The Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company was started by Glenn H. Curtis in January of 1916 but Mr. Curtiss had been working on planes as early as 1909 with the experimental "Model No. 1" single-engine biplane. When war came to Europe in 1914, this prompted all manner of evolution for the field of aeronautics and Curtiss went to work on several aircraft types including the "Wanamaker", a four-engined triplane flying boat originally set up as a trans-Atlantic passenger-hauler and then modified to fulfill a military-minded maritime patrol bomber requirement for World War 1 (1914-1918). This aircraft became the first four-engined type to be constructed in the United States and, for its time in the air (and on the water), was the largest seaborne aircraft anywhere in the world.
The Wanamaker received its name from its financier, Rodman Wanamaker, who approached the Curtiss Company back in 1915 to help design, develop, and build an aircraft capable of meeting an Atlantic Crossing challenge set up by the Daily Mail of Britain (a prize worth 10,000 pounds!). The efforts of this partnership and subsequent work eventually helped to produce the "Wanamaker Triplane" - which was also known as in-company as the Curtiss "Model T".
The aircraft was a behemoth by 1916 standards, standing several stories tall with a height of 31.3 feet. Its running length reached nearly 59 feet and the wingspan measured 134 feet (upper-most span). As a triplane, the aircraft carried three distinct wing components, an upper span, a middle span, and a lower span. These were heavily braced through parallel struts and cabling. The upper wing element was given the greatest span (134 fee) while the middle element was slightly shorter at 100 feet and the lower spanning 78.2 feet. The fuselage sat under the lower-most span and was given a boat-like hull for water landings and take-offs. Over the middle span were the four engines set across in a side-by-side pattern. The tail unit incorporated a single vertical fin and a pair of horizontal planes. The total crew complement numbered six personnel and they were wholly enclosed within the fuselage - this during the age of open-air cockpits. Empty weight was 15,645lb with a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 22,000lb. Electrically-assisted controls were introduced to aid in controlling of the massive machine.
The design was eventually revealed to carry 4 x Curtiss V-4 engines of 250 horsepower each and all arranged in "puller" configuration. All told, the aircraft could reach speeds of 100 miles per hour out to a range of 675 miles and stay airborne for up to seven hours. Rate-of-climb was a respectable 400 feet-per-minute.
The first (and eventually only) Model T specimen emerged from the Curtiss facility in Buffalo, New York during July of 1916. Because Britain was already embroiled in World War 1 (1914-1918) it took an interest in this long-range over-water aircraft as a maritime patrol bomber and its Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) looked to secure twenty of the Curtiss flying boats. However, unfortunately for Curtiss, the required engines were not yet available by the time British interest had peaked so, to facilitate the sale, the aircraft was disassembled and shipped via boat to Britain where it would be reassembled and outfitted with 4 x French-originated Renault 12F V-12 water-cooled piston engines of 240 horsepower each, these driving four-bladed wooden propellers. In this form, the aircraft was stationed at RNAS Felixstowe during 1916. Before long, the engine fit was switched over to 4 x Rolls-Royce Eagle models and the aircraft was tested on its first-flight ever that year. However, the aircraft crashed landed and was written off as a complete loss and this prompted the RNAS to terminate the contract for the remaining nineteen Wanamakers and its story more-or-less ended there.
The British then took the idea behind the Curtiss design and evolved it into the Felixstowe "Fury" (detailed elsewhere on this site), another mammoth flying boat design of the period, with changes instituted to suit British military requirements (again for the maritime patrol bomber role). This aircraft, too, existed in only a single completed example and led a short operational life, first-flown in November of 1918 and retired as soon as August 1919.
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