The Mustard Plaster Aircraft

The Mustard Plaster Aircraft

Sometime in 1909 – 1910 before the Grant Park International Air Meet in New York City, Harold F. McCormick had designed an aircraft with a radical approach so as to avoid the lawsuits, patent and copyright problems the Wright brothers and later Curtiss would bring to anyone copying any part of their successful designs. Not being formally trained in engineering or design, he hired a recent graduate of Chicago’smost renowned engineering school, the Armour Institute, to improve and make workable his idea. That young man was Sidney V. James.

McCormick’s Radical Design

There were a number of terms for McCormick’s unusual design: “Longitudinal Monoplane”, “Reverse Curve Monoplane” or the “McCormick Apertoidal Monoplane. The people of the Chicago area called it the Mustard Plaster because of the dingey yellow fabric which covered its wings.

After the October, 1910 Air Meet, or perhaps during the meet, as both men were at the meet, McCormick hired Chance Vought to be a consultant on the McCormick – Romme design. The William S. Romme design was another alternate approach to aircraft design that McCormick decided to fund. Both young engineers, though primarily responsible to assist on the design they were hired for, spent some time helping each other on the “other’s” design. Thus when Vought suggested an air-cooled engine with more horsepower for the Romme design (Gnome 50 HP). With McCormick’s approval, one was ordered for the Mustard Plaster as well.

Both planes were exhibited on the field when Cicero Flying Field was dedicated on July 4th, 1911. Each had a hanger of their own built by Mr. McCormick. Though neither had yet flown, plans were being made for each of them to get airborne.