First Hydro-Airplane Manufactured In Rhode Island – 1915

     First Hydro Plane Manufactured In Rhode Island

January – 1915

     On January 25, 1915, it was announced in the Providence Journal newspaper that the Providence firm of B. Stephens & Sons at Fields Point had constructed a new type of “hydro-aeroplane” which they would begin initial trials with the following week.   

     A lot rested with the success of this project as representatives of three foreign governments were interested in purchasing these planes. 

     “For the past six months,” the Journal article stated, “the firm has been quietly at work in carrying out the ideas of construction evolved by its senior member, who has long been identified with the boat-building business, and who has recently become interested in science of aviation.” 

     The motor utilized for the project was the “Ashmusen type” produced by the Taft-Pierce Company of Woonsocket, R.I., capable of delivering 105 horsepower.   It was said to be “of the horizontal opposed type”, with an eight-and-a-half foot diameter propeller, that would spin at 900 to 1,000 revolutions per minute. 

     The new hydroplane had a 33-foot wingspan, with the lower wing being shorter than the upper.  The exterior of the boat was finished in African mahogany, and the inside with cedar covered with marine glue and canvas.  Four watertight bulkheads lined the interior, making the boat, “practically unsinkable”.  The hull was “double concaved” to give it less resistance as it moved across the water.  Shelby seamless tubing was used throughout, with cold-rolled steel fittings.  The fuel tanks could hold 80 gallons, giving the craft a flight time of over nine hours. 

   Control of the aircraft was done with a steering wheel likened to that of an automobile.  Foot pedals worked the elevators.    

Source: Providence Journal, “Local Firm Makes Hydro-Aeroplane”, January 25, 1915, Pg. 12


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