Manuscript Collections - John H. Geisse Papers

Oct 18, 2021

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(6 manuscript boxes, 1 oversize box)
Herbert Hoover Presidential Library


John Harlin Geisse was born July 17, 1892 in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, the son of Charles F. and Jennie H. Geisse.  He received a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin in 1917. Prior to graduation, Geisse enlisted in the Army Signal Corps for flight training. He was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant, Reserve Military Aviator, in 1918.  In the same year he was selected to attend a post graduate course in aeronautical engineering at M.I.T. In 1919-1920 he was assistant chief of the Power Plant Section, Engineering Division, McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio.

In 1921-1922 he was experimental engineer for the Wright Aeronautical Corporation, Patterson, N.J. and in 1922-1929 he was chief engineer of the Navy Aeronautical Engine Laboratory, Philadelphia Navy Yard.

In 1929 Geisse initiated the formation of the Comet Engine Corporation, Madison, Wisconsin by the Gisholt Machine Tool Company, Madison, and Air Investors, New York, to carry out a Navy contract for the construction of an engine incorporating a novel type of cooling system on which he held the patents.  The prototype was built and it passed the Navy acceptance tests but the company failed during the Depression.

In 1933 he joined the Aeronautics Branch of the Department of Commerce where he initiated and organized a small airport construction program with the Civil Aeronautics Administration. Many small airports for general aviation use were constructed throughout the United States.  He also wrote amendments to the Air Commerce Act of 1926 and secured their passage by Congress. These authorized the Branch to promote general aviation by aiding in the development of the equipment used by it.

While chief of its new development section he wrote performance specifications for an airplane which would be easier to fly than those then available and called for bids on the construction of a prototype.  Against both internal and external opposition, including charges that he was trying to force the industry back twenty five years, he awarded the contract for an airplane with a tricycle type undercarriage, type which had been abandoned many years earlier in favor of the tail wheel type. Tests made in the Civil Pilot Training (CPT) Program with airplanes meeting this specification revealed that the time required to learn to fly them was substantially less than that required for the other CPT plane and the time required for a pilot certificate limited to flying this type was reduced from 35 to 25 hours.

The winning plane was based at the Army's Bolling Field and its performance there so impressed the Chief of the Army Air Force, General Arnold, that he had a tricycle gear put on an airplane then on order. Thereafter practically all Air Force procurement was shifted to the tricycle gear.  It was then adopted by the Navy and airlines and later by general aviation.

While acting as a CAA consultant to a National Research Council on the selection and training of pilots, Geisse became convinced that the military abandonment of flight simulators for use in basic flight training was due to the inability of these simulators to simulate the kinesthetic cues.  At the time the consensus was that pilots should be taught to ignore rather than use these cues in instrument flying.  Authorities in this field now recognize that this was a mistake.

Geisse then invented a patented way of building simulators capable of providing the proper kinesthetic cues and had a prototype built.  Designated representatives of both military air services inspected the unit and recommended it to their services. However, it was considered to be too late for World War II training.

Later, when Assistant to the Administrator for General Aviation Development, and the Federal Airport Program was about to be started, Geisse initiated and directed an investigation of crosswind landing gears to determine whether or not their use could eliminate the need of building "windrows" type airports having multiple runways for wind coverage.  Gears were developed for five airplanes ranging from a small trainer to an airline transport.  All were successful and it was clearly demonstrated that multiple runways were unnecessary.  A cost analysis was made that showed that all of the airplanes then in service could be modified for crosswind operations at a fraction of the cost of providing crosswind runways. The Administrator
then adopted policy that no more federal funds would be made available for the construction of runways needed for wind coverage only.  This saved many millions of dollars in the Federal Airport Program.

In 1950 Geisse was awarded the Department of Commerce Gold Medal for "outstanding contribution to the public service and the nation".

After leaving government service he continued to work on crosswind landing gears and invented and patented an entirely new type which was much simpler, less costly and lighter than any then available.  Competitive tests by the Navy also showed that it provided a superior performance. The new type was manufactured under license by the Beech and Cessna airplane companies for both civil and military use.

