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, 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)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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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 captain of the C-class submarine, C-4 (SS-14). He was then assigned to aviation. Lieutenant Bellinger was Naval Air Pilot No. 4.

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)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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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 Wright Field, Dayton, 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.

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 Mitchell 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.

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.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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13 March 1928

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

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.

DESCRIPTION OF MISS VOLLICK’S FIRST FLIGHT

Eileen Vollick
Eileen Vollick

“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 cosy 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.

http://www.owensoundsuntimes.com/2008/08/06/how-i-became-canadas-first-licensed-woman-pilot

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

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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13 November 1926

Regia Aeronautica Macchi M.39, MM.76, winner of the 1926 Schneider Trophy Race. (U.S. Air Force)
Regia Aeronautica Macchi M.39, MM.76, winner of the 1926 Schneider Trophy Race. (U.S. Air Force)
Colonel Mario de Bernardi, Regia Aeronautica
Colonel Mario de Bernardi, Regia Aeronautica

13 November 1926: The 1926 race for the Coupe d’Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider (the Schneider Trophy) was held at Hampton Roads, a large natural harbor between southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina, two states on the Atlantic coast of the United States. There were an estimated 30,000 spectators. The race consisted of seven laps of a 50 kilometer (31 miles) triangular course.

The location of each race went to the country whose national team had won the previous year. Lieutenant James H. Doolittle, Air Service, United States Army, had won the 26 October 1925 race at Baltimore, Maryland, flying a Curtiss R3C-2 to an average speed of 232.57 miles per hour (374.29 kilometers per hour).

The 1926 Schneider Race included three Italian and three American airplanes. The British team’s aircraft were not ready so they did not compete.

Captain,Arturo Ferrin, Regia Aeronautica (1895–1941)
Captain Arturo Ferrarin, Regia Aeronautica (1895–1941)

All three Regia Aeronautica pilots, Major Mario de Bernardi, Captain Arturo Ferrarin, and Lieutenant Adriano Bacula, flew Macchi M.39 seaplanes, powered by the Fiat AS.2 V-12 engine.

The American team used three different Curtiss biplanes, each with a different Curtiss V-12 engine. 1st Lieutenant Christian Frank Schilt, United States Marine Corps, flew a Curtiss R3C-2, serial number A.7054, carrying race number 6. Schilt’s airplane was powered by a Curtiss V-1400. Lieutenant William Gosnell Tomlinson, U.S. Navy, flew a Curtiss F6C-3 Hawk, A.7128, with race number 2. This airplane was equipped with a Curtiss D-12A. Lieutenant George T. Cuddihy, U.S. Navy, flew a Curtiss R3C-4, A.6979, with race number 4, with a Curtiss V-1550.

Christian Frank Schilt in the cockpit of the Curtis R3C-2 racer, number 6. (National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)
1st Lieutenant Christian Frank Schilt, U.S. Marine Corps, in the cockpit of the Curtis R3C-2 racer, A.7054, race number 6. (National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)
The Italian team celebrates their victory (Virginia Aviation) by Roger Connor at Page 42

The race was delayed for two days because of adverse weather conditions. The race began at 2:35 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, with the first of three Italian racers entering the course.  Airplanes departed at intervals to avoid coming too close to each other while flying the course.

De Bernardi finished the seven laps in 52 minutes, 56.22 seconds, averaging 246.496 miles per hour (396.697 kilometers per hour). Schilt finished in second place in 56 minutes, 23.96 seconds, at 231.364 miles per hour (372.344 kilometers per hour). Bacula was third at 59 minutes, 51.31 seconds, at 218.006 miles per hour (350.847 kilometers per hour). Fourth place went to Tomlinson, completing the course in 1 hour, 35 minutes, 16.72 seconds, at 136.954 miles per hour (220.406 kilometers per hour). Ferrarin’s airplane had an oil line break and he made a precautionary landing at the end of his fourth lap. A fuel pump on Cuddihy’s airplane failed, and his engine stopped. He touched down short of the finish line on his seventh and final lap.

Aeronautica Macchi M.39, circa 1926. (Unattributed)
Aeronautica Macchi M.39 at Lago di Varese, August 1926. (Unattributed)

The Macchi M.39 racing float plane was designed by Mario Castoldi. It is a single engine, single-place, low-wing monoplane with two pontoons, or floats. The wing is externally braced, has 0° dihedral, and incorporates surface radiators. The M.39 is 6.473 meters (22 feet, 2.8 inches) long with a wingspan of 9.26 meters (30 feet, 4.6 inches) and height of 3.06 meters (10 feet, 0.5 inches). The empty weight of the Schneider Trophy racer is 1,300 kilograms (2,866 pounds) and its maximum gross weight is 1,615 kilograms (3,560 pounds).

The M.39 is powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 31.403 liter (1,916.329 cubic inch) Fiat AS.2 DOHC 60° V-12 direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 6:1. It used three carburetors and two magnetos, and produced 882 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. The engine drove a two-bladed, fixed-pitch metal propeller designed by Dr. Sylvanus A. Reed. The AS.2 engine was designed by Tranquillo Zerbi, based on the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company’s D-12 engine. The engine was 1.864 meters (6 feet, 1.4 inches) long, 0.720 meters (2 feet, 4.4 inches) wide and 0.948 meters (3 feet, 1.3 inches) high. It weighed 412 kilograms (908 pounds).

The Macchi M.39 could reach 420 kilometers per hour (261 miles per hour).

Macchi M.39 MM.76 is in the collection of the Aeronautica Militare museum.

Macchi M.39 MM.76 (Bergefalke2/Wikipedia)
Macchi M.39 MM.76 (Bergefalke2/Wikipedia)

Mario de Bernardi served in the Italian Army during the Italo-Turkish War, 1911–1912, and became a pilot during World War I. He rose to the rank of colonel in the Regia Aeronautica. He set several world aviation records and continued his work as a test pilot. He died in 1959 at the age of 65 years.

Adriano Bacula also set several world records. He was killed in an airplane crash in Slovenia, 18 April 1938.

Arturo Ferrarin, another world record holder, was killed while testing an experimental airplane, 18 July 1941.

Christian Frank Schilt enlisted as a private in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1917. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in Nicaragua, 6–8 January 1928. During World War II, Schilt served as Commander, Marine Air Group 11 during the Solomons Campaign, and later went on to command Aircraft, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific. He retired from the Marine Corps with the rank of General in 1957, and died in 1987 at the age of 91 years.

William Gosnell Tomlinson was a 1919 graduate of the United States Naval Academy. During his career in the U.S. Navy, he commanded the aircraft carrier USS Belleau Wood (CVL-24), Carrier Division 3, USS Boxer (CVA-21), USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) and served as Commander, Task Force 77 (CTF 77) during the Korean War. During World War II, Tomlinson was awarded the Navy Cross, and twice, the Legion of Merit with Combat “V”. He retired in 1953 as a Vice Admiral, and died in 1972 at the age of 75 years.

George T. Cuddihy was a 1918 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. he was the Navy’s chief test pilot. He was killed while testing a Bristol Type 105 Bulldog II fighter, Bu. No. A8485 (c/n 7358) at Anacostia Naval Air Station, 25 November 1929.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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