Century Aviation

1914 Curtiss Model F Flying Boat


Private Owner

These flying boats were powered by a single OX-5 engine mounted above the fuselage in a pusher configuration. The pilot and a single passenger sat side by side in an open cockpit. The biplane wings had large ailerons mounted on the outer rear struts between the upper and lower wings and extending past the end of the lower wings. The earliest examples of this design were built and sold by Curtiss in 1912 without any designation applied to them. The Model F name came into use late in 1913. Over 300 were built and were sold to private owners, the US Navy, along with the Brazilian, Russian, Italian Navies and one to Great Britain. This Curtiss F Boat is the only known example to exist.

These airframe parts were found in the rafters of an outbuilding in New Haven, CT when the new owner acquired the property. He took all the parts home originally thinking that they were from a windmill. He later realized that they were aircraft parts and he took them to the NASM Smithsonian Institute and the Glenn Curtiss Museum who were able to identify them. The parts appeared to have been part of a crashed airframe.

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!

The parts were acquired in 2016 by The Collings Foundation from Stowe, MA and William Nutt of Key Largo, FL. Following the purchase, the parts were crated and shipped to our shop. Through research we located several Curtiss factory drawings including the hull plans. This allowed us, using CAD software, to create all of the other drawings and data needed to restore this airframe. It was the owner’s intent and our goal to return it to flight.

The restoration process began in late-September 2016 and includes building the hull from the blueprints and photos. The hull structure was built from spruce and covered with 5/16” thick African mahogany planking which was screwed on. Over 8000 # 4 flat head brass wood screws were used. The hull received multiple coats of marine spar varnish.

We rebuilt a Curtiss OX-5 V-8 engine that is correct to the F-Boat in our shop. The support system that holds the engine bed was fabricated and installed. The new wings and center section were manufactured and installed. The original tail surfaces were carefully taken apart, inspected, documented and rebuilt retaining as much of the original structure as possible. The original flight control systems were repaired and the F Boat was fully assembled. After the engine and systems were installed and tested, the cotton fabric was installed and brushed with shellac.

In June 2018, the Model F Flying Boat was packed into a large trailer and taken to Moses Lake in Central Washington State for the first half of its flight test. It performed well and was released to complete its flight tests at Hammondsport, New York, 104 years after it was built there. It is now at its home in Stow, Massachusetts.