Geisse contributed extensively to the aviation  press. He wrote the aviation engine section of the Enclyclopedia Brittanica, was consulting editor for Esquire's "Plane Talk" and co-author of Technology, of the Department of Commerce "Post War Outlook for Private Flying".

He was a member of the Army-Navy Club, the Aero Club of Washington, the Wings Club of New York, the National Aeronautics Association, the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences, and the Society of Automotive Engineers.  He served one term each as chairman of the Washington sections of the latter two.


The Papers of John H. Geisse contain correspondence, reports, drawings, descriptions, blueprints, articles, speeches, patent data, and clippings and other printed materials documenting his aviation activities.

With a Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin, Geisse enlisted in the Signal Corps of the Army for flight training in 1917.  He continued his active life-time participation in aeronautical engineering at MIT; McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio; Wright Aeronautical Corporation, Patterson, N.J.; Navy Aeronautical Engine Laboratory, Philadelphia Navy Yard; and the Aeronautics Branch of the Department of Commerce.

Some of the donor's aviation interests documented in these files are the Comet engine with a novel type of cooling system, the small airport construction program, a way of building flight simulators, and the crosswind landing gears to eliminate the necessity for multiple runways for wind coverage. This device saved the Federal Airport program millions of dollars in construction costs.  Geisse contributed extensively to the aviation press and promoted general aviation through the development of the equipment used by it.


Box      Contents
1          Aero Club, 1948
            Aircraft Design as Related to Airport Standards by Milton W. Arnold, 1950
            Airport Development, articles, 1944‑1954
            Atlas Corporation, 1940‑1947
            Aviation Bill, 1934‑1938
            Aviation Publishing Corporation, 1928‑1939
            B, General, 1945‑1948
            Beech Aircraft Corporation, 1956‑1957
            Blueprints, undated
            Briggs Manufacturing Company, 1938‑1940
            Buffalo Gasolene Motor Company, 1927‑1928
            CAA/Federal Aviation Agency, 1944‑1962
            Cessna, 140‑170‑190, 1953‑1970
            Champion Aircraft Corporation, 1958‑1960
            Comet Engine Corporation
                     Articles, 1929
                     Correspondence, 1929‑1937
                     Formation, 1928‑1929
                     Navy Department, Bureau of Aeronautics Report, 1932
            Commerce Department
                     Correspondence, 1937‑1945
                     Endorsements, Assistant Secretary, 1932‑1933 (2 folders)
                     Gold Medal Award, 1950 (See Also:  Oversize Box)
            Consolidated‑‑Convair, 1950‑1959
            Corporation Trust Company, 1951‑1978
            Cross Wind Landing Gears
                     Army Negotiations, 1957
                     Articles, 1950‑1959

2                   Boeing 707's Undercarriage, undated
                     Companies Interested (AOPA), 1951‑1954
                     Marine Corp Evaluation, 1956
                     Navy SNJ Adapter, 1953
                     Reports, 1948‑1981
            D, General, 1940‑1955
            Delta Engine
                     Correspondence, 1937‑1945 (2 folders)
                     Calculations, undated
                     Drawings and Descriptions, 1939 and undated
                     Report, undated
            Desloge‑Robertson Agreements, 1952‑1956
            Development of Low‑Cost Planes, 1935‑1964
            Doolittle, James H., 1952‑1956
            Douglas Aircraft Company, 1947‑1960
            E, General, 1950‑1978
                     Articles, undated
                     Correspondence, 1976‑1983
            Ercoupe, 1952

