old Ford down to the airport, donned a flying-suit and with the tang of ice and frost upon pilot, plane and student, we rose from the hardened ground, and winged our way over the icy Bay, across the cold waters of Lake Ontario, back to the city, then after “landing” and “rising” several times, we flew back to port, full of early morning pep, which the sluggard abed can never fully comprehend. Once more aboard my car and back home to breakfast. Eight a. m. found me on my way to the Hamilton Cotton Co., where I was textile analyst and an assistant designer.

Flying is, and always will be, my uppermost thought, yet I never neglected my duties at the office, and when Alan V. Young, President of the Cotton Co. gave me leave of absence to try my examination tests, the time off had been well earned.

Flying in the air is not the only qualification for a pilot, he or she must have a theoretical as well as a mechanical knowledge of aircraft. Lectures for students are given three times weekly at night and students must attend regularly or lose some important part of their training. I never missed a lecture, in fact when the Aero-Club of Hamilton started their lectures at the Technical School, I made a point to attend both. I was out for knowledge on aircraft. Performance is the supreme test, and the time was drawing close when I had to prove my worth or fall down in my tracks. I was ready for a cross-country flight, which is one of the government requirements. Tuesday, February 28th, was a bright, clear, cold day, ideal flying weather, and I was bound on a glorious adventure, my cross-country test flight. Accompanied by Pilot R. Turner, we left Hamilton early in the morning, arrived at St. Thomas; landed safely at McManus Field, refuelled the plane and took off for Hamilton, completing the round trip in 2 hours and 25 minutes. After more landings, a lesson or two on the use of skiis . . . and the eventful day finished.

The government inspector had arrived and the cadets waited anxiously. Before a license can be issued, the pilot must make four landings, from a height of 1,500 feet, within 150 feet of a spot designated on the ground, one landing from 5,000 feet with the motor shut off, five figure 8 (eight) turns between two designated marks, and a 175-miles cross-country flight. The day previous to the tests I had the extreme pleasure of taking Captain G. B. Holmes, Government Inspector, for a flight, and he gave me great credit for the able manner in which I handled the plane. On March 13, 1928, (lucky day for me) along with ten other cadets of the Elliot Flying School, I successfully passed the Government Civil Aviation examination, making three three-point landings on the ice with skiis, in place of wheels, to the utmost satisfaction of Captain Holmes, and the hearty congratulations of my instructors, and fellow students.

They give credit, these loyal air-men, for having an iron nerve, and skill of an old war time pilot, “nerve” is a natural gift from God. “Skill,” I owe to my instructors, I have had three of whom I cannot speak too highly, Pilots Earl Jellison, Lennard Tripp, and Richard Turner whose invaluable assiduous instruction and help, enabled me to earn the proud title of “Canada’s First Licensed Woman Pilot” and made my dreams come true.


An original 1917 Curtiss JN-4C Canuck
An original 1917 Curtiss JN-4C Canuck. (Unattributed)

Mary Eileen Vane Riley ¹ was born 2 August 1908 at Wiarton, Ontario, Dominion of Canada. She was the daughter of James Henry Riley, a laborer, and Marie Baynes Riley. Mr. Riley was killed in an accident in 1911. Mrs. Riley then married George Vollick. Miss Riley was known by her stepfather’s family name. She would have three step-siblings.

Eileen Vollick attended St. Patrick’s High School in Hamilton, Ontario, then worked as a materials analyst for the Hamilton Cotton Company.

Miss Vollick was 5 feet, 0 inches (1.52 meters) tall with brown hair and eyes, and a medium complexion.

On 28 September 1929, Miss Vollick married James Hopkin, a steamfitter who had been born in Scotland. The Hopkins moved to Elmhurst, Long Island, New York. They would have two daughters, Eileen and Audrey.

Eileen Vollick, as she is best known, died in 1968. She was buried at the Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York.

¹ Also known as Reilly. She used that version of the surname on an immigration document as she entered the United States the day following her marriage. She also stated that she was unaccompanied; marked “S.”, indicating that she was single (unmarried); and listed her new husband as a “friend” whom she planned to visit in Elmhurst, Long Island, New York.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes