I ran into the name Gallaudet in relation to 1920's aircraft such as Gallaudet D-1, D-4, and Curtiss HS2L
and USN Bu's (a800/815,a2653/2654,a2217/2276). I am interested in who he was, time frame, and photo's if
Though I'd never heard the name before, a little research turned up some interesting facts about this early
aviation pioneer. I couldn't find much on the man himself other than some tidbits about his engineering
accomplishments and his company. Edson F. Gallaudet was a contemporary of the Wright brothers who was
investigating aerodynamics during the late 1890s. Probably his greatest contribution to the field was
the development of "wing warping" which he applied to kites he was experimenting with in 1898. Those familiar with
the Wright brothers work will recall that wing warping was used in their early designs for lateral control. In
essence, the outer portion of the wings were twisted to change the angles of attack thereby changing the lift
to bank the aircraft. Thus, wing warping was an early version of the ailerons used on modern aircraft. From what
I've read, it sounds like the Wright brothers did not develop this idea themselves, but I could find no solid proof
that Gallaudet's research was their inspiration.
- question from Ken Murphy
What Gallaudet did over the next decade is unclear, but he formed his own company based in Rhode Island in 1908.
Named Gallaudet Engineering, the company's focus was to design and build aircraft. Indeed, the company officially
became the Gallaudet Aircraft Company in 1917. Gallaudet was primarily involved in the manufacture of seaplanes
for the US Navy, but the company also license built some designs from Curtiss and Dayton-Wright. Some of the more
notable aircraft produced by Gallaudet include:
By the early 1920s, E. Gallaudet seems to have disappeared from the scene and Reuben H. Fleet became general
manager of the Gallaudet Aircraft Company. Fleet was well known as an early pioneer of military aviation and the
Air Mail Service. He had proposed purchasing Dayton-Wright from General Motors but was unable to interest other
Gallaudet executives in the deal. Undeterred, Fleet started his own company named Consolidated in 1923. He then
bought out both Dayton-Wright and Gallaudet. Consolidated went on to produce such famous aircraft as the B-24
Liberator bomber and Catalina flying boat before itself being merged into General Dynamics and later Lockheed.
Thus, some small part of Edson Gallaudet's legacy still lives on today.
A-1 Bullet: (c. 1912) A streamlined monoplane with a pusher propeller, rather advanced
considering it was built before World War I, it was reportedly "twice as fast as biplanes of the era" but
appears to have been an experimental design only.
A-2 Bullet: (c. 1912) Improved A-1 with metal used for major structural components, clocked at 110
mph (178 km/h)!
Flying boat: (c. 1913) Seaplane version of the Bullet.
C-2: (c. 1915) A pilot trainer used at the Gallaudet Aviation School.
D-1: (c. 1915) US Navy seaplane that entered service as the A-59, was unusual in that the
engines were buried in the fuselage behind the cockpit with a propeller rotating around the fuselage.
D-4: (c. 1916) US Navy seaplane that entered service as the AH-63, similar to D-1
but with more powerful engines.
PW-4: (c. 1922) Remarkable for the fact that it was of all-metal construction in an age of
wood and canvas, only one built and probably never flown.
CO-1: (c. 1923) An observation aircraft for the US Army also of all-metal construction, only
one built before order was cancelled.
DB-1: (c. 1923) A daytime bomber for the US Army, but first DB-1 built was so heavy
that it could only be used for ground tests. An improved
DB-1B did fly but had such poor
flight characteristics that it was rejected.
- answer by Jeff Scott, 19 November 2000
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