Willard Ray Custer
|William Ray Custer|
June 6, 1899|
|Died||December 25, 1985
|Known for||Custer Channel Wing|
|Children||Harold R. Custer|
|Parent(s)||Clem T. Custer, Florence M. Byrd|
Willard Ray Custer (born June 6, 1899 in Warfordsburg, Pennsylvania, died December 25, 1985 in Hagerstown, Maryland) was an American engineer and aircraft visionary, inventor of the channel wing concept. He was a great grandnephew of George Armstrong Custer.
Custer left school at age 13, working as a blacksmith, and later an engineer and mechanic.
The inspiration to the channel wing concept came in 1925, when Custer had observed how the roof of a barn was lifted during a very strong gust of wind. He started investigating the phenomenon, and by 1928 he had developed the first Model of a new air plane wing that he subsequently, in 1929, filed a patent for. This channel wing managed much lift even at very low airspeeds, and allowed start and landing on very short airfields.
In 1939 Custer founded the National Aircraft Corporation, and on November 12, 1942 started development of the CCW-1 (CusterChannelWing 1) experimental aircraft. With the CCW-2 that followed, he could achieve almost vertical starts, and flight almost like a helicopter. The military started a number of trials, that was subsequently cancelled despite some interesting achievements. Later, Custer founded the Custer ChannelWing Corporation, and in 1954 built more aircraft. The last one, the CCW-5, almost reach series production.
The principle of the channel wing was not well understood by many, especially at the time . Custer was a splendid experimenter and visionary, with many patents filed, but he did not have a strong theoretical and scientific background. The Custer Channelwing Corporation had to cease its activities, and the channel wing principle was mostly forgotten. Today, only two CCW aircraft survive. The CCW-1 is displayed at the Smithsonian´s National Air & Space Museum, Suitland, Maryland, while the CCW-5 is at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum, Pennsylvania.
The big break-through for the channel wing never happened, although attempts to revive it is seen from time to time, which would possibly be a revival for the concept.
- "Mr. Custer and his Channel Wing Airplanes". AAHS Journal: 62. Spring 1998.