Charles Townsend Ludington


Charles Townsend Ludington (Charles T. Ludington, C. T. Ludington), (January 16, 1896 – January 19, 1968), was a businessman of Philadelphia. He was an aviation pioneer who helped establish an every-hour-on-the-hour air service between New York and Washington. His airline ultimately became Eastern Airlines. He designed airports, airplanes, and gliders. One of his designs became a Navy training airplane. Another of his designs was a crash protection device installed on Navy airplanes that saved pilot lives. Ludington also make a line of boats that were designed by a professional outboard boat racer.

Charles Townsend Ludington
Charles Townsend Ludington.jpg
Passport photo 1924
Born(1896-01-16)January 16, 1896
DiedJanuary 19, 1968(1968-01-19) (aged 72)
CitizenshipUnited States
MIT 1922 Yearbook – "Technique"
C T Ludington (bottom row, far right)
Farman Sport (restored) at the NASM,
Ludington used for aerial demonstrations.

Early lifeEdit

Ludington was the first child of Charles Henry Ludington and Ethel Mildred (Saltus) Ludington. He was born in New York City on January 16, 1896. His parents were married in Brooklyn, New York, in April 1895. He had two brothers; Wright S. Ludington who was born in New York City in 1900, and Nicholas who was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania in 1904.[1] Ludington went to public schools in New York City while a young boy. He was sent to Adirondack School of northeastern New York state for private secondary education for grades 7 through 10 and Haverford School to finish high school.[2] After he graduated from high school, he attended Yale University and graduated from there in 1919. He then went to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) part-time and received a degree in 1922. He was the secretary of the Aeronautical Engineering Society at MIT.[3]

Ludington learned how to fly an airplane while a teenager. He served in various capacities during World War I, both in the Packard Aviation Motor Plant and also at the Naval Air Station in San Diego, California, where he was in charge of the Quartermaster School. Since the time the war ended he was interested in aeronautics, having served as a governor of the National Aeronautic Association and as a member of its contest committee. He has served the Aero Club of Pennsylvania in various capacities and is now a director. As a member of a Department of Commerce Aviation Committee he helped establish the relationship of the government to commercial aviation. He took part in the formation of various aeronautical enterprises, having been a vice-president and chairman of the technical committee of National Air Transport, and a director of Keystone Aircraft, Fairchild Aircraft, North American Aviation, Curtiss Flying Service, and the Aviation Corporation.[2]

Mid-life and careerEdit

Ludington was co-owner with his brother Nicholas of the Philadelphia Flying Service, a pilot training school established in 1922.[4] Ludington became interested in certain lighting developments and through the BBT Corporation pioneered certain aviation lighting. This helped in bringing about night flying for the carrying of the United States mail. They then established the Ludington Air Line between New York and Washington. At the time Ludington was chairman of the Board of Central Airport and was a director in the Kellett Autogiro Corporation and the Jacobs Aircraft Engine Company. He was also interested in the development of the aeronautical department section of the Franklin Institute museum in Philadelphia.[2]

In 1923 Ludington imported two custom built Farman Sport airplanes made for W. Wallace Kellett in France and purchased from him.[5] They organized the Ludington Exhibition Company in 1923 to demonstrate the airplanes.[4] Robert Hewitt was employed to pilot them at various demonstrations throughout the nation. They were used at the St. Louis and Dayton national air races. The Ludingtons and Kellett were the American distributors for the aircraft.[4] The price of the plane was too expensive and few sold, forcing them out of this business. The only one known to exist is the restored one at Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. This plane suffered much damage in 1928 and its airworthiness certificate was revoked. It was stored for years in an aircraft storage building. An aviation historian ultimately restored it and regained flight certification. Ludington personally identified the aircraft as one he owned.[6]

Ludington was one of the pioneers in the early 1920s that helped develop National Air Transport.[7] He partnered as their vice president until it merged with United Aircraft and Transport Corporation later. Ludington and several other local businessmen instigated Camden Central Airport, in Camden, N.J., on 140 acres of land he owned. Construction of the airport began in early 1929.[2] It was formally dedicated and opened in September with the raising of the American flag by his five-year-old daughter Ethel.[8] There were 10,000 people that attended the official opening celebrations.[9] Ludington also offered a line of boats under the Ludington Boats Corporation between 1929 and 1931, that was formerly Ludington Aircraft - Boat Division.[10] Professional outboard racer Jake Dunnell[11] did the design work.[12][13]

