Popular Misconception

Curator emeritus of Seattle’s Museum of Flight, Dan Hagedorn, explains how a misinterpretation led to the Curtiss CW-21 interceptor being dubbed ‘Demon’

This CW-21 is seen soon after its first test flight on March 6, 1940. Curtiss-Wright test pilot Bob Fausel is most likely in the cockpit

Although the history of practical aviation is no more than 117 years old, the subject has already become littered with minor mysteries, folk legends and errors that often replace facts.

One thing that perplexed me for many years was the origin of the alleged ‘popular name’ that has followed Curtiss-Wright’s Model 21 into the 21st century – long after the type disappeared. Designed and built by the firm’s St Louis Airplane Division in 1938, this elegant, fast-climbing fighter is almost universally identified as the ‘Demon’.

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