In 1911 the U.S. Army Signal Corps purchased its second airplane, a Curtiss Model D Type IV. The military version of the Curtiss Model D could be easily disassembled and transported on Army wagons. Like other Curtiss aircraft of the time, the Model D was a pusher, meaning the rear-mounted propeller "pushed" the aircraft. Designated Signal Corps Airplane No. 2, it was accepted at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, on April 27, 1911, one of five airplanes ordered by the Army that year.
The control system for the Curtiss Model D operated differently than that used on Signal Corps No. 1, a Wright aircraft. A pilot flying the Curtiss operated the ailerons with his shoulders, and the front elevator and rear rudder with the wheel mounted on a column in front of him. Also, rather than sitting next to the pilot, the observer sat behind the pilot.
The Signal Corps scrapped the original aircraft, so museum personnel constructed the reproduction on display, completing it in 1987. They relied heavily on measurements scaled from early photographs of the original Signal Corps No. 2 because the original drawings and adequate written descriptions were not available. Additional details were gathered from an existing factory-built Curtiss pusher and from recent drawings. Except for the engine, which is made of wood and plastic, all materials used in the reproduction are essentially the same as those used in the original.
Engine: Curtiss V-8 of 60 hp
Maximum speed: 50 mph
Endurance: 2 1/2 hours
Span: 38 ft. 3 in. (including ailerons)
Length: 29 ft. 3 in.
Height: 7 ft. 10 in.
Weight: 700 lbs. empty; 1,300 lbs. loaded
Click here to return to the Early Years Gallery.