During the 4th of July weekend, we were able to do a little college scouting for my oldest son as he evaluates the pros and cons at various engineering schools. On our journey we were able to stop by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. Embry-Riddle is described as “the world’s largest and most respected university specializing in aviation and aerospace.”
The school’s Daytona Beach Campus is very impressive. In addition to the incredible architecture and impressive labs, the university is attached to a small airport and has a fleet of planes to teach students the art of flying, aerodynamics, and mechanics.
The university also does a great homage to the pioneers of aviation with a full scale replica of the Wright Flyer in front of the school’s Student Union Building.
This replica of the Wright Flyer is very similar to the one we shared with you at Kitty Hawk (shown below). The metal replica at Kitty Hawk allows anyone to climb aboard and join the Wright Brothers on their first powered flights.
Inspired by these beautiful replicas at Kitty Hawk and at Daytona Beach, it makes me wonder, “Why don’t we have a replica of a Curtiss Jenny in Miami Springs?” Truth is, we do have a very small Curtiss Jenny in the form of a Weather Vane atop the Gazebo on the Circle. Very few people even know it’s there.
However, a glorious replica of a Curtiss Jenny along Curtiss Parkway as you enter Miami Springs would be a PlaceMaker that would strengthen the community’s knowledge about the founder of Miami Springs and the strong connection Miami Springs has with aviation.
Back at Embry-Riddle, we discovered even more PlaceMakers designed to capture the passerby’s attention, educate, and inspire. Above you’ll notice six concrete pads with broad bronze plaques telling a bit of aviation history. The first three plaques cover the concept of human flight dating back to ancient greek mythology to the advent of rocketry from the Chinese to the early diagrams from Leonardo DaVinci.
The fourth plaque covers the first human flight in a hot air balloon. The fifth plaque discusses the first powered flight by the Wright Brothers. However, the sixth plaque at Embry-Riddle covers the father of naval aviation and truly the person that turned aviation into the aviation industry we know today: Glenn Curtiss.
The plaque above reads as follows:
Invention of the Seaplane and the Birth of Naval Aviation
Challenged by the Secretary of the Navy in 1910 to demonstrate that an airplane could “alight on the water alongside a battleship and be hoisted aboard without any false deck to receive it,” Glenn Curtiss began work at North Island, California to solve the mysterie of seaborne flight.
Equipping a standard Curtiss Pusher with a single flat-bottomed pontoon, the biplane refused to rise from the water until Curtiss developed a new hydrodynamic design. It worked perfectly and on January 16, 1911 Curtiss made the first seaplane flight in US history, earning him the Collier Trohpy for the greatest achievement in American aeronautics in 1911.
Originally designated as a hydroaeroplane, on February 17, 1911 Curtiss launched from the waters of San Diego Bay, alighted aside the armored cruiser USS Pennsylvannia off shore, and had his hydroaeroplane hosted aboard. After dining with the Commanding Officer, Curtiss had the hydroaeroplane lowered to the water. He then took off and flew back to North Island.
Now convinced that the airplane could be adapted to shipboard use without impairing its combat capabilities, on May 8, 1911 the U.S. Navy ordered two Curtiss biplanes. This date is now commemorated as the official birth of Naval Aviation and Glenn Curtiss is honored as the Father of Naval Aviation.
The plaque has a note stating it was a gift from the Embry-Riddle Chapter of Delta Chi Fraternity in memory of Greg Nelli, OWC, Director ERAU Flight Safety and his love of seaplanes. The plaque is dated 2014.
Fast forward 111 years and the #1 movie in the world is about a group of U.S. Naval Aviators and the challenges they face in the modern day. The Father of Naval Aviation and thus the true Top Gun is none other than Glenn Hammond Curtiss.
Oh, and if you think Tom Cruise looks cool at highway speed on his motorcycle, here’s a look at the O.G., Glenn Curtiss, setting the world speed record in 1907 in a V-8 motorcycle that he designed, created, and piloted to 136.4 mph wearing only a leather helmet for safety. Maybe Tom Cruise should make a movie about Curtiss and his many world changing achievements?
Back in Miami Springs, we think the father of our City deserves his achievements to be memorialized and serve as inspiration to future generations of the greatness they may achieve.
What do you think? Should we add a life size replica of the Curtiss Jenny? Should we add plaques along Curtiss Parkway or inside the Circle describing some of the many Curtiss accomplishments? Let us know what you think in the comments section below or via social media.
Did you know Embry-Riddle has a campus right here in Miami Springs? Okay, technically it’s at NW 36th Street on the airport side. You may recognize it as the nice blue glass building you might see on the airport side while waiting to make a left from Curtiss Parkway to eastbound NW 36th Street.