Curtiss Model D
The 1911 Curtiss Model D (or frequently, "Curtiss Pusher") was an early United States pusher aircraft with the engine and propeller behind the pilot's seat. It was among the very first aircraft in the world to be built in any quantity — all of which were produced by Curtiss during an era of trial-and-error development and equally important parallel technical development in internal combustion engine technologies.
|Curtiss Model D|
|A "headed" Curtiss Model D (Curtiss photo 1916) pusher; later "headless" models incorporated elevators around the rudder in the tail (like most aircraft since).|
|Manufacturer||Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company|
|Primary user||Exhibition pilots, aeronautical experimenters|
United States Navy
Aeronautical Division, U.S. Signal Corps
It was also the aircraft type which made the first takeoff from the deck of a ship (flown by Eugene B. Ely off the deck of USS Birmingham on November 14, 1910, near Hampton Roads, Virginia) and made the first landing aboard a ship (USS Pennsylvania) on January 18, 1911, near San Francisco, California.
It was originally fitted with a foreplane for pitch control, but this was dispensed with when it was accidentally discovered to be unnecessary. The new version without the foreplane was known as the Headless Pusher. Like all Curtiss designs, the aircraft used ailerons instead, which first existed on a Curtiss-designed airframe as quadruple "wing-tip" ailerons on the 1908 June Bug to control rolling in flight, thus avoiding use of the Wright brothers' patented wing warping technology.
The Model D was a biplane fitted with a wheeled tricycle undercarriage. The construction was primarily of spruce, with ash used in parts of the engine bearers and undercarriage beams, with doped linen stretched over it. The outrigger beams were made of bamboo. Prevented by patents from using the Wright Brothers' wing warping technique to provide lateral control, and with neither the Wrights nor himself likely to have known about its prior patenting in 1868 England, Curtiss did not use the June Bug's "wing-tip" aileron configuration, but instead used between-the-wing-panels "inter-plane" ailerons, instead, as directly derived from his earlier Curtiss No. 1 and Curtiss No. 2 pushers. In the end, this proved to be a superior solution. Both the interplane and trailing-edge ailerons on these early aircraft did not use a hand or foot-operated mechanism to operate them, but very much like the earlier Santos-Dumont 14-bis had adopted in November 1906, required the pilot to "lean-into" the turn to operate the ailerons — on the Curtiss pushers, a transverse-rocking, metal framework "shoulder cradle", hinged longitudinally on either side of the pilot's seat, achieved the connection between the pilot and aileron control cabling. Almost all Model Ds were constructed with a pusher configuration, with the propeller behind the pilot. Because of this configuration, they were often referred to as the "Curtiss Pusher". Early examples were built in a canard configuration, with elevators mounted on struts at the front of the aircraft in addition to a horizontal stabilizer at the rear. Later, the elevators were incorporated into the tail unit, and the canard surface arrangement dispensed with, resulting in what became called the Curtiss "Headless" Pushers.
In addition to amateur aviators, a Model D was purchased in April 1911 by the Aeronautical Division of the U.S. Army Signal Corps as a trainer (S.C. No. 2), and by the Navy as an airborne observation platform. A number of them were exported to foreign militaries, as well, including the Russian Navy. On November 14, 1910, Eugene Ely took off from USS Birmingham in a Model D. This was the first time an aircraft had taken off from a ship. On January 18, 1911, Ely landed a Model D aboard USS Pennsylvania. This was the first aircraft to land on a ship.
Upon his election in November 1915, Congressman Orrin Dubbs Bleakley became the first government official to fly from his home state to Washington, D.C. The trip was made in a 75 hp (56 kW) Curtiss biplane from Philadelphia, piloted by Sergeant William C. Ocker, on leave from the United States Aviation Corps at the time. The trip took 3 hours, 15 minutes, including an unscheduled stop in a wheat field in Maryland.
- Model D-4
- with one 40 hp (30 kW) Curtiss four-cylinder inline engine
- Model D-8
- Signal Corps Number 2, one 40 hp (30 kW) Curtiss Vee engine, top speed of 60 mph (97 km/h) at sea level
- Model D-8-75
- with one 75 hp (56 kW) Curtiss eight-cylinder Vee engine
A number of Curtiss Pusher original and reproduction aircraft exist, and reproductions of the design date as far back to the era when the original aircraft was in production, mostly built by private parties.
- Original – Model D in storage with the Ohio History Connection in Columbus, Ohio. It was assembled by Paul and Josh Wilber in Norwalk, Ohio from 1911-1912 and first flew on October 7, 1912. The original Roberts four-cylinder, two-cycle, 50 horsepower engine was replaced by a Kirkham six-cylinder, four-cycle, 50 horsepower engine. The aircraft is currently in storage. Approximately ninety percent of the aircraft is original.
- Replica – Model D airworthy at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
- Replica – Model D airworthy at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in Red Hook, New York. It was built for the collection in 1976, and has been powered by first a Hall-Scott V8 engine, and more recently, with a vintage Curtiss V8 engine.
- Replica – Model D airworthy at the Owls Head Maine Transportation Museum in Owls Head, Maine. It has a Continental O-300 engine installed.
- Unknown – Model D airworthy at the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum in Hood River, Oregon. It has a Curtiss OX-5 engine installed. It was rebuilt in 1934, but includes parts dating back to 1910.
