Stout Batwing Aircraft
From Wikipedia

The Stout Batwing was a low aspect ratio flying wing aircraft designed by William Bushnell Stout. The aircraft was the first example of wood veneer construction on American aircraft and an early practical example of "thick wing" or blended wing fuselage design. The internally braced wing was also one of the first American aircraft designed without drag producing struts. The "thick wing" design would later be applied to a series of Stout aircraft leading to the Ford Trimotor.


1 Development
2 Design
3 Operational history
4 Variants
5 Specifications Stout Batwing
6 References


During World War II, William Bushnell Stout was employed by Packard in 1917 when he was appointed as a technical advisor to the War production board. The board gave Stout a contract to develop a blended wing body aircraft. Funded by the Motor Products Corporation, Stout developed the "batwing" aircraft with the intent to market the aircraft to the United States Army. Stout first experimented with an all-wood flying wing design with a glider design, the "Batwing Glider", tested at Ford Airport in 1926. Stouts design was nicknamed "Bushnell's Turtle". (a reference to the unrelated David Bushnell's Turtle submarine's shape).


The blended-wing batwing was designed to have all surfaces of an aircraft used to provide lift, eliminating the added drag of a conventional fuselage. This concept is applied to all flying wind aircraft. The batwing differed slightly with the addition of a set of horizontal stabilizers at the rear of the aircraft for stability.

The aircraft was an early example of wood-veneer aircraft construction. The wings were covered with a 3 ply wood veneer only 1/20th of an inch thick. The internal bracing consisted of hundreds of spruce struts. Nine spars tested to 1 ton of load each. Bill Stout developed the all-metal Ford Trimotor shortly after Anthony Fokker brought his all wood Fokker Trimotor, "Josephine Ford" to Ford field. Stout went on to promote all-metal over wood construction, despite the batwing being a pioneer in veneer aircraft construction.

To reduce drag, the aircraft employed a cantilever wing without support wires or struts. This required a "thick" wing to build a spar strong enough to support the aircraft. To maintain the shape of the wing, the chord also had to be longer as the wing became thicker. In the case of the batwing, the chord was the entire length of the aircraft. Since the spar did not need to be as thick toward the tips to support the load, the chord decreased further out along the wing, forming a oval shaped wing. As ideal as this was, it caused significant engineering challenges maintaining the center of pressure on the aircraft. Further aerodynamic drag reductions came from having the water cooled engine embedded into the wing with retractable radiators.

The pilot sat in an open cockpit placed at the top of the aircraft. Visibility was restricted downward by the placement. The batwing was the first example of a cantilevered wing and veneer skin in the United States.

Operational history

The mockup of his first thick winged aircraft design was built at the Widman woodworking plant in Detroit, Michigan. The 150 hp engine was acquired from Charles Warren Nash who had a budding interest in the project. The first flight was in Dayton, Ohio in 1918. The pump shaft on the engine was broken, but the plane was flown anyway. Although the flight was successful, the test pilot Jimmie Johnson commented that the aircraft was too dangerous to fly because of the limited visibility. Stout later called the visibility "abominable". The test aircraft was put into storage. Soon afterward, Stout submitted British patent #149,708, with a batwing aircraft with the corners squared off rather than the oval design of the prototype. The updated aircraft was never produced. Stout went on to focus on more conventional aircraft featuring the advancement of all-metal construction, but continued to maintain the plane of the future will look like the batwing


Stout drew plans for a scaled up version of the Batwing, with a 100 foot wingspan. The larger aircraft would have solved the visibility issues, but did not get past planning stages.

Stout also used the term "batwing" in the name of future aircraft that used cantilever wings.


