Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Waldo Dean Waterman (June 16, 1894 - December 8, 1976) was an inventor and aviation pioneer from San Diego, California. His most notable contributions to aviation were the first tailless monoplane (the precursor to the flying wing), the first aircraft with modern tricycle landing gear and the first successful flying car.
Waterman built his first aircraft, a glider, in 1909 while still in high school. He successfully flew the glider on slopes near his home and by auto-tow. He then took-on a partner to help build a powered aircraft that he entered in the first Dominguez Air Meet in January 1910. The aircraft was not completed in time for the meet. However, he began testing the aircraft on North Island. It was under-powered and required an auto-tow assist to get airborne. He flew the aircraft with some success but crashed, breaking both ankles.
In 1911, Glenn Curtiss moved his winter headquarters to North Island and Waterman attached himself to the Curtiss camp. In early 1912 the US Navy moved its three aircraft to Curtiss' testing station. By this time Waterman was a fixture at the station and was a frequent ride-along.
In 1912 Waterman entered the University of California as a student of mechanical engineering. When World War I broke out, and after being rejected from military service because of his broken ankles and flat feet, he became head of the Department of Theory of Flight, School of Military Aeronautics at the University of California. Later he became Chief Engineer at the U.S. Aircraft Corporation and remained to liquidate the company at the end of the war. With some assets purchased from the U.S. Aircraft Corporation Waterman moved to Santa Monica where he established the Waterman Aircraft Manufacturing Company. However, he was forced out of business when the U.S. Army began dumping war-surplus aircraft on the civilian market for a tiny fraction of what Waterman could sell his custom aircraft for.
In 1929 Waterman built the first tailless monoplane. With the tailless Whatsit he also introduced modern tricycle landing gear. Some consider the Whatsit to be the first flying wing. It was certainly a step in the development of the flying wing but had a truncated fuselage. It was usually, more correctly, called a tailless airplane. A development of the Whatsit was the high-wing Arrowplane .
At North Island, while experimenting with the Navy's flying boats, Glenn Curtiss is known to have talked about the possibility of a flying car. In 1917 He built a flying car he called the Autoplane . The Autoplane never flew but was exhibited at the Pan-American Aeronautic Exposition in New York City's Grand Central Palace. Waterman was certainly inspired by Curtiss and 20 years later made the first successful flying car. The Arrowbile was based on the Arrowplane. It was a high-wing monoplane, with detachable wings and was powered by a Studebaker engine. Five Arrowbiles were built. Three Arrowbiles attempted a flight from Santa Monica to Ohio but one had to turn back after only reaching Arizona. The other two finished the flight. Arrowbile No. 6 (No. 5 was never completed) is awaiting display at the Smithsonian Institute.
In the 1960s, Waterman built and flew his last aircraft. The Early Bird was based on the original Curtiss Pusher . The Chevybird was a similar monoplane powered by a Corvair engine.
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