Curtiss Model D “Headless” Pusher Measurements
Wingspan: 11.6 m (38 ft 1 in)
Length: 7.8 m (25 ft 6 in)
Height: 2.7 m (9 ft)
Weight: 632 kg (1,390 lb)
Speed: approximately 65 mph
100 Horsepower Curtiss Motor
Ruth's Curtiss Pusher Plane
1. Engine & Propeller: Powered by a 100 horsepower motor, the propeller provides the thrust to move the airplane through the air. Ruth’s plane was called a “pusher,” because the engine and propeller were behind her.
2. Wings: Most airplanes today are monoplanes—they have one set of wings. The Curtiss pusher was a biplane with two wings. Back in the early days of aviation when engines weren’t as powerful, a second set of wings gave planes the extra lift they needed to fly. Two wooden spars (poles) stretch across the length of a wing. These two poles are connected with curved wooden ribs that made the wings strong and stable. Cotton, linen, muslin, canvas or silk covers the wings.
3. Rudder: The rudder turns the nose of the plane right or left, affecting direction. The auxiliary hand lever at the top of the right lever moves left and right to activate the rudder.
4. Elevators: The elevators force the nose of the plane up and down. The left lever controls the elevators. Pull it back and the plane ascends or goes up; push it forward to descend.
5. Ailerons: In French, the word “aileron” means little wing. Raise or lower the ailerons to roll the plane from side to side and balance it. The right lever controls the ailerons. To roll the plane to the left, push the lever forward; pull it back to roll to the right.
6. Chassis: The internal framework or skeleton that supports the plane is built of wood and bamboo held together with wire and tinned fasteners.
7. Undercarriage: The plane moves along the ground on a frame with three wheels, called a tricycle undercarriage. This is fixed in place and the wheels do not move up and down, like on planes today. This makes for a very bumpy takeoff and landing!
Typically the pilot steers the Curtiss Pusher using a wheel, which turns and also moves forward and backward. Ruth Law installed lever controls on her plane instead. She had used them on her first plane designed by the Wright brothers.
a. Auxiliary Hand Lever: This lever moves from side to side and operates the rudder, controlling left-right direction of the plane.
b. Right Control Lever: The right lever moves forward and backward and controls the plane’s ailerons, which allow the plane to roll from side to side. The pilot balances the plane with this lever.
c. Left Control Lever: This lever controls the elevators, causing the plane’s nose to point up or down. Ruth had to have her hand on this lever at all times.
d. Brake: When landing, step down on the brake pedal. It connects to a wooden shoe, which presses down and rubs on the front wheel to slow down the plane.
e. Throttle: The throttle controls the flow of fuel or power to the engine. Step down on the throttle for more power and ease off the throttle for less.