Glenn Curtiss's Day at the Old Rhinebeck Airfield



As a series of undulating waves rolling on the west side of the Hudson River Valley, the Catskill Mountains, somehow losing momentum, yielded to the very low peaks of Shawagunk, Schunnemunk and Bear Mountain, down the Palisades, threshold to Manhattan. A century ago, on May 29, 1910, Glenn Hammond Curtiss, sailing through his fragile biplane Albany Flier, forged an air link along this route between Albany and New York.

In the midst of a legal battle with the Wright brothers for allegedly using their patented method for banking and, therefore, it was forbidden to continue selling any of their own aircraft, Curtiss , sinking in the bankruptcy, saw a single rope of salvation. in the $ 10,000 Hudson-Fulton prize offered by Joseph Pulitzer, editor of the New York world, for the first person to fly from Manhattan to Albany, in any direction, with up to two stops.

Although Curtiss never feared competition, in fact, it prospered, the planned course was the antithesis of its many previous flights: unlike these previous circuits, controlled and aerial demonstrations, the connection between cities was full Of major obstacles, including ignorance of the route, a course of water, unknown wind patterns and meteorology and obstructions of height, apart from the fact that the technology had been sufficiently mature and the fuel capacity simply insufficient for allow a long distance route of 150 miles.

However, perhaps desperate circumstances lead to desperate measures, and one of the two that had been more dangerous was a matter of debate: the flight or his life.

One of the first solutions for both has been to design an airplane that could be extended after extensive research and analysis, including a trip to the ground along the Hudson River. From its predominant winds, to the northwest and the relative lack of obstructions caused by the man, he decided to make the flight in the south, with exit from Albany. If I had lost the engine immediately after the take-off, I had reasoned, the possibilities of a safe and remarkably improved emergency landing compared to those that offered a departure from New York.

The plane that had the intention of taking care of the distance, properly called "Albany Flier", presented a frame of bamboo pole; two wings covered with cloth; interplanet flyers; a dual elevator plan, forward; an open cabin; a propeller of wood in configuration of push; a burial of tricycles; And, in the event of landing, corkons filled with cork. The engine was the most powerful that Curtiss had ever designed.

The island of Van Rennselaer, located on the southern bank of Albany, was a flat and obstructive plane that offered the optimal conditions for take-off, and the aircraft, transported in boxes that They contained sections, they mounted there several days before the event. The exact day, however, had been subjected to winds and weather and Curtiss's appreciation of them. As a result, he pointed to the dawn because it usually brought the most calm conditions, but the winds were too formidable for three consecutive days until Sunday, May 29.

With the sky just opening his eyes in the sun, he opened his eyes and concluded that the ideal conditions had been presented, traveling later to the train designated by rail and changing His flight crew at the impromptu shop he had erected. He later shared that the delays, which culminated in the clear and clear conditions of the day, led him to conclude, "it was now or never."

Starting up its engine, performing a final check and accelerating in the direction of the wind, determined by the smoke that went up from the batteries near the factory, deflected the canopy 's elevator surface and Albany Flier surrendered to the engine. Air to 0702. By 1910, the trip had been the equivalent to the current global circumnavigation.

A white flag, tall from a warehouse, pointed to the aircraft's airborne status and alerted the chartered New York Times, which was the wife of Curtiss and the members from his team, to start his own movement that followed the flight to the east part of downtown New York, Hudson River Line. clues

Arriving at an initial altitude of 700 feet, Curtiss crossed through Hudson half, as if it had been an open and blue highway that led to Manhattan, who later expressed: "He felt an immense feeling of relief. motor sounded like music. "

Parallel to the train, the Albany Flier kept about 50 kilometers per hour in perfectly perfect blue skies, but the primary lack of cabin instrumentation forced Curtiss to sublimate the senses to the readings: speed was measured by force Wind and altitude was an estimate of the height above. the ground.

The Poughkeepsie bridge, hung by the river and located 87 kilometers away from Albany, moved to the eye, scoring approximately the midpoint of the trip.

Arriving at the open field of Camelot at 0826, Albany Flier slowed down at its first refueling stop, where gas and oil had to be pre-arranged, but the first hitch of the flight had materialized, without have found any.

Two New Jersey riders who drove their car on the next road were offered to transfer eight gallons of gas and oil to the replacement cans and present them to Curtiss, who was now surrounded by hundreds of spectators and his own train team, which had flown intermittently. to a landing near Camelot.