Ludington and his brother in 1930, with two other airline executives, were pioneers in the aviation industry by starting an hourly air service for passengers only using this specially designed plane.[14] The executive specialists were Eugene Luther Vidal and Paul F. Collins, who originally had the idea for such an airline.[15] Between the four of them they managed to run Ludington Airline without government mail revenues and made a profit for two years.[7][16] For a short time Amelia Earhart was hired as vice-president and in charge of publicity. In 1933 the Ludington Line put in a bid (25 cents per mile) against Eastern Air Transport (89 cents per mile) for an airmail contract and lost its lower bid to the higher bid of Eastern. Newspaper reporter Fulton Lewis began to look into the upset.[17] The event began the investigation known as the Air Mail scandal. The Ludington Line was acquired by Eastern Air Transport, later known as Eastern Airlines.[18] The proceeds were used to purchase the Hoover airport which was later sold at a profit.[19][20]

In early 1941, as rumors of the United States entering the war were being discussed, a conversation at the Old Lyme Beach Club in Old Lyme, Connecticut was about to offer Ludington his next project. James A Gould, president and treasurer of the Pratt-Read & Company piano builder in Deep River, Connecticut, was talking with Roger Griswold and CT Ludington about using the wood working skills of Pratt-Read to contribute to the war effort. Knowing that aircraft production had been increased, the conversation turned to training aircraft and a training glider came up. James Gould became interested in the training glider idea and the Gould Aeronautical Division of Pratt-Read was created. A team of glider enthusiasts and builders, along with the engineering skills of Griswold and Ludington, were assembled to begin on a project that would lead to the experimental Pratt-Read PR-G1 glider. The success of this glider would lead to a Navy contract for training gliders known as the LNE-1.[21][22]

Ludington and Griswold had formed Ludington-Griswold, Inc. in Saybrook, Connecticut, where a new building was erected for their research. They had left employment from the Gould Aeronautical Division after the Navy picked up the contract for the LNE-1 glider and production begun. Pratt-Read had won a contract from Materiel Division, Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, to manufacture the Army Air Forces Waco CG-4A combat glider. The Ludington-Griswold company shifted their development work to improvements to the CG-4A. Roger Griswold developed a more aerodynamic nose section to replace the boxy and poorly protected cockpit section of the CG-4A with his own design known as the "Griswold Nose." This was fitted to a Pratt-Read glider and flown to Wright Field for evaluation and testing. The nose section was found to be more aerodynamic, used a tow rope attachment centered at the front of the nose (unlike the top of the nose attachment found on the CG-4A), and incorporate better protection for the pilots. Wright Field felt that adding the Griswold Nose to the present CG-4A glider would slow down production at a time when glider production was a priority. However, Materiel Division asked Ludington-Griswold to produce a simplified version of the pilot protection assembly and produce it as a bolt on kit to the front of the CG-4A nose section. This led to the development, testing, and production of the "Ludington-Griswold Crash Protection Device" which was manufactured in time to be installed on a number of the CG-4A gliders used in the Normandy D-Day invasion.[23] Subsequent overseas gliders were also fitted with the device which many glider pilots credited in saving injuries and lives.[24] The Navy and Air Force used gliders in World War II as an additional military tool.[25] During the Normandy landing gliders carried heavy loads of infantry, jeeps, mortars and shells.[26]

Personal lifeEdit

Ludington married Constance Guyot Cameron of Ardmore, Pennsylvania, on June 27, 1922.[2][27] Their first child was Ethel Saltus, born at Ardmore on May 21, 1923. Their second child was Anne Finley, born at Ardmore on September 26, 1925. Their third child was Constance Cameron, born September 1, 1931. Their fourth child was Charles Townsend Ludington Junior who was born on January 31, 1935.[2][28]

Ludington was a founder and first president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association He was also founder and associate director of the aviation wing of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. He was a technical advisor from time to time for National Air Transport, Keystone Aircraft, Fairchild Aviation, North American Aviation, Jacobs Aviation Engine Company, Kellett Autogiro Corporation, and Curtiss Flying Service. He was in charge of the Quartermaster School at the Naval Air Station in San Diego during World War I. He also had different capacities at the Packard Aviation Motor Plant in the early 1920s. In the mid-1920s he served as governor of the National Aeronautic Association and as a director in the Aero Club of Pennsylvania. Ludington was a member of a Department of Commerce Aviation Committee that helped in the logistics between commercial aviation and the government.[2][29]

Ludington was connected in one way or another with Merion Cricket Club, Racquet Club of Washington, Yale University Club, Aero Club of Pennsylvania, Santa Barbara Yacht Club, Bayside Yacht Club, Delaware River Yacht Club, Philadelphia Yacht Club, Aero Club of Pennsylvania and Old Lyme Beach Club. He was also a member of the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church.[2] Politically, Ludington was a Republican. [2]

