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Curtiss continued to build planes and engines of ever-improving performance for the Navy and some for the Army, too. Meanwhile, as his business expanded and new factories were built, the intrepid inventor found that his skills of yesteryear didn’t exactly apply to the rapidly modernizing aircraft industry. Where once a talented mechanic could merely measure, cut and fit, engineering science had overtaken him.

Curtiss’ planes were still among the best, but his customers, particularly the Navy, soon came to understand that he needed some solid engineering help. Fortunately, the Navy had such officers, trained at MIT and backed by successive directors of naval aviation, together with the technically oriented early naval aviators themselves.

With that help and more, the company prevailed, and during World War I, Curtiss produced more than 5,000 engines and aircraft. Most went to the Army for training, but those that went to the Navy, largely twin-engine flying boats, saw service on anti-submarine patrols operating from England, Ireland, France and Italy.

After the war, Curtiss entered into a project to build a flying boat big enough to fly from North America to Europe. The result, in 1919, was that the Navy NC-4, manufactured by a Navy-Curtiss joint venture, became the first aircraft ever to fly from North America to Europe - actually from Long Island to England by way of Newfoundland, the Azores and Lisbon.

After the war, and the success of the NC-4, Curtiss turned again to aerial racing, and his aircraft did indeed win some notable prizes; however, with demand for aircraft diminishing, his attention drifted away from aviation, and his company was taken over by others.

Today, the Curtiss name persists as the highly regarded manufacturer of aircraft engines. The company has not built an aircraft since early in World War II, but the genius and spirit of Glenn Curtiss lives on. He will forever be known as one of the pre-eminent pioneers of aviation and holds a special place in the history of naval aviation. It’s fitting that as the 100th anniversary approaches, we remember Glenn Curtiss’ contributions as recorded in this well-researched, well-written and most readable book.

Vice Adm. Robert F. Dunn resides in Alexandria and is president of the Naval Historical Foundation and the Association of Naval Aviation.