Curtiss Model F aircraft were a family of early flying boats developed in the United States during years leading up to World War I. Over 300 were built. They were sold to private owners, as well as the Navies of the United States, Great Britain, Brasil, Italy and Russia. After the United States entered World War I on 6 April, 1917, the Model F was adapted as the U.S. Navy’s standard primary training flying-boat.
Airframe parts of our Curtiss were discovered in the rafters of an outbuilding in New Haven, CT, when the new owner acquired the property. He brought all the parts home originally thinking that they were from a windmill. Later, realizing that they were aircraft parts, he took them to the NASM Smithsonian Institute and the Glenn Curtiss Museum where they confirmed the pieces were from a Model F. The find consisted of all the tail surfaces (vertical, horizontal, elevators and rudder), one aileron, the wing struts, all of the flight controls systems, the assembly for the engine start hand crank, some smaller parts and most important, the original, verified, Curtiss Aeroplane Company F boat data plate!
These many parts were acquired in 2016 by the Collings Foundation and William Nutt of Key Largo, FL. Following the purchase, the items were crated and shipped to Century Aviation in East Wenatchee, Washington for restoration. A Curtiss OX-5 V-8 engine that is correct to the F-Boat was acquired and is was overhauled at Century Aviation.
The Model F was completed in 2018. It was then taken to Moses Lake in Washington for its maiden flight.
Here is an excerpt from the flight:
MOSES LAKE — It was quite a little gathering along the North Shore of Moses Lake Tuesday morning (September 18th. 2018) to see — or at least hopefully see —
a piece of history take to the air. “There should be no excitement,” said Bruce Brown, an East Wenatchee native. “It should be nice and calm and maybe even a little boring.”
“It won’t be boring,” his wife Janet responded. “It’ll be awesome if they can get it up and fly it.” …If. While everyone was hopeful that this 104-year-old restored airplane could fly, no one was entirely sure it would.
The plane at the center of attention was a Curtiss Flying Boat Model F, Originally built for the U.S. Navy in the run-up to the First World War. While the Navy eventually passed on the plane, over 300 were built and sold to the Brazilian, Italian, and Russian Imperial navies. Curtiss, which still exists as Curtis-Wright Aviation (though the company no longer builds aircraft), is best known for the JN-4, the “Jenny,” a ubiquitous biplane that rolled off assembly lines in the thousands during WWI and was the mainstay of many barn-storming aerial acts during the 1920s.
The Model F being slowly towed into Moses Lake is the last of its kind still operating in the world, according to Century Aviation, an East Wenatchee company specializing in airplane restoration. “It crashed in 1915 in East Haven, Conn., and was dragged out and put into a barn and just left there,” said Bill Nutt, the plane’s sponsor. “They thought that they would restore it, but they never did.” Nutt has helped in the restoration of a number of old aircraft, including a 1909 Curtiss Pusher, currently in the possession of the Collings Foundation, which operates and exhibits one of the world’s largest collection of rare historic aircraft. With the help of Century Aviation’s master craftsmen, the fuselage and wings on the flying boat were newly fabricated, but Nutt said the plane contains about 400 original parts, including the engine.
The flying boat will also find its way into the Collings Foundation’s collection after a stop at the Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, N.Y. “They want all their aircraft to be flyable, but I want to fly it just to fly it,” Nutt said. “It’s fun. I’ve spent four years waiting for this.”
It took some work, however, for test pilot Rob Kinyoun, who also flies for Jet Blue, and the ground crew to get the Model F airborne. The old engine was fussy, and even though it started up on the first attempt, various little problems kept the plane on the water and out the air for much of the day before this little piece of aviation history was airborne in mid-afternoon. “I’ll fly up 10 feet, or maybe 50 feet, depending on how it feels,” Kinyoun said earlier in the morning. “A little higher is actually safer. It gives you more time to think.”
*The Curtiss Model F Flying Boat is located at the Hangar Annex of the American Heritage Museum currently and is not open to the public other than for select special event weekends. See the Event Calendar at this link for these weekends.