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Curtiss D-III Headless Pusher

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This object is on display in the Early Flight exhibition at the National Mall building.


In 1909, the G.H. Curtiss Manufacturing Company delivered the firm's first airplane, a pusher design with elevators in the front, called the Golden Flyer, to the New York Aeronautical Society. In 1911, Curtiss began to concentrate on the military market, selling three airplanes to the U.S. Navy. Curtiss continued the evolution of the pusher design with the development of the D-II (the Golden Flyer was considered the Model D) and the D-III, to which a second set of elevators were added to the rear in place of the fixed horizontal stabilizer formerly used on the D and D-II models.

The Curtiss D-III Headless Pusher resulted from an accident incurred by noted exhibition pilot, Lincoln Beachey. While flying in a competition with a standard Curtiss D-III, Beachey hit a fence upon landing and destroyed the front elevator. Rather than drop out, Beachey continued to fly without the front elevator control and found that the aircraft performed better than before. Navy pilots had independently realized that stability was enhanced without the forward elevator and they removed them from their airplanes. Curtiss concurred with the results and began producing the 1912 Model D Headless Pusher as a new offering.

Gift of Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Co.

Manufacturer: Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company

Date: 1912

Country of Origin: United States of America

Dimensions: Wingspan: 11.6 m (38 ft 1 in)
Length: 7.8 m (25 ft 6 in)
Height: 2.7 m (9 ft)
Weight: 632 kg (1,390 lb)

Materials: Airframe: Wood Covering: Fabric

Physical Description:Pusher biplane with one 50-horsepower Curtiss V-8 engine. Fabric covered surfaces light yellow. Struts and landing gear orange.

Inventory number: A19280009000

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