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Pioneer and Inventor
Born Hammondsport, New York
May 21, 1878July 23, 1930
In 1901, Glenn Hammond Curtiss established his own motorcycle-manufacturing company and soon became known throughout the industry for his mechanical innovations. By 1906, he owned a chain of bicycle and motorcycle shops. It was his successful motorcycle engines that led him into aviation through contracts for dirigible engines.
In collaboration with Alexander Graham Bell and others interested in flight, Curtiss was instrumental in forming the Aerial Experiment Association at Hammondsport, producing the groups first airplane in March 1908. Without benefit of previous flight experience, Curtiss flew the Association's second aircraft a distance of over one thousand feet on May 22, 1908.
Over the next several years his aircraft designs and successful advanced performance engines led Curtiss to establish many speed and distance records in the U.S. and Europe, proving the practicability of the airplane. In 1911, he established his flying school at North Island on San Diego Bay, training the pioneer Army and Navy pilots. Among his historic achievements in San Diego was the development of the first practical amphibious aircraft. Thus was the beginning of U.S. Naval Aviation.
The advent of the 1914-1918 War deluged the Curtiss Airplane and Motor Company with orders from Europe and the U.S. for his flying boats and the famed JN-4 Jenny which was for years to come, the primary training plane in the U.S. It was the Curtiss NC-4 in which the Navy made the historic first trans-Atlantic flight in 1919.
He remained active in flying and in the management of his company until his death.
Invested 1965 in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame
From "These We Honor," The International Hall of Fame; The San Diego Aerospace Museum, San Diego, CA. 1984
More information about Glenn Curtiss can be found at the Glenn Curtiss Memorial Park project and the Glenn H. Curtiss museum website.
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Updated: January 21, 2006