Curtiss Autoplane


The Curtiss Autoplane, invented by Glenn Curtiss in 1917, is widely considered the first attempt to build a roadable aircraft.[1] Although the vehicle was capable of lifting off the ground, it never achieved full flight.[2]

Curtiss Autoplane
Curtiss Autoplane 1917.jpg
Autoplane as shown at Pan-American Aeronautical Exposition of 1917
Role Roadable aircraft
National origin United States
Manufacturer Curtiss
Designer Glenn Curtiss

Development and designEdit

The Autoplane was a triplane, using the wings from a Curtiss Model L trainer, with a small foreplane mounted on the aircraft's nose.[3] The Autoplane's aluminum body resembled a Model T and had three seats in an enclosed cabin, with the pilot/chauffeur sitting in the front seat and the two passengers side-by side to the rear.[4] It used a four-blade pusher propeller, and a twin-boom tail. A 100 horsepower (75 kW) Curtiss OXX engine drove the propeller via shaft and belts.[5][6] The aircraft had a four-wheel undercarriage, with the front two wheels being steerable. The wings and tail could be detached for use as an automobile.[7][8]

It was shown at the Pan-American Aeronautic Exposition at New York City in February 1917. It made a few short hops before the entry of the United States into World War I in April 1917 ended development of the Autoplane.[9]


Data from Curtiss Aircraft 1907–1947[9]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Capacity: 2 passengers
  • Length: 27 ft (8.2 m)
  • Wingspan: 40 ft 6 in (12.34 m)
  • Height: 10 ft (3.0 m)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Curtiss OXX water-cooled V8 engine, 100 hp (75 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 65 mph (105 km/h, 56 kn)



  1. ^ Freedman, David H. (July 2000), "This is rocket science", Inc, 22 (10): 74–88
  2. ^ Vinciguerra, Thomas (12 Apr 2009), "Ideas & Trends; Idea Whose Time Has Never Come", The New York Times, p. WK.5
  3. ^ Bowers 1979, p. 75.
  4. ^ "Glenn Curtiss Sees a Vision of Aviation's Future", Popular Science, July 1927
  5. ^ Espinoza, Javier (15 September 2011), "An Idea Without Wings; Progress has been made, but the idea of cruising at altitude over the afternoon rush-hour is far from becoming a reality", Wall Street Journal, p. R.4
  6. ^ Glines, C V; Wilkinson, Stephan (September 2008), "The Road Not Taken", Aviation History, 19 (1): 38–45
  7. ^ Bowers 1979, p. 76.
  8. ^ "At The American Aero Show – Some New Types: The Curtiss Autoplane". Flight. Vol. IX, no. 429. March 15, 1917. p. 245.
  9. ^ a b Bowers 1979, pp. 75–76.


  • Bowers, Peter M. (1979). Curtiss Aircraft 1907–1947. London: Putnam & Company. ISBN 0-370-10029-8.
  • Rubor, V. (December 1917 – January 1918). "Une limousine aérienne" [An aerial limousine]. La Science et la Vie (in French). Paris, France: 179–180.

External linksEdit

  • Glenn H. Curtiss: Autoplane, patent filed February 14, 1917; issued February 18, 1919