Cato, L.W.F., Marlin-Rockwell (US)

Joseph L. Cato (1888-1965) of San Francisco, California developed his first horizontally-opposed aircraft engine, the Cato O-125 in 1910, as well as a liquid-cooled inline four in 1912. He was an early pioneer in engine development, airframe development, and as a pilot. An excellent short biography of Cato and his aeronautical career was written by Harold E. Morehouse in his "The Flying Pioneers" series of articles in the Journal of the AAHS (HEM). Much of the information here is from this biography, as well as from "Aerosphere for 1939" (Ae39) by Glenn D. Angle for engine details. Cato worked for the early aircraft companies Sloane Aeroplane Co. of Boundbrook, New Jersey (11/1915 - 4/1916) and L.W.F. Engineering Co. (4/1916 - 12/1918) of College Point, Long Island, New York. The name L.W.F. was derived from the first letters of the last names of the founders; i.e., Lowe (Edward, Jr.), Willard (Charles), and Fowler (Robert G.). Cato was deeply involved in airframe development at L.W.F., where his position was as Experimental Aeronautical Engineer and Assistant to the General Manager. L.W.F. was active in manufacturing monocoque molded wooden fuselages on several of their aircraft during 1916 - 1919. Charles Willard is recognized as the developer of the molding technique while employed by Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Co. at Buffalo, New York in 1915 (AAHSSu69). It should be mentioned that Allen and Malcolm Loughead, assisted by John K. Northrop, also developed wood molding techniques for aircraft fuselages in California at roughly the same time.

L.W.F. ceased much of their aircraft manufacture and development after the armistice ended WWI. Mr. Cato then joined the Marlin-Rockwell Co. (M-R) of New Haven, Connecticut and was there for a reported 150 days (1/1919 - 6/1919). His second HOAE design, the Marlin-Rockwell/Cato O-235 described below, was built there along with a Cato-designed Marlin-Rockwell light parasol monoplane with a molded wooden fuselage. Hugh M. Rockwell, a son of Albert F. Rockwell (the president of M-R), had been working on a bearing design and manufacturing technique which used, exclusively, ball bearings throughout an engine. This bearing technology was implemented in the O-235 and Hugh Rockwell obtained a U.S. Patent for it.

Cato rejoined L.W.F. in 1919 and, among other tasks on the L.W.F. Owl aircraft development, designed the L.W.F. Model L Butterfly light shoulder-wing monoplane with a molded wood fuselage and the L.W.F./Cato O-270 (Model C-2) engine described below. Morehouse (HEM) credits this engine as being the forerunner of the HOAE lightplane engines that were developed ten years and more later - a great compliment considering Morehouse's accomplishments and stature in the air-cooled horizontally-opposed aircraft engine industry.

Cato later worked for the US Army Power Plant Branch at McCook Field, Ohio, G. Elias & Co. of Buffalo, New York, and Emsco Aircraft Corp. of Downey, California. Finally he worked for the USAAF and USAF at Castle Air Force Base, California, from which he retired in 1953.

More information about Cato, his engines (including photos), and his aircraft designs can be found on Dr. Ralph Cooper's Early Birds of Aviation Website entries about Cato and the L.W.F. Butterfly. Information about Hugh Rockwell also can be found on Dr. Cooper's Website.

O-125 - - {4.0 / 5.0 / 125.7} / {101.6 / 127.0 / 2059}

2cyl; Cato; 35hp@1500rpm; 1910; Wt = 146#; TC = none.
Single-ignition engine with plain bearings except for a ball bearing to suppport the propeller thrust.
Applications: None found.

O-235 - - {5.0 / 6.0 / 235.6} / {127.0 / 152.4 / 3861}

Same stroke as O-270.

2cyl; Marlin-Rockwell/Cato; 72hp@1825rpm; 1919; Wt = 134#; TC = none.
Dual-ignition engine designed and developed jointly by Cato and Hugh Rockwell of Marlin-Rockwell. Rockwell was responsible for the all-ball-bearing design for the engine as described above in the introductory material.; Ae39; HEM.
Applications: (US) Marlin-Rockwell light parasol monoplane (designed by Cato and flown extensively by Hugh Rockwell).

O-270 - - {5.375 / 6.0 / 272.3} / {136.5 / 152.4 / 4462}

Same stroke as O-235.

2cyl; L.W.F./Cato C-2; 60hp@1800rpm; 1919-1920; Wt = 154#; TC = none.
Dual-ignition engine with a plain crank-pin bearing and ball bearings supporting the crankshaft. (photo in Powerplants entry for Cato); Ae39; HEM.
Applications: (US) L.W.F. Model L Butterfly (designed by Cato).


Updated 2/10/08