Stout Batwing
Data from SAE Dec 1922

General characteristics

Wingspan: 20 ft (6.1 m)
Wing area: 480 sq ft (45 m2)
Empty weight: 1,542 lb (699 kg)
Powerplant: 1 × Hispano -Suiza , 150 hp (110 kW)


1. Robert F. Pauley. Michigan Aircraft Manufacturers.
2. William Bushnell Stout, James Gilbert. So Away I Went!.
3. "Transport Turtle to Batwing". Time. September 25, 1939.
4. Automotive industries, the automobile, Volume 43.
5. Waldo Dean Waterman, Jack Carpenter. Waldo, pioneer aviator a personal history of American aviation, 1910-1944.
6. Society of Automotive Engineers (1922). SAE journal. 11.
7. Aviation and aeronautical engineering, Volume 8. February 1, 1920.
8. Aerofiles
9. Henry Ladd Smith. Airways the history of commercial aviation in the United States.
10. Pre-Burnell patents
11. Wikipedia

A follow up aircraft was known as the Batwing Limousine (1920) -

From Time Magazine -

The "Batwing" not only established a new construction principle (internally braced wings), but became the first U. S. commercial monoplane. Thenceforth Inventor Stout, unlike his frustrated ancestor, found backers for other queer-sounding projects.

Born in Quincy, Ill., son of a Methodist minister, William Bushnell Stout early developed a talent for whittling ingenious gadgets. After studying engineering at the University of Minnesota, he left with $85 in his jeans, grubbed along as manual training instructor, toy designer, vaudevillian, journalist. In 1906 he married a Miss Alma Raymond, with his own deft hands built their St. Paul home and every stick of furniture in it, took a rattlebang honeymoon trip through Europe on a motorcycle.

Back in St. Paul young Stout, long a worshipper of such oldtime airmen as Octave Chanute and Glenn Curtiss, waded ear-deep into aviation. In 1922, heartened by the success of his crude "Batwing," he drafted plans for the first all-metal commercial plane. To some 100 U. S. industrialists went Inventor Stout, asked them for $1,000 each. Said he: "You may never get your money back, but you'll have $1,000 worth of fun."

Many a bigwig forked up the ante, among them Henry Ford, who invited Inventor Stout to set up shop under his wing. As Ford protege, later as an independent, Inventor Stout: 1) built the famed Ford tri-motor plane, 2) organized one of the first commercial airlines (Detroit-Cleveland, Detroit-Chicago), 3) designed the "Scarab," first U. S. rear-engine car on the market, 4) designed one of the first high-speed, gasoline-driven streamliners, 5) netted more than $1,000,000.


The Stout Scarab

There was even a Sacarab Bus


William B. Stout, 1924. William B. Stout, 1951.

This from Maurice Holland's 1951 book, Architects of Aviation
by kind permission of his son, Maury Holland

The Youth's companion ran a series of articles with pictures and descriptions of how to make airplane models from cardboard and rubber bands. Bill followed them carefully and built his first airplane. Then came the moment of anxiety and suspense. Would it fly? With bated breath, young Stout took his model outdoors, wound his rubber-band motor, started it --- it flew.

Bill graduated from Mechanic Arts High School, Class of 1898. St. Paul, MN

Note courtesy of HMCS ROBERT CLARENCE CRAMER U. S. Navy Retired

William, Bill, Stout went to Hamline University, leaving in his second year to go to the University of Minnesota where there were greater opportunities for technical education. His goal, a degree in mechanical engineering, was almost achieved when, in the spring of 1903, tragedy struck him. His too avid search for knowledge and his too eager pursuit of it defeated their own ends, his eyesight failed him. After many consultations with doctors, he received an ultimatum: for two years at least he would be unable to use his eyes for any reading. Indeed, it was extremely doubtful whether he would ever again be able to read more than a newspaper headline.

After about a year abroad, he returned home, still unable to read, but able to write short features and articles to various magazines and newspapers by using his typewriter.

He married Alma Raymond and built their first home, and all of their furniture.
From The 27 Public Schools of Dearborn Wayne County, Michigan

He delivered an address on aviation before the Engineer's Society of Minneapolis and displayed models loaned by Chanute. He presented lantern slides showing other models by Chanute and the Wrights, as well as planes in actual flight. From then on, a series of events that were to eventually move Stout into his niche in aviation followed with increasing rapidity.

He made a six-thousand-mile motorcycle tour of Europe and built a radically new type of motorcycle on his return. This, in turn, resulted eventually in his being made Chief Engineer for the Schurmeir Motor Truck Company. In 1912, he became automobile and aviation editor fo the Chicago Tribune ---his first real aviation job---and was a regular contributor to Motor Age. Shortly afterward, he founded Aviation Age, first aviation magazine ever published in America.