Reaccelerant, started the second stage of the flight, following the trees and turning south through Hudson half before climbing at a considerable altitude in order to gauge the predominant air currents. But a sudden burst, causing a lateral axis disorder near the surface of the water, caused almost one of its wing tips.

The streams, however, proved to be mild compared to those found 20 miles south of Poughkeepsie, where the 15-kilometer-long gorge that formed the Hudson Highlands, near Storm King Mountain and Breakneck Ridge, created a fierce and treacherous crossroads that inclined the fragile, structure and side wire. Perishing temporarily the control and almost thrown from his open hanger, Curtiss became more observer than pilot as the plane fled 100 meters.

Confirming their calculations and their evolution, the island of Manhattan came into contact. But, realizing that his amount of oil had been reduced to vacuum (due to a later leak detection), he resisted the temptation to keep closing the gap towards him, looking for a suitable landing site before That his engine would begin to catch.

Running an approach to a leaning lawn about 100 feet above Hudson at the northernmost point of Manhattan, he went to the estate of William B. Isham at 1035, having covered 137 miles in 2.5 hours at An average speed of 55 mph and The daughter and husband of Isham, current occupants, greeted him on the grass of the mansion. Because he had been within the city limits, he officially welcomed him to New York, but Curtiss, in order not to fall for his competitive advantage, would not consider his trip complete until he fell to his destination: Island Governors.

Restored with oil lubricating the engine, the Albany Flier, starting its precarious roll of acceleration on the inclined terrain, went for the third time in 1142 to the crystalline blue, quickly penetrating into Manhattan with its imposing skyscrapers and streets with many people eager to witness the historic. event

The statue of freedom, symbolic of American freedom, served as a secondary symbol to Curtiss, the line of arrival of his singular air race that nobody had chosen nor had the ability to enter. In the direction of the west, he "turned the lady with the torch," heading towards the island of the rulers.

Finally touching his field parade just after noon in the middle of acclaimed receptions of US Army personnel with him there, he completed the 152 mile flight of Albany to New York after two hours of 51 minutes of suspension Air, the longest, public flight through the countries in the United States, winning the $ 10,000 Pulitzer Prize.

Charles Munn, editor of Scientific American magazine, later proclaimed that the river would be produced forever after joining three famous names: Henry Hudson, its founder; Robert Fulton, who revolutionized the trip by steamboat; and Glenn Curtiss, who conquered her.

The counterpart of the United States in the English channel of Louis Bleriot on the passage of the previous year, the flight had demonstrated the potential and the practice of the plane for the world.


On October 9, the Hudson River Valley Institute (HRVI) of the Poughkeepsie Marist College, the Hammondsport Glenn H Curtiss Museum and the Cole Palen Old Rhinebeck aerodrome collectively sponsored an event on the occasion of Centennial of the historic flight of the Hudson River of Curtiss. fulfilling the common educational mission of the three.

Commenting on the event, Trafford Doherty, CEO of the Curtiss Museum, said: "It's a privilege to come to the Hudson Valley to celebrate Glenn Hammond Curtiss's aviation success. I look forward to this. opportunity to share with you the man who is considered the "father of the American aircraft industry" and "father of naval aviation". "

According to Col. James M Johnson, executive director of the Hudson River Valley Institute, "It will be a celebration of the centenary of the historic flight of Curtiss to its Albany Flier through the Hudson River valley in Albany in Manhattan and recognition of those who strive to preserve the memory of their innovative spirit. "

Hugh Schoelzel, president of the airfields at the aerodrome of the old Rhinebeck aerodrome, called the event "a celebration of Glenn Curtiss and, specifically, the centenary of his Hudson Valley flight. He opened the door to the practical plane as a form of common transport. Before, the planes were used for experimentation and they flew around the field to have fun. "

Live music, traditionally associated with the autumn festival of Old Rhinebeck, marked the occasion. Several pumpkin exhibits alongside the Snack Stand aerodrome marked the season.

The grassy field, flanked on both sides by trees hung by autumn appetite and shining gold, ruby ​​red and burnt oranges, provided the stage swept by the wind showing the operational designs of Curtiss and they were shown to almost 700 supported. for the seats of the wooden bench next door.

