MA Aviation Historical Society Inc.
PO Box 457
Wakefield MA 01880-0957

Telephone: 781.662.1253
Email:
info@massaerohistory.org

 

STURTEVANT AEROPLANE COMPANY
Hyde Park and Jamaica Plain, MA

1910 - 1919


PEOPLE:

Eugene Noble Foss, Chairman                                                                                  
Noble Foss, President, 1915-1919                                                                             
Benjamin Sturtevant Foss, Vice President, 1915-1919
Grover C. Loening, Vice President and General Manager 1916-1917
John J. McElroy, Chief Designer, Engineer, 1915-1918
Frederick S. Chanonhouse, General Superintendent, 1912-1918
Harry Martin Jones, Chief Pilot and Field Representative, 1915-1917
Henry Roy Waite, Test Pilot. 1916-1917
W. Emerson Barrett, Treasurer
Elbridge G. Davis, Secretary

 

PLACES:

Principal Offices and Production Center at: Readville, Hyde Park, Boston, MA
Aeroplane Engines Plant at: Hyde Park
Aeroplane Manufacturing at: Jamaica Plain, Boston:
            Plant One at the NYNH RR’s (Old Colony Line) Jamaica Plain Station at Green and Amory Street  
            Plant Two on Union Avenue, adjacent to Plant One
Aeroplane Flight Testing at: Readville Trotting Park in Hyde Park and at Squantum in Quincy

THE COMPANY:

The Sturtevant Aeroplane Company was established in 1915 by the B.F. Sturtevant Company (BFS), the leading industrial fan and air handling manufacturer in the United States. Eugene Foss, the Chairman of BFS upon a recommendation of his son Noble Foss, created this new subsidiary to manufacture aeroplanes. Noble had previously set up the Sturtevant Manufacturing Company in 1911 to design and build aircraft and marine engines. The contacts he made visiting the infant American aircraft industry to sell engines convinced him that there was a real opportunity to get in on the ground floor of this new and expanding aviation industry. With these well capitalized aeroplane and engine businesses the Foss’s believed that BFS would have a new leading edge product line to complement their mature industrial fan business. The first step in setting up the aeroplane business was to hire an experienced aviation general manager for the new enterprise. They offered the job to Grover Loening who was the Army’s aeronautical engineer at San Diego, he accepted and moved to Boston in July 1915 to get to work.

 Six months later he had his first design built and flown in the Battleplane. Unfortunately the Army and Navy had no specific interest in a combat aeroplane at the time. So it was the first of its kind in America, but there was no demand or funds to purchase any aeroplane other than observation and training types.  Loening also pioneered with light and strong welded steel construction for all Sturtevant aircraft. That feature added to their uniqueness, along with their signature fabric color of light grey overall (more difficult to spot from the ground) and the mandatory Sturtevant engines. After the failure of the first design the emphasis was changed to reconnaissance, observation and patrol types that the “customer” was more likely to purchase. The S-2 and S-4 were more successful models because they matched the current needs of the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy. Shortly there after Loening left the company to start his own firm and the War Department’s Aircraft Production Board came to Sturtevant looking to contract for the mass production of parts for the Curtiss JN-4s, DH-4s. As America joined the Allies in April 1917 Sturtevant’s 1,000 employees and their two aircraft plants in Jamaica Plain and the engine plant in Readville, Hyde Park were fully committed to wartime cost plus contract work into early 1919.  The company then wound down the aeroplane and engine businesses, closed the subsidiaries and returned to their core fan and air handling business.

 

AEROPLANE DATA:

The Planes


Model A Tractor

Model A Tractor

Model A (A-1), Tractor biplane, Loening design; Number built –1
Powered by a Sturtevant 5A water cooled V-8 cyl. 140 hp. engine. Span, Length and height not confirmed. Weight reported as: 1,710lbs.,
This appears to be a smaller prototype of the future Model A (A-3) Battleplane. (More research needed) 

Model A (A-2) Tractor Seaplane, December 1915, Designed not built
No data assumed a Model A type with floats.