Later life and deathEdit

Ludington-Griswold entered into a contract with Wright Field, now known as the Air Materiel Command, when World War I ended. The Ballistics Aerodynamic Research Project (BARP) was a project to determine drag and stability of transonic missiles of various shapes and designs. The testing process and scaled down missile shapes can be found in an article written in Mechanics Illustrated, December 1947. With completion of the contract, no other military contracts were issued. Ludington-Griswold also went into developing a line of toys with the stamped aluminum Super Sonicraft, LG-515, flying delta wing designed by Henry Struck as being a best seller. Like many small companies created during the war effort, the Ludington-Griswold company would eventually go out of business in 1949. Ludington in later life had homes in Philadelphia and Old Lyme, Connecticut. He died at the age of 72 on January 19, 1968.[2]


Ludington wrote "Smoke Streams: Visualized Air Flow", which was used for several years as a basic textbook on aero-dynamics.[2][30] The book material was in partnership with his friend, and aircraft engineer, Roger Griswold II. Griswold constructed the "Griswold Smoke Tunnel" in his garage. It was a two-dimensional-flow tunnel having a large window for visualizing air flow. It was believed to be the largest of its kind in the United States at the time. A diagram, as well as explanation of the tunnel, is included in the book. Experiments were done on assorted models as well as wing profile sections. Ludington made films as well as stills of these experiments with many of the pictures used in his book.[2]


  1. ^ Gardner 1928, p. 70.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Downs 1934, p. 182.
  3. ^ MIT Alumni 1922, p. 275.
  4. ^ a b c Trimble 1982, p. 120.
  5. ^ Townson 1985, p. 88.
  6. ^ "Farman Sport". National Air and Space Museum. Smithsonian. 2016. Archived from the original on August 20, 2016. Retrieved August 3, 2016.
  7. ^ a b Borgeson 2005, p. 124.
  8. ^ "Model Airport at Camden is formally dedicated". The Daily Notes. Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. September 21, 1929 – via  .
  9. ^ "Races and Visit of Dirigible Feature Camden Air Opening". The Vidette-Messenger. Valparaiso, Indiana. September 23, 1929.
  10. ^ "Ludington's New Invader". MotorBoating: 116. February 1931. ISSN 1531-2623. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  11. ^ "Albany-New York Outboard Race Attracts 150 Drivers". Times Union. Brooklyn, New York. April 25, 1930 – via  .
  12. ^ "Boating Increases". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. January 11, 1931 – via  .
  13. ^ "Former Philadelphian airman ends life in Boston". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. December 17, 1932 – via  .
  14. ^ Vance 1942, p. 22.
  15. ^ Winters 2010, p. 108.
  16. ^ Evans-Hylton 2005, p. 86.
  17. ^ "Pitchmen of the Press". The Charlette News. Charlotte, North Carolina. August 15, 1951 – via  .
  18. ^ Russell 2013, p. 46.
  19. ^ "AIRPORT IS SOLD AT PUBLIC AUCTION FOR SUM OF $432,000". Evening Star. Washington, D.C. July 17, 1933 – via  .
  20. ^ "New D.C. Airline to fight Eastern". Evening Star. Washington, D.C. September 14, 1933 – via  .
  21. ^ "Pratt-Read PR-G1 Glider". The Museum of Flight. Museum of Flight. 2021. Archived from the original on February 26, 2021. Retrieved February 25, 2021.
  22. ^ "Pratt, Read Corporation Records". Smithsonian. 2021. Archived from the original on January 19, 2021. Retrieved February 25, 2021.
  23. ^ "Pratt". The Leaf-Chronicle. Clarksville, Tennessee. August 29, 2011 – via  .
  24. ^ Esvelin 2007, pp. 99–109.
  25. ^ Armagnac, Alden P. (February 1944). "Silent Partner of the Plane". Popular Science. Vol. 144. Popular Science Publishing Company. pp. 94–101.
  26. ^ Gantt, Marlene (May 24, 2008). "Normandy invasion launched by air, not sea". The Dispatch. Moline, Illinois.
  27. ^ "Personal Jottings". Harrisburg Telegraph. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. July 5, 1922 – via  .
  28. ^ Princeton Alumni 1935, p. 679.
  29. ^ "Automobile Co. plans Expansion". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Brooklyn, New York. June 15, 1936 – via  .
  30. ^ "Smoke Streams: Visualized Air Flow". The Beatrice Times. Beatrice, Nebraska. July 18, 1943 – via  .


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  • Borgeson, Griffith (21 August 2005). Errett Lobban: His Empire. Automobile Heritage Publishing & Co. ISBN 978-0-9711468-7-7. Between them they worked out the formula which made the line the first one in history not to lose money by carrying passengers without the benefit of government subsidy in the form of a mail contract.
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  • Esvelin, Philippe (2007). Forgotten Wings. Editions Heimdal. ISBN 9782840482468.
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  • Vance (1942). Wood and Wood Products. Vance Publishing Corporation. After the reorganization period, Vidal left TAT to join with Paul Collins, Amelia Earhart, Nicholas and Townsend Ludington in forming the Ludington Airline, the first every-hour-on-the-hour air transport line in this history of aviation.
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