It was upon the wings of the A-1 Triad, the Navy's first aircraft, that U.S. Naval Aviation took flight. The Navy requisitioned the airplane in May 1911, just months after civilian pilot Eugene Ely successfully demonstrated that an aircraft could operate from a ship. Yet, it was the A-1's builder, pioneer aircraft manufacturer Glenn Curtiss, who convinced the Navy of the airplane's utility for naval purposes. He did so by flying an early floatplane to a ship and landing on the water alongside it. The airplane was then brought aboard and put back over the side by crane, demonstrating that an aircraft could be launched and recovered from a standard ship.
The A-1's nickname derived from the fact that in addition to flying, its pontoon float and retractable landing gear allowed it to operate from both land and water. The A-1 was the aircraft in which the Navy's first aviators learned to fly. As would be expected of the Navy's first aircraft, the Triad was the platform for early experiments, including making the first night water landing without the benefit of landing lights, tests in airborne wireless communication, and a cross-country flight covering a distance of 112 miles in 122 minutes. It also participated in early catapult trials, though both Naval Aviator No. 1 Theodore Ellyson and the aircraft plunked into the Severn River during the first test launch on July 31, 1912. It proved just one of many minor accidents encountered during the airplane's service, but the A-1's luck eventually ran out. After 285 flights and numerous rebuilds, it was damaged beyond repair in a crash on October 6, 1912.
Type: Pusher Biplane
Crew: Pilot and passenger
Powerplant: One 75 horsepower Curtiss V-8 engine
Dimensions: Length: 28 ft., 7 1/8 in.; Height: 8 ft., 10 in.; Wingspan: 37 ft.
Weights: Empty: 925 lb.; Gross: 1,575 lb.
Performance: Maximum Speed: 60 M.P.H.