- Replica – Model D on display at the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum in Hood River, Oregon. It has a Continental C-85 engine installed.
- Replica – Model D on static display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. It was built in 1919 and includes parts from an original airframe. It initially had an OX-5 engine installed, but this was replaced by a Curtiss V8. It was donated to the Smithsonian in 1925.
- Replica – Model D on static display at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport in Saint Paul, Minnesota. It was built in 1964 and was previously owned by Chuck Doyle.
- Replica – Model D on static display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. It was completed in 1987 and has a replica engine made of wood and plastic.
- Replica – Model D on static display at the College Park Aviation Museum in College Park, Maryland. It was completed in 2010.
- Replica – Model D on static display at the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum in Durango, Colorado. It was built by Dave Claussen and installed in April 2013.
- Replica - Model D on static display at the Nebraska National Guard Museum in Seward, Nebraska. It was built by Dave Claussen and installed in July 2016.
- Replica – Model D on static display at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum in Wetaskiwin, Alberta, Canada. It incorporates an original Curtiss Pusher engine.
- Replica/Original parts, airworthy, on display at Fargo Hector Airport, Fargo North Dakota, Built/restored/flown by the late Charles Klessig, Galesburg, N.D.
In popular cultureEdit
A Headless Curtiss D was the aircraft used by Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon) as the pickup aircraft for a Skyhook-type lift in the prologue section of The Great Race. Fate's assistant, Maximilian Meen (Peter Falk) piloted the D and successfully made the pickup, but was unable to gain altitude and pancaked into a nearby pigpen.
"Headless" Model D replica at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
Specifications (Model D Type IV)Edit
Data from
- Crew: 1
- Capacity: 1 pax
- Length: 29 ft 3 in (8.92 m)
- Wingspan: 38 ft 3 in (11.66 m)
- Height: 7 ft 10 in (2.39 m)
- Empty weight: 700 lb (318 kg)
- Gross weight: 1,300 lb (590 kg)
- Powerplant: 1 × Curtiss E-4 4-cylinder water-cooled in-line piston engine, 40 hp (30 kW)
- Propellers: 2-bladed fixed-pitch pusher propeller
- Maximum speed: 50 mph (80 km/h; 43 kn)
- Endurance: 3 hours 30 minutes
- Casey 1981, pp. 73–95.
- Jarrett 2002, p. 154.
- "Cole Palen's Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome - Collections - Pioneer Aircraft - Curtiss Model D". oldrhinebeck.org. Rhinebeck Aerodrome Museum. Archived from the original on April 24, 2014. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
The Aerodrome's Curtiss Pusher was built in 1976 and is powered by an original 1911, 80 HP Hall-Scott engine (since replaced with a restored Curtiss OX-5 engine) obtained from the Smithsonian Institution. It utilizes the original Curtiss control system. The shoulder yoke controls the ailerons as the pilot leans from side to side.
- Eden, Paul and Soph Moeng, eds. The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. London: Amber Books Ltd., 2002, ISBN 0-7607-3432-1.
- "The Changing Scene, Vol. I, VCHS". Venango County Historical Society, Venango County, Franklin Pennsylvania, 2000, pp. 127–128.
- Taylor 1989, p. 216.
- "OHC Full Record Display". Ohio History Connection. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
- "WWI - Aircraft". Military Aviation Museum. Military Aviation Museum. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
- "FAA REGISTRY [N44VY]". Federal Aviation Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
- "Curtiss Pusher Model D". Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. Archived from the original on 18 April 2016. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
- "FAA REGISTRY [N4124A]". Federal Aviation Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
- "1912 Curtiss Model D Pusher". Owls Head Transportation Museum. Owls Head Transportation Museum. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
- "FAA REGISTRY [N1GJ]". Federal Aviation Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
- "Curtiss 1910 Pusher". Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum. WAAAM. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
- "FAA REGISTRY [N8Y]". Federal Aviation Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
- "Curtiss 1912 Headless Pusher Replica". Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum. WAAAM. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
- "FAA REGISTRY [N5704N]". Federal Aviation Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
- "Curtiss D-III Headless Pusher". Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
- Cohen, Ben (29 April 2008). "Chuck Doyle's passion in life was aviation". Star Tribune. Star Tribune. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
- "Airframe Dossier - Curtiss Model D (replica), c/n MR1, c/r N28CD". Aerial Visuals. AerialVisuals.ca. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
- "Curtiss 1911 Model D". National Museum of the US Air Force. 7 April 2015. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
- "1911 Curtiss Model D Reproduction". College Park Aviation Museum. Archived from the original on 19 June 2010. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
- "D&SNG Museum in Durango". Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum. Durango & Silverton. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
- "Landing at the museum". Seward Independent. Retrieved 2 May 2019.
- Casey, Louis S. Curtiss, The Hammondsport Era, 1907-1915, New York: Crown Publishers, 1981, pp. 12–15, ISBN 978-0-517543-26-9.
- Jarrett, Philip, editor. Pioneer Aircraft Early Aviation to 1914. London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 2002. ISBN 0-85177-869-0.
- Taylor, Michael J. H. Jane's Encyclopedia of Aviation. London: Studio Editions, 1989. ISBN 978-0-71534-647-1.
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