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Flyboy: 1936

Flyboy: 1936

Washington, D.C. "Airplane, 1936, March or April." One of five similar glass plates in the Harris & Ewing archive. Who can fill in the blanks? View full size.


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If this plane was ultimately unsuccessful in the market, it wasn't for a lack of sexy lines. I find the curves of the cockpit and windows highly appealing.

My first response, however, was I want that suit! After reading below that this is Gore Vidal and his father Gene, I am not surprised at the quality of the suit.

A Plane for the People

Washington Post, November 10, 1935.

St. Louis Factory Tests Plane
for Entry into Safety Contest

The “Curtis-Wright-Coupe,” an all-metal, low-wing, two-place monoplane has been completed at the St. Louis factory of the Curtis-Wright Airplane Co. and is now undergoing final flight tests at St. Louis. On completion of these tests, this plane will be delivered to Eugene Vidal, directory of the Bureau of Air Commerce, Department of Commerce, as the latest entry in the safe plane competition being conducted by the Bureau of Air Commerce, in an attempt to procure an exceptionally safe airplane, which will have a low initial cost, a low operating cost, sufficient speed to fly cross the country, and at the same time have a low landing speed. …

Washington Post, November 26, 1935.

Curtis-Wright ‘Flivver’ Plane Here for Tests

Eugene Vidal, directory of the Bureau of Air Commerce, and William Wells, Curtis-Wright test pilot, arrived at Washington yesterday with another small plane turned out in the bureau’s private owner program.

The ship, flown from St. Louis where it was built at the Curtis-Wright factory, is an all-metal monoplane similar in design to the transports used in transcontinental flying. …

“Any plane to be produced at low cost,” Vidal said, “must be of metal so that its standard parts can be made in volume. Any wood and fabric type ship could not be constructed in this manner because the fitting together of parts would require individual manual labor.

Film of him flying.

Not this plane, but around the same time.


Don't you know a boy of that age (or any age) would have a head full of dreams sitting there. What fun!

Gene Vidal

Our pilot here is former West Point football captain, Gene Vidal. By 1936 Vidal was the director of Roosevelt's Bureau of Air Commerce. His project at the time was to find light aircraft to promote for the everyday flying family.

And he WAS a dad, too. That's his son, 10 year old Gore Vidal.

Here's another shot of the two with Gore at the controls. The kid was already able to take off and land this Hammond "Flivver" type aircraft.

Hammondsport, NY

The curtiss Museum there is very good. Lots of things for everyone.
We were there last year
There is also a shop in the back where you could go in and talk to the fellows rebuilding a P-40. They'll explain the whole thing to you.
The surrounding Finger Lakes area is lovely.

2 thumbs up for The Curtiss Museum !!

Filling in the first blank

The airplane is the prototype Curtiss-Wright CW-19L Coupe, an unsuccessful private aircraft design, which was subsequently modified into an equally unsuccessful military aircraft.

C'mon Dad

Take me up for a spin, and I won't tell Mom you spent my orthodontist money on an airplane.

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