Herring-Burgess Flying Fish Aeroplane – 1910

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Herring – Burgess “Flying Fish” Aeroplane – 1910

     The Herring-Burgess company produced airplanes in Marblehead, Massachusetts, in the early 1900s.  Their Flying Fish aircraft was reported to be the first airplane to fly in New England.  It was known for the eight “fins” attached to the upper wing for better stability. 

     Some sources say the Flying Fish made its maiden flight on April 17, 1910, but an article which appeared in the New York Tribune indicates its first flight took place weeks earlier on March 1st.  (See the following newspaper articles below.)  


New Style Flier

Herring and Burgess Have a Successful Trial at Marblehead

     Boston, March 1 – A. M. Herring and W. Starling Burgess launched today at Marblehead a new heavier-than-air flying machine.  Its first trip was said to be successful.

     It is an aeroplane, frankly intended to avoid the Wright patents. Instead of the balancing planes, over which the Wrights are suing, this machine has a leg of mutton arrangement on top of the plane.  This is made to work automatically so that as the machine swerves, the fin will be buoyed up by the air and bring the mechanism back to a lateral balance.

     New York Tribune, March 2, 1910, page 2 


Aeroplane Makes Flights

     Newburyport, Mass., April 17, – Over the marshes of Plum Island the Herring-Burgess aeroplane “Flying Fish”, made three successful flights to-day.  Arthur M. Herring of Hammondsport, N. Y. piloted the machine in the first flight.  After alighting easily at the river edge after a 250-yards run, the craft was turned over to W. Sterling Burgess, who made two short flights.

     The Salt Lake Tribune, (Utah), April 18, 1910, page 7  


Fins Used To Maintain Equilibrium

      Marblehead, Mass., May 21 – “I hope to flight through the air faster than any American has yet flown, including the Wright brothers,”  is the statement made by W. Starling Burgess, the millionaire yacht designer of this town who has been making flights with his partner, A. M. Herring, the former partner of Glenn Curtiss in their new bi-plane of their own design at Plum Island the past few days.  “I hope to travel a half mile in the air and by hour in this machine,”  says Mr. Burgess.  “Within a week I expect to  travel a half mile in the air and by the end of the month I expect to travel miles distance in the air at a stretch.”  

     Associated with Mr. Burgess and Mr. herring are Norman Prince, a well known young Boston millionaire, and Professor J. V. Martin, manager of the Harvard Aeronautical Society.  Mr. Martin has made flights in many French airships.

     The Herring-Burgess biplane is about the same size and somewhat like the Herring-Curtis machine, and much smaller than the Wright brothers machine.  One of the features of the machine is entirely different from any other machine and designed especially to avoid litigation with the Wrights.  To prevent it from tipping over it has eight overhead fins or sails, four near the center and two on each end.  They are shaped like a leg-o-mutton sail and are believed by Mr. Burgess to be a great improvement over all other devices to prevent tipping. Another feature is the use of skids or runners instead of wheels for making a rise into the air from the ground.  There are three of these, shaped like snow skids and have steel runners like an ordinary child’s sled. Mr. Burgess believes this to be a great improvement over the small wheel.  The machine complete weighs 408 pounds.  It is built of laminated spruce and is claimed to be stronger than any machine yet built.  It is 26 feet 8 inches wide and 29 feet long.  The control is by the right hand and right foot, and steering is done by a horizontal wheel with the left hand.  It has a 4-cylinder, 29 horsepower engine capable of developing 30-horsepower.

     The radiator is very light, being honeycombed.  Messrs Herring and Burgess have spend three years of experimenting with it.  The curves of the planes are different from the Herring – Curtiss machine and the angles of the wings steeper, with will allow the machine to rise earlier.  It will lift going at the rate of 26 miles an hour, while the Herring-Curtiss lifted at 37 miles an hour.  The wings are of strong silk, treated with celluloid and are airtight and gastight.  The skids allow a much more graceful landing than the wheel would.  As they slide along like skis, the jar will be broken.       

     “Of course,”  says Mr. Burgess, “the chief feature of this machine over all others of the series of fins overhead by which the operator can keep the machine from tipping.  These are an entirely new thing and are not used on any other machine.  I expect they will correct many of the present evils of flying.  We will make straight flights at first. We will not attempt any turns until later.”

     The machine is called the Flying Fish.  She is the first aeroplane to make any flights in New England.  

     The Daily Missoulian, (Montana), May 22, 1910

     The Flying Fish was later involved in three accidents during test flights at Plum Island, Massachusetts. The first occurred in late April, and the second about three weeks later on July 9, 1910, when Hungarian military aviator Lt. Alexander Pfitzner made a crash landing.  The plane was repaired, but crashed again on August 4, 1910, when William Bowman wrecked and was seriously injured. 

Newburyport, MA. April 22, 1910

Newburyport, MA. – July 9, 1910

Nweburyport, MA. – August 4, 1910

Marblehead, MA – May 7, 1915

Marblehead, Massachusetts – May 7, 1915


     On May 7, 1915, Aviator Clifford L. Webster, and a mechanic identified as “Carman”, were making a test flight over Marblehead of a Burgess airplane which had been built for Vincent Astor.  While over the water of near Marblehead Neck the engine suddenly stopped and the plane crashed into a sea wall on the ocean side of the causeway that connected Marblehead Neck with the rest of the town.   After striking the seawall, the aircraft continued on across the road where both men were pitched out.  Webster suffered a broken arm.  No injuries for the mechanic were reported.     

     Source: The Brattleboro Daily Reformer, (Brattleboro, VT.) “Aviator Was Badly Injured”, May 7, 1915, page 5

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