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Glenn Curtiss left indelible mark on aviation history

Warrendale, PA,, March 26, 2004 - Hell Rider to King of the Air: Glenn Curtiss's Life of Innovation - New SAE Publication

World history is full of stories about people who were not actually the first in their field, but through entrepreneurial spirit, creativity, risk-taking, and persistence - were far more successful than the so-called "ground breakers". Bill Gates, Henry Ford, and The Beatles come to mind. Glenn Curtiss lent his name to many patents and successful business ventures, but the complex life story of one of mobility's pioneers is not as well known.

Author Kirk W. House profiles Glenn Curtiss in Hell Rider to King of the Air: Glenn Curtiss's Life of Innovation (SAE new Hardcover Book R-314), and says it well. "…often more important than primacy are the questions of influence. Glenn Curtiss was one of the most influential men in the development of the motorcycle with its industry, the airplane with its industry, and the travel trailer with its industry - not to mention the development of southeastern Florida."

In his 52-years (1878 - 1930) Glenn Curtiss parlayed an eighth grade education into the titles "Fastest Man on Earth", "Father of Naval Aviation", inventor of the aileron, holder of the first pilots license, motorcycle design innovator, and one of the most creative inventors and transportation designers of all time. A contemporary of the Wright Brothers, his relationship with them deteriorated from admired colleague, to respected competitor, to despised alleged imitator.

Author Kirk W. House was Curator / Director-Curator of the Glenn Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, New York for six and a-half years, after spending twenty-one years as a schoolteacher and administrator. Widely known as a historian of early aviation, he has written extensively on the subject (including two earlier books and nine encyclopedia entries), while making several appearances on national television.

A very small sample of Glenn Curtiss's unquestioned achievements:

  • First V8 and V-twin motorcycle (and one of the first V8s in the US)
  • First water-cooled airplane engine
  • Invention of aileron and tricycle landing gear
  • Instrumental in the development of flying schools, dedicated flying fields, and military aircraft - particularly seaplanes and bombers
  • Created the first large aircraft business and the enterprise of aeronautic engineering

Hell Rider to King of the Air: Glenn Curtiss's Life of Innovation by Kirk House ©2003, is a 256-page hardbound book, ISBN 0-7680-0802-6. This book is truly a must-read for those interested in aviation history and those who shaped its early and formative years.

List price is US$59.95 and Order No. R-314. SAE members receive a 20% discount. To order, call (877) 606-7323 (U.S. and Canada) or (724) 776-4970, e-mail to, or visit our web site at For more details, visit