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February in Aviation History

On February 1, 1911, the Wright Brothers granted a license to the Burgess Company to make that firm the first licensed aircraft manufacturer in the U.S. The Wrights, holders of several key aeronautical patents, charged licensing fees of $1000 per aircraft and $100 per exhibition flight. The aircraft was the Wright Company Model B, designed by the Wrights in 1910, although Burgess used Model F designations, among other designations, for the dozens of the model that they produced.

Burgess had been incorporated in Massachusetts in 1910 as the "Burgess Company and Curtis, Inc." but later changed its name to just “Burgess Company” to avoid confusion with Glenn Curtiss’ “Curtiss Aeroplane Company”. The licensing agreement was terminated in 1914 after Burgess made modifications of the Wright design, contrary to the Wright Company’s licensing provisions. The Burgess Company then was acquired on February 10, 1914 by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, operating as a manufacturing subsidiary for that firm. It produced naval training aircraft under the Burgess name until the factory burned down in 1918.

As for the Wright Company, Wilbur Wright had died in 1912, and Orville sold the company in 1915. The Wright Company continued to sell aircraft for civilian and U.S. military use until 1916 when it merged with the Glenn Martin Company to form the Wright-Martin Aircraft Corporation, renamed Wright Aeronautical, which merged with the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company in 1929 to become Curtiss-Wright Corporation.

An original Wright Company Model B Flyer is on view at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio (site # 5 on the Aviation Trail). And a flying “look-alike” Model B, known as the "Brown Bird" is maintained by Wright B Flyer, Inc., a non-profit organization based at a museum-hangar at Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport in Dayton (site # 9 on the Aviation Trail). They also have a non-flying replica on display. See the Wright B Flyer website for more information.


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