1929 Curtiss Robin J-1D

The Curtiss Robin was originally designed to use up World War I surplus 90 hp OX-5 engines and to become an inexpensive aircraft within the same general weight and power class as the numerous open-cockpit biplanes, but with the comfort and simplicity of an enclosed monoplane. Manufactured at the Curtiss Robertson Aeroplane and Motor Company Inc. of St. Louis, Mo., the Robin was probably the most engineered private aircraft using the same standards employed by the military. Seating capacity was a total of three; two passengers sat in the back, side by side, with the pilot up front in the middle. The Robin at the Virginia Air Museum has an air-cooled, radial Wright J-6, producing 165 hp. (Serial #733).

Curtiss Model 50 Robin


The Curtiss Robin was a modest high-wing cabin monoplane produced just before the Great Depression. Only 750 were built, but the Robin was popular with its pilots and was used for a number of World Record flights.

The Robin was of mixed construction with wooden wings and a fuselage made of steel tubing, the whole being fabric-covered. An OX-5 engine initially powered Robins, but later models had more powerful Wright Whirlwind, which substantially improved performance. First flown in 1928, Robins were manufactured in St Louis, MO, before the Depression put a halt to production in 1930.

In July 1929, Dale Jackson and Forest O'Brine set an endurance record of 420 hours, 17 minutes in the air, using in-flight refueling. Later, they set a new mark of 647 hours, 28 minutes using the same plane, named St Louis. Five years later, brothers Fred and Algene McKey took off from Meridian, MI to set the greatest record for sustained flight. Starting on June 4, 1935, they took turns at the controls and sleeping on an extra fuel tank in the rear cabin. Supplies were passed from another Robin through a hatch in the roof and a metal catwalk enabled the brothers to service the engine in-flight. Flying through all weathers and surviving an electrical fire, the exhausted brothers eventually landed on July 1, after 653 hours and 34 minutes in the air.

Curtiss Robin
by Ron Peterka, NASA no. 869


In 1938, a young pilot by the name of Douglas Corrigan, a welder working for the Ryan Aviation Corporation and assisted in building the 'Spirit of St. Louis' for Charles Lindberg, announced a non-stop flight from New York to Los Angeles, no mean feat in those days. Twenty-eight hours after departing New York, he landed in Ireland, claiming that he had accidentally read his compass backwards. It is no coincidence that he had earlier been denied official permission to make a Trans Atlantic crossing! Corrigan delighted the World and earned the nickname "Wrong Way" Corrigan.

Of course no one believed his explanation that "he had followed a faulty compass heading". Authorities in Ireland and the U.S. suspended his license and had his plane dismantled to be shipped home on a steamship. Perhaps it was coincidental that the suspension was for nearly the exact time it took to get the plane back to the United States. In any case, Corrigan was hailed as a hero upon his return and more than a million people gave him a ticker tape parade in New York honoring this pilot who had flown in the face of aviation authority.

Corrigan flew his Curtiss around the U. S. for a few years, disassembled it, then stored it in his garage in Southern California. He lived in self imposed obscurity, never admitting to anything other than "a simple mistake caused by a faulty compass" although he often said it with a smile and a wink.

About ten years ago Corrigan was approached and asked to show his plane in the Hawthorne Airport Air Fair, and surprisingly, he agreed. In fact, he offered to fly it around the pattern if promoters would pay for the fuel and oil it would take. He still had the leather jacket he had worn on his historic flight. Not surprisingly, the promoters refused the flight offer, but did get the aircraft reassembled, the original spark plugs cleaned, and the oil changed. With some fuel in the tanks it was actually run up and taxied at the air fair after all those years in storage with no maintenance at all.

A few years later Corrigan died with little notice, just the way he wanted it. In the San Diego Aerospace Museum you can see him in an autographed group picture of the workers who worked on the 'Spirit of St. Louis'.

Curtiss Museum
Route 54, Hammondsport, NY 14840
Phone 607-569-2160; FAX: 607-569-2040

Curtiss Museum highlights the "Spirit of Innovation" which made Glenn Curtiss successful as a cyclist, motorcyclist, aviator, engineer and entrepreneur. Located in the Keuka Lake setting of his early triumphs, including his partnership with Alexander Graham Bell, the museum emphasizes Curtiss' work, achievements and community backdrop from the turn of the century through the 1930's. Some Special Features

  • June Bug II - full-scale flying reproduction of the June Bug, in which Glenn Curtiss made the first one-kilometer flight, publicly witnessed July 4, 1908.
  • Curtiss Jenny - fully restored and 80% original
  • Curtiss P-40 (3/4 scale) in "Flying Tigers" colors
  • Curtiss Oriole and Curtiss Robin
  • Mercury Chic and Racer
  • Only surviving Curtiss Model E flying boat hull
  • OX-5 Pioneers Aviation Hall of Fame
  • Numerous motorcycles and engines from Curtiss' early career; numerous aircraft engines
  • 1918 Buick and Curtiss Aerocar - first streamlined travel trailer
  • Observe work on reproduction of 1913 Curtiss Model E flying boat
  • Admission charged; members free.

Select the thumbnail to see a larger versions of each picture.

AeroFoil, A 2-d Airfoil Design And Analysis Program