Following an abortive partnership with Glenn Curtiss, Augustus Moore Herring went into business with W. Starling Burgess, owner of a shipyard in Marblehead, Massachusetts, and builder of small boats and racing craft. The first aeronautical product of the Herring-Burgess collaboration, the Model A, made its inaugural flight on February 28, 1910, traveling 110 m (360 ft), reaching an altitude of 9 m (30 ft). A revised version of the Model A was test-flown by Herring on April 17, 1910. Shortly thereafter he terminated his association with Burgess, who formed a new company with Greely S. Curtis.
The Herring-Burgess airplane was sold to Joseph C. Shoemaker sometime in 1910 or early 1911, who, along with Fred C. Chanonhouse, modified it yet again. By August, the airplane was capable of executing basic flight maneuvers, including circles and figure eights. After a crash on September 2, 1911, which resulted in only slight damage, the airplane does not appear to have been flown again.
The Estate of Joseph C. Shoemaker.
Pusher biplane very similar in layout to the Curtiss Model D Pusher of the same time period.
Augustus Moore Herring established his credentials as an aviation pioneer in the 1890s. He experimented with gliders and collaborated with leading aviation figure, Octave Chanute. The 1896 Chanute-Herring biplane glider was among the most significant pre-Wright aircraft. Herring built a powered version of one of his gliders in 1898 that was powered by a compressed-air engine. The craft lifted off the ground a few inches and traveled a short distance, but it was not a controlled, sustained flight. Herring was only attempting to get credit for having technically made the first powered flight, as his design could in no way be developed into a true airplane.
Herring worked with several recognized aeronautical experimenters of the period, Chanute, Samuel P. Langley, and Glenn H. Curtiss. These collaborations were brief and often turbulent, however, because Herring was considered troublesome and unreliable. His association with Curtiss ended with a lawsuit in 1911.
Following his abortive partnership with Curtiss, Herring went into business with W. Starling Burgess, owner of a shipyard in Marblehead, Massachusetts, and builder of small boats and racing craft. Burgess held a degree in engineering and architecture from Harvard and had become interested in aviation. To the partnership with Herring he contributed his shipyard facilities and his engineering skills.
The first product of the Herring-Burgess collaboration was the Model A biplane, which was exhibited at the first Boston Aero Show that opened on February 16, 1910. Although the Model A had yet to fly, it gained media attention because of its exquisite workmanship, a testament to Burgess and his boat builders.
The Herring-Burgess Model A had a central skid with smaller skids positioned on either side, no wheels. The biplane elevator was positioned in front and was actuated by a foot pedal. It had no ailerons and was steered by the rudder alone. Lateral stability was maintained by the placement of six triangular fins on the top of the upper wing, which resulted in the airplane being called the "Flying Fish." The rudder and horizontal stabilizer were in the rear and the pilot was seated on the leading edge of the lower wing. There was no provision for a passenger. The aircraft was powered by a 25-horsepower Curtiss four-cylinder engine, turning a four-blade propeller.
On February 28, 1910, the Model A made its inaugural flight with Augustus Herring at the controls. The aircraft took off on skids from the ice on the frozen surface of Chabacco Lake and flew about 110 m (360 ft), reaching an altitude of 9 m (30 ft).
The original Model A was sold shortly after its first flight and Herring and Burgess proceeded at once to design a new version. This aircraft incorporated a few changes that included the placement of eight fins on the top wing instead of six, and replacement of the foot pedal that operated the elevator with a stick controlled by the pilot's right hand. The pilot's left hand turned a small wheel that controlled the rudder. The power plant and four-blade propeller remained the same as on the earlier design.
The revised Model A was ferried from Marblehead to nearby Plum Island on the Burgess yacht and test-flown by Herring in the very early morning of April 17, 1910. Herring's first flight of 122 m (400 ft) was followed by a flight of 23 m (75 ft), this time with Burgess as pilot. Herring made several flights in the days that followed and then terminated his association with Burgess shortly thereafter, perhaps as a result of the appearance at Plum Island of Greely S. Curtis, a Harvard-educated engineer and pilot. After Herring's departure, Burgess formed a new company with Curtis.
Curtis flew the revised Model A on April 23 and damaged the airplane during his first attempt to land. Curtis was thrown clear of the airplane, but he was not injured. After repairs the aircraft was flown by a new pilot, William H. Hilliard. After numerous flights in early May, Hilliard managed to extend the flight distance to 0.8 km (0.5 mi).
The Herring-Burgess airplane was sold to Joseph C. Shoemaker sometime in 1910 or early 1911. Shoemaker, along with Fred C. Chanonhouse, modified the Herring-Burgess design by eliminating the fins on the upper wing and removing the forward elevator. The landing gear was also rebuilt.
Shoemaker soloed his modified Herring-Burgess Model A on June 3, 1911, and by August the airplane was capable of executing basic flight maneuvers, including circles and figure 8s, in addition to achieving distances up to 14.5 km (9 mi), altitudes up to 30 m (100 ft), and flight durations of ten minutes. After a crash on September 2, 1911, which resulted in slight damage, the airplane does not appear to have been flown again. The Herring-Burgess biplane was donated to the Smithsonian Institution by the Shoemaker estate in February 1961.