TAVAS Collection

Johnson Monoplane

In 1909 the Johnson brothers (of marine outboard motor fame) built their own aircraft in rural Indiana. Quite impressive – considering they had never actually seen one before! 

They also designed and built their own two-stroke, 60 hp engine to power it.

When finished, they discovered the machine to be too tail heavy, so they replaced the wooden fuselage with a lighter duralium (an early type of aluminium) one.

The aircraft first flew in 1911 and made regular demonstration after that, earning the brothers up to $600 per weekend. It flew like this for three years with no accidents.

The monoplane’s design and performance was years ahead of its time. The aircraft was the first monoplane in America. It was also the first to use aluminium in its primary construction, the first successful tricycle gear aircraft, and the first to be fitted with a brake.

However this novelty, along with Indiana’s distance from the rest of the aviation world, meant the Johnson monoplane never generated enough attention to become a saleable item. In the end, the original rotted away in a barn while the brothers turned their attention to the more lucrative business of building outboard motors for boats.

The TAVAS reproduction is the world’s only example of this incredible type. It was built by Herbert Seiser in South Africa and donated to TAVAS in mid 2014.

Full details and history of the aircraft, the Johnsons and our reproduction, can all be found in issue number 9 of ‘Contact’ the TAVAS newsletter.

General Characteristics

Length: 10.36 m (34 ft) 

Wingspan: 10.97 m (36 ft) 

Wing Chord: 2.44 m (8 ft) 

Empty Weight: 318 kg (700 lb) 

Propeller Diameter: 2.44 m (8 ft) 

Propeller Pitch: 1.37 m (4 ft 6 in)


Type: 1 x Johnson V-4 water cooled two stroke piston engine 

Power: 60 hp (45 kW) 

Weight: 73 kg (160 lb)


Not known

© Copyright The Australian Vintage Aviation Society

Caboolture Warplanes Museum, Caboolture Aviation Museum, Caboolture Museum