As the sun went to the trees and shadows of various colors that stretched across the grass, a large white tent, located on the patio formed by the Royal Aircraft Factory, AV Roe and Company, Louis Bleriot, and the Hangars Fokker Flugzeugwerke and surrounded by Curtiss's three-configuration aircraft, provided the place for the second part of the events of the day, including "The Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome" and "Glenn Curtiss: The Man and his Legacy" , in charge respectively of Hugh Schoelzel and Trafford Doherty.

Being among the most important and influential aviation pioneers, Glenn Curtiss was a "fiercely competitive person," according to Doherty. "He loved the speed. He did not always invent something, he rebuilt or redesigned and improved it."

Leaving literally land for the first time on June 28, 1907 in one direction, he later became one of the five instrumental figures of the Air Association of Aerial Experimentation (AEA) d & # 39; Alexander Graham, whose first design, designated the red wing, "Made what was considered the first public flight of the United States when it climbed 300 feet, despite its lack of control of the # 39 ; lateral axis

As a remedy for this failure, the success of the white wing had bank capacity with triangular shape wings driven by the movement of the body pilot connected to the rope. He made numerous flights, the longest of which had exceeded 1,000 feet.

Disassembled after a series of hard disembarkations, it formed the basis of the third evolution, the Bug Bug of June, which incorporated the engine of the white wing and many of its parts, but introduced the Performance method of the tailgate of the shoulder jouet. He won the Scientific American trophy on July 4, 1908, when the bow biplane waged a publicly watched one-kilometer fight, although the 5,090 feet actually covered had been about once and Half the required distance.

Silver Dart, the last of the four designs, became the first heavier aircraft that flew to Canada, and made more than 200 flights successfully.

Both Curtiss's life and its aircraft designs were the product of their extreme characteristics. "He took on calculated risks," Doherty continued. "It was extremely cute."

In the First World War, despite its patent-related trial with the Wright Brothers, it had become the leading aircraft manufacturer and was therefore "considered the founder of the industry of # 39; American aircraft, "said Doherty.

"He made the airplane a practical airplane and invented the flying boat. Ninety-five percent of the pilots of the First World War in the United States and Canada were trained on the Jenny-4 Jenny. It was incredibly intuitive mechanically . "

"And now, the Curtiss museum and the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome are related to its legacy and its aircraft," he concluded.

These airplanes, number five of the Old Rhinebeck collection, represented the three pioneering eras, the First World War and the times of Lindbergh.

Model A, for example, a pushing biplane belonging to the old category and based on the previous Albany Flier, was built by Cole Palen in 1957, but crashed into an air show before being restored In 1975 and put into long-term loan. at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in Manhattan. Currently exhibited at the Aerospace Museum Ira G. Ross of Buffalo under a similar agreement.

The later model D, which was located a few meters from the conference store and whose controls were demonstrated as Schoelzel highlighted the assistant group, "is an extension of the normal body movement, a trigger a very mechanical person, "according to Herb Gregory, who for three years has performed high-speed taxi maneuvers with the type for the viewers of Old Rhinebeck. "Your activation method was taken out of your motorcycle experience."

"The Model D control method is Curtiss's signature system since the AEA days, including the June error, until 1914," had shared Doherty.

"The plane is made of bamboo," added Schoelzel. "It has its original OX-5 engine and it was the first factory-made aircraft of any quantity".

The Curtiss JN-4 Jenny, of significantly larger size and belonging to the era of the First World War, was designed by Benjamin D. Thomas, an Englishman previously with the Sopwith Aviation Company, and commissioned by Glenn Curtiss, which incorporated the best features of the model. J and the Model N trainers to produce the series "JN" or "Jenny", introduced in 1915.

Although the JN-1 and -2, which vary in the upper and lower wings, the number of the aileron and the control method, had been produced in limited quantities, the First Aero Squadron of the Body Signal of the United States operated eight of these, first carrying their delivery. in July 1915, and the version was succeeded by the JN-3, which introduced several design modifications in order to solve its shortcomings.

The final seat, dual (student and pilot) JN-4, with a span of almost 40 feet of wings; a docile cruise speed of 60 mph; And a gross weight of 1,920 pounds, it was proven ideal as a World War I trainer for air service of the United States Army and the real Canadian flying body.

Its rapidity and stability made it an optimum, post-war, flight calling and barnstorming plane, of which 6,813 had been built.

