Waterman Whatsit

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    Waterman Whatsit

    Single engine, two seat, monoplane, silver fabric, no controls.

    1 of 2

    Usage Conditions Apply

    There are restrictions for re-using this media. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

    View Manifest

    View in Mirador Viewer

    Waterman Whatsit

    Single engine, two seat, monoplane, silver fabric, no controls.

    2 of 2

Display Status:

This object is not on display at the National Air and Space Museum. It is either on loan or in storage.

A predecessor to Waldo Waterman's later Arrowplane and Aerobile, the unconventional design of the Whatsit tailless airplane was the first in Waterman's quest for an airplane that would be as easy to fly as it is to drive. First views by the press and onlookers in the early 1932 generated the prevailing question, "What is it?" Hence, the name "Whatsit." However, pitch stability and landing accidents plagued the first test flights, and the project was set aside until the Bureau of Air Commerce's challenge the following year for manufacturers to design and build a safe and inexpensive airplane for any person to fly.

With new test data, Waterman completely redesigned the Whatsit, and the new result was the Arrowplane, which won the Bureau's challenge along with the Stearman-Hammond Y. Both aircraft are in the Museum's collection. Following its useful test life, Waterman stored the Whatsit for several years in anticipation of donating it to the Smithsonian, and it arrived at the National Air Museum in 1950.