April 9, 2010
On April 13, Bonhams auction house will offer a 1917 Curtiss MF “Seagull” Flying Boat for sale. The MF (which stands for “Modernised F-boat”) was developed in 1917 from the original F model, a design the U.S. Navy had been using since 1912/1913. (The F model was the most successful of the pre-war Curtiss flying boats, and continued in production until 1919, popular with both the U.S. military as well as the civilian market.)
By 1921, 87 of the MFs were in service with the Navy. The two-seat, open cockpit hydroplane cost $6,000 when new, and is expected to fetch between $300,000 and $500,000.
According to Bonhams’ Web site, this particular craft was the 61st Flying Boat produced in a batch of 80. It was almost certainly posted to a naval aviation training station, possibly at Pensacola or Atlantic City, and may have been sold as government surplus in 1923 or 1924. It’s likely that the Curtiss company converted the MF to the MF Seagull configuration, with increased horsepower and additional seating.
The Seagull’s long-time owner, William H. Long, based the aircraft at Sandusky Bay in Ohio. Long’s personal pilot was Albert Engel. Bonhams’ press release notes that Engel and Long refurbished the MF with new wing fabric and varnished the hull sometime in the 1940s. In 1945, they donated the vintage craft to Cleveland’s Frederick C. Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum, and it was on display at the Western Historical Reserve Society for many years.
Interested in seeing it in person? The vintage craft is on display in the sculpture garden atrium at 590 Madison Avenue, New York, until April 13.