 

Model A-1

Model A-3 at the Readville Trotting Park, Hyde Park, Boston

Model A Type (A-3) Battleplane Model A Battleplane - 2

Model A Type (A-3) Battleplane, Tractor biplane December 1915, Loening design; Number built –1,
Three place, crew side by side, Span: 47’ Length: 25’10” Height: 10’ 10”, Gross weight: 4,350lbs.  Sturtevant 5A water cooled V-8 cyl. 140 hp. engine.  Special Feature: two removable 8’ X 2.5’ nacelles positioned mid wing for machine gunners to fire outside the propeller arc.
First flight and flight testing by Lt. Byron Jones USA on December 12, 1915 at the Readville Trotting Park.
This was the first American aeroplane designed specifically for air combat.

Note: There are sources that describe a larger version of this Battleplane: a three place, two aircrew side by side, a  scaled up Model A-1 version of the Battleplane with a longer wing span and a longer and wider fuselage but otherwise similar in form to the Model A-1. This larger Battleplane has not been identified or confirmed. It also was reported to mount the twin gunner nacelles. (We are continuing to research the possibility that this aeroplane existed and any information or clarification would be welcomed.)

School Hydroplane, January 1916, Designed not built, No data.

 

Model B-1

Model B-1 at Squantum for test flights

Model B1 Speed Scout, July 1916, Sesquiplane tractor, Designed by Loening and Capt. Thomas Dewitt Milling USA;   Number Built---1
Single place, Span: 30’ 7”, Length: 23’3”, Height: 8’8” Sesquiplane with pyramid struts, aircraft was extensively modified after flight testing at Squantum. Problems with pilot’s line of sight and various control issues were logged during flight tests for resolution by the design staff.

Model B1 Naval Speed Scout, July 1916, Sesquiplane tractor Designed not built. No data.

 

Model B-2

Model B-2 at Squantum for flight and acceptance testing

Model B2 Pursuit Plane, December 1916,   Sesquiplane tractor, a Loening re-design; Number: Ordered--4,   Built--1, Sold--1 to U.S. Army.
Single place, Span: 35’ Gap: 4” Length: 23’ 3” Height: 8’ 8”, Sesquiplane with pyramid struts, improved pilot visibility
Flight testing by Tex Millman at Squantum on March 20, 1917 resulted in a crash do to flight instability and lost of rudder control at an altitude of 100’. The aircraft was totaled although it was recognized by the Army observers that the steel frame construction of the aircraft saved the pilot’s life. The Millman escaped with minor injuries. The order for three additional pursuit aircraft was cancelled.
U. S. Army SC# 277

 

Model S-2

Model S-2 Advanced Tractor Trainer landplanes, July 1916, Loening design;   Number: Ordered--6,   Built--2, Sold—2, to the U.S. Army.
First Flight September 18, 1916 by company pilot Roderick M. Wright accompanied by Grover E. Loening;    Price: $8,000ea.
Two place, tandem, Span: Upper 49’6” Lower: 44’6”, Length: 25’2” Height: 10’1” (Army Contract Specifications: show Wing Span:- 38’, and Length:- 25’)  Speed: 40 to 80 mph. Climb Rate: 400fpm, Gross Weight: 2,370lbs. Live Load: 350 lbs., Endurance: six hours.  Powered by  a Sturtevant Model 5 water cooled V-8 cyl.140 hp. engine.
These two aircraft were sent in 1916 to the Signal Corps Aviation School in San Diego, CA. They were transferred in early 1917 to the 1st Aero Squadron at Columbus, NM to reinforce the observation and reconnaissance capabilities of the U.S. Army’s campaign in Mexico. The cross border incursion was in reaction to the March 9, 1916 attack by the troops of Mexican revolutionary Francisco (Pancho) Villa on the then defenseless border town of Columbus where 9 American civilians and 8 U.S. soldiers were killed. The pacification campaign in Northern Mexico continued through the spring of 1917 right up to the United States’ entry into WW1
U.S. Army – SC: #110/111   Cancelled Four: SC: 64/67