3          Esquire
                     Correspondence, 1944‑1946
                     Plane Talk, 1946
            F, General, 1928‑1982
            Flight Simulators
                     Correspondence, 1953‑1973
                     Reports, 1968‑1969
            "Flivver" Planes, 1934‑1945
            Flying, 1952‑1982
            G, General, 1944‑1954
            Geisse Gears, Inc.
                     Advertisements, undated
                     Assignment & Sale, 1952
                     Corporate Records, 1952‑1977
                     Photos, n/d
            Geisse, John F. and Nancy, 1954‑1970 and undated
            Geisse, John H.
                     Articles & Speeches, 1929-1944 (6 folders)

4                   Articles & Speeches, 1945-1964, and undated (3 folders)
                     Autobiography, undated
                     Biographical File, 1928‑1988
                     Personal, 1934‑1977
            Geisse, Harold L., 1939‑1951
            Ground Training Machines
                     Commerce Department, 1942‑1951
                     Justice Department, 1930‑1943
                     Lane Company, 1942‑1943
            H, General, 1932‑1982
            Hammond, Dean, 1947‑1968
            Institute of Aeronautical Sciences, 1949‑1950
            Invitations, 1936 and undated
            J, General, 1980
            K, General, 1938‑1983
            Klemin, A., 1928‑1946
            Kollsman Instrument Division, 1944‑1948
            L, General, 1933‑1943
            Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, 1939‑1960
            Mc, General, 1937‑1981
            McCarran, Pat, 1946‑1950
            M, General, 1947‑1975
            Martin, Glenn L. Co., 1944‑1950
            Morey Airplane Co., 1951‑1954
            N, General, 1947‑1977
            National Airplane Rental Service, "Fly Yourself"
                     Clippings, 1945‑1946
                     Correspondence, 1946‑1947
                     Proposal, 1946‑1947

5                   Reports, undated (2 files)
                     Traffic Estimate, 1947‑1948
            Navy Department
                     Bureau of Aeronautics, 1923-1932, 1951-1957 (2 folders)
                     Judge Advocate General, 1929‑1931
                     Personnel Papers, 1951‑1952
            New Years Cards, undated
            Nilakantan, P., 1950
            P, General, 1948‑1982
                     Canada, 1950‑1952
                     France, 1950‑1958
                     Great Britain, 1948‑1952
                     United States, 1931-1960 (2 folders)
            Patents Data, 1948‑1957

6          Patents Specifications, 1931‑1960
            Photos, undated
            Post War Plans, 1942‑1945
            Private Flying, 1934‑1945 and undated
            Proxmire, William, 1976‑1981
            R, General, 1940‑1982
            Regulations, 1940‑1946
            Roadable Airplane and Flying Automobile
                     Correspondence, 1944‑1948
                     Photos, undated
            Roosevelt, Franklin D., 1933
            Roosevelt, G. Hall, 1934‑1940
            S, General, 1946‑1960
            Saturday Evening Post, 1938‑1950
            Schildhauer, C.H., 1950‑1951
            Scott Aviation Corporation, 1948
            Senate Hearing, 1954
            Skyways, 1954‑1959
            Society of Automotive Engineers, certificate, 1944 (See: Oversize Box)
            Solomon, S.J., 1950‑1957
            Spartan School of Aeronautics, 1943‑1945
            Stanford University, 1940‑1944
            Stearman‑Hammond Aircraft
                     Correspondence, 1936‑1940
                     Photos, n/d (See Also: Oversize Box)
            T, General, 1943‑1955
            Taylorcraft Corporation, 1941‑1950
            Traffic Control, 1942
            Van Dusen Aircraft Supplies, 1950‑1961
            Vidal, Eugene L., 1933‑1969
            W, General, 1944‑1982
            Walker, Robert H., 1946
            Walsh, Tom J., 1932‑1933 and undated
            Williams, Samuel C., 1943‑1956
            Wilson, Gill Rob, 1935‑1944
            Wings, Inc., 1958‑1960

7 (Oversize)
            Airplane Over Washington, D.C., aerial photo, undated
            Beechcraft 25th Anniversary, booklet, 1957
            Society of Automotive Engineers, certificate, 1944
            Stearman‑Hammond Aircraft, photo, undated
            U.S. Department of Commerce Award, 1950

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