Otto Hermann

Otto Hermann

Otto Hermann (c. 1870-1930): Otto Hermann was an auto stuntman who held a 1907 patent for a double loop-the-loop automobile-stunt ramp. He moved to Providence from Atlantic City, and started building his own biplane in the summer of 1909, described in a Journal article as “the first one to be tried out on testing grounds in this state”. This may have flown as early as March of 1910, although he described his first attempt at Pawtucket Driving Park as “hopping along like a rabbit”. Deciding the engine was not powerful enough for the weight of the craft, he went back to the drawing boards, removed one wheel and made other weight-saving changes. His engine was a product of the RI Rotary Engine Company plant on Gilmore Street, not far from the Dexter Training Ground. There is no doubt Hermann had flown successfully by early 1911; the June, 1911 issue of Aeronautics  confirmed that Hermann had built and flown his 12hp biplane.

Later in life he was a key player in creating a municipal airport for the village of Canastota, New York. In 1927 he established his Century Rotary Motor Corporation factory there. Mr. Hermann held a 1925 patent on a rotary engine that he called  a “semi-Diesel.” Among its numerous innovations were an induction  system that can only be called an early attempt at fuel injection. He envisioned a new method of atomizing fuel and controlling an internal combustion engine, and he  apparently forged that dream into very real metal, despite the fact that even advanced scientists at the time knew very little about the dynamics of  combustion and the behavior of gases. He created a corporation to manufacture, test, and market the device,  established a working factory, and he employed a considerable number of skilled  machinists and other workers.  He built, exhibited, and demonstrated several  test models at the Canastota factory and trade shows in Syracuse in 1928 and  1929, and he opened negotiations with the Navy to test the engine for possible government contracts.

Douglas Black, Reference Librarian at the Alvin Sherman Library at Fort Lauderdale’s Nova Southeastern University, has researched Hermann’s life. Black writes, “He was an extremely creative, talented, and determined man, and there’s certainly no question that  he did design, build, and fly an airplane while living in Rhode Island–and he  might have been the first person to do so.  To have done so in 1910-1911 is no  small achievement. Although he was neither a Rhode Islander nor even a U.S. citizen by birth, he  contributed greatly to the aviation community in Rhode Island during the years  he lived there.  If nothing else, he certainly served to inspire others to achieve great heights, both literally and figuratively.”

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