Curtiss Hydro


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Curtiss Hydro

The first successful flight of what was originally called a hydroaeroplane or simply hydro, but is now known as a seaplane, was made on 26 January, 1911. It used a clumsy tandem-float arrangement featuring a main float 1.82m wide by 1.52m long under the centre section, a smaller float forward, and a hydrofoil ahead of that to keep the bow from submerging at high speed. The wide design of the main float served two purposes. By being wide it was expected to function as an auxiliary wing to generate useful lift; also, its width would keep the spray pattern well outboard of the pusher propeller. Being short, it did not provide longitudinal stability on the water thus necessitating the forward float.

By 1 February, a new arrangement was introduced, comprising a sled-shaped single float 3.65m long, 0.60m wide and 0.3m deep, under the pilot and engine to provide longitudinal stability; small floats for lateral stability were under the wingtips.

At first, the main float was not compartmented. On a flight at Hammondsport, Curtiss took off in a hydro but a considerable amount of water had got into the float and as he nosed down to alight, all the water ran to the bow of the float and made the machine so nose heavy that Curtiss was unable to raise the nose and crashed into the lake. He recognized the problem as soon as it appeared and fortunately survived to correct it.

An early refinement of the hydro was to eliminate the booms that supported the forward elevator and place a monoplane elevator on the bow of the float. As on contemporary landplanes, the hydro's forward elevators were soon eliminated.

Phil Husted, e-mail, 21.09.2020 05:42

Robert J. Collier had a sea plane at his Raquette Lake, NY camp for a month or so in 1912. He crashed it into the lake, recovered the wreckage, and shipped it home. History accounts call it a Curtiss-Wright, but C-W wasn't around until the 1920's. Anyone know exactly what he was flying?


Ken Sabel, e-mail, 09.08.2016 04:30

Paul, is there anyway you could scan me a pdf copy of that log? I am researching a book on Naval Aviation in Annapolis. I have a copy of an A-1 log through Sept 26, 1912. The date of the end of the plane you mention coincides with Ellyson's attempt to fly an A-1 from Annapolis to Washington Navy Yard for another catapault test. After several attempts, the plane was totaled. That incident was in early to mid October 1912. My email is


Paul Hutchins, e-mail, 31.07.2012 21:37

I have a Navy log book that records all activities af a Curtiss Hydroaeroplane...Navy number A-1 Expended October 1912. The log runs from June 27, 1911 through October 16, 2012. G.H. Curtiss made several short flights after its delivery to Hammondsport succumbed October 1912 when it was wrecked.


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