EngineerEnshrined 1969 1888-1976
Loening may well have invented the first flying boat that actually flew. While working at the Queen Aeroplane Company in the absence of his boss, Loening began the quick (and unofficial) construction of a powered flying boat. It was an improved version of the 1909 Aero Club glider, with a full-length hull supporting the tail and wings, as well as small floats under the wing tips to provide stability on the water. Several marginal flights were made in June 1912, a month before Glenn Curtiss flew his flying boat.
- He graduated from Columbia University with the first-ever degree in aeronautical science.
- In 1913 he joined the Wright Company and designed the first short-hulled flying boat.
- In 1917 he formed the Loening Aeronautical Engineering Company and built airplanes during World War I.
- During World War II he served as an aircraft advisor promoting the development and manufacturing of cargo planes.
Pioneer, engineer, public servant, and author, Grover Loening was born September 12th, 1888, in Bremen, Germany, where his father was United States Consul-General. He received his bachelors’ degree from Columbia College in 1908, and master’s degree in Aeronautics from Columbia University in 1910. His was the first such degree awarded in America. He received the C.E. degree from Columbia in 1911.
After graduation, Loening joined a small aeroplane company in New York, building Bleriots for exhibition pilots. In 1912, he built his pioneer Aeroboat. In 1913 Orville Wright employed him as assistant and as manager of the Dayton factory. In 1914 he became Chief Aeronautical Engineer of the U.S. Army’s Aviation Section in San Diego.
In 1917 he formed the Loening Aeronautical Engineering Corporation to work on a Navy contract for a small plane to be launched from destroyers, and an Army contract for the M-8 two-seat Pursuit monoplane embodying the pioneer use of rigid strut bracing. This design, which Leoning patented, is still in wide use thirty years later. After the war, Loening produced the Flying Yacht, a five-seat monoplane boat, with Liberty engine, which established world records and opened up the first significant market for private aircraft. For this achievement he received the Collier Trophy in 1921. His next success was the pioneer Loening Amphibian, with the first practical retractable undercarriage. The U.S. military, as well as airlines and private owners all over the world utilized this plane. Among its achievements was the Army’s famous Pan-American Goodwill Flight of 1926.
The Loening Aeronautical Engineering Corporation, his original company, merged with the Curtiss-Wright Corporation in 1928, and Loening subsequently formed the Grover Loening Aircraft Company, building several research aircraft and establishing his first consulting engineering practice, for the Chase Bank, Fairchild Aircraft, Grumman Aircraft, Curtiss-Wright and many others. During this period he was a pioneer director of Pan American Airways.
When the National Air Museum was founded in 1948, President Truman appointed him as the first of two civilian members of its Advisory Board, an appointment that was renewed three times by Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson. He received the Medal for Merit in 1946, the Eggleston Medal of Columbia University in 1949, the Wright Memorial Trophy in 1950, the Air Force Medal in 1955, and the Guggenheim Medal in 1960 for “a lifetime devoted to the development of aeronautics in America.” In 1966 Loening was awarded the Silver Wings plaque by this organization of aviators. As Director and Consulting Engineer of New York Airways, he researched the successful design of the Pan Am rooftop heliport in the heart of New York City. The author of countless articles and lectures on aviation the past half century, Loening also wrote numerous books about early aviation days. One of these books, Takeoff Into Greatness, was the story of how American aviation grew so quickly. Leoning made his home in Florida until his death on February 29th, 1976.
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