Curtiss & Newport News aerial photos

An Early Curtiss JN makes a low pass at the Curtiss School, 1916

I know, I promised aerial photos, and they're here, but I like to start off with a nice photo to kind of "set the hook", so to speak.  The Jenny guys here will notice this right off, but this appears to be a really early JN, to me.  If I'm correctly reading a great article sent to me by Brian Karli, it combines the undercarriage of the J and the vertical stabilizer of the N.  It doesn't have equal span wings as a JN-2 is described, so could this be a JN-1?  In any case, I love this photo.  I always loved the looks of the Avro 501, and this retains just enough of that look.

I believe I own the camera that this photo was taken with, and I have to say it's amazing that any of these photos came out in focus.  This is not your basic image-stabilizing, auto-focus camera!  You figure way ahead of time what your exposure needs to be, and about how far away you think the plane will be at the moment you decide to trip the shutter.  I don't think you could physically focus while shooting. When your subject is coming at you at fifty mph, or whatever the approach speed is in a Jenny, you have a very short window of opportunity to get it right.

So, Ivan or someone at the school took a few aerial shots of the school and of Newport News and I noticed a few interesting things in them.  First, the school.  I know it's difficult to tell by this photo, but if you look at this photo at the Smugmug.com site, you should be able to see that the building is smaller in this photo than in the next one. (you can view the photos there in a higher resolution)  You can also see in this photo that they are in the middle of construction on the expansion.  There's another fun airplane in that photo.  A model N!  The Jenny came from two distinct lines, the J and the N, and I've never ever seen a photo of the N.  Look to the right of the hangar, and you'll see what looks like a JN, but with inter-plane ailerons.  Fun, huh?

Aerial photo of the Curtiss School, 1916

Aerial photo of the Curtiss School, 1916

So, in the span of time that Ivan was here (three or four months) they've expanded the hangar by about double, or maybe more.  I noticed a couple of other things while examining these photos.  In the first photo, follow the road that parallels the body of water, and look at the field directly in the center of the photo.  You can make out the runway!  You pilots probably noticed that right off the bat - it dawned on me much later.  They obviously would taxi along the beach to (or from) the hangar.

I also got a kick out of the ferry, heading in to nose into that structure behind the hangar.  The square-rigger at the pier was a real bonus.  A scene right out of another time.

These next photos give us a little more modern perspective.  In Newport News at the time, the big industry was shipbuilding at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company.  Some very impressive ships were constructed here, including some which were later instrumental in the Pacific Theater during WW2.  Another large operation was the coal port, and while I don't have any real bearings on where everything was located, I assume that the coal port came first, then the shipyards.  The first photo was marked #2, and the coal cars can be seen on a series of sidings at the very bottom right of the photo, to the right of the coal pier.

Aerial photo of Newport News, Virginia, 1916

This photo of the shipyards will wrap up the post.  There's a lot going on down there!  The thing that impressed me most about this photo is how everything inside the shipyards is black!  Can you imagine working on those greasy docks?  At first, I thought the photo was underexposed, but seriously, look at everything around the buildings in the yards, even the ships... they are grey or white.  The place is all black!

Aerial photo of Newport News, Virginia, 1916

Before I finish, I just keep finding all this interesting stuff, tonight!  The "FJC", that you see on many of these photographs were the initials of a photographer that Glenn Curtiss hired to photograph all the goings on at the school.  His name was Frank J. Conway, and he took some great photos!  We have him to thank for what looks like about 30-40% of the photos in Ivan's collection at Newport News.  I'm guessing Ivan bought them from Frank.  Frank did a portrait of Ivan in the Model F which is classic.

More people and airplanes in the next few posts.  May I ask you to do me a favor, and +1 this site on Google, or share it on your Facebook page?  'Like' is nice, but a 'Share' is the best way to reach a wider audience for the collection.  Thanks very much!


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