Saturday, December 31, 2011

Closing out the First Hundred Years

1911: A Triad on the beach, probably in Portland Or. Note the lack of the fuel
tank suspended from the upper wing, as seen on the replica, below.
This past year, with the nationwide Centennial of Naval Aviation (CoNA) celebration, and the first flights of the Navy's newest aircraft, the X-47B, has been remarkable. So, on this last day of 2011, let's take a look back, one last time, 100 years, to the birth of Naval Aviation, as embodied in one aircraft, the Curtiss Model "E" Triad.

Originally designated by Curtiss as the Model E, and more commonly known as the Triad, the first aircraft flew on February 25, 1911. The U.S. Navy took keen interest, and received their first order in June.  The first four aircraft to be delivered to the Navy were designated A-1 through A-4, but as the service took delivery of more, the designation was changed to AH-1 through AH-18. Theodore Ellyson became this country's first Naval Aviator when he took off in A-1 from New York's Keuka Lake on June 30, 1911. The U.S. Signal Corps also bought three aircraft (one of which was built from spare parts).

It's impossible to tell which of the aircraft is shown in our image, but this is the only image that I can find anywhere that shows a Triad beached on a track. It is likely that this photo was taken in Portland, Oregon. On the docks in the R/H background, the billboard proclaims "Eat Violet Oats", a cereal that was produced by the Albers Brothers Milling Company, which owned Albers Docks 1, 2 and 3 in Portland (an ad for the oats can be seen here).

2011: San Diego Air & Space Museum's Triad replica over San Diego Harbor
on February 12, during the NAS North Island CoNA celebration.
The San Diego Air & Space Museum built a replica Model E and flew it originally in 1984, before putting it on static display. For the CoNA kick-off festivities at NAS North Island, the Museum pulled their Triad out to take to the air one more time. The FAA declined to approve a flight for the replica, so (in the terms of one of the folks from the museum), they "did a Spruce Goose" in San Diego Harbor. I had the privilege of shooting the "alighting" for both Aviation Week & Space Technology as well as AirshowStuff Magazine. So there are  a hundred years between our two photos today...and what a hundred years it has been!

(Big thanks to Tony Oliveira of the First and Main Museum in Upper Lake, CA, for his efforts in helping the MW Archive acquire today's featured image, as well as Family VonRad for their patience while I secured it!)

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