 

Model S-4

Model S-4 Tractor Seaplane, January 1917, Number:  Built—13, Ordered-13, Sold—13, Price: $8,000ea.
Two place, tandem, Span:  48’7” Length:  25’1” Height:  11’8” Chord: 7’  Gap: 5’,  Sturtevant 5A water cooled V- 8 cyl. 140 hp. engine.
No stagger, 4’ dihedral on lower wings only, Ailerons on both wings. Triangular fuselage cross section, all steel construction, with fabric surfaces.    Twelve seaplanes sold to the U.S. Navy and one to the Rhode Island Militia (NMAH8).  Note: The latter S-4 was transferred to the U.S. Navy at Squantum on September 10, 1917
U.S. Navy --Serial # A-76/81, A-128/133

 

S-4 Landplane

S-4 Landplane configuration

Model S-4 Tractor Landplane, January 1917, Reconnaissance, Number: Built: 4,   Ordered---4,   Sold—4,  Price: $8,000.
Two place, tandem, Span:  48’7”, Length: 25”1”   Height: 10’1”   Speed: 45 to 75mph. Sturtevant 5A water cooled V-8 cyl. 140 hp. engine.
U.S. Army SC # 126/127, 214/215

 

Steel Military Tractor, Tractor biplane October 1917, Army Training Type, Number Built: 1, Sold: 1, Price: $11,250. :
Two place, tandem, No other data available, First flight delayed by the cancelling of Sturtevant’s lease at Squantum in October, 1917 due to U.S. Navy expansion. First flight was to be made by Edwin “Gink” Doherty of the Burgess Company at an alternate field in the Boston area.
This Sturtevant single aircraft was purchased in late 1917 by the U.S. Army. Order # 20572,  
U.S. Army SC# 40007


Note: One continuing problem for Sturtevant aeroplanes or other aircraft using Sturtevant engines was the likelihood that they would have engine cooling system problems in the field. Their aircraft engines were heavily advertised emphasizing the experience and tradition of this major industrial company in building engines and large turbines of quality and reliability. Not withstanding the advertisements and the “at the factory quality control bench tests” presented in the aeronautical magazines of the day, the water pumps for these water cooled engines were inadequate. The U.S. military services and the British Admiralty had continuing engine maintenance problems and failures due to superheated steam pockets in engines resulting in aircraft radiators boiling over and fouling and blocking coolant lines. The cooling system damage reported to the Burgess Company on a number of the Royal Navy’s 36 Sturtevant powered Model O Gunbus aircraft was initially thought to be sabotage at the factory.

The winding down at Sturtevant Aeroplane Company:                
In late 1917 the U.S. Army awarded Sturtevant production contracts for JN-4D and DH-4 spare parts for repairs and for aircraft parts to be assembled at other locations. These contracts utilized all of the capacity at Plants One and Two in Jamaica Plain. Total parts production represented approximately 2000 complete aircraft of the Models JN-4, DH-4 and VE-7 aeroplanes. All other Sturtevant Company in-house aeroplane projects and programs were cancelled for the duration of the war.

Sources:
This capsule history of the Sturtevant Aeroplane Company has been built on the work of Vincent Tocco and additional information and photos are on his web site. We know the Sturtevant aviation story because he researched, collected, preserved and exchanged information on the Sturtevant Companies, their people and their products with interested researchers across the U.S. and overseas. http://www.sturtevantfan.com

Other sources were U.S. Navy and U.S. Army Signal Corps data and correspondence along with the coverage provided by the Boston newspapers of the day. Burgess Company personnel interviews were helpful in assessing the Sturtevant engines that equipped Burgess production aircraft. Sturtevant as an engine supplier was involved locally with aircraft joint ventures providing the engines for the first U.S. Navy airship the DN-1, where Lawley Brothers shipyard at Neponset had the contract for the control car. They also worked closely with Pigeon Hollow Spar Company who manufactured the control cars for the U.S. Navy Model B airships which used Sturtevant engines.

Wm. J. Deane
MAHS 2009





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