Although it had been standardized for the Curtiss OX-5 engine, the Old Rhinebeck example, an original JN-4H, was one of the three examples of Hispano Suiza that are still flying.

According to Schoelzel, the type "aviation literally introduced to America and Canada. It's just a love that he flew. He was the first to transport mail. Almost 7.000 were built."

Bill Gordon, the pilot of the Old Rhinebeck pilot and head of restoration and maintenance, shared some of the aircraft features accumulated after half a decade of experience. "It's an original JN-4H of 1917 with an original engine," he said. "He is an excellent coach, but he needs a lot of helm".

Asked about his performance, he contemplated: "It's slow. It has a huge wing and its pulled-in threads create drag. The speed of the stop is probably 35 km / h (although) flying up to 70 to 75 years. If yarn whistles, let's go too fast.

"It has four spoilers," he continued, "because it is a Navy Jenny. And it's more reliable because it's a Hisso Jenny, with much more power than (with) the OX-5 engine."

"It's a showcase," he concluded. "One of our most valuable planes. In five years, I have only verified that there is another pilot. It's so valuable that I have never left the pattern and I've always been at a distance. But it's an honor to fly. my most favorite plane. "

The Curtiss Fledgling, belonging to the Lindbergh era and currently composed of little more than its green, metallic and skeletal-looking frame, "is in the process of long-term restoration," according to Schoelzel.

The result of the Navy requirements of 1927 for a primary trainer, the 2,832-pound Fledgling, selected after considering 15 competing designs, featured a two-bay biplane, the same, but staggered, 39.2-foot connected interchange for N-struts; tandem seats for a student and an instructor; a tail wheel; and a Wright R-790-8 engine of 220 hp. Designed internally "Model 48", it was known as the "N2C" in marine format.

Model 51, destined for the civilian market, was powered by a Challenger engine and the Curtiss flight service operated 109 of its type on its air taxi routes.

About 160 of the two variants were built.

The example of Old Rhinebeck, an original built in 1929, was acquired by Cole Palen in 1975 after it had seen it perform during the Florida Air Show and annual fun. Later he flew in his own airshows on the weekend and served as a platform for firefighters and cameras for several years, and became a "civilized version of coach Navy N2C-1. He made a Good coach for artillery and instruments, (and used at Curtiss flight schools. "

The fifth Curtiss design of the Old Rhinebeck collection is the Curtiss-Wright CW-1 Junior, which also comes from the Lindbergh era.

Built in response to the current Aeronca C-2 and American Eagle Eaglet, the lightweight, basic sporting airplane, originally designated "Curtiss-Robertson CR-1 Skeeter", featured a square section of fuselage made of steel tubes covered with cloth. ; open tandem seats, for two; a parasol wing; a three-cylinder radial motor, 45 hp, Szekely SR-3-0 mounted at the top of the intersection of the wings and driving a double-leaf wood propeller in a pus configuration; two small main wheels, wide and full of air; and a tail wheel.

Almost that appears as a motorized paraglider, it was marketed as "built to sell for the price of a middle class car."

First flight in the fall of 1930, it adopted its current name when the parent company of Curtiss-Robertson, Curtiss, merged with Wright.

Lighter than a Piper Cub, with an empty weight of 570 pounds and sold for $ 1,490, post-depression aircraft with a low budget were shipped, disassembled, anywhere in the country and, due to their large size of wings, it was handled especially well. In the air, reaching speeds of 80 mph. However, despite its basic construction, it was not exempt from deficiencies. "Szekely's engine had a tendency to pull cylinders," according to Schoelzel. "With its push arrangement, the cylinder passed directly through the helix." Due to their low altitude, passengers were also often injured.

These defects, combined with a few accidents, supposed the type stopped in 1932 after about 270 were created.

In the midst of the four-hour unleashing of the new D-25 standard, whose engine reverberated in the evening, the day ended with the presentation of the Hudson River Valley Institute in a box by John Gould titled "Albany Flier "at the Old Rhinebeck Airfield … a day that assured that the dusk would never really turn Glenn Hammond Curtiss into light, aeronautical contributions from early aviation were essential in its development. Echoing the same philosophy of Old Rhinebeck as "keeping alive the dream," the special day program, together with the five Curtiss planes in its collection, also assured that "they would keep their alive spirit."