Curtiss "Headless" Pusher a favorite

Glenn Curtiss was one of the first Americans to learn to fly after the Wright’s success. He then designed and built aircraft for decades, including many famous ones. His 1911 Pusher was one of his earliest. A pusher was recently built from original plans around an engine built before 1911. Click here for the Rhinebeck Aerodrome in New York State and video of a Curtiss "Jenny" in flight.

A similar Curtiss pusher made the first successful takeoff from a Navy ship at Norfolk. Later on the west coast a pusher landed on a platform on a cruiser using ropes across the deck tied to sandbags and a tail hook to land successfully! They were called "pusher" because the engine was behind the pilot with the prop facing to the back, so it pushed the plane, as did most Wright planes.

One of his early test pilots during a demonstration of stunt flying made a hard landing that damaged the elevators out front, called canards. Unable to repair the damage, he removed the canard, since the craft had elevator and rudder in the rear, and found it flew better without the canard. About this time Curtiss visited the training school he set up for the Navy at Pensacola, and found that some pilots had removed the canard and found it flew better without it.

Curtiss on his return to his factory where his pushers were being built, removed the canard elevators. The resulting Curtiss pusher was named the “headless” pusher, because most aircraft of that time had elevators out front, and Curtiss’s new craft without them looked like it had lost its head. That headless pusher became a favorite of stunt fliers for its ease of flying, since it used ailerons and was controlled with a stick and rudder pedals. Curtiss’s main competitor, the Wright’s craft, had more complicated controls, depended on wing warping instead of ailerons, and cost much more than the headless pusher. The Wrights sued Curtiss for infringing their patents, using their funds and energy fighting court battles. Curtiss continued producing his successful craft. Meanwhile, Europeans quickly moved ahead with pioneering engines and aircraft. Within years there were far more trained and experienced pilots in Europe than in the U.S.A.

On this site see the Curtiss "Jenny" and NC-4.