February 3, 1908 - The Twin City Library Club held its regular meeting on February 3rd, 1908, the St. Paul Dispatch acting as host. A delicious dinner was served in the lunch room at seven o'clock, after which the club assembled in the library room, where Miss Marie Hohler, the librarian, read a very interesting paper explaining the work and purpose of the Reference Library and Information Bureau.
Mr William B. Stout, better known as "Jack-Knife", gave a delightful talk on "The newspaper as a factor in industrial education," showing models that had been made by boys throughout the state from suggestions given in the Dispatch.

The remainder of the evening was spent in visiting "Jack-Knife's" sanctum and workshop and in inspecting the excellent system of filing used in the Reference Library.

Clara F. Baldwin,
This from Twin City Library Club Minutes

He accepted a job as Chief Engineer with the Scripps-Booth Automobile Company, whose new car he designed. He had become General Sales Manager of the Packard Motor Car Company when in 1916, they started an aviation division and asked Stout to become its first Chief Engineer. The war broke out a year later and the Packard engineers, headed by Stout, went to Washington to help the government design and build the Liberty engine. Stout did not take a commission, realizing that his experience and knowledge made him more valuable as a civilian at home, and he was appointed Technical Adviser to the Aircraft Board.

Shortly after the war, in the spring of 1919, the Bureau of Military Aeronautics, of which Colonel Thurman Bane was Chief in Washington, and the Bureau of Aircraft Production were consolidated at McCook Field as a unified technical and developement center, under the command of Colonel Bane. Only a sprinkling of officers was carried over from wartime days. Jimmy Johnson, Al Johnson,Frank Hambly, and J. D. Hill were a few of the pioneer civilian instructors and test pilots who were still carried.

Stout designed a high-wing monoplane from which all struts, wires, and other wind obstructions had been eliminated. It was completely revolutionary in design and appearance, looking so much like the trench pests of the war it was immediately dubbed "Stout's Cootie." Jimmy Johnson was assigned to fly the weird-looking plane, and made several fairly successful flights in it. But in the opinion of the officers at McCook the ship did not hold much promise as a military craft and nothing further was done with it.

Stout left government service and organized his first aviation company. He wanted to build a remodeled bat-wing plane. It was during this period that Stout made his first, indirect contact with Henry Ford. Ford's chief engineer, William Mayo, had just spent the previous summer traveling in Europe to secure the latest information about aviation progress abroad, where already Imperial Airways was operating successfuly between London and Paris, and other airlines were linking the capitals of Europe. In the fall, Mayo dropped in on Stout, looked over what he was doing, and offered some of the information he had gathered in Europe. From that time on, Mayo would frequently stop in to see Stout, intimating not only that he was personally interested, but that Henry Ford also was interested in the way in which new developements were being carried forward.

The Stout Engineering Company, with a substantial increase in funding due to Stout's recruitment of some twenty five Detroit businessmen, began to build a revolutionary, all-metal Air Sedan. In February, newspapers in Detroit and across the country carried stories of the successful test flights of the Stout Air Sedan with Walter Lees at the controls.

First flight of the Stout Air Sedan

Following the adviced of William Mayo, William Stout wrote a letter to Edsel Ford suggesting the two things Ford could do for Aviation in Detroit. Four months later, Mayo met Stout one day and said, in effect, "How would you like to have a landing field and factory for about a dollar a year?" Sixty days later the building was up and Stout had moved in and begun building half a dozen Liberty-engined passenger planes. One day, Ford walked in and inspected the plant from end to end, showing great interest in the rapid progress that had been made.

"Well, Mr. Stout" he said, "I must tell you I'm very much surprised. I had no idea you had this factory equipped in any such thorough manner and were going ahead as you are." Less than a year later, Ford made another visit to the plant and saw the ships almost completed. Shortly afterward, the six planes were purchased by the Ford Company and the Ford freight service to Chicago was started---the first American airline!

The 2-AT was a high wing conventional gear monoplane. It was the first all-metal aircraft certified in America. It was eventually redesigned to accommodate three engines, becoming the Stout 3-AT trimotor, and again redesigned to become the more well-known Ford Trimotor. The aircraft was under development as a Stout aircraft when Ford bought all controlling interests, creating the Stout Metal Airplane Division of the Ford Motor Company. Development hastened with the infusion of resources from Ford.


