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Conquest of the Air - Seaplanes and Glenn Curtiss

The seaplane was invented by Glenn Curtiss.


First seaplane circa 1910

First Glenn Curtiss seaplane circa 1910

Mary Bellis
The seaplane was invented by Glenn Curtiss, who designed the Navy Curtiss Number Four seaplane, which made the first transatlantic flight in history.

Glenn Curtiss - Background

In 1900, Glenn Curtiss was the owner of a small bicycle shop in Hammondsport, New York. He was an enthusiastic cyclist, and speed was a mania with him. He improved the design of a motorcycle with which he broke all records for speed over the ground. He started a factory and achieved a reputation for excellent vehicle motors. He designed and made the engine for the dirigible (airship) of Captain Thomas Baldwin; the first United States army dirigible in 1905.

Aerial Experimental Association

Glenn Curtiss carried on some of his experiments in association with Alexander Graham Bell, who was trying to evolve a stable flying machine on the principle of the cellular kite. Bell and Curtiss, with three others, formed in 1907, the Aerial Experimental Association at Bell's country house in Canada. Glenn Curtiss scored several notable triumphs with the craft they designed.

The Hydroaeroplane aka Seaplane

The idea of a airplane which could land and take-off from water occupied Glenn Curtiss, and in 1911 he exhibited at the aviation meet in Chicago the hydroaeroplane.

An incident at the exhibition convinced Glenn Curtiss of the importance of the seaplane. His hydroaeroplane had just returned to its hangar, after a series of exhibition maneuvers, when an airplane in flight broke out of control and plunged into Lake Michigan. The Curtiss seaplane flew to the downed airplane, landing on the water to offer aid.

Glenn Curtiss - War Effort

During the first World War Glenn Curtiss built airplanes and seaplanes for the Allies. The United States entered the arena and called for his services. The Navy Department called for the big flying boat; and the NC type was evolved, which, equipped with four Liberty Motors, made the first Trans-Atlantic flight after the war ended.

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