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100-Plus-Year-Old Curtiss Coming to Oshkosh

May 19, 2016 - One of the most anticipated airplanes coming to AirVenture Oshkosh this summer is also undoubtedly the oldest: an original 1909 Curtiss Pusher. Several years ago, a collection of aircraft parts were discovered in the attic of a home in Massachusetts home. The home was owned by the Sturtevant family, founders of a manufacturing firm that originally focused on heating and cooling systems in the late 1800s.

The parts, 84 of them to be precise, were found wrapped in copies of the Boston Globe newspaper dated 1915 and turned out to be those of an unassembled Curtiss Pusher. The airplane was restored by Mark Smith and Karen Barrow of Century Aviation in East Wenatchee, Washington, who’ve worked on everything from a Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero to the Spruce Goose. The Pusher is powered by an original OX-5 engine that was built in 1918 under license by the Willys Morrow Company of Elmira, New York, and more recently discovered in a Pennsylvania basement, and covered in period-correct muslin.

It’s believed that the airplane was never originally flown, and that the Sturtevants may have been planning on using it as a test and research platform for their own engines. The Sturtevant Company dabbled in aircraft engines starting in 1913, and designed some aircraft of their own, but the airframes—all metal, which was very unusual for the period—were heavy and their engines were underpowered. When the U.S. got involved in World War I, the company manufactured Curtiss Jennys under license for the U.S. Army, then closed and liquidated their aviation division shortly after the Armistice in 1918.

The Pusher, now fully restored to flying condition, is owned by William Nutt, EAA 519258, and affiliated with the Collings Foundation of Stow, Massachusetts. It will be displayed all week so that AirVenture visitors will be able to get a good close look at this remarkable time capsule of aviation history.

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