After Ford's purchase of Stout's factory, the designer set to work to produce the Ford all-metal transport ship, which Admiral Byrd was subsequently to use on his flight to the North Pole. This aircraft became famous as the Ford Tri-Motor. The rest is aviation history. Although the Ford Company is no longer active in aviation and the metal monoplane has become commonplace, William B. Stout achievement will never be forgotten

Ford Tri-Motor

Stout Air Line innovations included: the first Uniformed Airline Pilots ; the first Passenger Terminal (at Ford Field); the first Hotel Ticket Center (at Book-Cadillac Hotel, Detroit); Ticket Refunds (if cancellations were made two hours before flight); America's first Aerial Couriers (stewards); Infants-in-Arms flew free and “48-Hour Stopovers” were allowed (except at Chicago and Cleveland).

1943 Bill Merges with ConVair

Waldo Waterman recalls his meeting with Stout in Dearborn. He went into considerable detail about what his small engineering development organization had been working on. He had merged it into giant ConVair at about the same time Reub Fleet joined Consolodated to Vultee. Reub had occasionally stopped off to see Bill, intrigued (as I was) as to what he was up to. Wanting Stout's genius as part of his organization, Reub bought Stout out in much the same way as Henry Ford had done almost 20 years earlier.

Bill went on ConVair's payroll as director of research , and his son-in-law, Johnny Fisher, was named the group's general manager. At that time, Bill had four projects underway: a low-cost aircraft engine, a helicopter engine, a stainless steel airplane, and a helicopter. All of these greatly intrigued me. It didn't take much talking for Bill to convince me to join him as their chief engineer
From Waldo, Pioneer Aviator, by Waldo Dean Waterman with Jack Carpenter

William Stout died on March 20th, 1956 in Phoenix, Arizona..
Personal communication from Greg Herrick, 3-3-04


We hauled our partially finished bat-wing plane, fitted with a new experimental Packard eight-cylinder engine to the Packard Company's small field, just east of Detroit toward Mt. Clemens.

We all went out to Packard Field early in the morning. Bert Acosta, a leading test pilot, was to fly the ship for the first time.

Not only had the plane never been flown, but there had never even been a wind tunnel test of the model.

No one had inspected our structural analysis to see if the thing would hold together. At that time, no inspection was required, of course, for no government regulation of flying had yet been established.

Acosta, after warming up the engine, swung into line, opened up wide and, the first thing we knew, was off the ground, up over the wires and heading toward Detroit. He stayed up about twenty minutes over Detroit, swung around over the St. Clair River and, after flying over Packard Field, came back in for a landing.

As he flew over the field, we saw one tragic thing. On the takeoff, the plain bearings had evidently gone dry in one wheel, twisting the cap off the axle. So here came Bert in to land with only one wheel on his airplane.

We expected catastrophe and tried every means of signaling we had to show him what was up. He came in, however, set the plane down on one wheel and held it there until the wings lost their lift. When the empty axle touched, the plane gently went over on its back and Bert climbed out unhurt. The plane was fixed within a few days and sent out again to fly.

From William Bushnell Stout's book, SO AWAY I WENT!

To Walter Lees, whose skill and quick thinking saved the day --- and him too., Sincerely, Bill Stout, Nov. 1952

Other aircraft by William Stout

The Stout ST-1 for a US Navy Torpedo Bomber contract, 1924

The ST-1 had a 60 foot wing span

Stout Amphibian

All metal 1927 aircraft

The Sky Car

Stout Air Transport

The Stout Bushmaster 2000 was a small commuter airliner built in the United States in an attempt to revive the Ford Trimotor design. Work began in 1953 by testing a vintage Trimotor and in 1954 Bill Stout purchased the design rights to the original Trimotor. Due to "Ford Tri-Motor" licensing problems, the Ford 15-AT-D was given the Bushmaster 2000 name. On 15 January 1955, Stout and partner Robert Hayden from the Hayden Aircraft Corporation announced they were planning to build 1,000 new Bushmasters, but it would be eleven years before the first prototype of the new design flew.


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