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Alfred Verville

Alfred Victor Verville

1890-1970

Alfred Victor Verville was born on November 16, 1890 in Atlantic Mine, Michigan. His career as an aircraft designer and builder spanned nearly 50 years, during which his genius and vision enabled him to influence the advancement of aviation during its formative years.

Verville joined Curtiss Airplane Company in 1914, and he aided in the design of many Curtiss planes, including the first "Jenny" training plane, and the Curtiss F Flying Boat. In 1915 he organized the General Airplane Company in Detroit, Michigan, producing the Verville Flying Boat and the Verville Twin Float Pusher. After WWI broke out, Verville joined the U.S. Army Service. In 1920 the young engineer gained national prominence when his Verville-Packard Racer won the first Pulitzer Speed Classic Trophy. After touring Europe with General Billy Mitchell to assess the development of aviation there, Verville was asked by General Mitchell to design an airplane for the Air Service entry in the 1922 National Air Races. Verville designed the Verville-Sperry Racer. This plane was one of the first airplanes with retractable landing gear. Though it did not win the race, with some adjustments, it flew away with the 1924 Pulitzer Speed Trophy. The true importance of the Racer design was recognized in 1961, when it was selected as one of the twelve most significant aircraft of all time.

In 1925, he organized the Buhl-Aircraft Company, producing the Buhl-Verville Airster. In 1927 he organized the Verville Aircraft Company, producing the Verville Coach, AT Trainer, and YPT-10. He served as engineer and consultant with Douglas, Curtiss Wright, and Snead aircraft companies, and Drexel Aviation, and he contributed 16 years of service to the Federal government, primarily with the Bureau of Aeronautics, before retiring in 1961.

Verville has been honored with ten Certificates or Letters of Commendation from the U.S. Armed Forces. He was an Honorary Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, and was named an Elder Statesmen of Aviation in 1956. He held eight aeronautical patents. In 1985 a commemorative air mail postage stamp was issued in his honor.

Verville was enshrined October 26, 1991, for his contributions to aeronautical development. He was truly a pioneering giant in American aviation.

Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program