03/31/2011. On November 14, 1910, Eugene B. Ely (pronounced E-lee) took off in a Curtiss D Pusher airplane from a temporary platform erected over the bow of the light cruiser USS Birmingham, off Newport News, Virginia, USA. Two months later, on January 18, 1911, Ely flew his Curtiss D Pusher from Tanforan airfield in San Bruno, California and landed on and then took off from a platform on the armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania anchored in San Francisco Bay.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the latter event, which is recognized as the birth of naval aviation, retired Naval Commander Robert 'Bob' J. Coolbaugh of New Market, Virginia, built this replica. The project started in early 2008 and took some 6,500 hour to complete.
Although none of the original Curtiss built pushers were identical, the general appearance of this replica resembles the Curtiss D Pusher that was used by Ely in 1911-1912. Hence this replica is registered in the FAA 'Amateur Built Category' as a Coolbaugh Ely-Curtiss.
The aircraft is constructed of wood and bamboo (encasing chrome-steel tubes), covered with fabric. It is powered by an 125 hp Continental C-125-2 six-cylinder air-cooled horizontally opposed engine, fitted with a purpose-built 6ft 2 in (1.88 m) Sterba propeller. It is equipped with altimeter, radio, transponder, oil temperature and pressure gauge, taxi-wheel and Cleveland brakes.
The aircraft first flew at New Market Airport on October 8, 2010, with Coolbaugh at the controls. In a two-day four-stage cross-country flight the aircraft was transferred to Norfolk NAS (only 178 mls, 286 km to the south-east), arriving November 2. On this trip the aircraft was alternately flown by Coolbaugh and Andrew King of Culpeper, Virginia, who had assisted in the construction, test flying and subsequent modification of the replica.
The aircraft made its first public appearance at Norfolk on November 12, 2010, to commemorate the Ely-flight of 1911. On February 10-13, 2011 the first of 32 Centennial of Naval Aviation events was held at San Diego, California, the last will be at the Pensacola Blue Angels Homecoming, Florida, November 11-12. The Curtis D Pusher replica participated in the first event and will attend another ten over a seven month period.