Press Release

Going the Distance: Endurance Aircraft Engines and Propellers of the 1910s and 20s


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San Francisco International Airport
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Going the Distance: Endurance Aircraft Engines and Propellers of the 1910s and 20s 
New exhibition focuses on the achievements of two pioneering aviators of the early twentieth century and the aircraft they piloted.

SAN FRANCISCO—In the early years of powered flight, three different types of engines, the radial, the in-line, and the V-type, vied for preeminence within the aviation industry. Glenn H. Curtiss (1878–1930), an early innovator of motorcycle engines, began developing V-type engines for airships around 1904. After modifying and improving his engines for airplanes, he developed the V-type, liquid-cooled V-8 OX series. Equipped with a Curtiss OXX-6 engine, aviator Katherine Stinson (1891–1977) flew in a modified Curtiss biplane from San Diego to San Francisco in 1917. Introduced a little over a decade later, the radial Wright J-5 Whirlwind engine was specifically developed for long-range flight and was instrumental in advancing aviation during the late 1920s and well into the 1930s. 

In 1928, Australian aviator Charles Kingsford Smith (1897–1935) and crew flew the J-5-equipped Southern Cross on the first successful transpacific flight from California to Australia, covering a distance of 7,200 miles in ten days, one of the longest flights using J-5 engines. Propeller design also evolved along with aircraft engine technology during this period—from wooden, fixed-pitch propellers created for specific applications, such as the Paragon propeller of the late 1910s, to ground-adjustable, variable-pitch propellers made of advanced plastics in the 1920s. This exhibition features the two groundbreaking engines, their related propellers, and historical documentation of the exceptional endurance aircraft and the two resolute aviators who flew them to breakthrough achievements in aviation.

Going the Distance: Endurance Aircraft Engines and Propellers of the 1910s and 20s is located pre-security in the Aviation Museum and Library in the International Terminal of San Francisco International Airport. This exhibition is on view to all Airport visitors from June 01, 2022, to November 12, 2023, and is accessible daily from 10:00am to 4:30pm. There is no charge to view the exhibition.

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About SFO Museum

Established in 1980 by the Airport Commission, SFO Museum’s mission is to delight, engage, and inspire a global audience with programming on a broad range of subjects; to collect, preserve, interpret, and share the history of commercial aviation; and to enrich the public experience at San Francisco International Airport. The Museum was granted initial accreditation from the American Association of Museums in 1999, reaccredited in 2005 and 2020, and has the distinction of being the only accredited museum in an airport.

Today, SFO Museum features more than twenty galleries throughout the Airport terminals displaying a rotating schedule of art, history, science, and cultural exhibitions, as well as the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library and Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum, a permanent collection dedicated to the history of commercial aviation. To browse current and past exhibitions, research our collection, or for more information, please visit Follow us on,, or

About San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

SFO is excited to welcome travelers back to the skies with an airport experience featuring seamless access, thoughtful amenities, sustainable design and inspiring artwork and exhibits.

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