Aeronautics in 1919
Postcard of Hunsaker's NC-4 "Flying Boat"
From the Jerome Clarke Hunsaker Papers (MC 272)
Jerome C. Hunsaker was an officer in the U.S. Navy's Bureau of Construction and Repair when he designed the NC-4, the first aircraft to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. The NC-4 left Rockaway Beach, New York, on May 8, 1919, with two companion NC planes, to attempt a trans-Atlantic crossing. The companion planes were damaged en route and did not finish. After landing for repairs in Chatham, Massachusetts, with stops in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and the Azores, the NC-4 flew into Lisbon, Portugal, on May 27, 1919, accomplishing the first trans-Atlantic crossing. The NC aircraft were a joint effort of a U.S. Navy design team (N) and Curtiss Engineering (C). To celebrate the crossing, the Curtiss company held a dinner at which honorees were presented with a special commemorative medal.
Hunsaker's design work on the NC and other aircraft followed a period of his naval career when he had close ties to MIT and influenced the development of aeronautical engineering as a discipline at MIT. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1908, and a year spent at sea, Hunsaker was assigned to the Navy construction corps and sent to MIT for three years of further study. He received an S.M. degree in Naval Architecture in 1912. The Navy then detailed him to MIT at the request of MIT President Maclaurin to develop a course in aeronautics. In the spring of 1914 Hunsaker was a lecturer in the Department of Naval Architecture in the first formal aeronautical course given at MIT, Course 13.72, Aeronautics, under the supervision of C. H. Peabody. At the same time, Hunsaker was also working on a doctoral thesis. The first doctoral degree in aeronautical engineering at MIT was granted to him in June 1916 for his thesis, "Dynamical Stability of Aeroplanes."
Hunsaker returned to MIT in 1933 as head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, in charge of the Course in Aeronautical Engineering (Course XVI since 1926), and then head of the Department of Aeronautical Engineering when Course XVI became a department in 1939.
Further information on the NC-4 design, Hunsaker's career, early naval history, and the history of aeronautical engineering at MIT, including course notes, photographs, correspondence, and design specifications, may be found in the Institute Archives and Special Collections, MIT Libraries, in the Jerome Clarke Hunsaker papers (MC 272) and the administrative records of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AC 43).
Object of the Month: September 2000