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Curtiss A-1 Triad (Model E)

United States (1911)
Picture of Curtiss A-1 Triad (Model E) Experimental Navy Floatplane Aircraft
Picture of Curtiss A-1 Triad (Model E) Experimental Navy Floatplane Aircraft Picture of Curtiss A-1 Triad (Model E) Experimental Navy Floatplane Aircraft
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The Curtiss A-1 Triad became the first aircraft to be purchased by the United States Navy.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Curtiss A-1 Triad (Model E) Experimental Navy Floatplane Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 11/2/2017. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

Like the United States Army's air service of the early 20th century, the United States Navy (USN) air power managed a humble beginning through a series of experimental aeroplanes used to prove certain concepts of naval service viable. The Curtiss A-1 "Triad" became the United States Navy's first-ever aircraft when ordered on May 8th, 1911 and this platform was developed as a true "amphibian" - able to take-off and land from both water and airfields respectively thanks to a floatplane pontoon arrangement for the former action and a retractable wheeled undercarriage for the latter. The "Triad" name stemmed from this versatility for the machine operated through all three facets - air, land, and sea. While not used in a frontline, combat-minded operational manner by the USN, the A-1 still held tremendous value in a developmental sense concerning testing, doctrine, and pilot training. The Triad saw a first flight on February 25th, 1911 and carried the company model designation of "Model E".

Experimentation with such over-water aircraft like the Triad is what piqued the interest of USN authorities in the early years of flight. Glen Curtiss (1878-1930), founder of his famous Curtiss Aeroplane Company, showcased to the Navy the value of his floatplane designs when he landed an aircraft on the water alongside a US Navy vessel. The vessel then used its onboard crane to recover the aircraft - giving rise to the concept of seaplane observation platforms that was carried even into World War 2 (1939-1945) for over-the-horizon scout work. The USN moved on purchasing some fourteen A-1s and variants included the E-4 and E-8 with differences laying in the type and output of engine in play (the "E-4" had a 4-cylinder engine, the "E-8" an 8-cylinder engine, and the "E-8-75" an engine of 75 horsepower output).

The A-1 provided the important groundwork for US naval aviation and introduced flight to the first generations of American naval airmen. Despite its rickety appearance, the Triad was consistent with design and construction philosophy of the time. A biplane wing arrangement was used with parallel struts for support. The pontoon assembly was installed under the aircraft with bicycle-style landing wheels straddling the fixture. The pilot (and one other passenger) sat at the front of the wing arrangement with a horizontal plane fitted just ahead of his position. An automobile-style steering wheel was used for primary controlling. The powerplant was fitted aft of the pilot and between the upper and lower wing structures, the engine operating in a "pusher" arrangement and driving a two-bladed wooden propeller facing the rear of the aircraft. Thin strut work and cabling connected the mass of the aircraft to several more control and stability surfaces found at the rear of the aircraft.


Picture of the Curtiss A-1 Triad (Model E) Experimental Navy Floatplane Aircraft
Picture of the Curtiss A-1 Triad (Model E) Experimental Navy Floatplane Aircraft


The Triad was used in the USN's first-ever (semi-successful) catapult launch test and made the first water landing at night. The platform was also used for early tests in surface-to-air communications and overland endurance ventures. The A-1 series continued in this test-minded role until its value had been played out and all-new technologies rendered the design obsolete. By the time of World War 1 (1914-1918), a new generation of biplane fighters arose to take the aviation mantle from these early - and usually lethal - pioneering efforts.

A replica of the A-1 Triad hangs in the lobby of the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida, USA while an original (flyable) example is preserved at the EAA AirVenture Museum of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA.






Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 100mph
Lo: 50mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (65mph).

    Graph average of 75 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the Curtiss A-1 Triad (Model E)'s operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
14
14


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.


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National Flag Graphic
Origin: United States
Year: 1911
Type: Experimental Navy Floatplane Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Curtiss Aeroplane Company
Production: 14
Status: Retired, Out-of-Service
Global Operators:
United States
Historical Commitments / Honors:

Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Curtiss A-1 Triad (Model E) model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
2


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
27.66 ft


Meters
8.43 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
37.01 ft


Meters
11.28 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
9.32 ft


Meters
2.84 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
981 lb


Kilograms
445 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
1,576 lb


Kilograms
715 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
Variable - 4- or 8-cylinder Curtiss brand engine of 40, 60, or 75 horsepower depending on installation; installed as "pusher" arrangement driving two-bladed propeller.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
65 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
105 kph


Knots
57 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
124 mi


Kilometers
200 km


Nautical Miles
108 nm

Armament - Hardpoints (0):

None.
Variants: Series Model Variants
• A-1 "Triad" - Base Series Designation
• Model E - Curtiss company model designation
• Model E-4 - Fitted with a 4-cylinder engine of 40 horsepower
• Model E-8 - Fitted with an 8-cylinder engine of 60 horsepower.
• Model E-8-75 - Fitted with an 8-cylinder engine of 75 horsepower.