Curtiss Wanamaker Triplane

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Curtiss T Wanamaker Triplane
Curtiss T Wanamaker Triplane2.jpg
RNAS Felixstowe, 1916
Role Patrol Bomber flying-boat[1]
National origin United States of America
Manufacturer Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company
First flight 1916
Retired 1916
Primary user Royal Naval Air Service
Number built 1

The Wanamaker Triplane or Curtiss Model T, retroactively renamed Curtiss Model 3 was a large experimental four-engined triplane patrol flying boat of the First World War. It was the first four-engined aircraft built in the United States however, only a single example was completed (No.3073),[2] orders for a further 19 from the British Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) being cancelled. At the time the Triplane was the largest seaplane in the world.[1]

Design and development[edit]

In 1915, the American businessman Rodman Wanamaker who, prior to the outbreak of the First World War commissioned the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company to build a large flying boat, America to win the £10,000 prize put forward by the British newspaper Daily Mail for the first aircraft to cross the Atlantic, commissioned Curtiss to build a new, even larger flying boat for transatlantic flight that became known as the Wanamaker Triplane, or Curtiss Model T, (retroactively re-designated Model 3 when Curtiss changed its designation system).[1]

Partially constructed, 5 July 1916.

Early press reports showed a large triplane, 68 ft (17.9 metres) and with equal-span six-bay wings of 133 foot (40.5 metre) span. The aircraft, to be capable of carrying heavy armament, was estimated to have an all-up weight of 21,450 pounds (9,750 kilogrammes) and was to be powered by six 140 hp 104 kW) engines driving three propellers, two of which were to be of tractor configuration and the third a pusher.[3]

The British Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) placed an order for 20 of the new triplanes, the first one being completed at the Curtiss factory, Buffalo, New York in July 1916.[4] This was the first four-engined aircraft to be built in the United States and one of the largest aircraft in the world.[5]

Fitted with a Rolls-Royce engine at RNAS Felixstowe.[6]

While of similar size and weight to the aircraft discussed in the press, the Model T had unequal span wings, with the upper wing having a span of 134 feet, while it was planned to be powered by four tractor 250 hp (187 kW) Curtiss V-4 engines installed, unusually for the time, individually on the middle wing. The two pilots and flight engineer were provided with an enclosed cabin, similar to the America, while to reduce control loads, small windmills could be connected to the aileron cables by electrically operated clutches to act as a form of power assisted controls.[1]

The planned Curtiss V-4 engines were not available when the prototype was completed, so it was not flown in the United States, but taken to England by ship and reassembled at the naval air station, Felixstowe being fitted with four French 240 hp (180 kW) Renault engines. Although later refitted with four 250 hp Rolls-Royce Eagles, it was unsuccessful and damaged beyond repair on its maiden flight;[7] the order for the remaining nineteen was cancelled. It did, however, provide the inspiration for John Porte of the Seaplane Experimental Station to build a massive five-engined flying boat of similar layout, the Felixstowe Fury.[1][8][9]


 United Kingdom

Specifications (Renault engines)[edit]

Front elevation of the Model T with four Rolls-Royce engines, RNAS Felixstowe, 1916

Data from Curtiss Aircraft 1907–1947[1] [5] [10]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 6
  • Length: 58 ft 10 in (17.93 m)
  • Upper wingspan: 134 ft (41 m)
  • Mid wingspan: 100 ft (30 m)
  • Lower wingspan: 78 ft 3 in (23.85 m)
  • Height: 31 ft 4 in (9.55 m)
  • Wing area: 2,815 sq ft (261.5 m2)
  • Empty weight: 15,645 lb (7,096 kg)
  • Gross weight: 22,000 lb (9,979 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Renault 12F V-12 water-cooled piston engines, 240 hp (180 kW) each


  • Maximum speed: 100 mph (161 km/h; 87 kn)
  • Range: 675 mi (587 nmi; 1,086 km) at cruise speed of 75 mph
  • Endurance: 7 hr
  • Time to altitude: 10 minutes to 4,000 ft (1,220 m)

See also[edit]

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Bowers 1979, pp. 136–137.
  2. ^ "Curtiss-Wanamaker Triplane". All-Aero. all-aero. Retrieved 19 October 2015. 
  3. ^ Flight 13 January 1916, pp. 43–44.
  4. ^ Trimble, William (2013). "9 Challenges Old and New". Hero of the Air: Glenn Curtiss and the Birth of Naval Aviation. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1612514111. Retrieved 24 August 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Curtiss: K through Z". Aerofiles. Retrieved 15 August 2010.
  6. ^ "Felixstowe and Lowestoft Seaplanes 1914–1918". YouTube. 11 April 2009. Retrieved 14 November 2016. 
  7. ^ Johnson, E. R. (2009). American Flying Boats and Amphibious Aircraft: An Illustrated History. McFarland. p. 302. ISBN 0786457082. Retrieved 24 August 2015. 
  8. ^ Bruce 1955, pp. 929–930.
  9. ^ Thetford 1978, p. 386.
  10. ^ Flight"A Fighting Flying Boat". Flight. Retrieved 21 December 2016.