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1911 Curtiss Model D

The model was known as the “Curtiss Pusher” because it was propelled by propellers behind the engine. From 1911-1912, several Army officers trained to fly in a Curtiss D at College Park. 

Specs

Year: 1911 (reproduction)

Capacity: One pilot

Empty weight: 700 pounds

Wingspan: 38 feet, 3 inches

Maximum speed: 50 mph

Engine: Curtiss V-8 60 horsepower

Propellers: 2-bladed fixed-pitch pusher propeller

Signal Corp #2

Purchased in April 1911, this military version of the Curtiss Model D could be easily disassembled and reassembled to allow for its transportation as the Army needed. Purchased in March 1911, it was accepted at Fort Sam Houston in Texas and designated Signal Corp #2 (Signal Corp #1 being the 1909 Wright Military Flyer), one of the first five aeroplanes ordered by the Army that year as part of their new aviation training program.

The Curtiss Model D (S.C. #2) was used by the United States Army at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX, the for a short time used to train officers who volunteered for flight training. One of these officers, Lt. G.E.M. Kelly, crashing while landing and was killed. There were heated debates around the cause of his death, but it was ultimately agreed that the atmospheric conditions and crowded area was not suitable for flight training. Flying activities immediately stopped at Fort Sam Houston, and all personnel and equipment—including the rebuilt S.C. #2—were transferred to College Park.  

It arrived with an 8-cylinder engine, but mechanics installed a less powerful 4-cylinder engine to make it safer to train new pilots. The College Park pilots who received instruction on how to fly this aircraft included Captain Paul Beck, 2nd Lt. Frank M. Kennedy, Captain Frederick B. Hennessy, and 2nd Lt. Thomas Milling 

In the early days of flight, Glenn Curtiss was the primary American competitor to the Wrights, and designed his planes with a few notable differences: 

  • A major difference between the Wright and Curtiss products was pilots controlled the planes. Curtiss’ Model D airplane was controlled with “ailerons,” small hinged control surfaces mounted between the wings, rather than wing warping, which deformed the entire wing and was protected by the Wright Brothers’ patent.  

  • Curtiss also used a different control system than the Wrights. Before he was an aviator, he began his career making and racing bicycles and then motorcycles. The leaning style of steering on a motorcycle influenced his aviation designs. While the Wrights used a series of levers, Curtiss used a wheel to operate the front elevator and rear rudder, and operated the ailerons with a shoulder yoke—straps attached to the shoulders. This meant that when a pilot wanted to turn, he or she simply leaned in the desired direction, just like riding a bicycle or motorcycle.  

  • Like the Wright B, Model Ds were constructed with a pusher configuration, where the propeller is behind the pilot. Because of this configuration, they were often referred to as a Curtiss pusher. The 1912 and later designs removed the front elevator after it was discovered that the plane flew better without it. and are often referred to as headless pushers. 

  • Rather than sitting beside the pilot, the passenger or observer sat behind him. 

Signal Corps #2 continued to be used to train beginner pilots as more higher-powered planes arrived at College Park in 1912 and were used by more experienced officers. All equipment and planes were eventually shipped to California when the Army relocated their school there in 1913. The Curtiss Model D was used for training until 1914, when the Signal Corps scrapped the original plane. 

Our Curtiss Pusher: A reproduction

Completed in 2010, this reproduction Curtiss Model D Pusher was built by College Park Aviation Museum’s own restoration shop. The construction was primarily of spruce, with ash used in parts of the engine bearers and undercarriage beams, with doped (to tighten, stiffen, and make waterproof) linen stretch over it. The outrigger beams are made of bamboo. 

More visitor information

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Plan your visit

Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-4pm

Closed Mondays and holidays

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About the museum

College Park Airport is the world's oldest continuously-operating airport, open since 1909. 

The College Park Aviation Museum preserves and shares the exciting history of the airport, this "Field of Firsts."

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Tours and Groups

The museum offers guided tours for schools and groups of 10 or more.

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